China Focus: Int'l scientists conduct joint experiments with China's "artificial sun" team-Xinhua

China Focus: Int'l scientists conduct joint experiments with China's "artificial sun" team

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-02 20:56:30

HEFEI, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- As the Chinese New Year approaches, a small island in the northwest suburb of Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, is buzzing not because of the fireworks, but because of the operation of the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), also known as the "Chinese artificial sun."

Before the upcoming Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 10, over 100 Chinese and foreign scientists conducted EAST-ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) joint physics experiments on the "Science Island," which is home to EAST. The purpose of these experiments was to address relevant technical problems for the international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject ITER.

The ultimate goal of the EAST is to create nuclear fusion like the sun, using substances abundant in the sea to provide a steady stream of clean energy.

Built in southern France by seven ITER members -- China, the EU, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States, ITER will be the world's largest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor.

A tokamak is basically a magnetic cage designed to confine, shape and control the super-hot plasmas that make fusion reactions possible. The success of the fusion endeavor will crucially depend on the development of new materials capable of withstanding the harsh conditions inside a fusion reactor.

In 2023, ITER organization decided to change the wall material from beryllium to tungsten, which is predicted to reduce the retention of tritium inside ITER's vessel and the production of dust.

With the same technology path and experimental conditions as ITER and advanced research of wall materials, EAST, which has set many world records in the field of nuclear fusion energy research, was chosen by ITER organization to cooperate with and optimize its new plans.

According to Alberto Loarte, head of the ITER Science Division, ITER scientists aims to verify the reliability and operability of the new material by the joint experiments with EAST team, and to seek faster progression.

Currently, EAST team has completed the replacement of the wall materials of the vacuum chamber following the requirements. Since mid-January, more than 30 ITER researchers have arrived at the island to promote the experiments, together with over 100 scientists online.

China officially joined the ITER program in 2006 as the seventh member. Nearly 10 percent of the procurement packages were undertaken by China, and the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) is the main unit of the Chinese mission.

"More than 100 people from our team travel to ITER headquarters almost every year to carry out joint research, and ASIPP has established stable communication and cooperation with more than 120 research institutions in more than 50 countries, including Europe, the United States, Russia and Japan," said Gong Xianzu, head of Division of EAST Physics and Experimental Operations.

Gong said that EAST will also learn from international advanced technology experience through this joint experiment and prepare for China's future experimental reactors.

"One thing I really like here is, you can see in the control room, the large number of young people that are involved in the project. And this is exactly what fusion needs," said Richard Pitts, leader of the Experiments and Plasma Operation Section of ITER.

Pitts said that ITER should be seen as a foundational project to bring the nations together, and China is a brilliant example of that.