China’s artificial sun, the biggest nuclear fusion reactor named HL-2M Tokamak reactor was finally powered up on Friday 4th December 2020. It was done at the installation site in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and this development is expected to change the way we produce and use energy.
It is described as a very advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device and is expected to provide a very strong clean energy source. According to the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the HL-2M went into work on Friday and accomplished its first plasma discharge.
Why is it called the artificial sun?
The reactor would generate a powerful and clean energy source using a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma. Presently it can reach a temperature of over 150 million degrees Celsius, as mentioned by People’s Daily which is about 10 times warmer than the sun’s core. This is the reason why it is called the artificial sun.
As mentioned by people’s daily “The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy.”
The part that remains after this is to create a smaller version of the reactor. Many Chinese researchers have been engaged in developing the smaller version of it by collaborating with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) as it is the largest nuclear fusion research project and it is estimated to be completed by 2025. 35 nations are working together to develop the device which would show the possibility of fusion as the carbon-free source of energy that would work on the same principle which powers the sun and our stars. Its total cost is estimated cost to be around $22.5 billion.
Yang Qingwei, chief engineer of the HL-2M said “The energy confinement time of international tokamak devices is less than one second. The shot discharge duration of the HL-2M is around 10 seconds, with an energy confinement time of a few hundred milliseconds.”
He also mentioned, “The artificial sun will provide key technical support for China’s participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project and frontier research fields including flow instability and magnetic phenomena of ultra-high temperature plasma.”
It is hoped that this technology will help us to produce the carbon-free energy as mentioned, which will be very useful for us. As time passes by, we will be able to know whether it becomes successful and forms an affordable source of energy for us.