China has reportedly marked an incredible achievement after scientists who created an artificial sun were able to heat it up at 120 million degrees Celsius for more than 100 seconds.

The device called Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) was afterwards cranked up to 160 million degrees for another 20 seconds.

The EAST, which is located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, broke the previous record of reaching a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds.

The inside of the artificial sun reactor. Image The Global Times/Xinhua

It is one among many ‘artificial sun’ machines currently being built as a number of countries strive to become the first to create a reliable nuclear fusion reactor. China’s recent success sees it going one step further towards being able to generate unlimited clean energy by using nuclear fusion.

By reaching and maintaining 160 million degrees, China’s device is said to be capable of generating temperatures 10 times as high as the surface of the real sun, which burns at about 15 million degrees.

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Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen told Chinese media that the next step could see experts run the EAST at a consistent temperature for as long as an entire week.

He said:

“The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time.”

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Image: PA

China’s new record crushes the one set by South Korea’s own artificial sun, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), which ran at 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds in December 2020.

The EAST device is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – the largest global scientific cooperative effort since the creation of the International Space Station about 30 years ago.

According to The Global Times, the reactor is being developed by China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States, with China funding about 9% of its research and development.

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Image: PA

If the EAST keeps up its success, scientists believe reliable nuclear fusion could be achieved within the next three decades. Currently, The International Atomic Energy Agency is working towards holding a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees for 300 seconds in the next four years.

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