China wants to create a source of near-unlimited clean energy, and it’s well on its way with its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) nuclear fusion reactor.

The “artificial sun” just set a new world record, superheating a loop of plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes.

Temperature-wise, that’s 158 million degrees Fahrenheit – or 70 million degrees Celsius.

EAST smashed the previous record set by France’s Tore Supra tokamak in 2003, where plasma in a coiling loop remained at similar temperatures for 390 seconds.

EAST had previously set another record in May 2021 by running for 101 seconds at an unprecedented 216 million F or 120 million C.

To put that in context, the core of the actual sun reaches comparatively balmy temperatures of around 27 million ˚F, or 15 million ˚C.


Why all the fuss about nuclear fusion?

Scientists are essentially trying to replicate the process by which stars burn, and it’s no easy feat.

But if we could manage to fuse hydrogen atoms to make helium under extremely high pressures and temperatures, we could generate enormous amounts of energy without producing greenhouse gases – or radioactive waste.

According to, cooking plasma to temperatures hotter than the sun is the relatively easy part, but finding a way to corral it so that it doesn’t burn through the reactor walls (either with lasers or magnetic fields) without also ruining the fusion process is technically tricky.

We could be corralling hot plasma by 2025

EAST is expected to cost China more than $1 trillion by the time the experiment finishes running in June, and it is being used to test out technologies for an even bigger fusion project — the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) — that’s currently being built in Marseille, France.

ITER contains the world’s most powerful magnet and will be capable of producing a magnetic field 280,000 times as strong as the one around Earth.

Once the fusion reactor comes online in 2025 we might just find out if it’s capable of corralling piping hot plasma.