China’s EAST Tokamak fusion reactor has set a new world’s record by maintaining its nuclear fusion reaction for a total of 1,056 seconds. This milestone smashes the previous record set in May of 2021, when the same team saw their reactor burn for over 100 seconds.
BACKGROUND: FUSION REACTOR MOVING CLOSER TO REALITY
Researchers and engineers alike have spent decades dreaming of building a fully functional nuclear fusion reactor. That’s because, unlike highly radioactive nuclear fission reactors, a fusion reactor poses no risk of radiation exposure.
This type of reaction is what fuels our solar system’s sun, as well as the billions and billions of stars within the cosmos. Unfortunately, building a man-made sun here on Earth has proved challenging.
Now, the Chinese team has moved the goal of a functional fusion reactor closer to reality with this latest milestone, setting a new bar for future fusion experiments.
ANALYSIS: NEW FUSION RECORD TEN TIMES LONGER
Conducted by the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP), the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor beat the previous record set by their own team back in May, when the same reactor burned for just over 100 seconds. In contrast, this latest effort burned for over ten times that record, topping a whopping 1,056 seconds.
The reactor also reached a whopping 216 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is almost ten times the core temperature of our sun.
According to a statement from the China National Nuclear Corporation, The EAST rector was able to accomplish this feat because it is “designed to mimic a fusion reaction like the Sun using hydrogen and deuterium gases as fuel.”
With this latest successful test, EAST has achieved a number of individual milestones marking the path toward a full functional fusion reactor. These include a 1-million-ampere current, a 1,000-plus second duration and a 100-million-degree-Celsius temperature.
The same statement also points out that “EAST will provide insights into plasma physics research that is crucial to establish industrial-size reactors to generate clean energy.”
OUTLOOK: FUSION REACTOR CLOSER THAN EVER
Outside of China, a number of nuclear fusion efforts are also underway. This includes an effort known as SPARC funded by Bill Gates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a South Korean effort known as KSTAR that has also recorded some significant milestones, and the massive ITER reactor in Switzerland, which has already seen billions of dollars of investments from 35 countries around the world.