The ALPHA Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) – First Steps towards a Plasma Jet Driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion Reactor

Author: F. Douglas Witherspoon, President, CEO & Chief Scientist of HyperJet Fusion Corporation

Background: Plasma Jet Driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF) is a pulsed fusion approach, generating a continuous power output by repetitively imploding magnetized fuel target plasmas by a spherically collapsing dense plasma liner. PJMIF is the only embodiment of magneto-inertial fusion that has the unique combination of standoff and high implosion velocity (50-150 km/s).

Objectives: The primary near-term objective of the Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) at Los Alamos National Laboratory is to demonstrate the formation of spherically imploding plasma liners by merging dozens of supersonic dense plasma jets, and to demonstrate their viability and scalability toward reactor-relevant energies and scales.

Methods: PLX uses a spherically symmetric array of discrete high momentum flux inward firing plasma jets to form a spherical liner after merging. The nine foot diameter PLX vacuum chamber can support up to 60 plasma guns in a roughly symmetric configuration. The present ALPHA experiment uses 36 guns. Testing with 6 guns forming a small section of a liner have been completed at LANL. Mounting and testing of the first 18 gun hemispherical array is currently underway. An additional 18 guns currently being fabricated will be installed soon, completing the first 36 gun fully spherical array. A suite of diagnostics, including laser interferometry and fast imaging, are used to study the merging of the plasma jets and the liner. These results are compared with numerical simulations.

Results: We will provide an overview of the PJMIF concept, followed by a description of the design and operating characteristics of the supersonic plasma jets. This will be followed by a description of the past and ongoing experiments on PLX, ending with a brief discussion of the next steps and applicability to fusion propulsion.