Currently, most of the methods we use to generate electricity have serious flaws, such as pollution or limited availability. Reliable fusion ability can theoretically change all of this. By harnessing the power of the sun, we can safely generate more power than ever before. However, the problem is that fusion power generation does not work yet. A team from South Korea has just made significant progress-the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) facility recently ran for 20 seconds. It may not sound impressive, but it doubled the previous record.
The sun and other stars produce energy through nuclear fusion-the process of bonding two hydrogen atoms (and later heavier atoms) together produces a huge amount of energy, and the by-products are completely safe, which is produced by nuclear fission and combustion The remnants are different. However, melting only takes place at extremely high temperatures and pressures. This is not a self-sustaining chain reaction like fission.
KSTAR is one of the most advanced tokamak reactors in the world. These devices use a powerful magnetic field to shape the overheated plasma into a toroidal (annular) shape. Currently, our ability to maintain the artificial fusion response in this way is very limited. The best experimental reactors, such as KSTAR, can only keep the superheated plasma active for a few seconds. However, the number of seconds finally increased.
KSTAR recently kept the fusion plasma at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds. The previous record of the device was only 8 seconds in 2019, while the global record before this experiment was only 10 seconds at 100 million degrees or higher. The longer the plasma remains in the reactor, the more likely it is that the atoms will fuse and produce usable energy. This is the goal, but current nuclear fusion reactors (such as KSTAR) consume more power than they produce. The record holder in this field is the European Union Circle (JET), which can generate 16MW of power from 24MW of input power.
The team stated that improved internal transportation barrier (ITB) performance is the key to this latest improvement. ITB reduces the movement of ions inside the plasma, thereby improving the confinement and stability of the plasma. Therefore, the KSTAR reactor can break previous records.
We still have a long way to go before converging into a viable energy source. At present, the KSTAR team hopes to continue to improve the stability of its reactor and eventually expand the continuous operation time to 300 seconds by 2025.