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China News Science Technology

China Just Made a Major Breakthrough In Nuclear Fusion Research (techienews.co.uk) 339

New submitter TechnoidNash writes: China announced last week a major breakthrough in the realm of nuclear fusion research. The Chinese Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), was able to heat hydrogen gas to a temperature of near 50 million degrees Celsius for an unprecedented 102 seconds. While this is nowhere near the hottest temperature that has ever been achieved in nuclear fusion research (that distinction belongs to the Large Hadron Collider which reached 4 trillion degrees Celsius), it is the longest amount of time one has been maintained.
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China Just Made a Major Breakthrough In Nuclear Fusion Research

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:09AM (#51467047) Homepage Journal
    There have been some "big announcements" in other hard science fields from China in the past decade or two that have turned out to be bogus. Can someone comment on the likelihood of this being real?
    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:21AM (#51467103)

      It is the second Tokamak reactor that China has built and it has been around for about 10 years. There is no inherent reason to disbelieve them. They have come a long way from 20 years ago.

      From what I have read China are claiming a significantly lower temperature than the recent German test, approx 30 million degrees K lower, but a much longer duration. The Germans also believe that their system will comfortably run for much longer, the recent operation was just a test so potentially we are seeing a point where engineering capabilities can produce the accuracy of design needed for tokamaks to work.

      • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @01:22AM (#51467285)

        There is no inherent reason to disbelieve them.

        Their currency is manipulated. Their stock market has 2 books, one set you can see, the other you can't. They sell pet food that poisons pets. They sell baby formula that harms babies. They have no respect for IP property. They're poisoning their environment such that you can't see across the street due to air pollution, and can't drink the water because of some mining company upstream. The news media is censored so that non of their citizens know any of this, except what they can see with their own 2 eyes.

        I tend to disbelieve them until shown proof.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Their currency is manipulated - as is the US currency it's called Quantative Easing.
          They sell pet food that poisons pets. They sell baby formula that harms babies. - Private companies that have been prosecuted, there are heaps of US equivalents. Asbestos is one of the biggest.
          They have no respect for IP property. Why should they? They don't produce large amounts of IP so it makes sense for them to ignore IP law.
          They're poisoning their environment such that you can't see across the street due to ai

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You've just described the US.

          How is the water in Flint?

        • Their currency is manipulated.

          Name a country that doesn't manipulate their currency. China's currency is ok, at least as much as anyone else's.

        • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @04:07AM (#51467627) Homepage Journal

          China is also dumping US 1960's-style money in to scientific research and development. Of the three major space-faring countries, China, Russia, and the USA, you'll note that only China and Russian currently have manned spaceflight programs.
           
          China has also built the largest ground recieving dish in the world, out-doing the one in Puerto Rico by a factor of almost two.
           
          China is rocking the 1960s American Science Research meme so hard it hurts.
           
          Meanwhile, American politicians are arguing about whether or not climate change is real, and we slot somewhere between countries like Latvia and Lithuania in Science globally. Hong Kong, (china), Singapore, and Japan are #1,2,3 globally, if you were curious.

          • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @05:26AM (#51467753)

            Also worthy of note:

            For the sixth consecutive time, Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, has retained its position as the world’s No. 1 system, according to the 46th edition of the twice-yearly TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

            (Source: Top 500 lists November 2015 [top500.org])

            Supercomputers are fundamental to leading edge scientific research.

          • by bluegutang ( 2814641 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @07:26AM (#51468063)

            Um... the US spends more money on R&D than any other country, and more money per person than any other country except Israel and South Korea.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

            • the US spends more money on R&D than any other country, and more money per person than any other country except Israel and South Korea.

              Where is that money counted? If it's on its way into the MIC, then you're not accounting for the massive waste and graft inherent to that system.

            • by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:48PM (#51470341)
              Those numbers are highly misleading. The NIH gets about 32 billion, the NSF about 5-6 and NASA gets a few billion. That's ~10% of the research money account for on the Wiki link you post. Most of the money accounted for there is for defense, like the DoD--not for basic research. There's no doubt that China spends a lot here too, but you'd have to eliminate defense funds to make a better apples-to-apples comparison.

