Fusion research tokamak sets new record in super-hot plasma

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : November 24, 2020, 15:07 | Updated : November 24, 2020, 15:07

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- KSTAR, a magnetic fusion device run by South Korean researchers to study aspects of magnetic fusion energy, has set a new world record in a super-hot plasma field. The technical breakthrough will contribute to an international mega-project to create a fusion reactor, which is similar to the sun.

KSTAR, a research tokamak to feature fully superconducting magnets, has successfully maintained a plasma center ion temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds, according to the state-run Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE), which aims to achieve 300 seconds by 2025.

A high temperature is the most critical operating condition of fusion. The sun's center plasma ion density is so high that nuclear fusion occurs at 15 million degrees, but plasma ion temperatures should be over 100 million degrees on Earth with much less gravity to cause fusion reactions. The plasma ion temperature of 100 million degrees has been achieved through the successful application of technology to effectively heat the center of plasma with a neutron particle beam heating device.

For high performance, the institute plans to use tungsten in 2021 for a device that sends heat energy generated from plasma instead of carbon. The institute would run K-DEMO, a demonstration reactor that produces real electricity with fusion energy produced by KSTAR in 2040.

Fusion power has long been spotlighted as a safe next-generation power source capable of reducing radioactivity, but it's extremely difficult to produce a state of controlled fusion. Seven countries including South Korea, the United States, China and EU members have been involved in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project to build an experimental fusion reactor in Cadarache, France.

"This achievement will contribute to the ITER experiment," said KSTAR Research Center head Yoon Si-woo. If the ITER experiment is successful, it could provide mankind with a limitless energy source.

 
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