China’s ‘artificial sun’ heated to over 100 million degrees

Scientists in China have reported a major breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion technology, which would harness power through the same processes that occur within stars. At the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor in Hefei, China, researchers managed to heat hydrogen within the ‘artificial sun’ to a temperature of more than 100 million degrees Celsius, or 212 million degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it becomes plasma. The temperatures inside EAST are actually about seven times hotter than the center of the sun, where the added pressure from gravity allows for fusion to occur.

 

On Earth, extreme temperatures are necessary to produce nuclear fusion, which occurs when two nuclei come together to form a heavier nucleus. The fusion process releases vast amounts of heat and energy, the results of which we can see when we look up at the Sun, or any star in the night sky. The opposite of fusion is nuclear fission, which occurs when the nuclei of atoms split in a chain reaction. This process also releases extraordinary amounts of energy, and it’s currently used in nuclear weapons and power plants worldwide. However, nuclear fission leaves behind dangerous radioactive waste. Nuclear fusion is relatively clean.

 

That’s partly why scientists worldwide have been racing for years to develop a safe and reliable way to produce the conditions necessary for nuclear fusion, which in theory could someday give the world a virtually limitless supply of clean energy. The recent success at EAST represents an important step toward that goal.

 

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Sourced through Scoop.it from: bigthink.com