              I'm a Professor in the US, and I have many colleagues in the hard sciences in China. China and the Middle East are spending a lot more money on basic research now, per researcher, than the US.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @04:35AM (#51467663)

          "They have no respect for IP property"
          To be fair, "IP property" is not actually deserving of respect, so they got this one right.

        • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @05:06AM (#51467717)

          Don't confuse lying with management. Manipulating currency and the stock market is an economics trick. It's not fake, it's quite real. As is the race to the bottom manufacturing that causes their health and environmental woes. They also do not lie about this to the western media (don't confusing lying and censorship either).

          China have some of the best engineering and economic minds in the world. We should know, we in the west trained them at our grand universities.

          This is not North Korea, and I find no reason to disbelieve that their long running fusion projects have seen some results.

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @08:26AM (#51468271)

          Their currency is manipulated. Their stock market has 2 books, one set you can see, the other you can't.

          Unlike [bloomberg.com] the West [ft.com]. LOL.

          The west sells food that poisons humans. The west has no respect for personal property (unless you're a billionaire). They are poisoning their environment such that you can no longer catch a fish in the ocean whose belly isn't filled with plastic. Oh, and don't get me started on the censorship of western news media.

      • Was wondering how this stacked up against the German test - which is oddly not referenced in the summary.

        Cheers!

        • One other thing to be aware of is that the team behind the German Stellaratar reactor have said that you really need 100m Kelvin plasma. Who knows how much difference the temp makes to containment.

        • Re:Thanks! (Score:5, Informative)

          by tempmpi ( 233132 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @04:45AM (#51467673)

          The german stellerator Wendelstein 7-X aims for up to 30 minutes of confinement. At the moment only a some very earlier tests have been done, that did not aim for long confinement but just to check that everything is okay with the installation. Wendelstein 7-X started operating end of last year and EAST started operating in 2006.
          This chinese tokamak aims for confinement of up to 1000s and has reached 102 seconds of confinement after 10 years. At the end of 2013 they already had reached 30 seconds. Wendelstein 7-X will first do some experiments that do not aim for a really long confinement time, only up to 10 seconds. These experiments are planned to last about 2 years, after that they will install some additional equipment, that is planned to take 15 month. The chinese record should thus last for at least 3-4 years. But news from Wendelstein 7-x have been very positive, I would not be surprised if confinement works extremely well.

          • 30+Min (Score:4, Interesting)

            by k2r ( 255754 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @05:58AM (#51467805)

            > The german stellerator Wendelstein 7-X aims for up to 30 minutes of confinement.

            Unlike the Tokamak the Stellarator in theory runs continuously. The Wendelstein team just decided that 30 minutes would be enough for all experiments and designed the cooling system to last about 30 minutes.

            • Actually, there are a lot of experiments in non-inductive current generation in tokamaks which can allow it to run continuously (in principle). Current generation is done with a combination of phased microwave antennas, tilted neutral beams, and harnessing a phenomenon called bootstrap current.

              (Background: the plasma current in tokamaks is normally generated by a transformer and is called inductive current. The induced current is proportional to the time derivative of the transformer voltage, so for a const

      • by 4im ( 181450 )

        Aside from the duration of the plasma heating, I don't quite see the newsworthyness. JET [wikipedia.org] (a research TOKAMAK in UK) has achieved temperatures of 100 million C [euro-fusion.org] and several seconds of fusion to boot.

        Comparison with the german Wendelstein 7-X may not be appropriate, as it's a different type of reactor (stellarator vs. TOKAMAK). Also, its experiments have just started; longer durations are fully expected, but will be a while to achieve.

    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:31AM (#51467163)

      There have been some "big announcements" in other hard science fields from China in the past decade or two that have turned out to be bogus.

      Why pick on China? Every country on the planet has been guilty of this. Until a scientific finding has been peer reviewed, and hopefully duplicated, it's just cold fusion all over again.

