‘Keep-in-touch activity’ with inertial fusion
The main alternative to magnetic confinement fusion is Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) in which fusion reactions take place through thermonuclear micro-explosions initiated in small (~1 mm diameter) pellets filled with a mixture of deuterium/ tritium fusion fuel.
The LULI2000 experimental chamber at Ecole Polytechnique, France
The pellets are compressed to a density of around 1 000 times greater than their normal density in the liquid state, using an intense laser or ion beam which rapidly heats the surface of the tiny pellet. This causes an inward push of hot plasma generated at the surface, which ignites the core of the pellet and the thermonuclear burn spreads out through the entire compressed fuel. Therefore, it is necessary with ICF to produce a series of very short pulses to provide steady state energy supply.
This technology has applications in nuclear weapons development and, because of the classified character of much of the research, the Council of EU Ministers have only foreseen a ‘keep-in-touch activity’ for ICF within the European Fusion Programme.
Twin laser chains at LULI2000 deliver 2 kJ of energy in a few nanoseconds
This monitoring activity of civil research in ICF is maintained by a number of competent laboratories supplying regular updates on progress in this field.