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Defence & Security
Science & Technology
- GS 3 || Science & Technology || Energy || Nuclear Energy
Why in the news?
China’s ‘Artificial Sun’ experiment sets new world record by achieving plasma temperature at 120 million celsius for almost 2 minutes
- China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), which mimics the energy generation process of the sun,set a new record, after it ran at 216 million degrees Fahrenheit (120 million degrees Celsius) for 101 seconds.
- For another 20 seconds, the “artificial sun” also achieved a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius), which is over ten times hotter than the sun.
What is china’s ‘artificial sun’ east?
- The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor is an advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device located at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academyof Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China.
- The purpose of the artificial sun is to replicate the process of nuclear fusion, which is the same reaction that powers the sun.The EAST is one of three major domestic tokamaks that are presently being operated across the country
- Apart from the EAST, China is currently operating theHL-2A reactor as well as J-TEXT.
- In December 2020, HL-2M Tokamak, China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, was successfully powered up for the first time —a key milestone in the growth of China’s nuclear power research capabilities.
All about nuclear fusion
- Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or moreatomic nuclei join together, or “fuse,” to form a single heavier nucleus.
- During this process, matter is not conserved because some of the mass of the fusing nuclei is converted to energy which is released.
- The binding energy of the resulting nucleus is greater than the binding energy of each of the nuclei that fused to produce it. Fusion is the process that powers active stars
Process of nuclear fusion:
- For nuclear fusion to occur, tremendous heat and pressure are applied on hydrogen atoms so that they fuse together.
- The nuclei of deuterium and tritium — both found in hydrogen — are made to fuse together to create a helium nucleus, a neutron along with a whole lot of energy.
- Under tremendous pressure and temperature, atoms of Tritium and Deuterium (hydrogen isotopes Hydrogen-3 and Hydrogen-2, respectively) combine to generate a neutron and a helium isotope, as well as a large quantity of energy, many times that generated by fission.
- Scientists are still trying to figure out how to regulate nuclear fusion in order to build a fusion reactor produce electricity.
Advantages of pursuing nuclear fusion:
- Abundant energy: A controlled fusion of atoms releases approximately four million times the energy of a chemical process. Fusion has the potential to deliver the type of base load energy that is now unavailable.
- No CO₂: Fusion does not release dangerous poisons into the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. Helium, an inert, non-toxic gas, is a primary by-product.
- No long-lived radioactive waste: Radioactive fusion reactors do not generate high-activity, long-lasting nuclear waste. In a fusion reactor, the activation of components is low enough that the materials may be recycled or reused within 100 years.
- Limited risk of proliferation: Fissile materials like as uranium and plutonium are not used in fusion. (Radioactive tritium isn’t a fissile or fissionable substance.) In a fusion reactor like ITER, there are no enriched materials that may be used to build nuclear weapons.
- Cost:The power output of a fusion reactor planned for the second part of this century will be comparable to that of a fission reactor, (i.e., between 1 and 1.7 gigawatts).
Obstacle in harnessing nuclear fusion:
- Controlling and extracting: It would not be difficult to control and extract the energy. Nuclei collide in huge numbers and with enough force that they penetrate proton repulsion and touch the other nucleus, which is required for a reasonable quantity of fusion.
- In thermonuclear systems, the heat from fusion accelerates the nuclei, resulting in a fast chain reaction.
- Very difficult to control: Nothing can continually build and sustain that pressure while also containing the heat. Nuclear fusion has been achieved for a fraction of a second and for a few seconds in an electromagnetic field when coupled to a nuclear fission explosive device, but electro-magnetic ‘containers’ are unstable and, like lightning, are exceedingly difficult to regulate.
- Powerful compression and expansion: Rather of resisting force and change, they rely only on tremendous compression and equally powerful expansion forces.
- Extreme pressure release: It’s as though two unstoppable forces collide and collide head on. They always find a way to move and let off steam. Electricity and magnetism don’t appear to be supposed to be immobile.
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor: International Nuclear Fusion Project
- Establishment:ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is a 35-nation partnership that beganin 1985.It is located in France.
- Aim: Its goal is to construct the world’s biggest tokamak to demonstrate the viability of fusion as a large-scale, carbon-free energy source.
- A tokamak is an experimental machine that is used to capture fusion energy. The energy created by the fusing of atoms is absorbed as heat in the vessel’s walls within a tokamak. A fusion power plant, like a normal power plant, uses this heat to make steam, which is subsequently converted into electricity using turbines and generators.
- Applicable Principle: Fusion, which is also a source of energy for the Sun and stars, is at the heart of the project. Every time two hydrogen atoms fuse into one helium atom in the Sun, two neutrinos are released.
- Participation: China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States are among the ITER members. The above-mentioned seven members will split the cost of project construction, operation, and decommissioning, according to the ITER Agreement (2006). They also share any intellectual property developed during the manufacture, building, and operating stages, as well as the experimental outcomes.
- Significance: ITER will be the first fusion device to sustain fusion for extended periods of time, as well as to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes required for commercial fusion-based power production.
- India’s contribution to ITER:
- India was in charge of making and delivering nine packages, which it has done meticulously and on schedule throughout the years.
- India’s cryostat, in particular, received a lot of positive feedback. L&T Heavy Engineering eight created it, and it took years to complete.
- Larsen & Toubro at Hazira, Gujarat, made the cryostat, which is the thermonuclear reactor’s outer vacuum shell. It’s a stainless steel vessel with a height of 29 meters and a width of 29 meters, and it’s built of 4,000 tons of stainless steel.
- India was also in charge of delivering the cryogenic system. The ITER magnets will be kept cold by this technology. In a tokamak, magnets are essential because they create the magnetic fields that confine and regulate the plasma.
- External heating systems for ITER plasma, vacuum vessel in-wall shields, a novel cooling water system, power supply systems, and diagnostic subsystems are all critical components for the reactor, some of which are the first of their type.
Nuclear fusion is technology is not new to world but by nuclear fusion world is witnessing anew innovation and creation everyday it will not only take science and tech to new par but India in future will also grow with nuclear power technologies enhancing its capacities and capabilities
Mains oriented question:
What is China’s Artificial Sun concept in context of write about nuclear fusion and what are the obstacle in harnessing nuclear fusion energy? (200 words)