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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees
Credit: EAST Team
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.

Scientists in China have reported a major breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion technology, which would harness power through the same processes that occur within stars.

At the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor in Hefei, China, researchers managed to heat hydrogen within the 'artificial sun' to a temperature of more than 100 million degrees Celsius, or 212 million degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it becomes plasma. The temperatures inside EAST are actually about seven times hotter than the center of the sun, where the added pressure from gravity allows for fusion to occur.

On Earth, extreme temperatures are necessary to produce nuclear fusion, which occurs when two nuclei come together to form a heavier nucleus. The fusion process releases vast amounts of heat and energy, the results of which we can see when we look up at the Sun, or any star in the night sky.

Credit: EAST Team

The opposite of fusion is nuclear fission, which occurs when the nuclei of atoms split in a chain reaction. This process also releases extraordinary amounts of energy, and it's currently used in nuclear weapons and power plants worldwide. However, nuclear fission leaves behind dangerous radioactive waste. Nuclear fusion is relatively clean.

That's partly why scientists worldwide have been racing for years to develop a safe and reliable way to produce the conditions necessary for nuclear fusion, which in theory could someday give the world a virtually limitless supply of clean energy. The recent success at EAST represents an important step toward that goal.

Still, while the recent achievement at the EAST reactor proves that the 'artificial sun' can produce the extreme temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion, and also allowed researchers to study how plasma reacts at such temperatures, scientists still have many milestones to cross before the technology could possibly become a safe and reliable option for limitless, clean energy. Those obstacles include finding an abundant fuel source, maintaining stability in reactors for more than seconds at a time, and scaling the technology to become commercially viable.

Michio Kaku: Fusion really is 20 years away

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
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Just How Much Land Does the Federal Government Own — and Why?

The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC.

Surprising Science

The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada.

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Can VR help us understand layers of oppression?

Researchers are using technology to make visual the complex concepts of racism, as well as its political and social consequences.

Future of Learning
  • Often thought of first as gaming tech, virtual reality has been increasingly used in research as a tool for mimicking real-life scenarios and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America's political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to "walk a mile" in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
  • Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these "interwoven oppressions" continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. "I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness," she says. "And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you...it's not so much about the interpersonal 'Do I feel bad, do I like you?'—it's more 'Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'"
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Russia claims world's first COVID-19 vaccine but skepticism abounds

President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced coronavirus vaccine at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020.

Credit: Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Coronavirus
  • Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in Russia.
  • Scientists around the world are worried that the vaccine is unsafe and that Russia fast-tracked the vaccine without performing the necessary phase 3 trials.
  • To date, Russia has had nearly 900,000 registered cases of coronavirus.
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