The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), also known as China’s “artificial sun”, broke the previous record run of 101 seconds from May 2021, and was able to run for 403 seconds in a steady-state operation, as reported by CGTN. This experiment is a step forward towards the development of a fusion reactor and achieving energy as a result of nuclear fusion, which does not emit any carbon emissions, nor uses radioactive materials. This experiment was completed after over 120,000 tests. Furthermore, this is also a significant step toward achieving highly effective thermonuclear fusion reactors. This milestone also sets the experimental basis for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
The process introduces heating of hydrogen isotopes above 100 million degrees Celsius, in order to create a plasma that enables atoms to fuse and form helium in such extreme pressure and temperature conditions. This way, large amounts of energy are released. A special strong magnet ring-shaped device, called tokamak, prevents contact between the plasma and the reactor walls. The difference between the previous experiment and the record running of the EAST is the high confinement mode, in which this latest experiment was run.
The EAST is located at the Institute of Plasma Physics, which is under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Hefei. After the beginning of the operations, EAST presents a testing possibility for Chinese, as well as foreign scientists for research and experiments regarding nuclear fusion.
In comparison to energy from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, or natural gas, all of which have limited reserves and resources and have an impact on the environment, such “artificial sun” uses materials that are found in an unlimited amount on the Earth. Therefore, fusion energy is considered to be the ultimate energy for humanity.
For building the world’s first nuclear fusion demonstration reactor, China completed the design of the next-generation “artificial sun” – the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), which is primarily based on the design of the other three fusion reactors in China. This CFETR is estimated to be ready by 2035.