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Small Fusion Could Be Huge

Promising advances in nuclear fusion research from a new, low-cost experiment
July 21, 2016
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Cutaway view of an imploding plasma liner (blue), formed by 60 inward-directed plasma jets, as it engages a magnetized plasma fuel target. (Plasma is hot, ionized gas. CREDIT: Copyright HyperV Technologies Corp.

Sixty kilograms of fusion fuel would power a city of a million for a year. It would take 400,000 metric tons of coal to do the same.

Combining the benefits of two large-scale fusion paradigms, magnetic confinement and inertial confinement, Los Alamos and industry partner HyperV Technologies Corp. are pursuing a relatively small-scale exploratory experiment of “magneto-inertial fusion.” Electromagnetic plasma guns, designed and built by HyperV and mounted all around a spherical vacuum chamber, will simultaneously fire supersonic jets of plasma. The jets converge at the center of the chamber for the purpose of compressing another plasma of laser-magnetized nuclear fuel, injected moments earlier. In theory, that could be sufficient to achieve the all-important—and maddeningly elusive—condition of getting significantly more power out than what is put in.

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