China’s Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP), affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced on its website on13 November that the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, (EAST) had maintained a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in plasma and a heating power of 10MW for 10 seconds during an experiment conducted earlier this year.
IPP, at Hefei Anhui province, said various data points achieved in the experiments are close to meeting physics' demand for future steady-state fusion reactor operation -100 million degrees Celsius is the minimum temperature believed to be needed to produce a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction on Earth.
In 2017, EAST had set a world record by achieving a plasma temperature of nearly 50 million degrees Celsius for 101.2 seconds of steady-state H-mode after which the scientists turned their attention to research the physical mechanism of the core under high power heating, IPP said. EAST, which was designed, constructed, and assembled mainly by Chinese scientists, was approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission in 1998 to conduct fundamental physics and engineering research on advanced tokamak fusion reactors.
The EAST experiment is one of several nuclear fusion initiatives including the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project in southern France ( an international collaboration of 35 countries, including China, which began in 1985). IPP said the results of EAST’s experiments this year will aid in the construction of ITER’s tokamak. The project will also provide experimental evidence and scientific support to the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor project, which is similarly working to develop nuclear fusion.
EAST is similar to ITER in shape and equilibrium, but smaller and more flexible. It will be one of only a few international devices that can serve as an important experimental test bench for conducting ITER related steady-state advanced plasma science and technology research, according to IPP.