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Beijing spent $1trillion on developing an experimental nuclear reactor that could bring the world a step closer to achieving limitless clean energy. In a breakthrough test, this “artificial Sun” set a new world record after it was able to superheat a loop of plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the Sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media reports.
Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the leader of the experiment said: “The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor.
“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,”
By maintaining such high temperatures, the EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) nuclear fusion reactor smashed previous records held by France’s Tore Supra tokamak in 2003, where scientists were able to create similar temperatures with a plasma in a coiling loop and maintain it for 390 seconds.
In a previous test, EAST set another record in May 2021 by running for 101 seconds at an unprecedented 216 million F (120 million C).
By contrast, the core of the actual Sun can only reach temperatures of around 27 million F (15 million C).
For more than 70 years, scientists have been trying to imitate the Sun by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, which is the process by which stars burn.
For Beijing, the EAST project is expected to cost more than $1trillion (£730billion) by the time the experiment finishes running in June.
It is also being used to test out technologies for an even bigger fusion project — the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which that’s currently being built in Marseille, France.
The ITER is set to be the world’s largest nuclear reactor and is developed with collaboration between 35 countries, including every state in the European Union, the U.K., China, India and the U.S.
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This project contains the world’s most powerful magnet, which makes it capable of generating a powerful magnetic field 280,000 times as strong as the one around the Earth.
The ITER fusion reactor is scheduled to come online in 2025, and it will provide scientists with even more insights that will help bring the world one step closer to limitless clean energy and net-zero emissions.
Meanwhile, China is also developing more of its own programs to create nuclear fusion power by conducting inertial confinement fusion experiments.
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