China says it has achieved a new world record after scientists who developed an ‘artificial sun’ ran the device at a record-high temperature for more than 100 seconds.
The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) generated a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds, before cranking things up to 160 million degrees for a further 20 seconds.
The device, which is based at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, broke the previous record of maintaining a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds.
The EAST is one of a number of ‘artificial sun’ devices currently under construction as countries race to become the first to produce a reliable nuclear fusion reactor. The successful test sees China take another step towards being able to generate unlimited clean energy through nuclear fusion – a goal widely seen as the holy grail of sustainable energy – after first powering up the device six months ago.
By holding a peak temperature of 160 million degrees, the EAST device appears to now be capable of generating temperatures more than 10 times as hot as the surface of the sun, which burns at roughly 15 million degrees Celsius.
Speaking to The Global Times, China’s state-run newspaper, Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said that the next goal could see scientists attempt to run the device at a consistent temperature for as long as a whole week
The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time.
The latest test run smashes previous records set by the same device, and South Korea’s own artificial sun, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), which ran at 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds last December.
The EAST artificial sun is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – the largest global scientific co-operation effort since the development of the International Space Station three decades ago.
The Global Times reports that the reactor is being developed by China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. China is funding roughly 9% of its research and development.
If the device continues to advance at its current rate, experts believe successful nuclear fusion could be achieved within the next 30 years. The International Atomic Energy Agency is currently working towards a goal of holding a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees for 300 seconds by 2025.