The Asian country’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor in Hefei has hit another target, putting completion of a newer machine even closer on the horizon. Scientists from China have announced that the machine which will hold the ‘artificial sun’, called the HL-2M Tokamak, could be built this year. This is because China has used EAST to create temperatures which exceed 100 million degrees celsius – which is as hot as the interior of the sun.
Once that temperature has been sustained for a period of time, then China thinks it can wrap up construction on HL-2M Tokamak.
Duan Xuru, an official at the China National Nuclear Corporation, is confident it could happen this year.
Dr Xuru told the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, according to China’s Global Times: “The artificial sun’s plasma is mainly composed of electrons and ions and the country’s existing Tokamak devices have achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees C in its core plasma, and an ion temperature of 50 million C, and it is the ion that generates energy in the device.”
Last year, scientists from China announced they had sustained that temperature for 60 seconds, but the goal is to keep it going for upwards of one thousand seconds.
Nuclear fusion is a staggering technical innovation in which hydrogen from sea water and readily available lithium is heated to more than 150 million°C.
Atomic nuclei begin to fuse together releasing huge amounts of energy but without the massive amount of deadly radiation which our existing nuclear fission reactors create.
However, plenty of others have hailed breakthroughs in the past which have come to nothing.
In 1989, US scientists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons claimed to have developed a way of generating nuclear fusion at room temperature, a process they referred to as “cold fusion”.
Nevertheless, the race to build a fusion reactor is hotting up, with numerous companies now devoting resources towards developing a successful method.
Experts predict it will become a reality within 30 years – and much quicker than that if Xuru’s efforts prove successful.