Sun on Earth
China’s artificial sun on earth might seem like a phrase from a fairy tale. However, now it’s a reality. Experimental advanced superconducting Tokamak (EAST) of China has won the epithet of sun on earth. It is an energy generation machine which uses the same principle that the sun uses. The tokamak became 10 times hotter than the sun for 20 seconds. It is a big milestone in the field of science. It will unleash the global quest for clean, green and unlimited energy. It is also sustainable as it produces comparatively less waste products.
EAST Reactor is located at the institute of plasma physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hefei, China. It is an advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device. Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which one or more atoms combine to form one or more different atoms and subatomic particles. The sun (or any other star in the universe) generates its energy by this process in which Hydrogen nuclei combine to form Helium and two neutrinos. The east project is part of of the the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project. It will become the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor when it becomes operational in 2035.
ITER is a collaboration of 35 nations which started in 1985. Its headquarter is located in France. Its aim is to build world’s largest tokamak, an experimental machine with the ability of producing energy from fusion reaction. Tokamak is a large vessel inside which heat energy is produced and the walls of the vessel absorb the heat which can be used to produce steam. The steam can rotate turbines and then produce electricity vis-a-vis generators like other conventional means of power generation. In the midst of climate change and global warming, nuclear fusion provides a carbon free source of power and is our chance to reverse the implications of climate change. ITER members include China, European Union, United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and India. These seven members share the cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning. The European Union contribute the largest portion of construction costs whereas the remainder is shared equally by others. Experimental results and intellectual property are also exchanged between these 7 Members.
The member countries have shared responsibility in designing the machine. Likewise, India was given the task of Designing the chamber that can maintain very low temperatures. It is called cryostat and will be manufactured by India (Larson and Turbo). Once completed it will be the largest stainless steel high-vacuum pressure chamber to be ever built . It will provide high vacuum, ultra cool environment for the ITER vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets. The target for its completion is 2025.
If we compare fusion technology with the present nuclear fission reactors, we find that nuclear fusion generates far more nuclear radioactive waste although it does not emit any greenhouse gases. On the other hand, nuclear fusion produces comparatively negligible amount of waste. Tremendous heat and pressure is applied on hydrogen atoms so that they can fuse. Fuel needs to be heated to temperatures over 150,000,000 degrees centigrades. The plasma soup of subatomic particles formed henceforth have to be kept away from the walls of the reactor to prevent cooling down and losing its potential to generate large amounts of energy. The only drawback with fusion technology is that making a vessel to contain hot plasma and maintaining stability for longer period of time is a challenge. The scientists are working on it and soon they will deliver the results.
EAST is a feat in the sense that it brought humanity closer to a cleaner and greener form of energy. Earlier in 2020 South Korea’s KSTAR (Korea superconducting Tokamak advanced research) achieved extremely high temperatures for 20 seconds. China broke their world record. With this page the wait for Earth’s own sun will soon be over.