Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion

Korean physicists achieved a breakthrough in research for clean nuclear energy when they managed to create an “artificial sun” by igniting a nuclear reaction so powerful that it achieved temperatures seven times hotter than our star. The team of scientists from Seoul National University and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy reported that the reactor at the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reached temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius for some 30 seconds — the first time hitting that milestone. The real sun hits temperatures of around 15 million degrees at its core. The study, which aims to mimic the natural reactions of the sun, is considered a breakthrough in what researchers say is the ultimate in “unlimited clean energy” — nuclear fusion, which combines atomic nuclei found in stars through the self-heating of matter in a plasma state. Researchers hope that the technology can be developed to harness the vast amounts of energy produced by nuclear fusion into electricity without emitting greenhouse gases, or creating the radioactive waste that’s generated by fission-based nuclear reactorsaccording to New Scientist.


We usually say that fusion energy is a dream energy source – it is almost limitless, with low emission of greenhouse gases and no high-level radioactive waste – [but the latest breakthrough] means fusion is not a dream,” said Yoo Suk-jae, president of the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy. Korean researchers are aiming to achieve plasma temperatures of more than 100 million degrees for 50 seconds by the end of the year. Eventually, they hope to reach the same temperatures for 300 seconds by 2026. “This is not the end of the story, we must move on to 300 seconds300 is the minimum time frame to demonstrate steady-state operations, then this plasma can work forever,” said KSTAR director Yoon Si-woo. “If we can’t achieve that, we have to do something else.”

In January, Chinese researchers said that their “artificial sun” reached 70 million degrees Celsius for 20 minutes — or five times hotter than the sunThe same “artificial sun” ran a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees for 101 seconds in May of last year.

The KSTAR team’s research paper has been published in Nature.