China's "Artificial Sun" Will Be Ready in 2020, Experts Say

The artificial device is created to replicate nuclear fusion. See how this new development is significant and how it impacts technology
Fabienne Lang

China will soon begin operating its "artificial sun" — a device 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 feasible energy option on Earth. Read on.


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.

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.

What has China been constructing?

China's device, called the HL-2M Tokamak, might just answer scientists' nuclear fusion questions. At the very least, it will indicate 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 would reach temperatures over 200 million degrees Celsius (360 million degrees Fahrenheit).

That's around 13 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

James Harrison, a fusion physicist who is not involved in this project, 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." 

China has also announced plans to build an even larger and more advanced fusion reactor called the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR). The CFETR is expected to be completed by around 2035 and aims to achieve a sustained fusion reaction and produce commercial electricity.

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