    • by aaronb1138 ( 2035478 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:42AM (#51467201)
      Probably reliable that they pulled it off. I just wonder how rough it was on the ablative neutron shielding. The current favorite is Boron alloys, but I have yet to hear anything remotely hopeful about long term containment of fast neutrons.
    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:44AM (#51467209) Homepage Journal

      An interesting trend to watch, even if this one doesn't turn out to be verified, is that China is where most of the the significant energy research is happening.

      The US will be buying most of its advanced energy tech from China in just a couple decades. A couple decades ago that would have seemed unconscionable.

      Say what you want about the relative historical value of the two governments, but one stymies progress with fear-based regulations and denial and the other takes the engineering approach to solving problems. Only one of those can drive prosperity - the leads to despair.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @04:01AM (#51467619)
        Here is why it's not the USA - scroll down to the graph for the very quick answer:
        http://hardware.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        On the other hand, a lot of people die in industrial accidents in China. You could argue it's worth it, but you don't get to make that determination for the victims so it's irrelevant.

        Anyway, Japan manages to innovate and develop its energy technology just fine, despite strong regulations. They just pick safer technologies, including fusion. The real difference is not the regulatory environment, it's the willingness to invest in new forms of energy and energy efficiency. The US is waking up to the huge new

    • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @01:39AM (#51467325)
      It is not hard to do, if you have the equipment, but doing it without wrecking it is another matter. So why did they only do it once, and does their machine still work or did they burn out the liner and need to fix it?

      There is a hint in this article that the previous time limit was safety related, http://www.scmp.com/tech/scien... [scmp.com]

      I guess if you are in a race you sometimes have to take risks to get ahead of the pack, even at the risk of a wipe-out.

      Totally worth it if they learned anything useful.
    • When you consider the amount of already proven scientific fraud that has come out of that country and the leaderships apparent desire to one-up the other countries so badly it turns a blind eye to it on a regular basis, yeah, it's possible it's real, but don't bet any money on it until it's been properly verified by independent outside groups.
    • There have been some "big announcements" in other hard science fields from China in the past decade or two that have turned out to be bogus.

      Examples, quotations, please. There continues to be a lot of ill will against China and too much preparedness to accept stories that claim everything coming from there is crap. The same used to be said about Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and in fact all emerging economies, so to rule out the suspicion of bias, quotation is needed, IMO.

      Can someone comment on the likelihood of this being real?

      It sounds real enough to me - it is progress on the kind of scale that you would expect, I think. 'Progress', to the extent that one can define and measure it, seems to tend to happ

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Err... I can't believe you're asking for citations? Really? I can understand some healthy skepticism but there are actually SCIENTIFIC PAPERS published on this. But, let me help you out... I searched first for "china scientific fraud" and found that there were papers on this subject but I clicked on the first, non-scientific, paper:

        http://www.ibtimes.com/chinas-... [ibtimes.com]

        The money quote:

        Just last month, BioMed Central, an open-access publisher based in Britain, retracted 43 papers, most of them from Chinese researchers, after discovering that reviewers who had supposedly signed off on the studies were made up by agencies hired by the original authors.

        I liked their phrase better, so I searched for "china scientific credibility" and figured that I'd find you some more information

        • by Megol ( 3135005 )

          And that is exclusive for China? Nope. The biggest scandals in science that I remember is faked stem cell results from Japan, faked medical research in Europe, faked physics research in the US etc. There have been a number of scandals where people actually died because of the faked research.

          Another "popular" thing often mentioned here on /. is the case of the faked milk powder in China. Funny* enough I remember 3 cases of faked olive oil in Europe and a lot of cases of faked alcohol in Europe/US (not moonsh

  • by Kobun ( 668169 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:24AM (#51467131)

    The goal of nuclear fusion research is to produce clean, renewable energy. It seeks to do this by replicating the same conditions that power the sun.

    Clean is misleading here - the public's idea of "clean" does not line up with any known fusion reaction that we can hope to achieve. They're all going to produce radioactive waste, just less so (and generally less nasty stuff) than fission reactors. But we need to get around the same stigma that has hamstrung fission reactors - that "radioactive" means "cancerous death" to the electorate.

