Published: Fri, November 16, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

"Chinese artificial sun" pushes past 100 million degrees

While generating plasma at such high temperatures, there are still many milestones that will need to be overcome before fusion becomes a reliable source of energy.

Scientists at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have been working on an experiment to achieve nuclear fusion since 2006.

The experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST), or the "Chinese artificial sun", achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees in its core plasma, a key step towards the test running of fusion reactor, a lab in east China's Anhui Province said.

The news comes a month after the country released plans to launch an "artificial moon" by 2020.

The machine has been created to replicate the way in which the star at the centre of our solar system generates its colossal energy.

To harness the energy, the plasma must be suspended inside a reactor. Located on Science Island in Eastern China's Anhui Province, the project is using nuclear fusion to create huge heat; it costs a massive $15,000 a day just to turn on the machine.

Every nuclear reactor now operating on Earth is a fission reactor - using energy released when heavy atoms such as uranium decay into smaller atoms, a process similar to the one used in the first nuclear weapons.

One way of achieving this on Earth is by using what's known as a tokamak, a device created to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the Sun and stars to generate energy. It is this plasma that led EAST to heat to such a high temperature.

Nuclear fusion promises Humans to give them clean energy as it does not produce any radioactive waste. The facility is 11 meters tall, with a diameter of 8 meters, and a weight of 400 tons.

In theory, fusion reactors would produce energy by fusing hydrogen atoms into helium.

As EAST has a similar design to ITER but on a far smaller scale, it is likely to be an important testing device during the development of ITER, according to China's Institute of Plasma Physics.

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