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South Korea’s “Artificial Sun” reactor sets a record of 100 million degrees

South Korean scientists have set a new world record using the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) fusion reactor, in what they say is a major step forward for the technology.

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The team managed to achieve a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius—seven times hotter than the Sun’s core—for as much as 48 seconds, indicating that scientists are finding new ways to trap matter and potentially turn it into an energy source for longer periods of time. . The previous record, set in 2021, was 30 seconds.

 

In theory, fusion energy is simple. By “merging” atoms inside the reactor, scientists hope to obtain a positive amount of safe and clean energy – simulating the processes occurring on the Sun. However, despite the latest breakthrough and many decades of research, humanity is still a long way from the point where fusion reactors can replace conventional nuclear reactors on a large scale.

 

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But the teams at the Korea Fusion Energy Institute (KFE) are optimistic.

 

KFE director Si-Woo Yoon told CNN that the record “will be of great help in ensuring the predicted performance of ITER (a reactor in France) running on time and in promoting the commercialization of fusion power.”

 

By confining plasma inside a donut-shaped fusion reactor called a tokamak, researchers hope to extract a positive amount of energy from the reaction, which will heat water, turning it into steam and generating electricity through turbines and generators. It’s not very elegant to create a mini sun to spin the wheel, but we don’t have any other options yet.

 

The goal is to maintain temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius for 300 seconds by 2026, after which researchers can find new ways to expand the work, Yoon said.

 

Over the past couple of years, other tokamak reactors around the world have also achieved breakthroughs. Last year, Chinese scientists managed to contain plasma for 403 seconds inside an experimental advanced superconducting tokamak.

 

 

Using the Joint European Torus in the UK, researchers set a record for fusion energy this year, producing 69 megajoules – enough to power about 12,000 homes, but only for five seconds.

 

Let’s hope that positive returns from thermonuclear fusion will still be achieved in the coming years. Completion of ITER in France is scheduled for next year – perhaps its work will overcome remaining obstacles.

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