First Light Fusion Technical Talks on Projectile Fusion

This animation shows a close up of the projectile/target interaction inside the reaction vessel for First Light Fusion. They electromagnetically launch a projectile to create inertial fusion. They do not use a laser. the target implodes faster than the projectile. They were getting velocity multipliers by 10X back in 2019. They think the onward path to a reactor is better for this approach.

In 2019, Nick Hawker, First Light Fusion CEO, presented for the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Science and Technology of Fusion Energy (Fusion CDT) at the University of York.

A presentation by Dr Dave Chapman, a senior scientist in First Light Fusion’s Numerical Physics team, was given as an invited contribution to the Transport in Nonideal Plasmas mini-workshop at the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics (APS-DPP) annual conference on Thursday 12th November 2020. The talk outlines the initial findings of ongoing work into understanding the sensitivity of predicted target performance to modelling uncertainties in the uniaxially-driven fusion experiments of Derentowicz

3 thoughts on “First Light Fusion Technical Talks on Projectile Fusion”

  1. There is something remarkably intriguing about the idea of projectile physics generating — if even but momentarily (i.e. ‘enough’) — compression-and-temperature regimes high enough to cause nuclear fusion reactions. Seriously SteamPunk fusion.

    As a for-example, in one of those eye-opening steampunk mergers of projectile physics (“guns”), just consider how useful it has become for geneticists to load up itty-bits of Cell “A” onto a tip of an ordinary 22 caliber bullet and shoot it at an equally ordinary pile of Cell “B” on a metal target … in order to ever-so-occasionally cause genetic bits of “A” to merge with “B”, and be recovered as still-viable cells after the collisions. Steampunk physics. Blam! For a few pennies a throw!!!

    To me this is the intriguing part: using similarly amped-up but still essentially ‘steampunk’ quality physics to mechanically shoot an inertial impactor onto an exquisitely moulded-and-layered target, full of both fusion target atoms, and ‘secret sauce’ to contain and compress them sufficiently. The electromagnetic acceleration bit is a definite investor-friendly improvement (as opposed, say, to using a really powerful but still essentially conventional gunpowder accelerated bullet, which garners no end of laugh factor reactions), but still its all quite steampunk. WHICH IS JUST FINE.

    Deciphering this article’s summary of graphs and temperature-pressure regime results is a bit hard I must say. Still, it looks promising: 100x compression (over ambient) and 250,000 kelvins temperature. Not at all shabby! The 100 fusions (total) is kind of wimpy if we’re being honest and neither pessimistic nor euphoric.

    My as-a-physicist reaction is “well, why exclude combined cycle heating and compression?” You know, training a few megajoules of microsecond regime off-the-shelf laser power onto the same target at the moment of maximal mechanical compression. Heat that pellet up another 100x, and with some hoped-for symmetrical radial photonic compression, yet more compressive shock physics to boost fusion by a BIG co-factor.

    You know? Blasting each target to smithereens AND generating billions of D-T fusions per shot in a combined cycle “feels” attainable. Cleanup of the mess?

    Well that, boys and girls, is exactly the SAME problem of all present compression-heating experiments, whether they by hohlrahms from LLNL, or this article’s experiment, or Focus Fusion stuff, or what have you. ALL of these physics proving experiments (as in ‘every one of them’) have foregone addressing the blast-o-magic cleanup phase as ‘to be solved down the road, when we’ve shown marvelously energetic fusion at hand’.

    Unfortunately, even if the billions-to-trillions of fusions per shot were handed to them right now, converting that to a workable scheme for continuously generating the power of The Sun for industry today … remains vexingly elusive.

    When I linger on this for any length of time, I find myself noodling about conventional fission and its delightfully ‘real world compatible’ scaling and physics. Want more output? Put together a bigger pile. Clean up the fission fragments? Contain them in zirconium pellets. Ensure the pile doesn’t blow to smithereens? Utilize mechanical-thermal physics to moderate the critical mass reaction, along with dumb-as-a-brick moderating rods containing lots of boron and hafnium.

    Don’t fret if the above isn’t exactly accurate: it doesn’t need to be. It shows that fission physics is intrinsically scalable … by scaling the pile and reactor itself. So far, there hasn’t been much to imply that the FUSION schemes are anywhere near as dumb-as-a-bigger-pile-of-bricks scalable in their turn. Indeed, all fusion demonstrators I have reviewed to date seem curiously to NOT scale as the boffins had hoped. Which is a real gotcha.


    • What you want is something to catch said projectiles:

      Now here is how I use that with the latest pellet fusion find

      I use Space Solar Power that can double as sunshades and orbital antenna farms to fire a beam of energy to a craft made of back to back sails made of this stuff.

      Now, a rod pierces both these sails as a feed horn…and a pellet rifle.

      This shoots back to the point of focus of the aft parabolic sail…no magnets—just a Johndale Solum Medusa deal….the Fusion-Sail

      Damn if that doesn’t sound like Ouamuamua…

    • That description ‘pile’ should have stuck better since it illustrates the high level simplicity of fission so well. Instead we’re stuck with the nebulous word ‘core’ with its use in dozens of contexts involving the center of things from fruit to leadership. ‘Critical’ is another unfortunate nuclear term; it is used across the sciences to mean other things, and doesn’t have any semantic hook to the concept it supposedly describes in the ‘pile’, which is a very relatable analog to population growth.

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