    Replicating the same conditions that power the sun ... good god, no. Never. No one for a thousand years to come will ever seriously think about trying to smush two protons together hard enough for them to fuse without a sun-sized gravity well to assist with it. It takes an incredible amount of time for any two hydrogen atoms to fuse in the sun, on the order of millions of years.

    I realize that journalists need to summarize their stories, but fusion is a topic that is already understood more-poorly-than-normal by most people. They need to not be making people think about Spiderman 2.

    • Except the general public doesnt understand fission or the relative radioactive material release of fossil fuels. The best thing we could have is fusion = sun = natural = clean.

      • Most people totally freak out when you prove that they themselves are radioactive. (Carbon 14 decay)
        • It's even more fun if they live in a brick house, or are holding a banana.

          • Which gives you more radiation???

            A. Flying from JFK to LAX. B. Going through that darn TSA scanner to get on the flight!

            Answer is... A! (Wild surprise from the audience)

            Which is worse?

            A. Being an average flight crew employee B. Being an average nuclear power plant worker.

            Answer is.... neither is "worse" you insensitive clod. "A" undergoes more radiation exposure but they both unfortunately have to work long and weird hours.

            But we need to get around the same stigma that has hamstrung fission reactors - that "radioactive" means "cancerous death" to the electorate.

            Wow... people like the original poster are the true probl

            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

              Everyone else, let's try to understand the actual facts about radiation. Obligatory xkcd:

              http://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com]

              Radionuclides emit radiation. What you need to understand is the behaviour of radionuclides in the environment. Until you do xkcd comics are only going to explain external radiation exposure to you. The difference between internal and external exposure is one damages you and the other probably won't do much of anything to you.

              What radionuclides do in the body and how they get there is the understanding required, you insensitive clod.

              • So Potassium is a great example of internal radiation, which is in biological equilibrium with your body almost always. That's routinely discussed for laypeople.

                In my example of professions, both things I noted are based on external exposures; there are no internal exposures.

                How radionuclides get in the body just follow the same path as how any chemicals get in the body; breathing, eating, absorbing, etc.

                What is your problem with my statement?

    • Thank you for the informative post; I always wondered about stars and how they used up the hydrogen fuel within them.

    • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @01:34AM (#51467307) Journal

      It takes billions (not millions) of years for hydrogen atoms to fuse in the sun - that is precisely why the sun has a billions-of-years lifetime. So in building a fusion reactor, we need many orders of magnitude higher reaction rates, and to achieve them at many orders of magnitude lower densities. One way of doing this is to have much higher temperatures. The solar core temperature is about 15 million degrees [wikipedia.org] and TFA has 50 million degrees for this new result, and 80 million degrees for half a second at a European reactor. This sounds unimpressive, but the reaction rates are very sensitive to temperature - proportional to about T^8 as I recall, but I didn't quickly find an online reference for this. 75 million degrees would therefore give a boost of about 5^8 which is about 400,000.

      In the sun, the first reaction in the chain [wikipedia.org] (proton+proton->deuterium) is the rate limiting step. In a reactor, we can provide deuterium enriched fuel and bypass this step. I don't know what the reaction rates are, but I suspect that this will be a greater benefit that the higher temperatures. You can do even better with tritium in the fuel, but your reactor becomes an intense neutron source, leading to induced radioactivity in nearby materials. Some proposed designs use these neutrons to breed more tritium from a lithium blanket around the reactor. (Once I get beyond the proton-proton chain reaction, I'm just relying on pop-science knowledge, so corrections from the more knowledgeable are welcome.)

      Stars a bit more massive than the sun burn hydrogen via the CNO cycle [wikipedia.org], which has even higher temperature dependence (from memory, about T^17). I've never heard of anyone suggesting using the CNO cycle in a fusion reactor - presumably there are good reasons, but I don't know what they are. One problem is you need to wait for radioactive decays, but these have half-lives on the order of 1 to 2 minutes, and a commercial reactor would be running for much longer than that.

    • D-T reactors would activate the reactor materials, but the wastes would be relatively short-lived (most in the range of a couple hundred years). There wouldn't be any transuranic wastes.

    • Clean is misleading here

      But we need to get around the same stigma that has hamstrung fission reactors - that "radioactive" means "cancerous death" to the electorate.

