South Korean nuclear fusion reactor reaches 100 million degrees for 48 seconds

Image of the South Korean KSTAR nuclear reactor. Credit: Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE).
Tiago Robles

Tiago Robles 02/04/2024 16:16 5 min

One new record impressive for science! O nuclear fusion reactor KSTAR (‘Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research’) from South Korea has just broken its own record by be able to maintain a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for 48 secondsa temperature 7 times larger than that of our Sun!

Nuclear fusion is the process in which two or more atomic nuclei combine to form a larger, heavier and more stable nucleus. This requires a lot of energy to happen, and generally releases much more energy than is consumed.

The announcement was made last Thursday (28) by Korea Fusion Energy Institute (KFE). See more information below.

KSTAR’s new record

O previous record was also held by the KSTAR reactorand was registered in 2022when he maintained this temperature for 30 seconds. In fact, this is one of the most important nuclear fusion reactors on the planet.

interior of the vacuum chamber of the KSTAR nuclear reactor
View from inside the vacuum chamber of the KSTAR nuclear reactor. Credit: Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE).

Your new record was achieved thanks to an upgrade of a magnetic component, which could be consolidated as a new “piece” for the search for clean nuclear energy, as it extracts heat and avoids impurities produced by the reaction. This involves installing a new diversion of tungsten — one of the most resistant metals in the world — which “allowed us to achieve results that surpass those of previous records of KSTAR in a short period,” said Si-Woo Yoon, director of the KSTAR Research Center.

For the second time, liquid nuclear fusion is achieved: an unlimited and cleaner energy source

For the second time, liquid nuclear fusion is achieved: an unlimited and cleaner energy source

Scientists explain that these ‘diverters’ are responsible for withstanding the intensity of heat inside the reactor, and showed much greater efficiency using tungsten than carbon, which was used previously. Now, it is expected that the reactor can withstand similar temperatures for up to 5 minutes by 2026.

“To achieve the ultimate goal of operation KSTAR, we plan sequentially improve the performance of heating devices and current drive, and also protect the basic technologies required for high-performance, long-pulse plasma operations,” said Si-Woo Yoon.

And how does a nuclear reactor work?

These reactors basically serve to induce in a controlled manner the plasma nuclear fusion process, which is when two atomic nuclei fuse to form a larger, heavier third, a process that releases large amounts of energy. This one It is the same process that occurs on the Sunwhere hydrogen atoms fuse and create helium atoms.

new component, KSTAR reactor
The KSTAR reactor’s new tungsten shunt, U-shaped, differs from the previous carbon component which was straight. Credit: Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE).

The reactor uses a strong magnetic field to confine the plasma (state of matter in which electrons are detached from atomic nuclei) inside a torus-shaped structure in the center of its chamber.

When this plasma is successfully confinedwithout dispersion of electrical particles and without contact with the internal walls of the structure, the reactor prevents temperature loss. Thus, it is possible to maintain millions of degrees Celsius for several seconds.

KSTAR is a type reactor tokamak, that is, it uses a strong magnetic field to confine the plasma inside a structure. By heating a “fuel”, usually by firing a laser beam at an amount of an isotope of hydrogen gas, a plasma hotter than the Sun is produced.

However, there has challenges for construction of these reactors. In addition to being necessary to use of extremely heat resistant materialsyou also need a large amount of energy. However, this type of energy has a great attraction: the nuclear reaction is considered the cleanest and safest as it leaves no carbon emissions.

News references:

LiveScience. “Nuclear fusion reactor in South Korea runs at 100 million degrees C for a record-breaking 48 seconds”. 2024.

CNNWorld. “ ‘Artificial sun’ sets record for time at 100 million degrees in latest advance for nuclear fusion”. 2024.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: South Korean nuclear fusion reactor reaches million degrees seconds



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