Chinese ‘Artificial Sun’ Experimental Fusion Reactor Sets World Record for Superheated Plasma Time


The Belt and Road infrastructure megaproject doesn’t just include rails and highways, it’s aimed at helping nations achieve energy independence, too. China is exporting nuclear power plants of a newer, safer design to partner nations like Pakistan, as well as building them at home to help transition away from fossil fuel use.

China’s futuristic nuclear fusion reactor just set a new world record for the longest duration of time in sustaining the sun-like temperature needed for fusion to occur. While China is still a long way from a fusion power plant, the achievement is an important step towards clean, sustainable electricity generation.

The device, which replicates the atom-building process that occurs at the center of stars and gives them their luminosity and warmth, held plasma at a temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds and at the even hotter temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for another 20 seconds.

However, he cautioned that the technology is still decades away from actually being used outside of a lab. “It’s more like a future technology that’s critical for China’s green development push,” he said.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China’s Anhui Province, seen on May 28, 2021.

The previous record was set by the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) superconducting fusion device at Seoul National University in December, which held plasma at 100 million degrees Celsius for just 20 seconds, meaning the EAST device went five or six times longer and at hotter temperatures.

The reactor has been nicknamed an “artificial sun,” but according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the center of the sun is just 15 million degrees Celsius, meaning the device is several times hotter than the sun. 


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