First Light Fusion is trying to generate energy using inertial confinement fusion. They spunout from the University of Oxford in June 2011.
First Light uses a high-velocity projectile (58 times the speed of sound) to create a shockwave to collapse a cavity containing plasma inside a ‘target’. The design of these targets is First Light’s technical USP.
The company’s approach was inspired by the only example of inertial confinement found on Earth – the pistol shrimp, which clicks its claw to produce a shockwave that stuns its prey. The only other naturally occurring inertial confinement phenomenon is a supernova. The reaction created by the collapsing cavity is what creates energy, which can then be captured and used.
Most other inertial confinement fusion approaches have tried to use schemes involving high powered lasers.
Machine 3 has now been fully commissioned following successful testing at the end of 2018. It is the biggest pulsed power machine in the world dedicated to researching fusion energy.
Machine 3 is capable of discharging up to 200,000 volts and in excess of 14 million ampere – the equivalent of nearly 500 simultaneous lightning strikes – within two microseconds.
The £3.6m machine ($4.5 million) uses some 3000 meters of high voltage cables and another 10,000 meters of diagnostic cables. They use electromagnetism to accelerate projectiles to about 20km per second (enough to travel from London to New York in 4 minutes). Now fully operational Machine 3 will be used to further research First Light Fusion’s technology as the company seeks to achieve first fusion, which it expects to deliver in 2019.
The next step in the technological development will be to achieve ‘gain’, whereby the amount of energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction.
SOURCES- First Light, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang. Nextbigfuture.com