China's "artificial sun" nuclear fusion reactor, called the HL-2M Tokamak, was powered up for the first time, state media reported Friday. The development could possibly revolutionize how we produce and consume energy.
The reactor that uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma may potentially unlock a powerful and much-needed clean energy source. Currently, it can reach temperatures of over 270 million degrees Fahrenheit (150 million degrees Celsius).
This temperature is approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun. This is why the reactor is often referred to as an "artificial sun."
"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," said the People's Daily.
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
Now, all that is left to do is produce a smaller version of the reactor, something Chinese scientists have been working on since 2006 in collaboration with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
ITER is the world's largest nuclear fusion research project based in southern France. It is referred to as Tokamak and sees 35 nations working together to build the device which is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.
ITER is expected to be completed in 2025 and its total cost is estimated to be a whopping $22.5 billion. "ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time. And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity," writes the project's website.
Time will tell what this new Chinese collaboration will bring to ITER and whether nuclear fusion becomes a viable and affordable source of energy production.