Recently, China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) achieved a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is over ten times hotter than the sun.
- China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), which mimics the energy generation process of the sun, set a new record after it ran at 216 million degrees Fahrenheit (120 million degrees Celsius) for 101 seconds.
- For another 20 seconds, the “artificial sun” also achieved a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit (160 million degrees Celsius), which is over ten times hotter than the sun.
- The EAST is one of three major domestic tokamaks that are presently being operated across the country.
- The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor is an advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device located at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China.
- The purpose of the artificial sun is to replicate the process of nuclear fusion, which is the same reaction that powers the sun.
- The EAST project is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) facility, which will become the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor when it becomes operational in 2035.
- The project includes the contributions of several countries, including India, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States.
How does the ‘artificial sun’ EAST work?
- The EAST Tokamak device is designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process carried out by the sun and stars.
- Nuclear fusion is a process through which high levels of energy are produced without generating large quantities of waste.
- For nuclear fusion to occur, tremendous heat and pressure are applied on hydrogen atoms so that they fuse together.
- The nuclei of deuterium and tritium — both found in hydrogen — are made to fuse together to create a helium nucleus, a neutron along with a whole lot of energy.
- Fuel is heated to temperatures of over 150 million degrees C so that it forms a hot plasma “soup” of subatomic particles.
- With the help of a strong magnetic field, the plasma is kept away from the walls of the reactor to ensure it does not cool down and lose its potential to generate large amounts of energy. The plasma is confined for long durations for fusion to take place.
- Previously, energy was produced through nuclear fission — a process in which the nucleus of a heavy atom was split into two or more nuclei of lighter atoms.
- While fission is an easier process to carry out, it generates far more nuclear waste. Unlike fission, fusion also does not emit greenhouse gases and is considered a safer process with lower risk of accidents.
- Once mastered, nuclear fusion could potentially provide unlimited clean energy and very low costs.
What is Tokamak
- The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.
- Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel.
- Like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant uses this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
Other Tokamaks in China:
- Apart from the EAST, China is currently operating the HL-2A reactor as well as J-TEXT.
- In December 2020, HL-2M Tokamak, China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, was successfully powered up for the first time — a key milestone in the growth of China’s nuclear power research capabilities.
Source: Down to Earth