Thanks to research at Sandia National Laboratories, magnetically imploded tubes called liners, intended to help produce controlled nuclear fusion at scientific “break-even” energies or better within the next few years, have functioned successfully in preliminary tests.
The work, funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and NNSA, has been accepted for publication by Physical Review Letters (PRL).
To exceed scientific break-even is the most hotly sought-after goal of fusion research, in which the energy released by a fusion reaction is greater than the energy put into it — an achievement that would have extraordinary energy and defense implications.
That the liners survived their electromagnetic drubbing is a key step in stimulating further Sandia testing of a concept called MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion), which will use magnetic fields and laser pre-heating in the quest for energetic fusion.
In the dry-run experiments just completed, cylindrical beryllium liners remained reasonably intact as they were imploded by huge magnetic field of Sandia’s Z machine, the world’s most powerful pulsed-power accelerator. Had they overly distorted, they would have proven themselves incapable of shoveling together nuclear fuel — deuterium and possibly tritium — to the point of fusing them. Sandia researchers expect to add deuterium fuel in experiments scheduled for 2013.
Read about the liners.
About the photo:
Sandia researcher Ryan McBride pays close attention to the tiny central beryllium liner to be imploded by the powerful magnetic field generated by Sandia’s Z machine. The larger cylinders forming a circle on the exterior of the base plate measure Z’s load current by picking up the generated magnetic field. (Photo by Randy Montoya)