A private nuclear-fusion company has heated a plasma of hydrogen to 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius) in a new reactor for the first time — hotter than the core of the sun.
UK-based Tokamak Energy says the plasma test is a milestone on its quest to be the first in the world to produce commercial electricity from fusion power, possibly by 2030.
The company, which is named after the vacuum chamber that contains the fusion reaction inside powerful magnetic fields, announced the creation of the superhot plasma inside its experimental ST40 fusion reactor in early June.
The successful test – the highest plasma temperature achieved so far by Tokamak Energy – means the reactor will now be prepared next year for a test of an even hotter plasma, of more than 180 million degrees F (100 million degrees C).
That will put the ST40 reactor within the operating temperatures needed for controlled nuclear fusion; the company plans to build a further reactor by 2025 that will produce several megawatts of fusion power.
“It’s been really exciting,” Tokamak Energy co-founder David Kingham told Live Science. “It was very good to see the data coming through and being able to get the high-temperature plasmas — probably beyond what we were hoping for.” [Science Fact or Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts]