April 18, 2023

China’s “Artificial Sun” Breaks Records Again

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has surpassed yet another milestone: this time, the fusion generator has achieved a new record for the longest confined plasma reaction.

Researchers at China’s “artificial sun” in Hefei, Anhui Province have claimed that the powerful device held a sustained reaction of ulta-hot plasma for four minutes and 43 seconds, clocking roughly three minutes over the previous record made in 2017.

Last Thursday, 13 April, a local news outlet published a statement: “The main significance of this new breakthrough lies in its ‘high-confinement mode’, under which the temperature and density of the plasma increase significantly.”

These are the words of Song Yuntao, director of the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (which also happens to be the same organisation that built EAST).

The process sees hydrogen fuel under immense heat and pressure until it becomes plasma, with a temperature higher than those produced by the sun, using a similar nuclear fusion; the magnetic fields inside the Tokamak then confine the super-heated plasma in a controlled manner.

While the result is impressive, the energy input outweighs the output, and the main aim of EAST is to refine the plasma duration in order to create a net energy result.

The new limit provides an optimistic step towards clean, safe and efficient nuclear fusion, especially since the reaction was effectively contained without generating much residual waste.

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