      Snowballs thrown... no, YOU'RE misleading!!!

      But seriously, people like you are the true problem. Everyone else, let's try to understand the actual facts about radiation. Obligatory xkcd:

      http://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com]

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        Clean is misleading here

        But we need to get around the same stigma that has hamstrung fission reactors - that "radioactive" means "cancerous death" to the electorate.

        Snowballs thrown... no, YOU'RE misleading!!!

        But seriously, people like you are the true problem. Everyone else, let's try to understand the actual facts about radiation. Obligatory xkcd:

        http://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com]

        Actually you are being unintentionally misleading. Certain radioisotopes can be ingested via metabolic processes, for example plutonium chloride is very water soluble and is readily absorbed. Within the body the radioisotope continues to emit radiation and some become organically bound to cells and other parts of the body and that's when the damage occurs, cumulative, slowly and, over time.

        Dempending on what and where the radioisotope gets deposited, it eventually means cancerous death for some however it

        • All of the waste of fission reactors are contained in the cladding. You actually get more radiation exposure living next to a coal plant, since the heavy metals are released into the atmosphere.

          I don't want to discount your point that internal exposure is greatly more important for alpha emissions, but you cannot say that the environment has any alpha-emitting radionuclides that you can accidentally get into your body and worry about. Literally all radionuclides that you need to worry about for internal exp

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:30AM (#51467161) Homepage

    Very exciting until you see that the results have not been verified in any way.

    If the claim is true, I would be very interested in reading how it was accomplished and what were the conditions. I would be particularly interested in finding out if the heat was contained or if energy was being continually driven into the system.

    Claims are just that until verified and the apparatus and results are published.

  • Now THAT is going to make for a super nice pizza crust.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:42AM (#51467203)

    While this is nowhere near the hottest temperature that has ever been achieved in nuclear fusion research (that distinction belongs to the Large Hadron Collider which reached 4 trillion degrees Celsius), ...

    Sadly, even at such temperatures, the LHC was, like the Mythbusters [discovery.com], also unable to successfully flash-fry shrimp in a shrimp cannon [youtube.com].

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @12:43AM (#51467205) Homepage Journal

    I don't know about you, but I'm not getting any cheap, shoddily made helium atoms.

    • I don't know about you, but I'm not getting any cheap, shoddily made helium atoms.

      I'm with you. I always buy the Morton Salt at the grocery store because they use only premium sodium atoms. Also, some cheaper salt is made from chlorine atoms that are scavenged from public swimming pool water, basically old and worn out.

  • by wakeboarder ( 2695839 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @01:34AM (#51467309)

    The author of the article must have been running around the street, naked, screaming "fusion is here", "fusion is here". I'm not that excited. For one nobody has said anything about efficiency. Its easy to maintain a plasma if your dumping enough energy into it, so how much energy did they dump into it? Nobody knows. You have to confine the plasma, and get more energy out than you put in. I'm not convinced that they did this. Congrats for producing the longest lasting plasma "flame". But I can make a plasma "flame" in my microwave for minutes at a time. So tell me how much energy did they produce? I'll bet they didn't break even or everyone would be running naked through the streets.

    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @03:12AM (#51467515)

      Ummmm they didn't try to create a fusion reaction...... Or get any energy out of the system at all...... In fact it is at about half the temperature it needs to be for fusion to work. The whole point of the research currently is to create a system for containing plasma heated to 100,000,000K. The plasma can't come into contact with the walls of the chamber because, either it is so low in mass the chamber instantly cools it, or is has enough mass to melt the chamber walls down.

      Once they have a containment system that can run for extended periods of time, the current target is 1000 seconds, then they will look to trigger a fusion reaction inside the super heated plasma. At that point the plasma starts pumping out heat rather than needing it.

  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @01:55AM (#51467357)
    The LHC experiments concern high-energy particle physics, not fusion research. It is operating at energy scales well above plasma [unless you want to talk about "quark-gluon plasma [wikipedia.org], which is something else entirely] and at conditions which have nothing to do with nuclear fusion.
  • And all we have to show for it is a lousy 102 seconds. :(

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley

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