China’s “Artificial Sun” Breaks World Record

On April 12th, the world’s first all-superconducting tokamak device, EAST, achieved a steady-state long-pulse high-confinement mode plasma operation for 403 seconds at high power and temperature.

This created a new world record for steady-state high-confinement mode operation of tokamak devices. The previous record of 101 seconds was also set by EAST in 2017.

The EAST device uses a strong magnetic field to control plasma at temperatures of over 100 million degrees Celsius for a long time in a vacuum container, and enables stable and continuous nuclear fusion reactions. Because the principle of the reaction is similar to that of nuclear fusion reactions inside the sun, it is called the “artificial sun”.

The raw material resources for nuclear fusion energy are abundant and there is no pollution emissions. Therefore, controlled nuclear fusion has always been considered an important way for humans to solve the energy problem, and is regarded as the “ultimate energy” for humanity.

The controllable nuclear fusion technology routes currently being researched globally mainly include magnetic confinement and laser inertial confinement. The two major challenges in achieving nuclear fusion power generation are achieving ignition at temperatures of over one hundred million degrees and stable long-term confinement control.

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On September 28, 2006, EAST achieved success in the first round of physical discharge experiments. Compared with similar international experimental devices at that time, it obtained four world “firsts”, namely using the least amount of funds, the fastest construction speed, the earliest investment and operation, and obtaining plasma discharge fastest after operation.

The latest breakthrough achieved by the EAST device provides important experimental basis for China’s independent construction and operation of nuclear fusion reactors, as well as the operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

ITER is currently the world’s largest nuclear fusion project and also the most influential international scientific engineering project. It is jointly constructed by seven parties, including China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.