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China’s Extremely Powerful ‘Artificial Sun’ Is Now Switched On

A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ‘artificial sun’, called HL-2M, is a fusion reactor at the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu, which generates power by applying powerful magnetic fields to hydrogen to compress it until it creates a plasma that can reach temperatures of more than 150 million degrees Celsius.

This is 10 times hotter than the nucleus of the Sun and generates enormous amounts of energy when the atoms fuse together. 

The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.

The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June.

Nuclear fusion has been touted as the holy grail of clean energy production, however it remains a long way from being realised outside of a laboratory, despite decades of research into the technology.

Replicating the physics of the actual sun, nuclear fusion reactors merge atomic nuclei in order to generate massive amounts of energy that can be turned into electricity.

The process requires no fossil fuels and leaves behind no hazardous waste materials, unlike the nuclear fission process that powers commercial nuclear energy production. Physicists also claim that there is far less risk of an environmental disaster.

Nuclear Fusion Reaction

The facility is called “artificial sun” because it mimics the nuclear fusion reaction that powers the real sun, which uses hydrogen and deuterium gasses as fuel. The main purpose of this reactor is to create an enormous amount of green sustainable energy in the future.

And this will be done through the nuclear fusion process. Nuclear fusion, a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons), releases very high levels of energy without generating large quantities of nuclear waste.

Currently, nuclear power is obtained in the form of fission, a process contrary to fusion (energy is produced by dividing the nucleus of a heavy atom into two or more nuclei of lighter atoms). Fission is easier to achieve, but it generates waste. Moreover, hydrogen and deuterium gasses are abundant on earth, are clean, and have minimal waste products.

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