An announcement made by a team of China’s nuclear scientists from the Institute of Plasma Physics stated that their Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, also known as EAST has reached a new record-setting temperature of 100 million degree Celsius, to maintain a nuclear fusion process which produces more energy than what it consumes.
Feat to Set Stage for Efficient and Super Clean Energy Sources for the World
The original Sun of our solar system in comparison reaches only around 5,500 degree Celsius. The achievement by the Chinese scientists is widely considered to be an important step in forwarding the science of nuclear fusion, for not just China, but also the rest of the world. Nuclear fusion reactors are thought to be a feasible solution to the global energy scarcity issues.
If done right, the process will be able to generate extremely high amounts of energy, without any greenhouse gas emission or long-lasting waste of a radioactive nature. In addition to this, nuclear fusion also eliminates the risks usually associated with nuclear fission processes such as catastrophic meltdowns and the weaponization of nuclear fission materials. The news of the successful nuclear fusion reaction vent viral rapidly on Chinese social media.
Major Ramifications for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
The results achieved during the EAST experiment is considered to be very important for the implementation of the next international nuclear fusion science experiment, which will be conducted at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor ITER in Southern France. The project is built in collaboration of 35 countries including China, and it is anticipated to produce 10 times the amount of power that is required to run the system. The ITER is expected to create its first plasma and begin operating by 2025.
How China Made the Nuclear Process a Success
While on one hand most conventional nuclear reactors rely on a fission process, where uranium atoms are pushed into a chain reaction to split and produce energy, on the other, nuclear fusion turns the process on its head, producing energy by forcing atoms to fuse or merge.
The method used by the scientists from the Institute of Plasma Physics utilizes the EAST device known as a tokamak, which replicates the process nuclear fusion as it occurs naturally in the sun and stars. The device has a diameter of 8 meters and is 11 meters high, along with a weight of 360 tons.
The machine makes use of super-heavy and house-heavy atomic variations of hydrogen, namely deuterium and tritium, which are heated to extremely high temperatures by utilizing high energy electric currents that forcibly separate electrons from their atoms, which results in a plasma state of hydrogen ions.
High powered magnets that line the walls of the tokamak further push the hydrogen ion plasma into a tiny area in the structure, so that the ions are in high concentration and have a much higher chance of fusing together, and in the process generating a tremendous amount of energy. This energy can be harnessed at a power plant and be used to produce clean and pollution free electricity.
The team of Chinese nuclear scientists stated that although they were able to achieve the record breaking temperature through the use of some innovative techniques of plasma heating and control, the state was kept sustained for only 10 seconds, providing enough evidence that the milestone of 100 million degree Celsius was truly possible.
The news comes barely a month following the shocking announcement by China on their intention to launch an artificial moon in to space by 2020 that would be bright enough to replace streetlights.