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Nuclear fusion could help to unlock near limitless clean energy

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

An "artificial sun" set a new world record by heating plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, China's state media reported on December 31, 2021. This is an important milestone in achieving nuclear fusion power.

Nuclear fusion has been the goal of scientists for decades. It's a process that powers stars and could provide humanity with a large-scale and sustainable source of energy, but it’s difficult to achieve on Earth because the high pressure and temperature that exist at the hearts of stars are hard to replicate.

In the quest for nuclear fusion, scientists have built fusion reactors, or tokamak, using powerful magnets and heated coils to keep plasma under control. The challenge has always been how to keep the turbulent and superheated coils of plasma in place long enough for nuclear fusion to happen.

China’s experimental fusion reactor is being used to test out technologies for an even bigger fusion project — the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) — that’s currently being built in Marseille, France. ITER is the world's largest nuclear reactor and the product of collaboration between 35 countries — including every state in the European Union, the U.K., China, India, and the U.S.

If successful, nuclear fusion is a large-scale, sustainable, and carbon-free form of energy that produces no long-lived radioactive waste, no risk of meltdown, and limited risk of proliferation.

For more information see Live Science, ITER, and other private companies developing fusion reactors including Commonwealth Fusion Systems and General Fusion.

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