China achieves major breakthrough in 'artificial sun' reactor

Updated 2017-07-06 08:49:30 Global Times

Chinese scientists have successfully contained super-hot plasma for a record length of time, which brings the humankind one step closer to clean and virtually unlimited energy offered by nuclear fusion, media reported.

The "artificial sun," officially known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), is an experimental thermonuclear fusion reactor that replicates the energy-generating process of the sun.

On Monday, the Chinese Academy of Sciences team working on the project announced that EAST became the first tokamak to successfully sustain H-mode plasma for 101.2 seconds at 50 million Kelvins (49.999 million C), China Central Television said.

China is a member country of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which aims to produce 500 megawatts of fusion power with only 50 megawatts of input power in an experimental tokamak in southern France.

Scientists say this major breakthrough will be of great value to the human quest for clean energy via nuclear fusion.

Yang Hongwei, director of the energy efficiency center at the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Global Times that "artificial sun" represents the direction of clean energy development.

"This breakthrough is an important step amid the transition from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy," said Yang.

From a long-term perspective, development of energy technologies will provide the ultimate solution to the problems of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions arising from the use of traditional energy, he elaborated.

However, Lin Boqiang, dean of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University, struck a note of caution when talking about the commercialization and application of this technology in daily life, saying that the potential cost must be taken into account for wider application in households. He believes that there's still a long way to go before achieving this goal.

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