Nuclear fusion of the hydrogen nucleus burns the sun’s core in helium up to 15 million degrees Celsius, but scientists have now developed an ‘artificial sun’ on Earth with a temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius. The experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (East) Fusion Reactor designed by China burns eight times at the core temperature of the sun.
The reactor reached a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds and broke the 160 million Celsius record for 20 seconds.
According to Global Times, the reactor, located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Science, is designed to replicate the process of nuclear fusion that occurs naturally in the sun and stars, provide unlimited clean energy.
In a fusion reaction, two light nuclei come together to form a single heavy center. The process releases energy because the total mass of a single nucleus is less than the mass of two real nuclei. The surviving gathering becomes energy.
To advance clean energy and reach such high temperatures, hydro-isotopes are placed inside a fusion device to form a plasma state where ions and electrons separate. During the process, the ions are heated and retained at high temperatures. China’s EAST reactor had previously reached 100 million degrees Celsius in 2018.
According to Global Times, EAST is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) facility, a global science project jointly developed by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States. Although the reactor has already set a record, scientists believe that it will take at least another decade for the experimental design to take the form of a fully functioning reactor.
The main purpose of the experimental reactor is to produce nuclear fusion like the sun, using deuterium from the ocean to provide a steady stream of clean energy. According to Xinhua, around 300 scientists and engineers mobilized to support the work of the donut-sized experimental facility, which includes a vacuum system, an RF wave system, a laser scattering system, and a microwave system. Scientists had been upgrading the experimental reactor for nearly a year to reach higher temperatures.
The raw material needed to generate energy in the reactor is deuterium, unlike other renewable sources such as coal and oil, it is found in abundance on earth. According to research, one liter of seawater can produce the equivalent of 300 liters of gasoline through the fusion reaction deuterium.
While the Chinese reactor has broken this record, it is not the only one to reach that temperature.
The Tokamak Advanced Research Fusion Device from Korea reached 100 million degrees Celsius of a plasma temperature in December 2020 for 20 seconds.
Earlier, in November 2018, EAST produced an electron temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in its core plasma, which is seven times higher than the temperature found in the center of the sun. The reactor also maintained a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds in 2020.
The experimental reactor first started operating in 2006 and has been one of the key sources of research around fusion ever since.
With the world’s green energy shifting, the fusion reactor could provide a clean source of unlimited energy supply once it becomes operational.