China's Artificial Sun has set a New record for Sustainable Energy Production

By Ellyse Perry  |   12 Jan, 2022

China's Artificial Sun has set a New record for Sustainable Energy Production

Chinese state media says that one of its "artificial suns" has established a new record for sustained high temperatures in China's search for clean fusion energy.

According to Anthony Cuthbertson of the Independent, China's "artificial sun" project has set a new world record by maintaining a nuclear fusion reaction for more than 17 minutes. Scientists recently achieved a temperature of superheated plasma of 126 million degrees Fahrenheit in an experiment.

Fuel For The Artificial Sun

Using hydrogen and deuterium gas as fuel, the system simulates nuclear events occurring inside the sun. In contrast to the finite supply of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, the raw materials needed to power the "artificial sun" are virtually inexhaustible. As a result, fusion energy is hailed as humanity's "ultimate energy."

Nuclear Fusion

Two or more nuclei are fused together to create a single nucleus that is heavier than any other nucleus in order to meet the expanding needs of the planet. Because it mimics the sun's physics by fusing atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy into electricity, nuclear fusion may be the cleanest available energy source. According to the Independent, the process uses no fossil fuels, produces no radioactive waste, and provides a safer alternative to nuclear fission power.

Research And Experiment

For more than seven decades, scientists have been seeking to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs in the sun and other stars in order to create a near-infinite supply of energy. To put it another way: The star's fusion of hydrogen and helium atoms under tremendous pressure and temperature generates enormous amounts of energy by producing light and heat.

However, China has developed a nuclear fusion reactor known as EAST that mimics the sun's and stars' natural fusion processes. Since 2006, China's EAST nuclear fusion reactor has been conducting experiments. However, experts have just lately discovered a key milestone. The Tore Supra tokamak in France set the previous record in 2003, when a plasma loop stayed at the same temperature for 390 seconds.

A new record was made in May 2021 when EAST reached 216 million degrees Fahrenheit (120 million degrees Celsius) in 1,056 seconds. The sun, on the other hand, only reaches a temperature of 27 million degrees F. (15 million degrees Celsius).

Deuterium, a hydrogen isotope frequently referred to as "heavy hydrogen," is an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron that can be used to create a steady stream of energy, according to ABP Live. In nuclear fusion reactors, deuterium is utilized as a moderator because it has a lower probability of absorbing neutrons than hydrogen atoms.

A plasma formed by the fusion of hydrogen isotopes (hydrogen and deuterium) in the reactor allows it to reach such high temperatures. Heat is produced as a result of the reaction between these two components coming together.

Further Goals Of EAST

Keeping temperatures beyond 100 million degrees Celsius and operating the system in a reliable manner over long periods of time is now a challenge for scientists. Deuterium abundant in the water is the ultimate goal of EAST in Hefei, which is housed at ASIPP and aims to initiate nuclear fusion in the same way as the Sun.

In the words of Chinese Academy of Sciences lead researcher Gong Xianzu, a nuclear fusion reactor might provide a near-infinite supply of energy, and the current experiment has laid the groundwork for that goal. Fusion reactors can be built on the solid scientific and experimental foundation laid by the recent operation, says Gong Xianzu

In the meantime, China's EAST reactor is being utilized as a test reactor for a much larger tokamak reactor under construction in France. An international team of 35 countries is working together to build the world's largest nuclear reactor, to be known as ITER. Involvement of all EU countries, the United States, United Kingdom, China, India, and the rest of the world is reported by Live Science.

"Five years from now, we will start building our fusion reactor, which would take another 10 years of development," Institute of Plasma Physics director Song Yuntao stated. To begin generating power by 2040, he thinks they can do so with the construction of the power generator. The reactor's magnetic field is 280,000 times stronger than Earth's, making it the strongest in the world.

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