State media in China reported this week that government scientists in the country have turned the power on for its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor
This “artificial sun” is the HL-2M Tokamak reactor, and it is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion reactor. Scientists are hoping that it will unlock a clean energy source that could revolutionize the industry.
According to the People’s Daily, the reactor uses a magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, which is about ten times hotter than the core of the sun.
China's new-generation #ArtificialSun," went into operation on Friday and has achieved its first plasma discharge. The self-developed device will provide clean energy through controlled nuclear fusion. #ChinaTech https://t.co/Ct73DFvyYz pic.twitter.com/tOFjUioouc
— China News 中国新闻网 (@Echinanews) December 5, 2020
The reactor is located in southwestern Sichuan province and was completed late last year.
“The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,” according to the People’s Daily.
It is estimated that the Chinese government has invested about $22.5 billion into experimental nuclear fusion technology.
Last year, after the project was announced, a fusion physicist who is not involved in this project, James Harrison, told Newsweek, “HL-2M will provide researchers with valuable data on the compatibility of high-performance fusion plasmas with approaches to more effectively handle the heat and particles exhausted from the core of the device.”
Harrison continued, “This is one of the biggest issues facing the development of a commercial fusion reactor, and the results from HL-2M, as part of the international fusion research community, will influence the design of these reactors.”
Harrison said that China’s HL-2M Tokamak differs from other devices because of the flexibility of its magnetic field.
He explained: “Magnetic confinement fusion devices—such as tokamaks—typically deposit the exhaust heat and particles from the fusion-producing core in a very narrow layer, centimeters-to-millimeters wide, which leads to very high heat and particle loads which can damage the surfaces lining the interior of the device in a reactor; the flexibility available on HL-2M will allow researchers to explore novel solutions to this problem.”