Chinese Fusion Test Hits 50 Million Celsius For 102 Seconds

Chinese Fusion Test Hits 90 Million Degrees for 102 Seconds

Tests at a fusion reactor in China have hit a major milestone. The experiments have created plasma with a temperature of 50 million degrees Celsius — hotter than the core of our Sun — and sustained the state for over a minute and a half. The experiments were carried out in the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak — known as EAST. Its design uses a doughnut-shaped reactor in which incredibly hot plasma resides. Careful control of intense magnetic fields allows the plasma to be contained in a tight ring running through the centre of the doughnut's circular cross section — which means that the walls of the structure are never directly exposed to the high temperatures of the plasma.

Ensuring those temperatures can be sustained for long enough is essential to creating energy — the long-term goal of such fusion reactors. We'd need the reactions to run for long periods of time because getting them started requires a huge input of energy: If they stall too soon, the reaction is net negative in energy terms. But controlling such intense heat is difficult, because such high energies causes great instabilities that are hard to confine. So running an experiment at such temperatures for 102 seconds is a positive step indeed.

The news comes on the back of successful tests at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald just last week, where hydrogen fuel was used for the first time in its Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.

It's not the hottest temperature ever created on Earth. That accolade goes to the scorching conditions created by the LHC, which managed to create a plasma "soup" of sub-atomic gluons and quarks with an estimated temperature of 5.5 trillion degrees Celsius. That's somewhere in the region of 250,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun. But those conditions last for the merest flicker of time, which is useless for actually creating energy.

Indeed, most scientists suggest that the long-yet-intense burn required for fusion needs to be around 100 million degrees Celsius — so we still have some way to go. The consensus seems to suggest that it will be a decade or more before one of these rigs is capable of actually producing electricity for us.

But for now, we can celebrate a positive week for fusion science. Let's hope there are many more.

[South China Morning Post via Tech Insider]

Image: Institute of Plasma Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences


Comments

    One step closer to having the ultimate solution to our energy problems bought out by oil companies who will stop it from happening

      Not in China at least, They are hell bent on energy security, as well as solving their *crippling* pollution problems.
      I believe they will crack this one and bring it online sooner than people think.

        German efforts are progressing quite well too. Germany is firmly committed to emission reduction, with a 27.7% drop from 1990 to 2014 and committed to a 40% reduction by 2020 and 70% reduction by 2040.

        You mean no more coal export to China? WE'RE DOOMED!

          What are you talking about we are already getting screwed over because of our governments lust for mining. price of ore has dropped and now we do not have enough money to run the government.

        At which point their first one blows up...

        *pessimist mode off.

      Except with the falling price of crude, soon the oil companies won't have the capital to buy anyone out even if they wanted to

    If superhero movies taught me anything, its that this will be used by a supervillian to destroy the world

      They should also have taught you that the supervillain will be stopped by a superhero created by that very same reactor. Plasmaman (he's so hot right now).

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