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Live Science - January 6, 2022

China's "artificial sun" has set a new world record after superheating a loop of plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, state media reported.

The EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) nuclear fusion reactor maintained a temperature of 158 million degrees Fahrenheit (70 million degrees Celsius) for 1,056 seconds, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The achievement brings scientists a small yet significant step closer to the creation of a source of near-unlimited clean energy.

The Chinese experimental nuclear fusion reactor smashed the previous record, set by France's Tore Supra tokamak in 2003, where plasma in a coiling loop remained at similar temperatures for 390 seconds. EAST had previously set another record in May 2021 by running for 101 seconds at an unprecedented 216 million F (120 million C). The core of the actual sun, by contrast, reaches temperatures of around 27 million F (15 million C).

"The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor," experiment leader Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

Scientists have been trying to harness the power of nuclear fusion — the process by which stars burn — for more than 70 years. By fusing hydrogen atoms to make helium under extremely high pressures and temperatures, so-called main-sequence stars are able to convert matter into light and heat, generating enormous amounts of energy without producing greenhouse gases or long-lasting radioactive waste. ...
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