Reaching an ion temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds, South Korea’s magnetic fusion device, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) has set a new world record for fusion. The magnitude of the experiment can be understood from the fact that the Sun burns at 15 million degrees Celsius. By comparison, the KSTAR was able to achieve a temperature of over 6.6 times more than that of Sun’s.
The KSTAR has often been referred to as South Korea’s “artificial sun”. It achieved the same temperature in 2018 too, but only for one and a half seconds. In 2019, it reached that temperature for eight seconds. This is also a great achievement because no one has been able to sustain a plasma nearly as hot as this for a long period of time. The feat was achieved on November 24, 2020.
The newly developed Internal Transport Barrier Mode was crucial to achieving this record-breaking time. Starting from August 2020 and ending on December 10, a total of 110 plasma experiments were conducted to test what the device can do. This included various methods and techniques to inject and try to stabilise the plasma.
“The technologies required for long operations of 100 million-degree plasma are the key to the realization of fusion energy,” said Si-Woo Yoon, director of the KSTAR Research Center at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy, said in a statement. “[T]he KSTAR’s success in maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds will be an important turning point in the race for securing the technologies for the long high-performance plasma operation, a critical component of a commercial nuclear fusion reactor in the future.”
The KSTAR which is placed at the Korean Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) is also a part of joint research conducted with Seoul National University (SNU) and Columbia University of the US.
In the future, the aim to increase the time and work on a fusion reactor that takes less energy than it produces. According to a report by IFLScience, KFE is targetting 300 seconds mark by 2025.
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