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Z Machine

Air-gas breakdown when Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratories fires.

The Z Machine is a pulsed power driver that delivers enormous power in a short duration pulse to a small complex target at the center of the large (34 meters in diameter) accelerator.  Pulsed power technology is used to store 20 megajoules of electrical energy over a period of minutes and then to release that energy in a short duration (100- to 300-nanosecond) immense power burst.  Z‘s experimental strength is its ability to produce large amounts of energy (about 3 megajoules) in x-rays, large plasma environments, and controlled high pressures.

The Z Machine is part of SNL’s Pulsed Power Program (which started in the 1960s) and began operations in 1985 as the Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator (PBFA).  An upgrade of the Z facility was completed in 2007.  The refurbishment project increased diagnostic access, replaced outdated components, increased facility utilization, improved pulse-shape precision, and increased delivered current to improve high energy performance.  In October 2009, Z completed the 2000th shot in the facility.  In the future, Z’s versatile capabilities will see increased use for the nuclear weapons mission as well as increased interest by researchers in high energy density physics, condensed matter physics, planetary science, and laboratory astrophysics.

For more information about SNL’s Z Machine, visit the SNL website.