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China Builds An ‘Artificial Sun’

China has built an ‘artificial sun’ that reaches temperature six times that of the core of our closest star.

The state-of-the-art reactor is designed to replicate the processes of the sun as part of a project to turn hydrogen into cost-effective green energy.

It reached a key milestone this week when it hit 180 million F (100 million C) for the first time, which is believed to be the temperature at which nuclear fusion occurs.

Scientists across the globe are locked in a race to build the world’s first operational nuclear fusion reactor.

The victor will unlock a source of near-limitless clean energy worth billions that some believe could save the planet from the climate change crisis.

Scientists at the China’s Hefei Institutes of Physical Science announced their fusion machine reached hit 180 million F (100 million C) on Tuesday.

This is more than six times hotter than the core of the sun, which peaks at around 27 million F (15 million C).

Scientists believe that nuclear fusion occurs at 180 million F – causing  charged deuterium and tritium particles join together in a huge burst of energy.

rather than splitting them.

The machine reached a key milestone this week when its core hit a temperature of 180 million degrees F (100 million degrees C) for the first time. Pictured left are temperature readings from the experiment, while the right image visualises the heat
The machine reached a key milestone this week when its core hit a temperature of 180 million degrees F (100 million degrees C) for the first time. Pictured left are temperature readings from the experiment, while the right image visualises the heat

The process promises a vast resource of cheap energy and is far safer than fission, producing almost no dangerous nuclear waste.

A practical fusion reactor must not only be capable of sustaining extreme temperatures, but also remain stable at these temperatures for long periods.

EAST currently holds the world record for sustaining a reaction in a Tokamak – a poultry 101.2 seconds back in 2017.

EAST's core (pictured) hit temperatures more than six times hotter than the core of the sun, which peaks at around 27 million degrees F (15 million degrees C)
EAST’s core (pictured) hit temperatures more than six times hotter than the core of the sun, which peaks at around 27 million degrees F (15 million degrees C)

The Tokamak is the world’s most developed magnetic confinement system and is the basis for the design of many modern fusion reactors.

It involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium.

For fusion to occur, hydrogen atoms are placed under high heat and pressure until they fuse together.

Tokamak Energy, a nuclear fusion company based in Oxfordshire, claims it will build a fusion reactor for power generation by 2030.

HOW DOES A NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR WORK?

Fusion is the process by which a gas is heated up and separated into its constituent ions and electrons.

It involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium.

For fusion to occur, hydrogen atoms are placed under high heat and pressure until they fuse together.

When deuterium and tritium nuclei – which can be found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron and a lot of energy

This is done by heating the fuel to temperatures in excess of 150 million°C and forming a hot plasma, a gaseous soup of subatomic particles.

Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the reactor’s walls, so that it doesn’t cool down and lose its energy potential.

These fields are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel and by an electrical current driven through the plasma.

For energy production, plasma has to be confined for a sufficiently long period for fusion to occur.

When ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together.

When this happens, they release around one million times more energy than a chemical reaction and three to four times more than a conventional nuclear fission reactor.

 

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