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September 18, 2012

Sandia Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion targets breakeven by end of 2013

Sandia - 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.
(H/T NewEnergy and Fuel)

The liners survived an electromagnetic drubbing. This 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 proved 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.

A later simulation, published last January in PRL (Physical Review Letters) by Slutz and Sandia researcher Roger Vesey, showed that a more powerful accelerator generating 60 million amperes or more could reach “high-gain” fusion conditions, where the fusion energy released greatly exceeds (by more than 1,000 times) the energy supplied to the fuel.

The method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays — a previous favorite at Sandia — to drive implosions of targeted materials to create fusion conditions.


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



Slated for December are the first tests of the final two components of the MagLIF concept: laser preheating to put more energy into the fuel before magnetic compression begins, and the testing of two secondary electrical coils placed at the top and bottom of the can. Their magnetic fields are expected to keep charged particles from escaping the hot fuel horizontally. This is crucial because if too many particles escape, the fuel could cool to the point where fusion reactions cease.

Sandia researchers intend to test the fully integrated MagLIF concept by the close of 2013.

“This work is one more step on a long path to possible energy applications,” said Sandia senior manager Mark Herrmann.

The liner implosion experiments also served to verify that simulation tools like the popular LASNEX code are accurate within certain parameters, but may diverge when used beyond those limits — information of importance to other labs that use the same codes.

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