South Korea’s ‘artificial sun’ breaks world record, know how

The Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reached an ion temperature of more than 100 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds, setting a new world record for fusion.

The sun burns at 15 million degrees Celsius and hence the magnitude of the experiment can be understood from this fact. By comparison, KSTAR was able to reach a temperature more than 6.6 times that of the Sun.

KSTAR has often been called “artificial sun” of South Korea. The same temperature was achieved in 2018, but only for one and a half seconds. In 2019, it reached this temperature for eight seconds. It is also a big achievement because no one has been able to sustain a plasma that was almost as hot as this for a long period of time. This feat was achieved on November 24, 2020.

The new Internal Transport Barrier Mode was crucial to achieving this record time. From August 2020 to December 10, a total of 110 plasma experiments were carried out to test what the device can do. This involved various methods and techniques to inject and stabilise the plasma.

South Korea's Artificial Sun

“The technologies required for long operations of 100 million-degree plasma are the key to the realization of fusion energy,” said Si-Woo Yoon, director of the KSTAR Research Center at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy, said in a statement.

“[T]he 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.”

KSTAR, located at the Korean Fusion Energy Institute (KFE), is also part of a joint investigation with Seoul National University (SNU) and Columbia University in the United States.