Chinese scientists have successfully activated their advanced experimental HL-2M Tokamak nuclear fusion reactor.
In fact, the team at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science claims it works at temperatures higher than the sun.
The reactor, which mimics the intense nuclear fusion reactions taking place in the heart of the sun, uses a powerful magnetic field to contain plasma heated to more than 150 million degrees Celsius.
These temperatures are the highest recorded on Earth since the planet’s formation.
The experimental reactor is called an “artificial sun” because of its incredible heat and the power it produces.
Friday’s success marks a significant milestone on a journey that began in 2006 when the reactor was first built.
“The development of fusion energy is not only a way to meet China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,” said the Chinese People’s Daily.
While other fusion reactors are under development around the world, Xu Min, director of the Hefei Institute, says HL-2M is “the largest artificial sun, with the best parameters.”
Nuclear fusion, if it could be produced on a large scale, could be the answer to humanity’s energy problem.
It doesn’t produce hazardous waste in the same way that current nuclear power plants do, using nuclear fission, and in the longer term, it could propel spacecraft to incredible speeds in a way that sustainable technologies like wind and wave power never could.
But right now, achieving fusion is both difficult and expensive. The annular magnetic field must reliably contain plasma hot enough to force its way through any known material.
That alone requires an enormous amount of power, and so far the Chinese reactor – like its sister machine in southern France – has to produce even more energy than it needs itself.
But the Hefei team, along with the scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France, are optimistic that within the next five to ten years they will have the first operational true nuclear fusion reactor – setting a new chapter in power generation. opened.