South Korea’s “artificial sun” sets 2022 goal at 50-second-long super-hot plasma operation

South Korea’s “artificial sun” sets 2022 goal at 50-second-long super-hot plasma operation

South Korea’s “artificial sun” sets 2022 goal at 50-second-long super-hot plasma operation

Image: National Research Council of Science & Technology

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DAEJEON, South Korea, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) — South Korea’s “artificial sun“, the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) device, is aiming to achieve 50-second-long continuous plasma operations at ion temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius in 2022, the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) said Monday.

In 2021, KSTAR broke its record for continuous plasma operation by maintaining a plasma ion temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius for 30 seconds, the KSTAR Research Center at the KFE told a briefing attended by foreign correspondents at the KFE headquarters in Daejeon.

Since 2008, KSTAR has been conducting experiments to develop advanced technologies for the continuous operation of the super-hot plasma. In 2018, KSTAR achieved plasma ion temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees. In 2020, it operated such super-hot plasma for 20 seconds, which the KFE said  was then the longest operating time in the history of fusion research.

“Our final target is 300 seconds in 2026,” said Yoon Si-Woo, deputy director general of KSTAR Research Center, adding that the plasma instability is one of the challenges they face.

Now KSTAR is planning to improve its power supply systems and install a new tungsten divertor to further prolong the operating time, according to the KFE.

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Researchers will also explore ways to further increase the stability of the Internal Transport Barrier (ITB) mode, using measures including real-time feedback control technologies, the institute said.

Fusion technology continues to gain attention as a method of generating clean, carbon-free energy from fusion reactions, which is the same mechanism that generates solar energy inside the sun.

“We have a limit for the fossil fuels and recycling energy is quite promising but with drawbacks … So (in developing) nuclear fusion we have a long way to go, but in many of the aspects, nuclear fusion is ideal for this kind of approach,” Yoon said.

Fusion fuels are abundant in the sea water and they also have very high energy density, Yoon added.

Read more: China sets to build fusion energy research facility

“EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) has a very good capability for the long pulse operation and the electron heating. KSTAR has focused on the ion heating. (If) we combine these kinds of research altogether, then we can make the fusion earlier and (more) reliable,” Yoon said.

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China and South Korea have a joint collaboration meeting every year, he said, adding that the two countries have maintained active collaboration in the area and the cooperation is still going on.

“We are all sharing ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project also. So we are working together basically,” Yoon said.

 

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