According to state media, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) experts have successfully launched China’s nuclear-powered “artificial sun.”
During testing, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) set a new world record by reaching a peak temperature almost ten times that of the sun, according to CCP-controlled news channels.
For 100 seconds, the “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor ran at 216 million degrees Fahrenheit (120 million degrees Celsius).
It also reached a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit (160 million degrees Celsius), 10 times that of the sun.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Its next goal could be to run at a consistent temperature for a week, according to Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.
‘The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time,’ he told China’s state-run newspaper the Global Times.
The machine, China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma.
It is designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to provide almost infinite clean energy.
Located in China’s eastern Anhui province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an ‘artificial sun’ on account of the enormous heat and power it produces.
It is based at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
‘The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,’ said the People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.
Chinese scientists have been working on developing smaller versions of the nuclear fusion reactor since 2006.
They plan to use the device in collaboration with scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) – the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, which is expected to be completed in 2025.
It is the largest global scientific co-operation effort since the creation of the International Space Station more than 20 years ago.
South Korea also has its own ‘artificial sun’, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), which has run at 180million°F (100million°C) for 20 seconds.
Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun, which burns at roughly 27million°F (15million°C).
It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy – the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.
Unlike fission, fusion emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material.
But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive, with the total cost of ITER estimated at $22.5billion (£15.9billion).
This is because causing hydrogen isotope atoms to collide and fuse together to produce helium – the same way as the Sun creates energy – produces an enormous amount of waste heat.
However, last month UK scientists announced that they had found a way of dealing with these exhaust gases, cooling them from 270million°F (150million°C) to just a few hundred degrees, temperatures similar to that of a car engine.
This drastically reduces the wear and tear on the reactor in which the fusion occurs.
Scientists at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Culham, Oxfordshire, made their breakthrough using a £55million experimental fusion reactor called MAST Upgrade.
At its heart is the tokamak, which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine the hydrogen isotopes into a spherical shape, similar to a cored apple, as they are heated by microwaves into a plasma to produce fusion.
The new divertor means long-promised nuclear fusion could be commercially viable in around 20 years, as UKAEA plans to build a £220million scaled-up version of the MAST Upgrade by the 2040s.