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South Korea ignites ‘artificial sun’ SEVEN TIMES hotter than star’s core as world races to solve global energy crisis

SOUTH Korean scientists have created an “artificial sun” that is seven times hotter than the Sun, in pursuit of unlimited clean energy.

The breakthrough from the Seoul National University and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy means that the scientists were able to keep a nuclear fusion reaction going for half a minute at temperatures beyond 100 million degrees Celsius.


Nuclear fusion is seen as the ultimate in unlimited clean energyCredit: New Scientist

The reactor, located at the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) in Daejeon, reached upward of 100 million degree Celsius for 30 seconds.

In comparison, the sun’s core is about 15 million degrees Celsius. The star is also powered by nuclear fusion.

“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,” Yoo Suk-jae, the president of Korea Institute of Fusion Energy said.

Suk-jae said his team’s objective is for the reactor to operate at these temperatures for five minutes – or 300 seconds.

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“This is not the end of the story, we must move on to 300 seconds – 300 is the minimum time frame to demonstrate steady-state operations, then this plasma can work forever,” he added.

Scientists have been desperate to develop new ways of creating vast amounts of energy to help fight against the energy crisis.

In February, a UK-based research team announced it had created an artificial sun that superheated to ten times hotter than the sun’s core for five seconds.

The experimental reactor in Abingdon near Oxford, produced a world record 59 megajoules of energy. This would be enough to power 10,000 homes.

These are the latest achievements in the race for limitless fusion energy that has also seen Chinese scientists running a reactor for 20 minutes at a whopping 70 million degrees after launching a fusion energy research programme in 2006.

Unlike fission technology, fusion energy produces no greenhouse gases including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

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There are also less accidental risks linked to fusion because the outcome is not radioactive, according to scientists.

This also means containment measures required for nuclear fission technology are not needed when creating fusion energy. 

Nuclear Fusion – what is it?

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Nuclear fusion is a process where two light nuclei (the central parts of atom) are joined to create a single larger nucleus
  • This “nuclear reaction” releases huge amounts of energy
  • That’s because the “heavy” nucleus is not as heavy as the mass of the two “light” nuclei combined
  • This “lost mass” can then be changed into huge amounts of energy
  • Fusion is a common occurrence inside stars, like the Sun at the centre of our own galaxy
  • This is how the Sun is able to provide so much heat and light
  • But kickstarting a nuclear fusion reaction on Earth is difficult
  • The goal is to start a nuclear reaction that releases more energy that you needed to start the reaction
  • The problem is that both nuclei have positive charges, and repel each other
  • To stop this, you need to make them hit each other at very high speeds – requiring high pressure and temperature
  • If scientists can develop a low-energy way of making this happen, they could generate enormous (and potentially unlimited) amounts of clean energy

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