A Korean fusion reactor hits seven times hotter temperatures than the sun

A Korean fusion reactor hits seven times hotter temperatures than the sun

  • The KSTAR reactor in South Korea reached a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius and maintained it for a full 30 seconds.
  • This achievement highlights that nuclear fusion is somewhat inconsistent with its devices.
  • KSTAR is an important feeder project for ITER in France, which makes this record even more significant.

South Korea’s National Nuclear Fusion Research Facility has You have reached an important milestone With a tokamak reactor: maintain a temperature of over 100 million °C for 30 seconds.

The Korea Tokamak Center for Advanced Superconducting Research (KSTAR) is a well-established tokamak center that has been working towards its milestone goals since 2008. It is also an essential part of the development pipeline that is currently ramping up the massive International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, or ITER. So, yes, every milestone is doubly important in the global push toward nuclear fusion energy. But does this mean we are as close as possible?

Nuclear energy is an umbrella term referring to technologies that manipulate the nuclei of atoms in order to generate heat that is converted into electrical energy. The nuclear plants in use today use fission technology, which means using heavier elements whose nuclei split forcibly in order to release thermal energy. Supporters say that next one The important thing about nuclear energy is fusion – when very light elements contain extra particles by force addedor fused with its nucleus. There are great advantages to this, but also very high costs because fusion reactions require many temperatures, many times higher.

KSTAR’s new benchmark performance, while exciting, highlights the dichotomy that runs through the entire nuclear fusion energy industry. That’s because our physical structures to support an “artificial sun” like KSTAR are still made from ordinary materials bound to the Earth. Think about how to design some kind of scaffolding to “contain” the sun; How do you do that without everything melting right away? Even the idea of ​​a very distant future for dyson ball It relies on an empty barrier between the star and the panels that collect its energy.

Inside a typical tokamak reactor, the elementary particles are in a state of matter known as plasma – a hot, gas-like formation that acts as a single stream. Plasma is twisted and contains powerful magnets. On some tokamaks, these are “normal” or non-powered magnets. At KSTAR, they are extremely powerful superconducting magnets that must remain close to absolute zero temperatures in order to function as designed. This is convenient, because the entire “shell” of the tokamak must also remain very cold; This is the only way she can, even for a short time and at a distance, withstand the high temperature of the plasma.

Think of the classic board game proces. A tokamak is similar to metal tweezers, which you must use to reach and grab the plastic “body parts.” If you touch the side, the metal tongs make a small charge and make a terrible whistling sound. But with a tokamak, touching the side causes an instant reaction that can bring the entire tokamak offline in an instant. Like a circle made between metal tongs and a game board, this single point of touch triggers a reaction that signals instant defeat.

kstar . reactor

Kimin Han/Korea Institute for Fusion Energy

new worldAnd the Reporting news From KSTAR, he says the division between our mechanical and engineering capabilities will continue to impede – and even limit – progress toward nuclear fusion energy. Practically every test of this type of technology to date has either ended with an abundance of caution or damage to the facility, and we’re still in just 30 seconds. KSTAR, like many other ongoing tokamak experiments, is constantly iterated and upgraded. In this case, the team is replacing some of the carbon parts with tungsten for durability.

So the news is good – the reactor is undamaged, and the KSTAR team is already working hard on the next version of the experiment, which they say they plan to run for over 30 seconds. Of course, with nuclear fusion research, there is always one major caveat: No nuclear fusion experiment has ever come close to reaching the temperatures needed to generate additional energy. The high energy cost of heating the plasma and cooling the container creates a large deficit that a successful tokamak must overcome before net power is generated. Every step forward is exciting, but the finish line still seems very far away.

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