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China’s “artificial suns” should be ready for use in 10 years

The sun contributes in many ways to the establishment of an emission-free energy supply. This is certainly most visible in the case of solar energy. Here the sun’s rays are used to generate clean electricity. Physicists all over the world are also looking for ways to circumvent this detour. Their idea: bring the nuclear fusion taking place on the sun to earth. This sounds obvious at first. Because the sun only needs hydrogen and deuterium gases as fuel. Both are abundant on earth. In addition, the process works without leaving any problematic waste behind. In contrast to nuclear power plants, for example, no fuel rods have to be stored permanently. However, it is not that easy to reproduce the nuclear fusion of the sun on earth. Because the processes only work under extremely high pressure and at very hot temperatures. Because the pressure conditions of the sun cannot be copied on earth, even greater heat has to be achieved here.

Bild: Xiang Gao, Yao Yang, Tao Zhang, Haiqing Liu, Guoqiang Li, Tingfeng Ming, Zixi Liu, Yumin Wang, Long Zeng, Xiang Han et al., CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

For 17 minutes there was a heat of 70 million degrees Celsius

In concrete terms, a target value of 120 million degrees Celsius is usually worked towards. In fact, China has already managed to reach this mark. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) was only able to hold the temperature for around 101 seconds. The big challenge now is to be able to generate the extreme heat permanently. The researchers have now achieved an important breakthrough along the way. Chinese state media report that the test reactor was able to maintain a temperature of at least 70 million degrees Celsius for 17 minutes. This represents an important breakthrough. Apparently the physical difficulties have been overcome. The duration of the heat build-up therefore only depends on the question of how much energy you put into it. If you like, the researchers are still around 50 million degrees away from their goal. Again, it is difficult to say when this will be achieved. The Chinese media are quite optimistic and name a period of ten years.

Nuclear fusion is being researched around the world

In a political system like China’s, it’s hard to imagine that this number was simply made up by journalists. Rather, they seem to be semi-official statements. Technological details that would support this optimism, however, have not yet been published. The past has shown, however, that research on nuclear fusion is difficult to press into schedules and requires a lot of patience. The potential of the technology is at least so enormous that research is being carried out on similar projects around the world. The Iter research reactor is currently being built in France and will also be a tokamak reactor. However, the project is clearly lagging behind the original schedule and has exceeded all cost budgets. In Germany, on the other hand, a slightly different approach is followed. The Wendelstein 7-X experimental reactor, which is a so-called stellarator, has started continuous operation here.

Via: SCMP

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