China will soon begin operating its "artificial sun" — a device that is meant to replicate nuclear fusion, the same reaction that powers the Sun.
Due to be built by the end of 2019, Chinese researchers now say it will be operational in 2020.
If everything goes according to plan, this could ultimately make nuclear fusion a feasable energy option on Earth.
Why is this significant?
By harnessing the power produced through nuclear fusion we could tap into almost limitless clean energy — something we are in dire need of given our Earth's environmental concerns.
China’s completed ‘artificial sun’ to start operation in 2020 https://t.co/41dHmGazVR— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) November 27, 2019
Researchers around the world have been trying to attain this goal for decades. The main issue has been finding an affordable way to contain piping hot plasma in one space and keeping it stable enough for fusion to occur.
What has China been constructing?
China's device, called the HL-2M Tokamak, may be the answer to scientists' nuclear fusion questions. At the very least, it will provide an indication as to how to overcome the plasma issue.
The project has been running since 2006. Duan Xuru, head of the Southwestern Institute of Physics and part of the project, said that the new device will reach temperatures over 200 million degrees Celsius (360 million degrees Fahrenheit).
That's around 13 times hotter than the core of the Sun.
A fusion physicist who is not involved in this project, James Harrison, told Newsweek "HL-2M will provide researchers with valuable data on the compatibility of high-performance fusion plasmas with approaches to more effectively handle the heat and particles exhausted from the core of the device."
Harrison continued, "This is one of the biggest issues facing the development of a commercial fusion reactor, and the results from HL-2M, as part of the international fusion research community, will influence the design of these reactors."