HEFEI, June 2 (Xinhua/Wu Lan) On Science Island in Hefei, Anhui province, there are a group of people who are constantly pushing the envelope to “make the sun”. Their goal is to hope that one day, the “fusion energy dream” of commercial fusion energy will be realized in China first, and that the fusion energy will light up a lamp as soon as possible.
Building a “sun” that mimics the principle of solar fusion reaction is considered by scientists to be the best solution to mankind’s energy crisis and will make an important contribution to achieving carbon neutrality.
“The EAST experiment achieved a repeatable plasma run of 101 seconds at 120 million degrees Celsius.” “This is the 98,958th discharge of EAST,” Gong Xianzu said in an interview with the media on June 1. “It has achieved results on the order of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius for 100 seconds, which indicates that China is at the international leading level in the field of steady-state magnetic confinement research.”
Gong Xianxiu, Chief Experiment Operator of EAST Unit, Director of Tokamak Physics Laboratory, Institute of Plasma, Hefei Institute of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences. EAST is the abbreviation of the fully superconducting tokamak device (Oriental superring), known as China’s “artificial little sun”. In recent years, it has created a number of world records for tokamak operation, and the normalized parameters obtained from physical experiments are close to the physical conditions required for the steady-state operation mode of the future fusion reactor.
“Tokamak was proposed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and after 70 years of joint efforts by scientists around the world, the scientific feasibility of fusion energy has been proven in the laboratory.” Gong said that EAST could make important and substantial contributions to ITER and future fusion tokamak research, and further to the development and eventual use of fusion energy for mankind.
According to the introduction, at present, EAST is the only magnetic confinement nuclear fusion experimental facility with heating mode and strainer structure similar to ITER in the world, and it is the only experimental facility that can fully demonstrate and verify the future 400-second scientific research of ITER in the 100-second scale.
“From the first discharge in 2006, every important piece of data from EAST sticks in my mind.” Gong explained, “From the first fresh curiosity to this attack, I can’t hide my excitement. The 98,958 discharges are the equivalent of taking 98,958 steps, although each one is only a small step. But this is an important small step towards the future of fusion energy.”
“Continuous steady-state operation in a high-temperature plasma of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius is a necessary condition for future fusion power generation.” Gong admits that there are still many challenges in how to upgrade the high-temperature plasma operation of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius to the level of 100 seconds or 1000 seconds to meet the requirements of future fusion reactors, and the difficulties and challenges are very big.
Huang Juan, a researcher born in the 1980s, is deputy director of Tokamak Physics Laboratory at the Institute of Plasma at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences. She is engaged in Tokamak diagnostic nuclear physics research. “There are about 70 diagnostic systems on EAST, including the polarimetric interferometer,” she says. “It’s like a doctor, diagnosing the key physical and technical problems.”
“Every step of East’s critical breakthrough, I have witnessed.” “It is still very difficult to achieve the commercial goal of fusion energy,” Huang said. “The important achievement this time is a phased goal, but it is just a starting point. I believe that with the joint efforts of the younger generation of researchers, the ‘fusion energy dream’ will definitely be realized.”
On May 28, the EAST facility physics experiment achieved a repeatable plasma run of 101 seconds at 120 million degrees Celsius and 20 seconds at 160 million degrees Celsius, setting a new world record for Tokamak experimental device operation.