April 23, 2024

Plasma confinement is the confinement of a gas plasma under extreme conditions required forĀ thermonuclear reactions. The requirements are found in stars where gravity is the main force. Researchers use magnetic fields in the lab to confine the plasma. This magnetic confinement technique may enable them to confine plasmas of fusion grade over the long term. One strategy of confinement relies on imploding material’s inertia. Inertial confinement has been used on Earth for hydrogen bomb detonations and in specialized facilities. Inertial confinement research is ongoing. Laboratories use electrical discharges or high-power lasers to compress hydrogen fuel at very high density for billionths of seconds.

Plasma Confinement Facts

  • Magnetically confined plasmas can reach temperatures up to 10 times higher than the core temperature of our sun.
  • ITER is the world’s first plasma burner. It aims to produce 500 megawatts, ten times the power that will be injected. NIF has the highest energy laser in the entire world, delivering 2 megajoules (the same amount of energy as 20,000 100-watt bulbs consumed in a second) in just 16 nanoseconds.

DOE Office of Science Contributions to Plasma Confinement

The Department of Energy Office of Science Fusion Energy Sciences Program is the primary funding source for magnetic plasma confinement in the United States. DOE’s support of the ITER experiment is a vital part of these efforts. ITER, once completed, will be the world’s first experiment that studies confined nuclear plasmas capable of producing energy on the scale of an entire power plant. It will be humankind’s most significant scientific experiment. DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration primarily supports inertial confinement research. Inertial confinement has the potential to play a role in energy production. However, it is essential for NNSA’s core mission, which is to ensure a safe and secure nuclear stockpile. NNSA conducts inertial confinement research at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the Z Machine.

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