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Project Miniature Sun

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    10th Sep, 2019
  • Scientists in France are trying to create a 'miniature Sun' on Earth and India is a partner in this mega project.
  • Dubbed as The ITER Project or The Path, costing over Euro 20 billion, it has ‘Made in India’ written all over it.

Context

  • Scientists in France are trying to create a 'miniature Sun' on Earth and India is a partner in this mega project.
  • Dubbed as The ITER Project or The Path, costing over Euro 20 billion, it has ‘Made in India’ written all over it.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited the project site and also held discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron.

About

Project Miniature Sun

  • Nick named as ‘miniature sun’, International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is the largest plasma based fusion reactor ever built.
  • It is the costliest technological project of the 21st century with an estimated construction cost of $25 Billion.
  • The project site is located in Cadarache, Southern France.
  • The term ‘Thermonuclear’ indicates the nuclear fusion reaction.
  • ITER will be two times the size of the largest fusion reactor present and the chamber volume will be 10 times the present one.
  • It is worth mentioning here that the mega project is undertaken by USA, Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, European Union and India.

India’s Contribution

  • India has also provided a Cryostat, the world’s largest refrigerator, weighing around 3800 tons and made with stainless steel. It is built by Larsen & Toubro
  • It will cover the entire structure and keep the magnetic components at a very low temperature (less than -200OC) for maintaining the superconductivity of magnets.

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

  • Tokamak reactor is a term used for the location where the nuclear fusion takes place.
  • The terminology is similar to the term ‘boiler’ used in steam power plants, wherein the core reaction takes place.
  • It is a magnetic fusion device to harness fusion energy by mimicking the sun and other stars.
  • In the sun, the massive gravitational force creates the conditions for fusion.
  • On earth, it is much harder to achieve:
  • Fuel must be heated to around 15 millionOC.
  • Fuel need to be dense enough and maintained at higher temperature and pressure for fusion to take place.
  • Initially, the Tokamak cylinder is made completely vacuum.

SUN

  • The sun was born about 4.6 billion years ago.
  • The sun and its atmosphere are divided into several zones and layers.
  • The solar interior, from the inside out, is made up of the core, radiative zone and the convective zone.
  • The solar atmosphere above that consists of the photosphere, chromosphere, a transition region and the corona.
  • Beyond that is the solar wind, an outflow of gas from the corona.
  • Some key definitions:
    • Sunspot: Sunspots are darker, cooler areas on the surface of the sun in a region called the photosphere.
    • Solar Flare: A solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots.
    • Corona: The Sun’s corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun's surface.
    • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): They are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s corona. They can eject billions of tons of coronal material and carry an embedded magnetic field (frozen in flux) that is stronger than the background solar wind interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) strength.

Mechanism of Nuclear Fusion in the Sun:

  • The sun is composed of Hydrogen (75%), Helium (25%) and smaller amounts of Oxygen, Iron, Neon, Nitrogen, Silicon, etc.
  • The sun is a massive nuclear fusion reactor like all the other stars.
  • The reaction began when a nebula (a cloud of gas and particles) collapsed under its own gravitational force forming a big ball of hot plasma, the sun.
  • The core of the sun is the hottest and has high pressure which makes the Hydrogen atoms collected at the centre to fuse together to form Helium atoms and release solar energy.
  • Two Hydrogen atoms fuse to form one Helium
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