It was a fortunate accident to find out this unanticipated blend of current amplification through flux compression with pulse sharpening by a plasma opening switch that occurs naturally.
As a result of this discover at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, the forecasts regarding low-cost energy by nuclear fusion got even brighter now.
A group of researchers, led by the famous physicist Doctor Franklin Felber has taken a major step in view to meet two of the major technological challenges concerning pulsed power for fusion; pulse compression and current amplification. The team’s finding is available in the Physical Review Letters.
The Manager of the Radiation and Fusion Experiments Group, Sandia, Doctor Michael Cuneo, stated that these are unanticipated and surprising outcomes and if established by further experiments could abbreviate the time period and lower costs to achieve nuclear fusion that is driven by pulsed power.
Research teams from all parts of the world have, for nearly 40 years, been working at production of energy through tiny nuclear explosions enduring merely billionths of one second within a reactor. This method, known as inertial confinement fusion (ICF), needs that immense power be concentrated nearly instantly onto hydrogen pellets.
The team of researchers had been trying to boost up the power that could be supplied to such fusion targets by binding little cartridges to Sandia’s huge Saturn pulsed power generator. The cartridges worked even better than what was initially hoped by doubling-up the generator’s current. However, the researchers almost disregarded the results, due to the fact that the striking increase in electrical power took place all of a sudden, only much after the Saturn generator pulse had stopped.
The research team hypothesizes that the material heated off the cartridge walls which blocked the current pulse, thus permitting electrical energy to increase in the cartridge prior to discharging the energy, without warning, into the target volume. Generating high-power pulses in such a way; from low-power generators could give rise to considerable in potential fusion power plants.
A Professor of Engineering Physics of the University of California at San Diego, Doctor Farhat Beg, who has also been working together with Sandia in regards to pulsed power experiments, says that the work that has been reported here appears to be a considerable technological progress in open switches and flux compression that could probably speed up development as well as bring a reduction in the capital costs of fusion power plants in the future.
Doctor Felber, in the mid 1980’s, conducted a research effort that was paid by the Department of Energy of U.S. It also included scientists from former Soviet Union and Sandia. The research team illustrated that plasma, a hot ionized gas, could in fact ‘pinch’ a magnetic field to what was at that time the greatest value yet produced within a laboratory; around a hundred million times more than planet Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers from all around the world have since then been attempting to make use of this technique of plasma ‘magnetic flux compression’ to increase the high levels of currents required for fusion.
The Research Physicist of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory established in Washington, D.C., Doctor Alexander Velikovich, who is also one of the previous Soviet scientists who was considered to be a pioneer along with Doctor Felber, in magnetic flux compression, approximately three decades ago, states that the findings of these recent experiments made on the Saturn generator provides big promises for the future of magnetic flux compression to attain the short pulses and high electrical powers required for fusion drivers.
For the past three decades, research teams from the four corners of the globe have moreover been trying to build up high-power plasma opening switches that would be able to accumulate electrical energy in a magnetic field and then discharge it onto a target suddenly. The cartridges that have been developed by the researchers to boost currents amazingly also proved to be very efficient plasma opening switches, amassing electrical energy for a much longer period compared to the Saturn generator pulse, and the releasing it into the target volume in much shorter time than the Saturn generator pulse.
According to Doctor Felber, unveiling this unanticipated combination of amplifying current through pulse sharpening and flux compression through a plasma opening switch that takes place naturally was a sheer lucky accident. He advances that he hopes that these advances are quickly put into use in order to assist in solving some of the challenges that scientists are facing in meeting the nation’s needs in power in a sustainable way.