China has announced that it has reached another milestone in its work on a fusion reactor. The nation announced that one of its so-called artificial suns had sustained extreme temperatures for several times longer than its previous benchmark. The record was set at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) facility located in the Chinese city of Hefei.
According to state media, EAST registered a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds. The record was set on Friday, and state news agencies report that the same facility also maintained a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds. The record of this facility was previously 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds, which was achieved last year.
By maintaining a temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds, the facility has sustained extreme temperatures five times longer than the previous record. Despite China’s reported success in maintaining high temperatures, scientists admit that fusion reactors are still a long way away. Scientists worldwide are working on fusion reactors because they hold the potential for unlimited clean energy.
However, the road to reaching that potential is paved with numerous challenges to overcome. Experimental nuclear reactors are sometimes called “artificial suns” because the goal is to replicate the nuclear fusion process inside a star. The sun has a temperature of about 15 million degrees Celsius. At such extreme temperatures, it’s possible to fuse two atoms, and that fusion process releases enormous amounts of energy.
To create a fusion reactor on earth, scientists must create extremely high temperatures that are sustainable for a long duration. Chinese scientists believe their experiments and the record lay the foundation for China to build a nuclear fusion energy station in the future.