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Scientists set record in fusion energy generation with temperature 10 times hotter than sun: 'We achieved things we've never done before'

"The JET experiment marks a significant milestone for fusion research."

"The JET experiment marks a significant milestone for fusion research."

Photo Credit: EUROfusion

A team of scientists at the United Kingdom's Joint European Torus facility set a record by producing 69 megajoules of fusion energy with just 0.2 milligrams of fuel.

The breakthrough lasted for five seconds and generated temperatures of 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the sun's core, Interesting Engineering reported. The incredible news marked the end of the line for JET, which was led by EUROfusion but shut down at the end of 2023 to make way for two new fusion machines, ITER and DEMO.

The JET experiment began in 1983, and this record broke the mark of 59 megajoules the project set in 2022. It used magnets to confine a plasma made of deuterium and tritium inside a tokamak, or doughnut-shaped chamber, heating the hydrogen isotopes until the atoms fused and created "massive amounts of energy," according to Interesting Engineering. (Check out this amazing video of the achievement.)

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"The JET experiment marks a significant milestone for fusion research, as it demonstrates the feasibility and reliability of using deuterium and tritium as fuel for future fusion power plants," the outlet reported, noting the isotopes' abundance in seawater and availability in lithium and calling them "the best candidates for fusion energy" because they are most likely to fuse and have the lowest ignition temperature.

Fusion power is maybe the ultimate clean energy goal. It's safe, produces little waste, and does not pollute the environment. Industrial-scale reactors could help solve the problems presented by dirty energy, which emits gases rapidly heating the Earth. But it's a yet-to-be-realized concept that could be decades or longer from reality.

Most fusion devices use superconducting magnets or lasers to produce the kind of conditions that are otherwise restricted to stars, but a similar breakthrough was made without such technology.

"Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines like ITER and DEMO, validated by the new energy record, instill greater confidence in the development of fusion energy," EUROfusion program manager Ambrogio Fasoli said. "Beyond setting a new record, we achieved things we've never done before and deepened our understanding of fusion physics."

ITER, the international thermonuclear experimental reactor, is under construction in France and is expected to become operational in 2025. It will produce 10 times the power it requires to function, which would be the first step toward successful, sustainable fusion energy. No device has generated more heat than it uses to start a fusion reaction. 

The DEMO project, or demonstration fusion power plant, would be the first to provide electricity to a grid.

Fusion energy can pair with developments in solar, wind, and hydro energy to make the future cleaner and safer for all. Reducing pollution will make humans, animals, and the planet healthier. It may also protect us and our food supply from extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and intense with rising global temperatures.

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