Fusion energy is a form of nuclear energy that is released when hydrogen nuclei fuses to form helium nuclei. In order to achieve this process, the hydrogen gas must be heated and compressed to a high enough temperature and density for a sufficiently long time so that the nuclei can be fused and the nuclear fusion energy can be released. In nature, a large cloud of gas, on a galactic scale, gets compressed to form stars like our sun, where the core temperature reaches 60 million degrees Fahrenheit with a density close to solid. This super dense and super hot hydrogen gas is called plasma, and is held together due to the self-gravitational force and shear mass of the stars. Fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form helium nuclei takes place continuously, producing fusion energy which heats the surrounding mass, and this heated material finally radiates the energy into space. Life on earth is supported by this energy.
On earth, this form of energy was produced in the late forties, with the advent of a hydrogen bomb, where the energy produced by an atomic bomb was used to compress hydrogen gas into similar temperature and density of the sun. Once the fusion started, an enormous amount of nuclear energy was released. The question was how to duplicate the same phenomenon to produce fusion energy in a controlled fashion, such that it could be used to produce useable energy (i.e. electricity).
The fuel to produce energy for as long as the planet survives is abundantly available in the form of seawater. Estimates show that one gallon of seawater can produce an equivalent amount of energy to three hundred gallons of gasoline. Hopefully, the human race will abandon the use of the limited resource of fossil fuels, which are constantly heating the atmosphere and, now, threaten the entire survival of the human race.
MIFTI’s staged Z-pinch fusion scheme provides such a hope. Using this technology, in a modest machine, one can obtain a hundred times more energy than invested. In the following, we will attempt to explain how this works in simple terms.
Unlike the stars, or the hydrogen bomb, where hot plasma is spherical in shape, the load in staged Z-pinch is of a cylindrical shape, where hydrogen gas is enclosed in a thin liner, similar to a can of cola or beer. The electrical energy is stored in capacitor banks (i.e. batteries). The batteries are discharged in such a fashion that the current is a million times larger than that of household current. This current flows through the cylinder for less than a millionth of a second and produces an enormous magnetic field that compresses the hydrogen gas within the container. During this compression, which is enormously supersonic in nature, the hydrogen gas is heated and compressed for a very short period of time to a level similar to the core of the sun. Initial heating occurs in the manner of Ohmic heating, similar to an electric heater. Due to supersonic compression, a shock front develops that propagates back and forth, and heats the gas to an extremely high temperature. This preheated plasma is heated to a level where fusion can occur by simple compressional heating. Once ignition starts, fusion energy begins to release in the form of charged particles. These charged particles deposit their energy inside the super hot plasma, due to a very large magnetic field. This heats the plasma further to a degree at least five times higher, causing the plasma to fuse further. For a millionth of a second, the release of fusion energy is almost 100 times larger than the energy initially stored. Detailed computer simulation and experimental observations show that this mechanism maintains a stable compression unlike any other scheme. The fusion energy released manifests in the form of neutrons. These neutrons can have numerous uses, including the production of radionuclides and the generation of power.