On 24 November, the KSTAR Research Centre at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) had announced a world record duration of continuously operating its superconducting fusion device, also known as the Korean artificial sun, for 20 seconds with an ion temperature above 100 million degrees Celsius.
This constitutes more than twice the previous record also set by KSTAR in 2019 (8 seconds) and more than thirteen times the duration achieved in 2018 (1.5 seconds), which was also the first time that KSTAR was able to achieve an ion temperature of 100 million degrees.
Recreating fusion reactions that occur in the Sun requires placing hydrogen isotopes inside a fusion device to create a plasma state where ions and electrons are separated, and the former must then be heated and maintained at extremely high temperatures – a tremendously difficult task to achieve even today.
The KSTAR has broken its own record and achieved an impressively long duration of operating a superconducting nuclear fusion device. Image courtesy of the National Research Council of Science and Technology
“The technologies required for long operations of 100 million-plasma are the key to the realisation of fusion energy, and the KSTAR’s success in maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds will be an important turning point in the race for securing the technologies for the long high-performance plasma operation, a critical component of a commercial nuclear fusion reactor in the future,” said Si-Woon Yoon, Director of the KSTAR Research Centre.
Achieving such a long duration in 2020 was made possible by the improvements made to the Internal Transport Barrier (ITB) mode, which is one of the next generation plasma operation modes that were developed back in 2019.
KSTAR’s ultimate goal is to reach a point where the device is capable of continuously running for 300 seconds with an ion temperature in excess of 100 million degrees by 2025.
“I am so glad to announce the new launch of the KFE as an independent research organisation of Korea. The KFE will continue its tradition of undertaking challenging researches to achieve the goal of mankind: the realisation of nuclear fusion energy,” said Suk Jae Yoo, President of the KFE.