China’s EAST Reactor has reached a temperature exceeding 180 million; that’s hotter than the sun. For a brief period, this reactor was hotter than the sun. (Photo via IPP)


It’s no easy feat to artificially recreate the temperature of the sun. The core of the sun reaches about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius) and recreating this extremely hot temperature is a challenge. But for a brief period, China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor in Hefei reached a temperature exceeding 180 million degrees Fahrenheit (100 million degrees Celsius).


Our sun generates light and heat via a process called nuclear fusion, which happens when two hydrogen nuclei combine and create large amounts of energy. To harvest this power released from the fusion, the particles have to be thrown together with enough force meaning they either need to squeeze hard enough or slammed together with an intense crunch. Now, Hefei Institutes of Physical Science proved that this crunch is possible to recreate.


The EAST reactor works by using magnetic fields to control plasmas in a manner that could support stable nuclear fusion. To achieve the groundbreaking result, the reactor’s procedure depended on different forms of heating in the right combination to create the correct plasma density. This resulted in a cloud of charged particles the housed electrons heated to more than 180 million degrees. Scientists believe this is the minimum temperature needed to create a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction on Earth.


But before we start that, there’s still a lot of challenges scientists face with one of them being fuel supply. In theory, the material feeds fusion reactions has a greater supply than fossilized hydrocarbons and uranium since it’s just hydrogen. But it can’t be any hydrogen, it has to be its isotope tritium and sadly, it’s not found in huge supplies on Earth.


No one is sure how scientists will approach this issue, but this shouldn’t overlook the great success the EAST reactor has achieved. It’s a step towards energy that doesn’t produce as much radioactive waste unlike nuclear fission. The end result still shows there’s some hope for nuclear fusion on Earth yet.


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