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Leading the project, Professor Peng Xianjue of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, said: “Thermonuclear fire is the crown jewel at the pinnacle of science and technology in today’s world“.
“Becoming the first country in the world to achieve the large-scale release of fusion energy will mark the most important milestone on the road to making fusion energy for humans.“, emphasized Mr. Peng.
Professor Peng, 81, has developed some of China’s most advanced small nuclear warheads and is a top adviser to the country’s nuclear weapons program, according to publicly available information.
The Z-pinch machine – which simulates the reactions of a thermonuclear bomb, through the pressure of the magnetic field generated by an intense electrical pulse – is expected to be completed around 2025 at the plant located in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.
This Chinese machine will generate 50 million amps of electricity – twice as much as the world record holder Z pulse electrical power, belonging to the US Sandia National Laboratory.
Over the past few decades, nuclear powers such as the US, Russia and China have built a number of Z-pinch machines. Some of which have never been officially revealed, used to develop nuclear weapons.
These machines can store huge amounts of electricity and release it in just a few nanoseconds. The electrical pulse can generate tremendous pressure and enough radiation for two light atoms to “fuse” into a heavier atom, and give off some mass in the form of energy.
However, building a machine that can produce more fusion power than it input is extremely difficult. So far, no country has succeeded.
According to Peng, Chinese researchers will try to induce nuclear fusion using a strong electric charge to ignite a small number of hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium.
By carefully controlling the process, they hope to be able to limit the pulse energy released to a few hundred million joules – about as powerful as a 20kg pack of TNT.
According to Peng’s team’s estimates, uranium fission will increase the total heat output of the facility 10 to 20 times, dramatically speeding up the adoption of fusion energy and making it ready for commercial power generation by the end of the year. year 2035.
The project also faced challenges, including a special wire that can carry the strongest electric current on Earth and a host device the size of a peanut to efficiently convert electricity into an ignition charge. .
Many of these problems have been solved by new scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs by Chinese nuclear scientists in recent years, Peng said.
The Z machine is just one of a series of methods – including powerful lasers and hot plasma embedded in a magnetic field – that are being tested by China and other countries in the race to achieve fusion ignition.
The fusion ignition is still to be tested, but the pulse power plant will certainly be a “big laboratory” for studying everything from big bang physics to new weapons, according to the physicist. Peng.
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