China’s “artificial sun” fusion tokamak broke the world record for the longest time to achieve a plasma temperature of just 160 million degrees Celsius (216 million degrees Fahrenheit) for 101 seconds, as well as a total of 160 million degrees Celsius. Although nuclear fusion reactors are still in their infancy, growing these temperatures for long periods of time pushes the field towards the ultimate goal of more unlimited energy. The announcement, made by China’s state-run media Global Times, broke the fusion record of experimental pioneer Superconducting tokamak (EAST), which was originally the Korean KSTR fusion device that reached 100 million degrees Celsius in December 2020, 20 seconds.
Holding five times the duration of this level is a huge milestone, which researchers at East now hope to extend further. Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, said in a statement to the Global Times, “The groundbreaking remarkable progress and the ultimate goal should be to keep temperatures stable for a long time to come.” Tokamak is a device that uses strong magnets to create magnetic fields capable of limiting plasma. Often in the form of a ringed donut, a tokamak heats deuterium and tritium in a magnetic field at a plasma temperature that can be six times hotter than the Sun’s core.
Intensive energy is required to keep this magnetic prison in place, which means current repetitions are much more inefficient and short-lived as a functional fusion reactor, but tokamak presents our best option for a functional fusion reactor in the future. To achieve fusion, the temperature must be above 100 million degrees Celsius, in a place where deuterium and tritium atoms begin to converge. In this process, a lot of energy is released, which is expected to be used to power the electricity grid once the world’s reactors are operational.
Some scientists even want to abandon the intense heat required for “hot fusion” and try to create “cold fusion” – a nuclear reaction that occurs near room temperature – although this is only a conjecture that has not yet been proven realistic.