[Sciencealert.com] Researchers Just Demonstrated Nuclear Fusion in a Device Small Enough to Keep at Home
When it comes to the kinds of technology needed to contain a sun, there are currently just two horses in the race. Neither is what you'd call 'petite'.
An earlier form of fusion technology that barely made it out of the starting blocks has just overcome a serious hurdle. It's got a long way to catch up, but given its potential cost and versatility, a table-sized fusion device like this is worth watching out for.
While many have long given up on an early form of plasma confinement called the Z-pinch as a feasible way to generate power, researchers at the University of Washington in the US have continued to look for a way to overcome its shortcomings.
A relatively small device known as a zeta or 'Z'-pinch uses the specific orientation of a plasma's internal magnetic field to apply what's known as the Lorentz force to the flow of particles, effectively forcing its particles together through a bottleneck.
In some sense, the device isn't unlike a miniature version of its tokamak big brother. As such, it also suffers from similar stability issues that can cause its plasma to jump from the magnetic tracks and crash into the sides of its container.
In fact, iterations of the Z-pinch led to the chunky tokamak technology that superseded it. Given this major limitation, the Z-pinch has all but become a relic of history.
Now, researchers from the University of Washington have found an alternative approach to stabilizing the plasma in a Z-pinch not only works, but it can be used to generate a burst of fusion.
To prevent the distortions in the plasma that cause it to escape the confines of its magnetic cage, the team manages the flow of the particles by applying a bit of fluid dynamics.
Introducing what is known as sheared axial flow to a short column of plasma has previously been studied as a potential way to improve stability in a Z-pinch, to rather limited effect.
We're only talking 5 microseconds worth of neutrons here, so don't clear space in your basement for your Z-Pinch 3000 Home Fusion Box quite yet. But the stability was 5,000 times longer than you'd expect without such a method being used, showing the principle is ripe for further study.
Still a ways to go.
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Hopefully they figure it out soon...not for homes though. We've already got several global disasters worth of spent rods, some sitting on a fault line and on the shore of California with literally no plans of removal.
It's all well and good until you have one of those incredibly rapid exothermic events. AKA an explosion.
Also, sourcing enough smoke detectors has proven troublesome in my experience.
The famous Skunkworks had developed a fusion system a few years back that could be hauled around via flatbed trailer. IIRC it was a proof of concept feasible enough to catch the U.S. military's attention. That doesn't mean it works, it just means it was impressive to see.
Railguns are where the real fun is at. And where the greatest amount of new development a DIY'er can do on their own.
Originally Posted by Omega X
Humans don't rapidly develop anything unless its life or death.