Unlimited Energy Quest: Follow the Sun


File photo taken on September 28, 2019 shows staff from the Southwestern Physics Institute of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) working at the installation site of the HL-2M tokamak, the “artificial sun New generation of China, in Chengdu, Sichuan (southwest China) Province. (CNNC Southwestern Institute of Physics / Document via Xinhua)

After thousands of nuclear fusion experiments, Chinese scientists made a big breakthrough on May 28 in their quest to create an artificial sun that could help solve the world’s energy problems.

They set a record for sustained heat in nuclear plasma, a temperature of 120 million C for 101 seconds, said Gong Xianzu, a physicist in charge of the experiment in Hefei, Anhui province.

Gong, a leading researcher at the Hefei Institute of Plasma Physics, said on Tuesday that the result of the Advanced Experimental Superconducting Tokamak, or EAST, dubbed the “Chinese artificial sun,” also reached a temperature of 160 million. C for 20 seconds.

A tokamak is a device that uses a strong magnetic field to confine a nuclear reaction. It is one of many types of magnetic confinement devices developed to produce energy from controlled thermonuclear fusion. Technology is said to be the main candidate for a practical fusion reactor.

“The experiments attempt to simulate the nuclear fusion reaction that occurs in the sun,” said Gong, who joined the research 30 years ago.

Although the temperature in the sun’s core is relatively cool (around 15 million C), the density of the plasma, which is made up of ions and free electrons, is high enough to generate a sustained reaction.

In a fusion reaction, two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. Theoretically, the process can produce massive amounts of clean and safe energy that could be manipulated in a nuclear reactor.

On Tuesday, scientists and engineers continued the experiment for the 99,145th time using the donut-shaped tokamak - which includes a vacuum system, a radiofrequency wave system, a laser scattering system and a micro-system. waves - a technical introduction that was explained, after making the breakthrough in their 98,958th attempt on Friday.

Gong said the ultimate goal of the team’s research is to create the conditions for a fusion reactor.

“If we compare the tokamak installation to the engine of a car, then the reactor is like the vehicle as a whole,” he said, adding that a vehicle is normally built for road testing before. to eventually find commercial use.

The land was laid in late 2018 for the construction of a fusion reactor, known as the Comprehensive Fusion Technology Research Facility, on the outskirts of Luyang District in Hefei. The infrastructure is nearing completion, according to recent media reports.

The CRAFT website says construction will take five years and eight months.

“The challenges in current research come from two areas,” said Gong. “We have to create the necessary conditions under which a fusion reaction can occur and in the meantime overcome many engineering difficulties to make the reaction absolutely controllable.”

He said the test reactor, which is still in the initial design phase, will use deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen – a various form of hydrogen with twice its atomic mass – which is abundant in the sea, to provide a constant flow of clean energy.

“We estimate that the deuterium in 1 liter of seawater can produce by fusion reaction the amount of energy produced by 300 liters of gasoline,” he said.

Gong expressed hope that the reactor will be ready in the near future so that he can personally see it play a major role in fulfilling China’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. He said that in 2006, he attended the launch of the tokamak installation in Hefei, which was the first of its kind.

The fusion reactor will be an internationally open platform for scientists around the world, according to the CRAFT website.

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