China has delivered the last batch of the key components for the world's biggest "artificial sun." This megaproject aims to create clean and sustainable energy through a fusion process for global energy supply.
Let's start with what an "artificial sun" is. Of course, it's not the sun above our heads that provides energy to lives on Earth, but there are similarities.
In modern society, human activities are inseparable from energy. Fossil fuels we commonly use, such as coal, oil and natural gas, are not inexhaustible. And more importantly, they are not eco-friendly. Wind and water energy are clean, but the output can be easily affected by natural conditions.
There is nothing like the sun to provide humans with unlimited clean energy. An "artificial sun" is a mega nuclear fusion device, which generates energy through a fusion process similar to that of the sun. The process uses atomic nuclei to generate large amounts of energy into electricity, by merging hydrogen atoms to create helium.
The fusion process. /CGTN infographic by Li Jingjie
Countries around the world have been investing in the development of "artificial suns." One important project is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) located in France, the world's biggest "artificial sun."
ITER is a globe-spanning collaboration of 35 nations set in motion in 1985. China, among the seven principal members of the project, is responsible for the development and manufacture of the whole magnet supporting system.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance, France, September 9, 2021. /CFP
The system weighs more than 1,600 tonnes. It's one of the core structural safety components of the ITER. Its quality and delivery are related to the operational stability and assembly progress of the whole project. The delivery of the last batch of these vital parts concluded the magnet support system development and manufacturing component of the ITER scheme.
The ITER, a carbon-free source of energy, is designed to yield 500 megawatts of fusion power from 50 megawatts of input heating power for at least 400 seconds continuously.
In April, one of China's "artificial suns," named the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), achieved a steady-state high-confinement plasma operation for 403 seconds, providing an important experimental basis for the operation of ITER.
The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak of China, Hefei, east China's Anhui Province, March 11, 2023. /CFP
China has been contributing extensively to the development of "artificial suns."
The latest breakthrough came from the Huanliu-3. In August, the new-generation "artificial sun" achieved the high-confinement mode operation with a plasma current of 1 million amperes for the first time, proving China's ability in controllable nuclear fusion.
China's new-generation "artificial sun" Huanliu-3, Chengdu, southwest Sichuan Province. /CMG
Clean and sustainable energy has become a universal goal in our era. Let's look forward to hearing more good news from the scientists of the "suns on Earth." (CGTN)
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