Is it hot in here, or is it just the fusion reactor?
China broke a record with its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion reactor on Friday when it sustained a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds, according to the state-run outlet Global Times. The reactor was also able to sustain a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds.
For perspective, the core of our solar system’s Sun "only" reaches about 15 million degrees Celsius, according to Space.com. So, for a moment, EAST got more than 10 times hotter than that.
This marks a big milestone for the EAST reactor, which has been dubbed the "artificial Sun" for its ability to replicate the natural nuclear fusion process of stars. Doing so could help unlock the mystery to creating sustainable, reliable fusion power.
"The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time," said Li Miao, the director of the department of physics at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, to the Global Times.
The reactor's most recent feat is especially impressive considering that the EAST reactor had previously reached a record temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in 2018. Now it’s smashed that number and then some.
Lin Boqiang, the director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that nuclear fusion ultimately represents the future for clean energy — though he stressed that it's likely going to be decades before a working reactor emerges from experimental stages.
"It’s more like a future technology that’s critical for China’s green development push," Boqiang told the Global Times.
Regardless of when fusion reactors finally goes beyond experiments, this development is still incredibly exciting — and represents just another big step forward to making unlimited clean energy a reality.
READ MORE: China maintains 'artificial sun' at 120 million Celsius for over 100 seconds, setting new world record [Global Times]
More on EAST: China: New “Artificial Sun” Will Be Completed This Year