Energy

KSTAR fusion reactor sets record with 30-second plasma confinement

KSTAR fusion reactor sets reco...
KSTAR, the so-called "Korean artificial sun," has set a record for maintaining plasma at temperatures over 100 million °C
KSTAR, the so-called "Korean artificial sun," has set a record for maintaining plasma at temperatures over 100 million °C
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KSTAR, the so-called "Korean artificial sun," has set a record for maintaining plasma at temperatures over 100 million °C
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KSTAR, the so-called "Korean artificial sun," has set a record for maintaining plasma at temperatures over 100 million °C

Scientists are exploring nuclear fusion technology through various experimental devices, and a popular design for this pursuit of clean, practically inexhaustible energy is known as the tokamak. An exciting example of these donut-shaped reactors can be found at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy, where scientists have reportedly set a new record by maintaining super-hot plasma for 30 seconds.

The idea behind fusion power is to recreate the processes that take place inside the Sun. Huge gravitational forces combine with intense heat and pressure to produce a plasma, in which nuclei smash into each other at high velocity to form helium and release energy.

Tokamaks are designed to recreate this process here on Earth with a series of coils placed around a torus-shaped reactor, magnetically confining plasma heated to millions of degrees for long enough for the fusion of nuclei to occur. Many of these experimental devices are in operation around the world, and the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor is one making some promising strides.

Construction was completed on the device in 2007 and it then generated its first plasma in 2008. In 2016, KSTAR claimed a world record by maintaining plasma heated to 50 million °C (90 million °F) for 70 seconds, which was outdone by China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) with a 102-second effort in 2017.

The goal for devices such as these, however, is to heat the plasma to more than 100 million °C (180 million °F), and in 2018 KSTAR did just that, albeit for 1.5 seconds. It upped the ante with an eight-second effort at the same temperature in 2019, and then last December set a world record by maintaining plasma at 100 million °C for 20 seconds.

Now, as reported by Business Korea, scientists working on the KSTAR device have taken another significant step forward, extending that timeframe to a world-record 30 seconds. This performance boost is said to be the result of further optimized magnetic field conditions and heating systems. The magazine reports that the team is is aiming to sustain the plasma for 300 seconds in 2026 through upgrades to the power source and through a tungsten diverter that will prevent a rise in temperature in the inner walls of the chamber.

Source: National Research Council of Science & Technology via Business Korea

17 comments
17 comments
vince
Fast forward 50 years. The tokomak design is trashed as the physics of holding a plasma steady indefinitely for commercial use is finally understood and the design considered hopeless due to critical changes in materials used to magnetically confine the plasma makes them become brittle and there is no way to stop the damages from occuring and all hope for fusion is abandoned. Finally.
Nizzlund
Fusion power is the wholy graal, to provide energy to the world. A tough control on naitivity is the wholy graal to lower the exploding the energy demand of the world. No matter how much LED-lamps and heatpumps the world invests in, an ever growing population in the underdeveloped countries wants cheap energy gulping cars, AC´s, heating, travels, kitchen appliances, healt care a.o. The world needs both graals.... yesterday! 
michael_dowling
Even if they can eventually maintain a fusion reaction indefinitely,the fact remains that hot fusion generates fast neutrons,which make everything they hit highly radioactive. So a reactor of this type would have to have it's reactor vessel rebuilt on a regular basis,which would in no way be an economical way to generate power. Stick with regular FISSION and wind/solar.
guzmanchinky
Why do people enjoy the idea of something like this failing? I honestly don't get it. Why are people reading a science website? Anyway, this is stellar news. The goal here is worth the setbacks...
LooseSends
Guzmanchinky, it's because they want to project how edgy they are with their next-level, against-the-grain intellect. Often, they feel personally let-down for believing in the 30yr fusion promise for so long and need to react with exaggerated criticism.

However, I don't hold out much enthusiasm for Tokamaks either for a variety of practical reasons. They've become corporate boondoggle, make-work schemes for politicians needing to pay back supportive industries imho.

But fusion will certainly not and should not be abandoned because Tokamaks and plasma containment strategies aren't the only way to achieve it.
Gabe Ets-Hokin
Man! I sure am glad I don't have to pay their power bill.
Fred Lockett
Maybe they could try wrapping the reactor with a bunch of tubing filled with water to remove the heat and use it to spin turbines and make electricity?
HalSlater
Fusion is just another rich-guy scam like hydrogen to re-establish an umbilical cord from our wallets to theirs. Solar is the only solution we need and it liberates us from those that want to maintain cash-flow at other people's (our) expense. Stop setting off nuclear bombs to boil a cuppa tea!
FB36
Producing massive amounts of clean power using fusion is really possible?: Absolutely/obviously yes!
Fusion reactions can really be triggered artificially?: Absolutely/obviously yes!
There is really a lot of steady progress on fusion research?: Absolutely/obviously yes!
Then, let's not listen to the naysayers who think "We are just keep wasting tons of money & should/must give-up!"!
Douglas Rogers
None of the commenters seem to have seen the ITRE web site!
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