The record was set on December 30, 2021. The ‘artificial sun’ nuclear fusion reactor in Hefei, China, set a new world record after operating at 70 million °C for 1,056 seconds, more than 17 minutes. It is the longest lifetime for an experimental advanced superconducting tokamak fusion power (ESTE) reactor , Xinhua News Agency reports.
What happens in this reactor emulates the reactions that take place in stars like our own Sun. That is, nuclear fusion energy works by colliding heavy hydrogen atoms to form helium, releasing large amounts of energy, mimicking the process that occurs naturally. in the core of stars.
Seeking unlimited, emission-free energy
Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) kept the plasma at fusion temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius, breaking its own record set just seven months earlier. Recall that the core of the Sun, where hydrogen fusion takes place, is at a temperature of “only” 15 million degrees Celsius.
The reactor also broke a record last May when it ran for 101 seconds at a temperature of 120 million °C. This time it has been a considerably longer time.
Announced by the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP), this is an incredible milestone. On Earth, reactors need higher temperatures because the stars’ fabulous pressures keep hydrogen at bay . As terrestrial reactors cannot recreate these pressures, temperatures of at least 100 million degrees centigrade are required -it is the magic number of nuclear fusion- to achieve the fusion process. The goal is to release huge amounts of energy, extract it and convert it into electricity.
Succeeding in generating usable amounts of energy through nuclear fusion would change the world, but it ‘s incredibly difficult to pull off. It implies replicating the processes that take place in the heart of a star , as we have seen, and it is a titanic process. In fact, one of the most difficult elements to achieve is keeping superheated plasma confined for long periods of time to cultivate longer reaction times. The problem is that all this results in a chaotic and turbulent process, prone to instabilities, resulting in leaks.
The merger still has a long way to go despite this great milestone. At the moment, much more energy is coming in than we can get out of the fusion generator . And to achieve viable nuclear fusion, scientists must show that they can produce more energy than fusion reactors need to run.
EAST is just one of many nuclear fusion experiments that exist around the world. Other nuclear fusion experiments include MIT’s Bill Gates-backed SPARC and South Korea’s KSTAR, which recently broke a record by keeping superheated plasma at a million degrees for 30 seconds.