China’s ‘artificial sun’ has got hotter than the real thing (and it’s on Earth)

Rob Waugh
Contributor
The reactor reached 100 million degrees Celsius (Getty)

Earlier this year, a doughnut-shaped object in a building in China blazed up to 100 million degrees Celsius – hotter than the interior of the sun.

Scientists this week announced that the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor had reached 100 million Celsius.

It’s a new record for fusion power – and could be the key to generating limitless clean energy.

Tokamak reactors hope to generate fusion energy from a plasma trapped in a magnetic field – but the key to igniting the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium atoms is temperature.

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The EAST reactor’s achievement in heating charged particles up to 100 million degrees could be a milestone on the way to developing fusion power plants.

Every nuclear reactor currently operating on Earth is a fission reactor – using energy released when heavy atoms such as uranium decay into smaller atoms, a process similar to the one used in the first nuclear weapons.

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A fusion reactor works in the opposite way, harvesting the energy released when two smaller atoms join together, releasing tiny, fast-moving particles smaller than atoms.

But to do so, companies need to find a way to harvest energy from a plasma held at millions of degrees Celsius – something that has defied researchers for decades.