An important step on the road to building the first nuclear fusion power plant.
In March, scientists from China announced that their latest tokamak would be completed this year – Tokamaka HL-2M. Tokamaki are devices for conducting a controlled thermonuclear reaction, such as inside our Sun. Their concept was created in 1950, and the first real machine in 1956. Now we have learned that ultimately the Chinese Tokamak HL-2M will not work until 2020, but this does not change the fact that it is crucial for the development of the future first commercial thermonuclear reactor.
According to researchers, Tokamak HL-2M may be the first of many devices that will make nuclear fusion energy-efficient. If it does not meet this challenge, it will at least provide the guidance needed to implement it. Of course, the point is that a tokamak will eventually appear, which will return more energy than it consumes.
Scientists have been trying to achieve this goal for decades. The problem that stands in their way is, among others, the issue of plasma temperature inside Tokamak and its stability. To achieve nuclear fusion, tokamak has to achieve ion temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius. However, it is anticipated that Tokamak HL-2M will be able to reach ion temperatures above 150 million degrees Celsius. This temperature is much higher than that prevailing in the interior of the Sun, it cures it is due to the fact that in the Sun there is a much higher pressure than in Tokamak.
But how does a device like tokamak work? In short, its main torus-shaped chamber is filled with ionized gas (deuterium or a mixture of deuterium and tritium, i.e. hydrogen isotopes). The variable magnetic field from the transformer induces an electric current in this gas ring, which causes discharges. As a result, the gas is more and more ionized and heated, and eventually hot plasma is produced. Due to the strong magnetic field, plasma, which is a fusion fuel, is maintained. The heat generated during the fusion of atoms in the plasma is absorbed by the walls of the tokamak. Like a conventional power plant, a nuclear fusion plant would use this heat to produce steam and then, with turbines and generators, electricity.
Unfortunately, even if the Chinese Tokamak HL-2M really guarantees the promised results, we will have to wait a long time for the construction of the first nuclear fusion plant. Nevertheless, it is worth the wait, because not only that fuel for thermonuclear reactors are not difficult to access and dangerous materials, one gram of hydrogen "burned" in such reactors can give as much energy as 8 tons of crude oil and 11 tons of hard coal.