By Dr. Cameron Chai
Sandia National Laboratories has conducted a series of computer simulations, which showed that high-gain nuclear fusion can be reached using a preheated cylindrical container plunged in high-strength magnetic fields.
Through the simulations, it was demonstrated that higher output energy was released from the container, which was fed with lower input energy. When the output energy from a material is higher than the input energy it is termed as high gain fusion.
The lead author of the paper and a researcher at Sandia, Steve Slutz stated that many persons did not consider magnetized inertial fusion (MIF) as a high-gain option; however, the numerical simulations demonstrated the possibility of using MIF.
In the MIF method, the deuterium-tritium fusion fuel is heated through compression, a typical inertial fusion technique, however, for implosion; a magnetic field is used to subdue loss of heat. The magnetic field prevents the earlier exit of charged alpha particles and electrons and energy loss during the reaction.
Two coils are present at the top and bottom of the container liner. Through the electric current of the coils, strong magnetic field has been produced via pulsed power accelerator, Z. the liner is pushed inside due to the force of the magnetic field, which in turn compresses the magnetic field originated from the coil. The released heat ignites the frozen deuterium-tritium fuel coated within the liner, which results in the gaseous fuel fusion.
The challenges in this technique include the control of liner instability and magnetic field, which may block fuel constriction required for implosion and separating the factors responsible for compression for optimization.
High-gain fusion can be used to produce electricity from seawater, an abundant natural source.