[A paper from 1977] Practical systems for beam direct conversion are required to recover the energy from ion beams at high efficiency and at very high beam power densities in the environment of a high power, neutral injection system.
Such an experiment is now in progress using a 120 kV beam with a maximum total current of 20 A. After neutralization, the H+ component to be recovered will have a power of approximately 1 MW. A system testing these concepts has been designed and tested at 15 kV, 2 kW in preparation for the full power tests. The engineering problems involved in the full power tests affect electron suppression, gas pumping, voltage holding, diagnostics, and measurement conditions. Planning for future experiments at higher power includes the use of cryopumping and electron suppression by a magnetic field rather than by an electrostatic field. Beam direct conversion for large fusion experiments and reactors will save millions of dollars in the cost of power supplies and electricity and will dispose of the charged beam under conditions that may not be possible by other techniques.
A direct-energy converter was developed for use on neutral-beam injectors. The purpose of the converter is to raise the efficiency of the injector by recovering the portion of the ion beam not converted to neutrals. In addition to increasing the power efficiency, direct conversion reduces the requirements on power supplies and eases the beam dump problem. The converter was tested at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on a reduced-area version of a neutral-beam injector developed for use on the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at Princeton. The conversion efficiency of the total ion power was 65 ±7% at the beginning of the pulse, decaying to just over 50% by the end of the 0.6-s pulse. Once the electrode surfaces were conditioned, the decay was due to the rise in pressure of only the beam gas and not to outgassing. The direct converter was tested with 1.7 A of hydrogen ions and with 1.5 A of helium ions through the aperture with similar efficiencies. At the midplane through the beam, the line power density was 0.7 MW/m, for comparison with our calculations of slab beams and the prediction of 2–4 MW/m in some reactor studies. Over 98 kV was developed at the ion collector when the beam energy was 100 keV. When electrons were suppressed magnetically, rather than electrostatically, the efficiency dropped to 40%. However, a better designed electron catcher could improve this efficiency. New electrode material released gas (mostly H2 and CO) in amounts that exceeded the input of primary gas from the beam. The electrodes were all made of 0.51-mm-thick molybdenum cooled only by radiation. This allowed the heating by the beam to outgas the electrodes and for them to stay hot enough to avoid the reabsorption of gas between shots. By minor redesign of the electrodes, adding cryopanels near the electrodes, and grounding the ion source, these results extrapolate with high confidence to an efficiency of 70–80% at a power density of 2–4 MW/m. Higher power may be possible with magnetic electron suppression.
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