China has successfully turned on its "artificial sun," a nuclear fusion reactor that might power the country's energy goals for years to come if it can be made more sustainable.
According to state-controlled media, China's Atomic Energy Authority started up its HL-2M Tokamak reactor for the first time on Friday.
The state-run People's Daily stated, "The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a solution to meet China's strategic energy needs, but it also has tremendous significance for the future sustainable growth of China's energy and national economy."
The reactor creates electricity by applying high-intensity magnetic fields to a confined loop of hot plasma that may reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius. Magnets and supercooling technologies keep it contained, even though it's up to ten times hotter than the sun's core.
The gadget may sound like something a supervillain would employ to gain global dominance, but China has been collaborating with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which includes dozens of nuclear-powered nations. Their goal is to create a reliable nuclear fusion system based on the same principle.
For decades, scientists have been attempting to achieve fusion, a prized and elusive form of nuclear technology. Fusion is a method of generating electricity by fusing the nuclei of atoms together without producing substantial amounts of radioactive waste. That's the atom-splitting technique used in nuclear weapons and power plants today, which is the polar opposite of fission.
Although fusion is still regarded excessively expensive, China's test should aid researchers in their quest to reduce prices.
In France, ITER is building its own reactor, which is planned to be completed in 2025.