China Is Building an Artificial Star to Solve Our Environmental Crisis

A nuclear fusion reactor is the best shot at a sustainable future

Nabil Alouani
OneZero
Published in
9 min readOct 7, 2021

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Picture from Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell’.

If I asked you what are the most valuable currencies out there, you’d probably answer: “time and money.” But there’s a third fundamental asset, one we rarely mention because we take it for granted: energy.

Energy cooks your food, charges your devices, and flies you across the planet. In other words, it powers every aspect of modern life. Over the centuries, we invented multiple ways to generate energy but each solution came with massive downsides. Fossil fuels poison the planet making it progressively deadly for our species. Nuclear reactors generate radioactive waste that we can only handle for so long. Solar panels and hydro turbines are clean and safe but they’re still behind in the reliability department.

That’s why scientists started to explore new solutions — and they found a promising one by looking at our golden star. Every second, the sun radiates more energy than we can use in a million years thanks to a process called thermonuclear fusion. What if we could recreate the same process? What if we could build an artificial star to fuel our earth? What if this were the solution to climate change?

China is attempting to answer these very questions through a recent invention called EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak). It’s an artificial star that burns at temperatures 8 times hotter than our sun — and it may be our best shot at a sustainable future.

How come the sun produces so much energy?

If you dive into the core of our shiny star, you’ll find a very hot soup boiling at 15 million degrees Celcius. Scientists call it “plasma” and it’s a perfect environment for particles to smash into each other.

The said particles are hydrogen nuclei. Under the right conditions, they collide and fuse to form helium nuclei. It’s like squashing two chewing gums to make a bigger one. The only difference is that each freshly-formed helium atom is lighter than the two hydrogen atoms that made it. And because energy is conserved, the “lost mass” should go somewhere. What happens with fusion is that most of this “lost…

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Nabil Alouani
OneZero

Engineering (Software) | Engineering (Prompts for LLMs) | Engineering (Ideas) || 100% human-generated content || Weekly mails: https://nabilalouani.substack.com