Did you know that APELC supports the commercial fusion industry by providing pulsed power systems and components. At one point, fusion energy was continuously 30-50 years out from being a viable power source. Now, with significant amounts of commercial and government funding behind it, fusion is looking to legitimately be on the 10-20 year horizon for achieving the kind of breakthrough that could provide the ultimate source of clean energy.
WHAT IS FUSION?
Simply stated, fusion is the energy powering the sun. Particles come together under extreme temperatures and pressures and “fuse” together to release the incredible amounts of energy contained within the atomic nuclei. This is of course the opposite of fission- in which energy is released by the breaking of bonds. Whereas fission results in considerable amounts of radioactive waste products, fusion results in no fissionable radioactive waste and generates no hydrocarbons in the process. The Fusion Energy Association reports that “it would take 10 million pounds of coal to yield as much energy as one pound of fusion fuel1”. Given these stats, it is easy to see why investors are giddy about backing such a technology. To date, there has been nearly $5 billion dollars2 in funding put toward this endeavor.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TECHNOLOGIES BEHIND FUSION?
While there are several dozen ways of achieving fusion, I will present the top 4 methods in use today. All of these techniques involve the confinement of a plasma in a manner that creates the extremely high temperatures and pressures required for nuclear fusion.
- Field Reversed Configuration (FRC)
An FRC system works by containing plasma in its own magnetic field by inducing a toroidal electric current inside a cylindrical plasma3.
A spiraling ribbon shape produces a stable and symmetrical high-density plasma. The stellarator is similar to the tokamak, but its unique geometry provides greater stability, and therefore potentially longer run times3.
- Tokamak/Spherical Tokamak (a.k.a. Magnetic Confinement Fusion)
The tokamak is one of the oldest fusion technologies, starting with the first system in Russia dating back to 1958. The tokomak confines a plasma in a toroidal vessel using extremely high external magnetic fields in a manner that creates sufficiently high temperatures and pressures to create a fusion reaction4.
An axial plasma is generated inside of a cylindrical vessel. This current compresses the plasma using a self-generated magnetic field (Lorentz force), thereby compressing the plasma and generating the high densities and temperatures required for fusion5.
HOW DOES/CAN APELC SUPPORT THIS INDUSTRY?
Complete Turn-Key Pulsed Power
Pulsed power systems are the standard for generating the high voltages and currents required in these fusion devices. APELC has the expertise and capability to build most any Marx generator or capacitor discharge system needed and can do so at a turn-key level of operation with full warranty support and relatively quick turn-around using our ISO-9001:2015 certified fabrication facility. Our experience includes the use of thyratrons, ignitrons, triggered spark-gaps and even solid-state devices depending on customer requirements.
Pulsed Power and High-Voltage Components
With many fusion labs designing their systems in-house, APELC can provide custom and off-the-shelf components for existing pulsed power systems such as our quick disconnect connectors for high-voltage coaxial cable, spark gaps, trigger generators and turn-key control racks/systems.
Figure 1 APELC QD High-voltage connector
Figure 2 APELC Thyratron-based trigger generator
Figure 3 Example of an APELC turn-key control rack for pulsed power systems
Build-to-print Fabrication Services
Our ISO-9001:2015 certified fabrication facility includes 4 CNC Mills (4-axis), 4 CNC Lathes, a water jet and a complete inspection and quality management system, ensuring the capability to build customer-supplied design with high-tolerances and reasonable lead-times. Moreover, with our high-voltage, pulsed power and mechanical engineering expertise, we can review and test most any design we complete. This provides our customers with a service that can save time, money and critical lab space.
APELC is incredibly excited by all of the developments presently happening in the fusion energy industry and looks forward to being a partner in accelerating these critical advancements! Please contact us if you would like to discuss your project and how we can be of support.
Figure 4 APELC ISO-9001:2015 certified fabrication facility
- The global fusion industry in 2022 Fusion Companies Survey by the Fusion Industry Association
- U. Shumlak , “Z-pinch fusion”, Journal of Applied Physics 127, 200901 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0004228