China has achieved a new milestone in humanity’s experiments to harness the power of the stars.
On Friday, the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ fusion machine reached 120 million degrees Celsius (216 million degrees Fahrenheit) and clung onto this for 101 seconds.
The last time EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak or HT-7U) held onto a writhing loop of plasma for so long was in 2017, but the temperature only reached a mere 50 million °C.
In 2018, the reactor held gas heated beyond the 100 million degree benchmark regarded as crucial for generating power, but could only sustain the plasma for around 10 seconds.
Now that it’s held plasma at eight times the temperature of the Sun’s core of 15 million °C for such a long period, the new record has nudged the world ever slightly closer to this elusive, yet highly sought-after clean power source.
“The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time,” Southern University of Science and Technology physicist Li Miao told the Global Times.