The reactor runs seven times hotter than the Sun for 30 seconds, South Korean researchers have successfully maintained a nuclear fusion reaction at temperatures greater than 100 million degrees Celsius for 30 seconds. This is around seven times hotter than the center of the sun.
It’s a huge step forward in the quest for feasible fusion power, which can imitate the natural reactions happening in the sun to produce nearly infinite clean energy.
With the help of the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), a team of researchers from Seoul National University and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy has developed a better method of containing the reactor’s plasma.
The “artificial sun” is one of a handful of such installations around the world that represent the zenith of decades of study into a technology that effectively merges atomic nuclei found in stars to generate massive amounts of energy that can be converted into electricity.
At a slightly lower temperature, a similar facility in China ran for over 17 minutes last year. In spite of cooling to 70 million degrees Celsius, the plasma was still five times hotter than the real sun.
In comparison to conventional nuclear power plants, this technology eliminates the need for fossil fuels and produces no radioactive waste, earning it the moniker “holy grail” of clean energy.
“We typically say that fusion energy is a dream energy source,” said Yoo Suk-jae, president of the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy. “[But] the newest breakthrough shows fusion is not a dream,” Yoo added.
Starting with a goal of 50 seconds of plasma temperatures above 100 million degrees by the end of 2022, the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy has set a long-term objective of 300 seconds by the end of 2026.
“This is not the end of the story, we must continue on to 300 seconds,” said KSTAR director Yoon Si-woo. “If we can show that this plasma can operate in a constant state for 300 seconds, it can do so indefinitely.”
As the saying goes, “If at first, you don’t succeed…”