After China and Korea, India wants to make artificial sun too?

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China’s success in developing a nuclear reactor that mimics nuclear fusion is in the world’s spotlight. Not only China, South Korea also has a technology called this artificial sun. Other countries might follow suit, India for example?

Like most technologies, nuclear fusion is an invention of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, nuclear fusion is feared to cause unwanted accidents.

On the other hand, when used in a friendly manner, this technology offers several advantages. It takes only half a kilogram of fusion fuel to produce the same amount of energy as four million kilograms of fossil fuel.

Nuclear fusion also doesn’t leave behind high radioactive waste like that produced by conventional nuclear power plants and as such, the artificial sun is considered the future of clean energy.

Nuclear fusion journey

The development of fusion power is not as easy as the theory. Researchers’ initial hopes in the 1950s were dashed by the many technical problems involved, to control the behavior of plasma complexes containing atomic nuclei to coalesce and maintain temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius.

For years, scientists have worked hard to achieve this with special reactors called tokamaks, which are donut-shaped chambers with giant magnetic rings holding superheated plasma and rotating charged particles so that they coalesce at extremely high temperatures.

The larger the tokamak, the better the insulation provided to hold the fusion particles for a longer time, and more energy is generated.

But even with the latest technology, it is impossible to maintain a high temperature long enough to trigger a fusion reaction. For this reason, the achievement of the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), the Chinese-made Sun that managed to reach a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds is a breakthrough.

The biggest fusion reactor

To realize the potential of fusion energy globally, the world will rely heavily on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in southern France. The technology is expected to be the world’s largest fusion reactor when it goes into operation in 2035.

Many critics argue that the reactor is just a technology demonstration. However, after the International Space Station (ISS), ITER is the largest human project involving international collaboration. This includes the US, Russia, South Korea, Japan, China, India and the European Union.

India might make its own Sun

Quoted from Deccan Herald, India can be a dark horse in the development of fusion reactor technology, because it has a major role in ITER. Scientists from the Institute of Plasma Research in Ahmedabad, are guiding the industrial production of critical ITER components such as wall shields, cooling water systems and cryogenics. In fact, the superstructure for the main reactor equipment, where a vacuum is maintained to help cool the plasma, was made by the Indian company Larsen & Toubro.

Since building its first tokamak named Aditya in the 1980s, India has made remarkable progress in fusion research and operates state-of-the-art Steady State Superconducting Tokamak (SST) which overcomes the ‘on-off’ nature of conventional tokamaks in plasma heating.

Only a few countries have developed this next generation SST. The China-made EAST, for example, is a tokamak designed for steady-state operation. To note, the Chinese engineers who built the artificial sun, were all “raised” by the ITER program.

With this capital, it is not impossible that India will be encouraged to make its own sun. They should use their participation in ITER to pave the way for the next step in building a fusion reactor on Indian soil in the coming decades.

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