The refurbishment was completed in October 2007. The newer Z machine can now shoot 27 million amperes (instead of 18 million amperes previously) in 95 nanoseconds. The radiated power has been raised to 350 terawatts and the X-ray energy output to 2.7 megajoules.
Sandia’s roadmap includes another Z machine version called ZN (Z Neutron) to test higher yields in fusion power and automation systems. ZN is planned to give between 20 and 30 MJ of hydrogen fusion power with a shot per hour using a Russian Linear Transformer Driver (LTD) replacing the current Marx generators. After 8 to 10 years of operation, ZN would become a transmutation pilot plant capable of a fusion shot every 100 seconds.
The next step planned would be the Z-IFE (Z-inertial fusion energy) test facility, the first true z-pinch driven prototype fusion power plant. It is suggested it would integrate Sandia’s latest designs using LTDs. Sandia labs recently proposed a conceptual 1 petawatt (10^15 watts) LTD Z-pinch power plant, where the electric discharge would reach 70 million amperes.
We have developed an accelerator architecture that can serve as the basis of the design of petawatt-class z-pinch drivers. The architecture has been applied to the design of two z-pinch accelerators, each of which can be contained within a 104-m-diameter cylindrical tank. One accelerator is driven by slow ( about 1 microsecond) Marx generators, which are a mature technology but which necessitate significant pulse compression to achieve the short pulses ( much shorter than 1 microsecond) required to drive z pinches. The other is powered by linear transformer drivers (LTDs), which are less mature but produce much shorter pulses than conventional Marxes. Consequently, an LTD-driven accelerator promises to be (at a given pinch current and implosion time) more efficient and reliable. The Marx-driven accelerator produces a peak electrical power of 500 TW and includes the following components: (i) 300 Marx generators that comprise a total of 1:8 X 10^4 capacitors, store 98 MJ, and erect to 5 MV; (ii) 600 water-dielectric triplate intermediate-store transmission lines, which also serve as pulse-forming lines; (iii) 600 5-MV laser-triggered gas switches; (iv) three monolithic radial-transmission-line impedance transformers, with triplate geometries and exponential impedance profiles; (v) a 6-level 5.5-m-diameter 15-MV vacuum insulator stack; (vi) six magnetically insulated vacuum transmission lines (MITLs); and (vii) a triple-post-hole vacuum convolute that adds the output currents of the six MITLs, and delivers the combined current to a z-pinch load. The accelerator delivers an effective peak current of 52 MA to a 10-mm-length z pinch that implodes in 95 ns, and 57 MA to a pinch that implodes in 120 ns. The LTD-driven accelerator includes monolithic radial transformers and a MITL system similar to those described above, but does not include intermediate-store transmission lines, multimegavolt gas switches, or a laser trigger system. Instead, this accelerator is driven by 210 LTD modules that include a total of 1 X 10^6 capacitors and 5 X 10^5 200-kV electrically triggered gas switches. The LTD accelerator stores 182 MJ and produces a peak electrical power of 1000 TW. The accelerator delivers an effective peak current of 68 MA to a pinch that implodes in 95 ns, and 75 MA to a pinch that implodes in 120 ns. Conceptually straightforward upgrades to these designs would deliver even higher pinch currents and faster implosions.