Researchers at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy hope the new tungsten divertor will allow them to run their "artificial sun" KSTAR at 100 million degrees for 300 seconds by 2026. The research could produce vital results for commercializing nuclear fusion energy. Photo courtesy Korea Institute of Fusion Energy
Dec. 29 (UPI) -- South Korea's superconducting fusion device and so-called artificial sun, KSTAR, has received upgrades that will allow it to run for longer periods of time.
The Korea Institute of Fusion Energy said Friday it had successfully installed a new tungsten divertor for its magnetic fusion device, KSTAR, which will allow it to run high-temperature plasma at more than 100 million degrees Celsius for 30 seconds.
The new capabilities could lead to groundbreaking research results for commercializing nuclear fusion as an energy source, according to KFE. The institute also is leading a joint effort to accelerate the development of nuclear fusion energy with the ITER program.
ITER is a project to construct a much larger magnetic fusion reactor in southern France. KFE President Dr. Suk Jae Yoo said the implementation of a tungsten divertor to operate KSTAR at higher temperatures will produce vital data for the ITER program.
A divertor is a crucial component that manages the exhaust of waste gas and impurities from the reactor and also endures the highest surface heat loads. KSTAR previously had a carbon divertor that was less heat resistant than the tungsten divertor it now uses.
The development of a tungsten divertor began in 2018. The first prototype was completed in 2021, and installation began in September 2022.
Tungsten has a high melting point and low sputtering characteristics, which means the heat resistance has improved over two-fold, according to KFE.
KFE said that, with the new divertor, it hopes to achieve high performance plasma operation for 300 seconds by the end of 2026.