Yet another new nuclear fusion record smashed by South Korean team

19 Dec 2016

Illustration of nuclear reaction. Image: Thailand Photos for Sale/Shutterstock

In yet another step towards the possible building of a stable nuclear fusion reactor, a South Korean research team has achieved a new world record in maintaining a high-performance, stable plasma reaction.

The race is on for the first team to create a truly revolutionary and stable nuclear fusion reactor that could provide limitless, cheap energy to the planet. Now, another team has taken us a step closer to achieving that goal.

This latest breakthrough was made by the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) of South Korea and its Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor, which achieved stability that has never been seen before.

According to World Nuclear News, the NFRI team was able to maintain a quantity of high-performance plasma – similar to the reactions that occur in our own sun – for a period of 70 seconds, in what is a new record for this type of reactor.

To achieve this, the plasma contained within the KSTAR reactor was heated to extremely high temperatures of 300m degrees Celsius, whereby its hydrogen atoms are fused together to form helium atoms, resulting in the production of energy.

In addition to such extreme heat, the plasma is suspended in the air using superconducting magnets, cooled to another extreme of 269 degrees Celsius below zero.

While still quite far off being an effective means of producing energy, this latest record has been one of many this year, indicating that the speed of researching is increasing at a rapid rate.

‘A huge step forward’

In a statement, the NFRI said of this latest achievement: “The world record for high-performance plasma for more than a minute demonstrated that the KSTAR is the forefront in steady-state plasma operation technology in a superconducting device.”

“This is a huge step forward for realisation of the fusion reactor.”

This news follows the excitement caused by the nuclear fusion research team at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, where its Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) fusion energy device successfully passed its own test in December.

The W7-X device confines plasma in 3D magnetic fields, unlike the tokamak, which can abruptly halt in 2D fields, resulting in the reactors shutting down.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic