The new generation “artificial sun” HL-2M of the Southwestern Institute of Physics under the China National Nuclear Corporation was completed on the 4th in Chengdu, Sichuan, and achieved discharging for the first time, which may perhaps facilitate the commercialization of nuclear fusion for the country by 2050.
Nuclear fusion equipment is also known as the “artificial sun” in China, for which the title may have come from the anticipation in establishing a reactor that contains the equivalent energy of the sun, though the nuclear fusion reaction of the sun has lasted for 4.6 billion years, and there are numerous challenges in transcending from the several seconds of the reaction on earth.
Scientists believe that the temperature of the plasma must be heated to that of the sun, before placing the two isotopes, deuterium and tritium, under high temperature and pressure, where the derived polymerization will generate neutrons, Helium, and substantial amount of energy. Countries will no longer have to worry about power shortage and the emission of carbon dioxide, if these energy can be applied on power plants in the future.
China National Nuclear Corporation primarily studies magnetic confinement nuclear fusion equipment, and has constructed three large tokamak nuclear fusion reactors, including the HL-1, HL-1M, and HL-2A, where HL-2M was successively delivered in June 2019. The research team believes that this is not only a crucial commission in realizing the leaping development for the nuclear development businesses of China, but also serves as an essential platform for absorbing ITER technology.
HL-2M is the tokamak of the largest scale and highest parameters in China, according to the official introduction. The new generation experiment and research device of the advanced magnetic confinement nuclear fusion contains two times the existing dimension of plasma in China through the sophisticated structure and control method, where the current capability of the plasma can be elevated to over 2.5 trillion A, and the temperature of the plasma ion can also reach to 150 million degrees.
The official introduction has pointed out that HL-2M has achieved breakthroughs in terms of physical and structural design, development and manufacturing of special materials, material connection and R&D on critical components, as well as assembly and integration, and is able to achieve a detachable coil structure, enhance the level of control and operation, as well as elevate the research capability in experimental studies of physics, while also capture critical technology, including the molding of large vacuum container for inconel alloy hyperboloid thin-walled parts, as well as welding and deformation control.
However, a certain coverage has also pointed out that another nuclear fusion reactor in Chengdu has succeeded in discharging 2-3 trillion A of plasma current, and the EU joint research team in the UK also managed to emit 7 trillion A of plasma current, though it is undeniable that HL-2M and the experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST) of the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science will serve as the foundation in China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), and construction is expected to commence next year, before operating in 2035.
(Cover photo source: Southwestern Institute of Physics)