The Chinese “artificial sun”: hotter than the sun for 17 minutes – RB

The Chinese “artificial sun”: hotter than the sun for 17 minutes – RB

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The Chinese “artificial sun”: hotter than the Sun for 17 minutes – RB

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The Chinese “artificial sun”: hotter than the Sun for 17 minutes – RB


The Chinese EAST project for the production of controlled thermonuclear fusion beats all records: a big step towards the dream of clean and inexhaustible energy

January 8 2022

That of the nuclear fusion is a dream that physicists all over the world have been chasing for over 70 years. Reproducing nuclear fusion in a process of controlled thermonuclear fusion would mean being able to produce energy for the Earth using the same mechanism that powers the Sun and other stars.

China – now at the forefront of energy policies – is taking nuclear fusion experimentation to another level: its “artificial sun” has been running for over 17 minutes, at a temperature 5 times hotter than that of the Sun .

The energy of the stars

It is no coincidence that the Chinese super-reactor of the project EAST – Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak – it is also called “artificial sun”. The nuclear fusion facility that is breaking all records and finally making the prospect of producing energy by exploiting nuclear fusion plausible is to some extent indeed an artificial sun.

The tokamak is a donut-shaped machine, in technical terms toroidal, inside which a gas in the plasma state, i.e. at very high temperatures and low pressure, flows in a sort of closed circuit.

All this takes place at temperatures of millions of degrees centigrade , which is why which the plasma flow is kept well away from the tokamak walls thanks to a powerful magnetic field.

Plasma, the fourth state of matter , exists on our planet only in very rare cases: lightning, the northern lights and the layer of ionized gas that accompanies the descent of spacecraft to Earth are among the only known examples.

On the other hand, plasma constitutes more than 99% of the matter that forms the Universe beyond our atmosphere: the Sun, the stars and nebulae are made up of matter in the plasma state. And it is in the plasma state that nuclear fusion takes place, the chemical reaction that keeps the stars alive and that various scientific projects have been trying to reproduce for years.

The most advanced project in the field unites the largest countries in the world: it is called ITER and provides for the testing of a nuclear fusion reactor tokamak deuterium-tritium , under construction in the south of France. Meanwhile, the Chinese project appears to be advancing faster than the others.

Warmer than the Sun

The Chinese tokamak reactor is called HL-2M , and it is entered into operation for the first time at the end of 2020 : then it remained in operation for a few hundred milliseconds. Then, in May of 2021, the first important record: the plasma remained in circulation in the tokamak for 101 seconds, at the temperature never reached before 120 million degrees centigrade.

The internal temperature of the Sun is approximately 15 million degrees centigrade: to achieve controlled thermonuclear fusion, we must pass the Sun.

The HL-2M reactor, according to Xinhua News Agency , maintained the temperature of 70 millions of degrees centigrade, almost 5 times the temperature of the Sun, for 1. 056 seconds – 17 minutes.

The latest record made by the Chinese artificial sun, the development of which cost over one trillion dollars , marks a huge step towards the dream of an inexhaustible source of clean energy for the Earth .

Inexhaustible, because deuterium and tritium are two isotopes of hydrogen, simply obtainable respectively from sea water and from a reaction with lithium, still quite available on our planet. Clean, because a tokamak plant does not emit CO2 or greenhouse gases of any kind.