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Title: Final Report on Development of Optimized Field-Reversed Configuration Plasma Formation Techniques for Magnetized Target Fusion

The University of New Mexico (UNM) proposed a collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to develop and test methods for improved formation of field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas relevant to magnetized target fusion (MTF) energy research. MTF is an innovative approach for a relatively fast and cheap path to the production of fusion energy that utilizes magnetic confinement to assist in the compression of a hot plasma to thermonuclear conditions by an external driver. LANL is currently pursing demonstration of the MTF concept via compression of an FRC plasma by a metal liner z-pinch in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM. A key physics issue for the FRC's ultimate success as an MTF target lies in the initial pre-ionization (PI) stage. The PI plasma sets the initial conditions from which the FRC is created. In particular, the PI formation process determines the amount of magnetic flux that can be trapped to form the FRC. A ringing theta pinch ionization (RTPI) technique, such as currently used by the FRX-L device at LANL, has the advantages of high ionization fraction, simplicity (since no additional coils are required), and does not require internal electrodes which can introduce impurities intomore » the plasma. However RTPI has been shown to only trap 50% of the initial bias flux at best and imposes additional engineering constraints on the capacitor banks. The amount of trapped flux plays an important role in the FRC's final equilibrium, transport, and stability properties, and provides increased ohmic heating of the FRC through induced currents as the magnetic field decays. Increasing the trapped flux also provides the route to greatest potential gains in FRC lifetime, which is essential to provide enough time to translate and compress the FRC effectively. In conjunction with LANL we initially planned to develop and test a microwave break- down system to improve the initial PI plasma formation. The UNM team would design the microwave optics and oversee the fabrication and assembly of all components and assist with integration into the FRX-L machine control system. LANL would provide a preexisting 65 kW X-band microwave source and some associated waveguide hardware. Once constructed and installed, UNM would take the lead in operating the microwave breakdown system and conducting studies to optimize its use in FRC PI formation in close cooperation with the needs of the LANL MTF team. In conjunction with our LANL collaborators, we decided after starting the project to switch from a microwave plasma breakdown approach to a plasma gun technology to use for enhanced plasma formation in the FRX-L field-reversed configuration experiment at LANL. Plasma guns would be able to provide significantly higher density plasma with greater control over its distribution in time and space within the experiment. This would allow greater control and ne-tuning of the PI plasma formed in the experiment. Multiple plasma guns would be employed to fill a Pyrex glass test chamber (built at UNM) with plasma which would then be characterized and optimized for the MTF effort.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Final Report
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of New Mexico
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States