The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), China’s magnetic fusion energy reactor in Hefei, has reportedly reached an electron temperature level that makes it far hotter than our natural sun. EAST is popularly called China’s “artificial sun.”
The artificial sun
“The machine hit 180 million°F (100 million°C) for the first time, which is believed to be the temperature at which nuclear fusion occurs. Although it’s meant to replicate the Sun, this temperature makes it six times hotter than the core of the burning star, which peaks at around 27 million°F (15 million°C),” according to LAD Bible.
EAST was developed in 2006 with the purpose of achieving nuclear fusion similar to that of the Sun using tritium and deuterium, isotopes of hydrogen. Since these isotopes exist in abundance in the seas, the successful completion of the project could mean access to unlimited, clean energy. The results of the experiment set the stage for future development of steady-state fusion reactors.
EAST experiments will lay the foundation for the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a huge international scientific project that will involve collaboration between 35 countries, including China, the U.S., and Russia. EAST is smaller and more flexible than ITER, but similar in shape and equilibrium.
For this particular experiment, the team optimized the plasma current density profile of the machine by effectively integrating four different types of heating power — electron cyclotron wave heating, neutral beam ion heating, lower hybrid wave heating, and ion cyclotron resonance heating. This allowed the power injection to exceed 10 MW and the plasma stored energy spiked to 300 KJ.
“With ITER-like operating conditions, such as radio frequency wave-dominant heating, lower torque, and a water-cooling tungsten diverter, EAST achieved a fully non-inductive steady-state scenario with the extension of fusion performance at high density, high temperature, and high confinement,” according to Phys.Org.
It’s not just the Sun that Chinese scientists are trying to replicate. The Tian Fu New Area Science Society aims to launch an artificial moon into space that will provide enough illumination for the city of Chengdu. It will glow in conjunction with the natural moon, but will shine brighter by eight times.
The scientists hope that light from the artificial moon will be sufficient enough for the night that streetlights can be shut down, thereby bringing down energy consumption. And since the moons will be mobile, they can be moved into disaster-hit zones to provide the necessary illumination during nighttime rescue missions.
However, there are concerns that the artificial moons might end up disrupting the sleeping pattern of animals and human beings. The society assures that such negative effects won’t occur.
“We will only conduct our tests in an uninhabited desert, so our light beams will not interfere with any people or Earth-based space observation equipment… When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined,” Wu Chunfeng, head of the society, said to China Daily.
The moon is expected to light up 31 square miles of Chengdu, saving the city approximately US$174 million every year. If the experiment succeeds, the society will send up more moons by 2022, which will have the potential of lighting up about 2,000 to 4,000 square miles in total.