A fusion reactor, 90 million degrees hotter than the core of our Sun, sets a major milestone in China. The reactor experiment heated plasma blast that sustained the state for over 100 seconds, according to Popular Mechanics.
The fusion reactor experiments were carried out in the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak-known as EAST. Its design uses a donut-shaped reactor in which incredibly hot plasma resides of up to 90 million degrees fahrenheit.
Careful control of intense magnetic fields allows the plasma to be contained in a tight ring running through the center of the donut’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 of the fusion reactor, 90 million degrees hotter than the core of our Sun, can be sustained for long enough is essential to creating energy, which is the the long-term goal. Longer periods of time are needed 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 fusion reactor 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.
The 90 million degrees isn’t 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 10 trillion degrees. That’s somewhere in the region of 250,000 times hotter than the center 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 180 million degrees-so we still have some way to go. The consensus seems to suggest that it’ll 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 of producing a fusion reactor, 90 million degrees hotter than the core of our Sun, in science. Let’s hope there are many more breakthroughs.