All hail the artificial sun

What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow? If you’re active in the clean energy space, you are sure to have heard this question, usually posed rhetorically by detractors of renewable energy to drive home why we can’t reliably depend on it.

Most people think storage might be able to help plug the intermittency gap. But we think a team of Chinese scientists has hit on a much better solution: creating an ‘artificial sun’ for unlimited clean energy generation. 

The team has been able to produce hydrogen gas more than three times hotter than the core of the sun using nuclear fusion, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak fusion device, nicknamed the artificial sun, produced a central electron temperature of 50 million kelvin (around 49.999 million degrees Celsius) and maintained it for 102 seconds in an experiment conducted in a doughnut-shaped chamber. In comparison, the core of the sun is calculated to be around 15 million kelvin.

The next goal of the Chinese research team is to produce a central electron temperature of 100 million degrees Celcius for 1,000 seconds – and presumably to keep going until it ends up with a long-running artificial sun. Once it hits that milestone, clean energy generation – and tanning salons – will be forever changed.