Chinese tokamak sets new world record for plasma confinement time

Chinese tokamak sets new world record for plasma confinement time
Chinese tokamak sets new world record for plasma confinement time

On Friday, May 28, an experiment was held at the EAST tokamak, the results of which are extremely important for the world thermonuclear energy. The "Chinese man-made sun" heated the plasma to a temperature almost seven times higher than in the bowels of a natural luminary, and held it for more than one and a half minutes.

Chinese tokamak sets new world record for plasma confinement time

According to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the maximum electron temperature (average energy of electrons) of the plasma has reached 160 million degrees Celsius. The tokamak held these parameters of the bundle of ionized gas for 20 seconds. And at 120 million degrees, the installation worked for 101 seconds.

The Chinese experimental thermonuclear reactor EAST has surpassed the previous duration record by more than five times. Recall that it was installed by Korean physicists at the KSTAR tokamak: they were able to hold a plasma at a temperature of 100 million degrees for 20 seconds.

Stunning results were achieved by specialists from the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP). The details of their achievement are likely to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but so far they have shared their success in a press release format. So the details remain hidden. It is only known that it took a year of continuous work to prepare for the experiment. The EAST tokamak in Hefei City has undergone many design changes to improve plasma stability.

China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) is an important element of international cooperation in the ITER project. It is one of the few similar installations in the world with a completely superconducting magnetic system, which was created on the basis of niobium-titanium conductors. EAST is researching the longest possible confinement of high-temperature plasma for thermonuclear fusion technologies.

The EAST vacuum chamber is completely lined with metal tiles from the inside. Its small radius is 40 centimeters, and its large one is 1.7 meters. A water-cooled tungsten divertor was installed at the bottom of the chamber. The maximum intensity of the toroidal magnetic field of the installation reaches 3.5 Tesla. For comparison: the magnetic field of the Earth fluctuates between 25-65 microtesla, and installations for MRI - 0.5-1.5 tesla (there are experimental devices with a capacity of up to 10.5 tesla). During the record-breaking experiment, the current in the plasma exceeded 500 kiloamperes.

Interestingly, this tokamak was developed on the basis of the H-7 installation, created by Chinese physicists in the 1990s with the direct participation of Russian specialists. There is a radical progress in the technology of the Celestial Empire: today EAST is one of the most advanced and in many ways unique reactors of this type in the world. It is the data obtained during the last experiment that can play a key role in ensuring the operability of ITER.

Despite the impressive achievements of Chinese physicists and their colleagues around the world, even 120 million degrees for one and a half minutes, most likely, will not be enough for an industrial thermonuclear reactor. At ITER, the assembly of which finally began last summer, they plan to "ignite" plasma at 150 million Kelvin and hold for at least 400 seconds. And this is also an experimental setup - the first prototype of an energy efficient reactor will be created only by the middle of the 21st century.It remains to envy the Sun, in the depths of which, due to the unique conditions (including the colossal pressure), thermonuclear reactions proceed perfectly at “only” 12-14 million degrees.

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