China’s artificial sun has set a new world record for plasma confinement

Great news comes to us from scientists in China working on the new HL-2M tokamak. There they have managed to set a new record for plasma confinement and take a big step towards commercialization of these devices.

The Chinese don’t reveal much information about their projects. The fusion reactor, a device that is expected to provide mankind with an unlimited source of energy for further rapid development and space conquest, is no different. This should not be surprising, since the Chinese want to become a world pioneer in this matter. The one who first masters the essence of nuclear fusion and obtains a large positive energy balance in their artificial sun, will gain power over our planet.

It may sound scary, but in fact mankind is fighting each other for access to energy sources such as oil, gas and coal. Fusion reactors are intended to allow countries that have them to produce cheap and fully environmentally friendly energy for development that beats not only fossil fuels but also renewable energy technologies in terms of efficiency.

The Chinese already have a track record of success with their fusion reactor. They have trapped and maintained a plasma in a magnetic field with electron temperatures as high as 100 million degrees Celsius and ion temperatures as high as 50 million degrees, and achieved thermal energy of 10 MW. They also initiated nuclear fusion and produced a plasma with a temperature of 50 million degrees Celsius and maintained it for as long as 102 seconds. Now it’s time for higher temperatures and much more efficient materials.

The new reactor, named HL-2M, is located in laboratories in the city of Chengdu. The device is equipped with new magnets, based on the latest high-temperature superconductor technology. The Chinese have applied here inventions that were developed in their country only a few months ago. They can hold a plasma with a temperature of as much as 200 million degrees Celsius, which is as much as 14 times higher than that inside the Sun. This will create an artificial sun on the surface of our planet.

The fusion reaction is a phenomenon in which two lighter atomic nuclei fuse into the nuclei of heavier elements. The fusion is accompanied by the release of huge amounts of energy. It is the use of this powerful energy that is the goal of many countries. It should be emphasized here that such reactors are completely safe. Unlike nuclear reactors, in the former the elements merge, not disintegrate.

Hydrogen nuclei combine to form heavier isotopes: deuterium and tritium, and then helium. At the same time, an unimaginable amount of energy is emitted. Just one glass of water will give as much energy as half a million barrels of oil.

To be able to fuse at all, the particles must be tamed in a strong magnetic field and at high temperature. Chinese scientists intend to achieve in their HL-2M reactor for the first time in history a positive energy balance, at a temperature of as much as 200 million degrees Celsius. Until now, no one has ever managed to achieve such a temperature in a Tokamak-type reactor.

The Chinese have just broken their records and set a new global record for plasma temperature and maintenance. The HL-2M produced and maintained a plasma temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds and 120 million degrees for 101 seconds. The previous record belonged to Korea’s KSTAR and was 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds. The Chinese have therefore improved it by more than 50 percent.

Several countries in the world are currently working on artificial suns. One of the largest projects is currently underway in France. ITER, the European fusion reactor, is being built there and is expected to be ready in 2025. Then the tests will start, which will last for 10 years. Experts believe that a positive energy balance will be achieved in ITER in the first half of the 2030s. Interestingly, scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences participate in the project.

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