|Using simulations, scientists believe they may have found a way to make
nuclear fusion a practical proposition. Experts at Sandia National
Laboratories say their results show that high-gain nuclear fusion could
be achieved in a preheated cylindrical container immersed in strong
The simulations show that the output of energy could be many times
greater than the energy fed into the container's liner. Indeed, the
method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays -
currently Sandia's preferred method - to drive implosions of targeted
materials and create fusion conditions. Such fusion, says the team,
could eventually produce reliable electricity from seawater - the most
plentiful material on Earth.
In the simulations, the output demonstrated was 100 times that of a 60
million amperes (MA) input current. And output rose steeply as the
current increased: 1,000 times input was achieved from an incoming pulse
of 70 MA. Since Sandia's Z machine can only reach 26 MA, the researchers
say they would be happy with scientific break-even - which has never
before been achieved - as a proof of principle.
The magnetic inertial fusion (MIF) technique heats the fusion fuel,
deuterium-tritium, by compression as in normal inertial fusion. However,
it uses a magnetic field to suppress heat loss during implosion, with
the magnetic field preventing charged particles like electrons and alpha
particles from draining energy from the reaction.