If you recently felt a face-searing blast of hot air coming from the east, don't worry, it was just China out-heating the sun for a good long while:
China's "artificial sun" has set a new world record after superheating a loop of plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, state media reported.
The EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) nuclear fusionreactor maintained a temperature of 158 million degrees Fahrenheit (70 million degrees Celsius) for 1,056 seconds, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The achievement brings scientists a small yet significant step closer to the creation of a source of near-unlimited clean energy.
The "Xinhua News Agency" is a state press propaganda outfit, so take everything with a grain of salt, of course. But this sort of technology is becoming more common, and hopefully more economical:
The Chinese experimental nuclear fusion reactor smashed the previous record, set by France's Tore Supra tokamak in 2003, where plasma in a coiling loop remained at similar temperatures for 390 seconds. EAST had previously set another record in May 2021 by running for 101 seconds at an unprecedented 216 million F (120 million C). The core of the actual sun, by contrast, reaches temperatures of around 27 million F (15 million C).
The logistics behind managing these insane levels of energy are kinda mind-bending:
Cooking plasma to temperatures hotter than the sun is the relatively easy part, but finding a way to corral it so that it doesn't burn through the reactor walls (either with lasers or magnetic fields) without also ruining the fusion process is technically tricky.
I mean, look, obviously this kind of tech is not without its risks. We've all seen what can happen to scientists who aren't careful enough with such machines.
Still, the future of abundant clean energy is looking rather bright, no pun intended.
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