Energy

Fusion breakthrough as China's "artificial sun" reaches 100 million degrees

Fusion breakthrough as China's...
China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius in its core plasma
China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius in its core plasma
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he plasma electron temperature over 100 million degrees achieved in 2018 on EAST
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he plasma electron temperature over 100 million degrees achieved in 2018 on EAST
The extension of EAST operation scenario in 2018, with the comparison of its energy confinement enhanced factor to the ITER baseline scenario
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The extension of EAST operation scenario in 2018, with the comparison of its energy confinement enhanced factor to the ITER baseline scenario
China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius in its core plasma
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China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius in its core plasma

The day of clean, limitless energy from nuclear fusion has taken another step closer thanks to China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). During a four-month experiment, the "Chinese artificial sun" reached a core plasma temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius – that's more than six times hotter than the interior of the Sun – and a heating power of 10 MW, enabling the study of various aspects of practical nuclear fusion in the process.

Beginning operations in 2006, the Chinese designed and developed EAST is located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASHIPS) and is billed as an open test facility for conducting steady-state operations and ITER-related physics research by both Chinese and international scientists. And, like many other fusion experiments, the ultimate goal is to produce a practical nuclear fusion power reactor.

EAST is a tokamak reactor, which consists of a metal torus or doughnut that is exhausted to a hard vacuum and then injected with hydrogen atoms. These atoms are then heated by a number of different methods to create a plasma that is then compressed using a series of powerful superconducting magnets.

he plasma electron temperature over 100 million degrees achieved in 2018 on EAST
he plasma electron temperature over 100 million degrees achieved in 2018 on EAST

Eventually, the plasma becomes so hot and so compressed that the conditions inside the reactor mimic those found inside the Sun, causing the hydrogen atoms to fuse, releasing tremendous amounts of energy. The hope is that eventually a reactor can be built where the fusion reaction is self-sustaining, and the reactor generates more energy than it consumes.

EAST produced its breakthrough temperatures and densities for around 10 seconds by combining four different heating methods to create the plasma and spark the fusion process. In this case, the methods were lower hybrid wave heating (oscillating the ions and electrons in the plasma), electron cyclotron wave heating (using a static magnetic field and a high-frequency electromagnetic field), ion cyclotron resonance heating (accelerating ions in a cyclotron), and neutral beam ion heating (injecting a beam of accelerated neutral particles into the plasma).

The extension of EAST operation scenario in 2018, with the comparison of its energy confinement enhanced factor to the ITER baseline scenario
The extension of EAST operation scenario in 2018, with the comparison of its energy confinement enhanced factor to the ITER baseline scenario

However, the purpose wasn't just to peg the meter, but to also study how to maintain plasma stability and equilibrium, how to confine and transport it, and how the plasma wall interacts with energetic particles. In addition, EAST is used as a demonstrator of how to use radio frequency wave-dominant heating, maintain a high level of plasma confinement with a high degree of purity, maintain magnetohydrodynamic stability, and how to exhaust heat using an water-cooled tungsten divertor.

CASHIPS says EAST is being used to explore how to maintain electron temperatures of over 100 million degrees over long periods to further knowledge and aid the development of advanced reactors like the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in France, the Chinese Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), and the proposed DEMO (DEMOnstration Power Station). Achieving temperatures in excess of 100 million degrees Celsius – even if only for around 10 seconds – proves that it is possible to reach the temperatures required for nuclear fusion.

Source: CASHIPS

15 comments
Fritz
Did this people never have been in high school? In first class you learn why it never can be sustainable. Even in case it would work it is even not environmental friendly.
guzmanchinky
We are so close to this, I can't wait. Imagine fusion powering CO2 scrubbers, desalinization plants, quick charging graphene car batteries, the list is endless.
Derek Howe
guzmanchinky - yeah...close.....I'll check back in 20 years.
john606
A tokamak is not an artificial sun.
Fritz
In any case it is a black hole for tax payers money. I read in the late 1960ies about the same thing in Hobby - Magazin der Technik*. Today at ITER they say that in 30 years we will know: does it work or not... Great! All the "researchers" in charge had a good time and retire than with nice pension funding. If someone would please digitize this journals we would save drastically money because of many "innovations" published and made that time and failed.
ljaques
I'd truly love to see (cold) fusion in my lifetime. Say, how did you measure the 100M degrees? My bulb thermometer doesn't go that high.
Arandor
Didn't they watch Spider-Man 2? This is not going to end well.
lzugner
Hey Fritz, go back to your cave and quit reading if you don't like what you read. Learn English.
Pierre Collet
Wow... so many negative comments on the best promise of endless non-polluting energy... But as was said above, time has not come yet for fusion to replace fossil fuel. This is a great endeavour for humankind that will still need time to mature, which is perfect as it will ensure a not too abrupt transition from fossil-fuel based energy. Transport and many other sectors of the industry will have time to switch to electricity via batteries so that the transition is not too painful. However, the petrol/coal producing countries should definitely prepare for what is coming. 20 to 30 years will seem short to them...
Fast Eddie
Sixty-plus years after work began, we are showing another step of progress...but the planet cannot wait until this form of fusion power comes into being. There is no reason to believe we are less than another fifty years away from finding a way to make magnetic containment fusion power work. However, I have the solution, and explained here: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/09597b104b84e91f1e31dae27c07cefbb9984224ce373d4fe4c98b503d0669c9.jpg