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What is China's Artificial Sun? All about EAST, the nuclear fusion reactor and its new record

Tulika Tandon

China's Artificial Sun, EAST: Recent Updates

China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, EAST that is also called as China's Artificial Sun has recently set a new record. It ran at 216 million degrees Fahrenheit that is at 120 million degree Celsius for a total of 101 seconds.

It also achieved the peak temperature of 288 million Fahrenheit or 160 million degrees for 20 seconds. This temperature is even hotter than the Sun (over 10 times)

China had successfully activated its “artificial sun,” last year. It  is a nuclear fusion reactor that grants the country with fuel for years to come. They just need to make it more sustainable.

China’s Artificial Sun: What is it?

  1. China’s Atomic Energy Authority tested its HL-2M Tokamak reactor for the first time on Friday, December 4, 2020.
  2. Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak reactor is a nuclear fusion experimental research device that is situated at the Institute of Plasma Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China. 
  3. The experiment was launched to replicate the process of nuclear fusion to match the reactions on the Sun.
  4. The brief test which lasted for a few seconds has been hailed as an important achievement in the field of science. It can be used to provide safer fuel amid a global crisis.
  5. HL-2M Tokamak can help China in reaching its target to produce fusion energy commercially by 2050
  6. The power in the reactor is generated by applying powerful magnetic fields to a contained loop of hot plasma. The plasma can reach temperatures of more than 150 million centigrades.
  7. The plasma heats up to 10 times more than the core of the sun but is contained using magnets and supercooling technique.
  8. China has also been working with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project which is a coalition of dozens of nuclear-powered nations.

Significance:

  1. The development of nuclear fusion energy would lead to solving China’s energy requirements. 
  2. It would also provide for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy boosting.
  3. The Chinese Energy Agency’s aim is to develop a reliable form of nuclear fusion based on the concept
  4. Fusion is considered prohibitively expensive, but this testing by China would help the researchers in their search for ways to reduce costs

Fusion: Process explained

Nuclear fusion is a reaction involving two or more atomic nuclei being combined to form one or more other atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. The difference in mass between the reactants and products is released or the absorbed in form of energy.  

The process does not result in generating large amounts of nuclear waste. The opposite process is called fission in which the atoms split. It is more frequently employed by nuclear weapons and power plants. Fission generates nuclear waste but on contrary to fusion is easier to achieve. 

Challenges with Nuclear Fusion in Lab

  1. When two atoms fuse, they release an enormous amount of energy. On Earth, keeping it under control so it does not explode remains a serious challenge.
  2. The hot gas formed by fusing atoms burns or melts everything that comes in contact.
  3.  The nuclear reaction also generates a large number of high-speed particles that can in turn damage buildings or human tissue if not properly contained.

Way Forward

Apart from EAST, China is also operating the HL-2A reactor as well as J-TEXT. This experimental reactor is  a milestone in growth of China's nuclear power research capacities. This project includes contribution of various other countries too like India, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States of America. The EAST project is a part of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor facility.

China aims to achieve the commercial production of fusion energy by the year 2050 and it is suggestive that this country would believe in the idea even when others abandon it considering it a costly, risky and arguably hopeless cause. ITER has also been working on its own reactor in France, It is expected to be completed in 2025.

Also Read| China abolishes its Two Child Policy: Couples can have three children now

 

FAQ

By when is China's artificial sun going to be functional?

China's Energy Agencies hope to build the nuclear reactor completely by 2050 and make it functional too.

Which country has recently built an artificial sun?

China has recently tested its nuclear reactor based on fusion which is called as the artificial sun.

Why is China making an artificial sun?

China is paving the way for clean energy sources, that is utilizing nuclear fusion energy. It does not wish to depend on alternate source of fuels.

Does China really have an artificial sun?

No, China does not have any artificial sun, it is rather the name given to the fusion nuclear reactor that is being built by the energy agency of China.

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