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China's 'Artificial Sun' Stays On For a Minute

Nov 14, 2016 05:10 AM EST
China has created an artificial star 8,600 times hotter than the sun and has successfully kept it on for a whole minute! (Photo : Christopher Furlong)

Chinese scientists were successful in raising the temperature of their nuclear reactor plasma to 49.999 million degrees Celsius (50 million Kelvins) in February this year, which is three times the heat of the sun. The temperature of this "artificial sun" was almost equal to a mid-sized thermonuclear explosion. And now, they have added another feather to their cap by sustaining the fusion for an entire minute.

The nuclear reactor, which goes by the name of Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), has been kept at the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It generated a hot ionized gas called plasma when atoms combined to create massive amounts of energy for an entire minute.This experiment has put China in the limelight for harnessing an artificial, alternative solar energy, which in the future can replace the common nuclear fission reactors and fossil fuels.

According to the statement displayed on the institute's website, the main objective of the experiment was to build a copy of the nuclear fusion taking place deep within the sun's core. The process is different from nuclear fission, where atoms are segregated instead of being merged together.

This achievement is significant for the success of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)-one of the biggest international programs totally devoted to experiments on thermonuclear fusion.

In February, the research team had planned to maintain the temperature of the plasma at 100 million Kelvins for approximately 17 minutes. The experiment conducted by the East comes after the successful testing of the stellarator fusion reactor called the German Wendelstein 7-X.

France is also not way behind since construction is in progress to create an international research reactor by the name of ITER. Experts state that it will be the biggest fusion device in the world and that it will be the first device to maintain the temperatures for long periods of time.

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