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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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Yale scientists restore cellular function in 32 dead pig brains

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
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Face mask study reveals worst material for blocking COVID-19

A study published Friday tested how well 14 commonly available face masks blocked the emission of respiratory droplets as people were speaking.

Fischer et al.
Coronavirus
  • The study tested the efficacy of popular types of face masks, including N95 respirators, bandanas, cotton-polypropylene masks, gaiters, and others.
  • The results showed that N95 respirators were most effective, while wearing a neck fleece (aka gaiter) actually produced more respiratory droplets than wearing no mask at all.
  • Certain types of homemade masks seem to be effective at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
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You want to stop child abuse? Here's how you can actually help.

Sharing QAnon disinformation is harming the children devotees purport to help.

Photo: Atjanan Charoensiri / Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The conspiracy theory, QAnon, is doing more harm than good in the battle to end child trafficking.
  • Foster youth expert, Regan Williams, says there are 25-29k missing children every year, not 800k, as marketed by QAnon.
  • Real ways to help abused children include donating to nonprofits, taking educational workshops, and becoming a foster parent.
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Strange Maps

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

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