KSTAR fusion reactor sets new record

8 December 2021

Korea's National Fusion Research Institute announced in November that plasma operation at 100 million degrees Celsius, an essential requirement for nuclear fusion, successfully continued for 30 seconds during the latest tests at the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) facility.

Construction of KSTAR was completed in 2007 and it generated its first plasma in 2008. In 2016, KSTAR claimed a world record by maintaining plasma heated to 50 million °C for 70 seconds, which was surpassed the follow9ing year by China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) with a 102-second effort.

The goal for devices such as these, however, is to heat the plasma to more than 100 million °C, and in 2018 KSTAR achieved this for 1.5 seconds. It then managed an eight-second effort at the same temperature in 2019, and in December 2020 set a world record by maintaining plasma at 100 million °C for 20 seconds.

Scientist at KSTAR have now extended that timeframe to a world-record 30 seconds. This performance boost is said to be the result of further optimised magnetic field conditions and heating systems. The team is aiming to sustain the plasma for 300 seconds in 2026 through upgrades to the power source and through a tungsten diverter that will prevent a rise in temperature in the inner walls of the chamber.

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