The sun is an incredibly important component for sustaining life on earth. The sun allows for plants to grow through the process of photosynthesis, and it is also a crucial source of vitamin D for us which supports our health by supporting the immunity, heart health, bone health and so much more. That sun in the sky is crucial to life here on earth and it has been for as long as we know, and as long as our ancestors know.
But what if someone tried recreating that life giving force in a controlled environment? Quite the undertaking of a project, huh? Well, the Chinese are doing so through the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) which is the name of an experiment in Hefei China at the Hefei institute of of physical science. They are conducting the experiment for the Chinese academy of sciences.
The experiment was started more than 16 years ago and became functional and operational in 2006. The idea was first proposed in 1996 and approved by 1998. Construction started in 2003 and was complete in 2005, to launch in 2006.
The project mimics the energy generation process of the sun. It then set a new record after it ran at an extra hot 216 million degrees Fahrenheit (120 million degrees Celsius) for 1 minute and 41 seconds. 101 seconds all together, according to the local state media. For another 20 seconds, the “artificial sun” also hit a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit (or 160 million degrees Celsius), which is over ten times hotter than the real sun.
The Question Begs – Does This Qualify as ‘Playing With Fire’?
There’s a common adage that if you play with fire you will get burned. So in this case, playing with technology that has supposedly generated heat that is ten times hotter than the sun, that’s playing with fire on a whole new level. Someone has to get burned, eventually.
This is my perspective. Maybe we could utilize the sun more efficiently as opposed to playing with fire in such a dangerous way, for the people who it could harm or damage. Okay, now back to the story..
The Purpose Of The Artificial Sun
The artificial sun was created to create copious amounts of energy. China wants ‘unlimited clean energy’ with this technology. With zero waste. That’s the goal anyways.
The purpose of this artificial sun is to replicate the process of nuclear fusion in a controlled environment, which is the same reaction that powers the sun. The keyword here is controlled, because if it isn’t, only God knows what could happen.
“The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time,” Li Miao, the director of the department of physics at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, told the Global Times.
But the experts say there is still a long way to go for China’s experimental ‘artificial sun’. According to Lin Boquiang, the director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, it will still take decades for a working reactor such as this to emerge from its experimental stages as it is in now.
The next goal for the scientists that developed the experimental reactor is to maintain the high temperature for a longer period of time so that energy can be generated continuously. Previously, the EAST had reached a record temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in 2018.
It is seen by many as a ‘step in the right direction’ for China’s green energy development, but is it truly safe and effective? is it smart to play with the amplification of concentrated energy at such high temperatures? I for one, still have questions.
Lin Boquiang told the Global Times. “It’s more like a future technology that’s critical for China’s green development push,” he said. But while this is a significant development, Boquiang said there is still a good three decades before China is able to see a fully functioning artificial sun. So, three decades until a potential apocylypse. Okay, we still have time to have some fun and enjoy life. But I am concerned for future generations.
Perhaps instead of owning more and more smart devices we can get back to the days of going on nature walks and leisurely strolls in the park, under the real warm sun. Oh, I can dream.
China is not the only country that is experimenting and testing with this technology. South Korea has achieved high plasma temperatures as well. In 2020, South Korea’s KSTAR reactor set a new record by maintaining a plasma temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds.
One thing is for certain, our energy demands are going to come from somewhere.
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