Update on Zap Energy Compact Z-Pinch Nuclear Fusion

Zap Energy, the University of Washington, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are advancing the shear-flow stabilized Z-pinch concept and assessing its potential for scaling to fusion conditions and a practical path to a compact, low-cost fusion reactor. The Z-pinch is a geometrically simple and elegant approach to fusion, utilizing an electric current to simultaneously magnetically confine, compress, and heat a cylinder of plasma. However, the traditional Z-pinch is known to be plagued by instabilities that prevent attainment of conditions required for net fusion energy output. Sheared axial flows have been shown to stabilize disruptive Z-pinch instabilities at modest plasma conditions. Through experimental and computational studies, the team has successfully scaled this concept over the past four years from 50 kA to over 300 thousand amps of pinch current with a final goal in the present device of over 400 thousand amps.

The primary goal for Zap Energy’s next step device is to achieve 600 kA of plasma current where plasma density and temperature are predicted to approach conditions of scientific breakeven, i.e. fusion power would exceed power input to the pinch were it fueled with a 50-50 mix of deuterium-tritium.

Zap Energy is the most compact solution to Fusion Energy and does not use complex and costly magnetic coils. They surpassed ARPA-E Alpha Milestones in August 2018. Their reactor is consistently producing neutrons and they received $6.8 million ARPA-E OPEN funding. Nextbigfuture had Zap Energy coverage five months ago.

Zap Energy has progressed from 200,000 amps to over 300,000 amps.

Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com