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China’s ‘artificial sun’ sets world record in a bid for clean energy

For quite some time, China has been trying to harness the energy of the sun inside an enormous lab. The experiment achieved a major milestone on 30 December 2021 when the experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST) fusion energy reactor, dubbed ‘artificial sun’, ran for a record 1,056 seconds, or 17 minutes, at high plasma temperature.

According to state-run news agency Xinhua, it was the longest duration for EAST, surpassing its previous record set at 101 seconds in May 2021.

Read on to know more about the ‘artificial sun’ and the experiment

Major success for ‘artificial sun’

Artificial Sun
The EAST reactor, or ‘artificial sun’. (Image credit: Institute of Plasma Physic Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The announcement was made by Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP).

“We achieved a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds in an experiment in the first half of 2021. This time, steady-state plasma operation was sustained for 1,056 seconds at a temperature close to 70 million degrees Celsius, laying a solid scientific and experimental foundation toward the running of a fusion reactor,” Gong told Xinhua.

The temperature the reactor ran at was five times hotter than that of the real sun.

As per Xinhua, EAST has now met all three targets — 1-million-ampere current, 1,000-second duration and 100-million-degree-Celsius temperature. It will now try to reach all the targets in a single attempt as part of its final stage, according to the state-run news agency.

Other reports suggest the recent success means the nuclear fusion reactor has been officially switched on.

Unlimited clean energy

An inside view of the reactor. (Image credit: Institute of Plasma Physic Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Developed by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the reactor is located at the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu. The current experiment was conducted in Hefei, in Anhui Province of China.

China’s attempt is aimed at revolutionising clean energy through nuclear fusion, a belief long held possible by scientists. The ‘artificial sun’ uses hydrogen and deuterium gases as fuel to replicate the nuclear fusion that takes place in the real sun.

Its success opens many possibilities in research and includes an infinite supply of clean energy.

Reports say that China has spent around USD 943 billion on the project, which will run till June 2022.

According to The Daily Mail, the Chinese scientists plan to use the reactor in collaboration with French scientists who are working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) — the world’s biggest reactor when completed and is expected to be operational in 2035.

Hero image: CHUTTERSNAP/@chuttersnap/Unsplash; Featured image: NASA/@nasa/Unsplash

China’s ‘artificial sun’ sets world record in a bid for clean energy

Manas Sen Gupta

Manas Sen Gupta writes at the intersection of tech, entertainment and history. His works have appeared in publications such as The Statesman, Myanmar Matters, Hindustan Times and News18/ETV. In his spare time, Manas loves studying interactive charts and topographic maps. When not doing either, he prefers reading detective fiction. Spring is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.


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