China has combined the might of several of its state-owned industrial giants, universities and institutes to form a new national nuclear fusion research and development consortium.

The Controllable Nuclear Fusion Innovation Consortium launched on 29 December as China looks to pull ahead in the global race for the holy grail of near-limitless clean energy that fusion promises.

The 35-strong group is led by China National Nuclear Corp and features other state companies including China Three Gorges Corporation, State Grid Corporation of China and China First Heavy Industry Group.

It also features several universities and research institutes.

Nuclear fusion uses magnets or lasers to fuse atoms, the same process that generates the light and heat from stars.

The goal for such machines is to reach fusion ignition – the point at which a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy.

China is one of the most advanced countries worldwide in developing fusion technology.

It has for several years been testing an “artificial sun” – its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak project – that has reportedly hit temperatures of 70,000,000C, five times hotter than our own star.

Other frontrunners in fusion include the US, Japan and the UK.

China, the US and Japan are among 35 countries that are part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor fusion research project, which is developing the world's largest tokamak – a magnetic fusion device – in the south of France.