■Key points of this article that can be understood in 3 lines
- China has a new facility called EAST, which is also known as an “artificial sun.” It uses tokamak technology to achieve controlled nuclear fusion. This kind of energy could offer a lot of clean and safe power.
- The EAST has achieved high temperature, sustained operation, and current milestones. They aim to meet all three together for a fusion reaction.
- Nuclear fusion can create energy without costing much and harming the environment. It’s different from nuclear fission and doesn’t emit carbon.
The movie “Oppenheimer” became popular and reminded people of the famous scientist. It also took us back to the time when the atomic bomb was created, which is a destructive weapon.
Nuclear reactions produce a lot of energy. They changed the outcome of wars and how we get energy. Scientists want to use nuclear power for energy, moving from fission to fusion, and eventually controlling fusion.
Controllable nuclear fusion is a hot topic these days. People talk about research progress both locally and internationally. What’s an artificial sun? Why should we achieve controllable nuclear fusion? What’s the point of controlled nuclear fusion?
China has 2 research institutions – the Institute of Plasma Physics and Southwest Institute of Physics. The former is part of the Hefei Institute of Physical Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Other universities and companies are also involved in related research and talent training.
I recently went to the Institute of Plasma Physics. I saw a device called EAST. It is the first tokamak with superconducting parts.This device is also known as China’s “artificial sun.” The institute was also happy to have a conversation with them. At the institute, they met a front-line young scientist, Meng Lingyi, who is a postdoctoral fellow.
Uncovering the mystery of the “artificial sun
The “artificial sun” is a massive device at Hefei Science Island. It’s 11 meters tall and 8 meters in diameter, weighing 400 tons. Known as EAST, it’s used for nuclear fusion experiments and is made of high-tech materials. This device is very important for scientific research in China and helps solve energy problems.
The Institute of Plasma Physics in China is a research unit. They focus on controlled nuclear fusion. They have a large device called EAST. Its Chinese name is Eastern Hyperloop. EAST stands for experimental, advanced, fully superconducting tokamak devices.
Achievement of EAST’s three major scientific goals
The scientists have set three goals for their experiment. They want to achieve a current of one megaamp, operate for 1,000 seconds and reach a temperature of 100 million degrees. So far, they have achieved each goal separately. Their next step is to try to achieve all three goals together.
Meng Lingyi highlighted EAST’s benefits. The EAST coil is fully superconducting, generating minimal heat. Thus, the magnetic field can operate stably for a long time.
In the future, fusion device heat flow could increase to hundreds of megawatts per square meter. But now, the diverter can only manage 20 megawatts per square meter. To fix this issue, we need to study the diverter plasma first, measure it, and then control it efficiently.
Triumphs and Challenges: The boundary material melted multiple times in the 1000-second discharge. If there was a problem, the experiment had to stop.
The broad prospects of “artificial sun”
“Controllable nuclear fusion is an influential study,” according to Meng Lingyi. China’s population is large, and there is an energy imbalance. The West has most of the coal and photovoltaic power, but most people who consume electricity live in the East. If nuclear fusion becomes commercialized, it will transform the way people use energy, meet growing demand for electricity, and reduce bills for regular consumers.”
Nuclear energy has two methods: fusion and fission. Some people worry about safety. Hydrogen bombs use fusion. If danger happens, the reaction will stop fast.
Meng Lingyi stated that nuclear fusion power plants are safe for people and the environment. The raw material, deuterium, is radiation-free and comes from the sea. When deuterium reacts with lithium, tritium is produced.
Meng Lingyi says fusion reactions are good for the economy and environment. They’re new and important, and won’t make CO2. If we can control them, they’ll give us power while being kinder to nature.
Nuclear fusion power is cheaper and gives continuous energy. It can reduce electricity rates for everyone to afford. Experts hope to make nuclear fusion power as cheap as cabbage.