South Korean artificial sun, sets the new world record, shines for 20 seconds at 100 million degrees

South Korean physicists used KSTAR and obtained a plasma from hydrogen, consisting of hot ions that surpassed the 100 million degree Celsius temperature.

South Korean physicists used KSTAR and obtained a plasma from hydrogen, consisting of hot ions that surpassed the 100 million degree Celsius temperature.

KSTAR which is known as the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research reactor has set a new world record for fusion when compared to the core of the sun, which burns at only 15 million degrees Celsius.

KSTAR is a superconducting fusion device and is also known as the Korean artificial Sun. KSTAR recently sets a new world record as it maintained the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds with an ion temperature over 100 million degrees (Celsius).

Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei to release energy, promising to release more energy than it consumes. Since the early 20th century, controlling the power of fusion reaction had been always the dream of researchers. But over time this had been proved to be a riddle that is tough to solve.

KSTAR, a superconducting fusion device uses magnetic fields to produce and stabilize the super-hot plasma, with the end goal to make nuclear fusion power a reality. Nuclear fusion is a source of clean energy that could rebuild the way we power our lives, with a condition that we can get it to work as we intend.

A team of South Korean physicists used KSTAR for the Nuclear Fusion experiment and obtained a plasma from hydrogen, consisting of hot ions that surpassed the 100 million degree Celsius temperature.

To keep the ions, it is required to maintain a very high temperature. The scientists set a world record by igniting the nuclear fusion reactor and maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds reaching an ion temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius.

On November 24, The KSTAR Research Center at the Korean Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) announced that in joint research with Seoul National University (SNU), and Columbia University of the U.S., have achieved the milestone. Using the KSTAR reactor, the team has succeeded in the continuous operation of plasma for 20 seconds with an ion temperature higher than 100 million degrees Celsius. This was one of the core conditions of nuclear fusion in the 2020 KSTAR Plasma Campaign.

KSTAR Research Center experiments so far

During the 2019 KSTAR Plasma campaign, scientists were able to obtain 8 seconds plasma operation twice, which is an achievement in itself. In 2018, KSTAR reached the plasma ion temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for the first time but the retention at that time was about 1.5 seconds.

In past, have been other fusion devices that we’re able to maintain plasma at 100 million degrees. But none of these were able to maintain the operation for 10 seconds or more. It is the operational limit of a normal-conducting device and it was difficult to maintain a plasma state in the fusion device at such high-temperature for long period.

KSTAR success story

KSTAR improved the performance of the Internal Transport Barrier (ITB) mode, in its 2020 experiment. This is one of the next-generation plasma operations modes that was developed last year to maintain the plasma state for a long time, overcoming the existing limits of the ultra-high-temperature plasma operation.

“The technologies required for long operations of 100 million- plasma are the key to the realization of fusion energy, and the 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”, explained Si-Woo Yoon the director of the KSTAR Research Center at the KFE.

“The success of the KSTAR experiment in the long, high-temperature operation by overcoming some drawbacks of the ITB modes brings us a step closer to the development of technologies for realization of nuclear fusion energy,” added Yong-Su Na, professor at the department of Nuclear Engineering, SNU. He has been jointly conducting the research on the KSTAR plasma operation.

Dr. Young-Seok Park of Columbia University contributed to the creation of the high temperature plasma. He said: “We are honored to be involved in such an important achievement made in KSTAR. The 100 million-degree ion temperature achieved by enabling efficient core plasma heating for such a long duration demonstrated the unique capability of the superconducting KSTAR device, and will be acknowledged as a compelling basis for high performance, steady state fusion plasmas.”

KSTAR and the future

As of November 20, 2020, the KFE, formerly the National Fusion Research Institute, an affiliated organization of the Korea Basic Science Institute, was re-launched as an independent research organization.

The KSTAR is going to share its key experiment outcomes in 2020 including this success with fusion researchers across the world in the IAEA Fusion Energy Conference which will be held in May.

The final goal of the KSTAR is to achieve a continuous operation of 300 seconds with an ion temperature higher than 100 million degrees by 2025.

KFE President Suk Jae Yoo stated, “I am so glad to announce the new launch of the KFE as an independent research organization of Korea. The KFE will continue its tradition of under-taking challenging researches to achieve the goal of mankind: the realization of nuclear fusion energy,” he continued.

In addition to this, the KSTAR Research Center conducts experiments on a variety of topics, including ITER researches, designed to solve complex problems in fusion research during the remainder of the experiment period.

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