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China's Artificial Sun Creates Milestone For Plasma Fusion: Cleaner, Unlimited Energy Coming Soon?

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While NASA is working on better understanding our Sun, China has created an artificial sun that is five times more powerful. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has achieved a milestone in creating an artificial sun for an alternative energy source. More importantly, the artificial sun tokamak reactor has maintained a rolling loop of plasma superheated to 120 million degrees Celsius.

 
China's Artificial Sun Created: Unlimited Energy Coming Soon?

China Creates Artificial Sun

The Institute of Plasma Physics reported the Chinese artificial sun was able to maintain the superheat of 120 million degrees Celsius for 1,056 seconds. This broke the previous record of maintaining the plasma confinement for 390 seconds in France, back in 2003.

The experiment and milestone achieved by Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak or EAST is a huge leap forward for fusion experiments. This further helps scientists in exploring cleaner, unlimited energy via nuclear fusion. However, the challenges to accomplish this are several.

For one, the entire process involves replicating what happens in the heart of a star to create that kind of energy. This involves high pressure and temperature that require squeezing nuclei together to fuse them to form new elements.

China's Artificial Sun Created: Unlimited Energy Coming Soon?

Particularly, the Chinese artificial sun setup mimics the nuclear reactions taking place inside the Sun, where hydrogen and deuterium gases are used as fuel. To note, the EAST reactor was designed and built by Chinese agencies back in 2006 and has been used for nuclear fusion experiments since then. Currently, the success of creating the artificial sun is being tested to ensure the auxiliary heating system is hot and durable.

What Happens Inside An Artificial Sun?

Before understanding what goes on inside the Chinese artificial sun, let's take a look at what happens to the stars in our galaxy. When it comes to main-sequence stars, hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium. Here, one helium nucleus has less mass than four hydrogen nuclei. This in turn makes the excess mass radiate heat and light, which is what we get from our Sun.

 

At the same time, one should understand that fusion generates gigantic amounts of energy, which is what powers a star. Creating a similar procedure artificially is significantly challenging as the same heat and pressure of a star are required.

Here, the Chinese artificial sun or the tokamak involves a superheated plasma that is confined in the shape of a donut using powerful magnetic fields. The confined space for the superheated plasma for long durations helps to cultivate longer reaction times - but this too has its challenges and is prone to instabilities.

China's Artificial Sun Created: Unlimited Energy Coming Soon?

Sun Vs Chinese Artificial Sun

As mentioned earlier, the Chinese artificial sun was able to maintain the massive heat for nearly 20 minutes, despite being five times more massive than the real Sun. To better understand this context, one should know the Sun's core is 15 million degrees Celsius. And now, the Chinese artificial sun was able to get it going to 120 million degrees Celsius, even if for just 1,056 seconds.

What the Chinese agency has achieved is a tremendous leap forward in science. However, fusion energy has a long way to go. For one, more energy is put into the reactor than what we can get out of it. But the recent milestone shows we're in the right direction to make plasma fusion energy usable.

(source)

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