- The Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) has set a new record by running at one million degrees and maintaining super-hot plasma for 30 seconds, beating its own previous record by 10 seconds.
- The tokamak reactor used for the record run is the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR).
The principle by which sun generates its enormous light and heat energy is the fusion of light atoms such as hydrogen into heavier atoms. The energy generated in this process is called fusion energy. Seeking a future source of energy for humanity, scientists are trying to replicate the phenomonum by creating fusion power in a controlled environment in the form of fusion reactors here on earth. These reactors can be used to generate electricity by using heat from the nuclear fusion reactions. The electricity produce is environmentally friendly.
While fusion power offers the prospect of an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, it also presents so far unresolved engineering challenges and will take some time before it becomes commercially viable. The fundamental challenge is to achieve a rate of heat emitted by a fusion plasma that exceeds the rate of energy injected into the plasma. The main hope is centred on tokamak reactors and stellarators which confine a deuterium-tritium plasma magnetically.
Apart from South Korwa, many other countries take part in fusion research to some extent, led by the European Union, the USA, Russia and Japan, with vigorous programmes also under way in China, Brazil and Canada.
The South Korean team aims to beat its own record several times over by 2026, by maintaining plasma for 300 seconds. To achieve this, they will have to upgrade their reactor to allow control of those massive temperatures for longer periods.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal