A superconducting fusion device in South Korea dubbed KSTAR (Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research) or Korean Artificial Sun has set a new record by maintaining high-temperature plasma for 20 whole seconds with an ion temperature of 100 million degrees.
The project is the brainchild of Korea Institute of Fusion Energy along with Seoul National University and Columbia University in the US. The record extends the previously set record of an 8-second operation conducted during last year’s KSTAR Plasma Campaign. The artificial sun was able to sustain an ion temperature of 100 million degrees for the first time in 2018 which lasted for only 1.5 seconds.
Researchers re-created the fusion reactions on the moon with the help of hydrogen isotopes that were placed inside the KSTAR which created a plasma state where ions and electrons were separated, heating ions at extreme temperatures and maintaining it too.
KSTAR isn’t the only fusion device that does such reactions. However, none of those devices has managed to last even ten seconds. KSTAR has managed to last a whole 20 seconds, setting a strong precedent.
Director Si-Woo Yoon of the KSTAR Research Center at the KFE explained, “The technologies required for long operations of 100 million- plasma are the key to the realization of fusion energy, and the KSTAR’s success in maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds will be an important turning point in the race for securing the technologies for the long high-performance plasma operation, a critical component of a commercial nuclear fusion reactor in the future.”
Eventually, researchers working on the KSTAR are working to help it successfully run continuously for 300 seconds with an ion temperature higher than 100 million degrees. They plan on achieving this by 2025.
Dr Young-Seok Park of Columbia University further added, “We are honoured to be involved in such an important achievement made in KSTAR. The 100 million-degree ion temperature achieved by enabling efficient core plasma heating for such a long duration demonstrated the unique capability of the superconducting KSTAR device, and will be acknowledged as a compelling basis for high performance, steady-state fusion plasmas.”