Emerging Technologies

South Korean nuclear fusion reactor sets new record, and other technology news you need to know

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The KSTAR nuclear fusion reactor is known as South Korea’s “artificial sun”.

The KSTAR nuclear fusion reactor is known as South Korea’s “artificial sun”. Image: KFE

Sebastian Buckup
Head of Network and Partnerships; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
  • This monthly round-up brings you the latest news from the world of technology.
  • Top tech stories: South Korean scientists achieve nuclear fusion record; UK offers diabetes patients artificial pancreas; Global smartphone market rebounds.

1. South Korean nuclear fusion reactor sets new record

A nuclear fusion reactor in South Korea has set a new record, superheating a plasma loop to 100 million degrees Celsius for 48 seconds.

The Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) announced in a statement that the Korea Superconducting Tomak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor had broken its previous record of 31 seconds, Euronews reports.

Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide limitless, carbon-free energy by mimicking the phenomenon that powers stars. However, there are still many challenges to overcome before the technology is commercially viable.

KSTAR is the prototype of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) based in France.

“This research is a green light for acquiring core technologies required for the fusion DEMO reactor”, KFE President Dr Suk Jae Yoo said, adding that “we will do our best to secure core technologies essential for the operation of ITER and the construction of future DEMO reactors”.

2. UK to offer artificial pancreas to diabetes patients

Type 1 Diabetes patients in England are to be offered a new technology described as an artificial pancreas.

A glucose sensor under the skin calculates how much insulin is delivered via a pump, with trials showing the technology improved quality of life and reduced long-term health complication risks.

The total number of people living with diabetes globally is projected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045, International Diabetes Federation data shows.

The technology could help people redefine their lives, according to NHS England diabetes clinical director Dr Clare Hambling.

"Type 1 diabetes is an easily missed diagnosis, so if you are concerned about symptoms – the four 'T's – going to the toilet, passing urine more frequently, with thirst, feeling tired and getting thinner, please come forward for support," she told the BBC.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

3. In brief: Other tech stories to know

The global smartphone market is set to rebound 3% in 2024, according to a new report from Counterpoint Research. Global shipments declined last year by more than 4% as buyers reduced spending in the face of economic uncertainty. The easing of inflation is expected to drive demand recovery in emerging markets, while increasing integration of AI technology is likely to attract buyers to premium devices.

Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles increased by 12% in March compared to the same month in 2023, data from Rho Motion shows. Markets in China and the US saw growth, but European sales fell by 9%. "Overall, sales growth has slowed but it's still somewhat positive," Charles Lester, Data Manager at Rho Motion, told Reuters.

Google has announced plans to invest $1 billion to improve connectivity between the US and Japan, using two new subsea cables.

Meta has released more details on the next generation of its in-house AI accelerator chip. In a blog post, the company wrote, "This chip’s architecture is fundamentally focused on providing the right balance of compute, memory bandwidth, and memory capacity for serving ranking and recommendation models."

US electric utilities are predicting a surge of new demand from data centres, with some companies forecasting electricity sales growth several times higher than just a few months ago, Reuters reports.

4. More on technology on Agenda

E-waste, or waste electrical and electronic equipment, is the fastest-growing waste stream globally, with an estimated 62 billion kilogrammes produced in 2022 alone. But the phones, tablets, laptops and other gadgets we discard contain valuable metals and minerals, collectively worth $62.5 billion each year. Discover how some countries are tackling the problem here.

For over half a century, microchips have paved the way for increasingly powerful electronic devices. But what’s next for this vital technology in the age of power-hungry AI systems? Find out in our article here.

Meanwhile, the space economy is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2035 as space-enabled technologies advance. Read this piece to explore the industry's potential.

Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial Revolution
1. South Korean nuclear fusion reactor sets new record2. UK to offer artificial pancreas to diabetes patients3. In brief: Other tech stories to know4. More on technology on Agenda

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