The Plasma Liner Experiment-Alpha (PLX-α)
HyperV Technologies Corp. is leading the design, development and testing of high performance coaxial plasma guns to be used on the Plasma Liner Experiment Alpha (PLX-α) operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The PLX-α research effort is headed by LANL and includes a multi-institutional team which includes the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of New Mexico, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Tech-X Corporation.
The PLX-α effort will demonstrate the feasibility of forming a spherically imploding plasma-liner driver formed by merging supersonic plasma jets produced by an array of coaxial plasma guns produced by HyperV.
The key virtues of a plasma-liner driver, as noted by LANL project team leader Dr. Scott Hsu, are that it (1) has standoff, i.e., it completely avoids hardware destruction due to the plasma guns being situated sufficiently far away (many meters in an eventual fusion reactor) from the region of fusion burn, and (2) enables a high implosion velocity (50–100 km/s) to overcome thermal transport rates inherent in desired targets.
By utilizing plasma based targets and drivers in a non-destructive approach rapid, low cost research and development is possible by avoiding the replacement of solid test components with every shot. Plus this novel all plasma approach may help lead to an economically attractive practical design for a utility scale fusion power reactor.
PLX-α will seek to demonstrate, for the first time, the formation of a small scale spherically imploding plasma liner in order to obtain critical data on plasma liner uniformity and ram pressure scaling. If successful, this concept will provide a versatile, high-implosion-velocity driver for intermediate fuel density magneto-inertial fusion that is potentially compatible with several plasma targets. These experiments are being conducted on the existing PLX-α facility at LANL in New Mexico.
The PLX-α effort is working to demonstrate the feasibility of forming a spherically imploding plasma liner using up to 60 merging plasma jets. An imploding plasma liner could eventually be used to repetitively compress and ignite a plasma fuel target in a reactor. This approach to achieving practical fusion energy is called Plasma Jet Driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF), and was originally conceived by Y.C.F. Thio et al. [Y. C. F. Thio, E. Panarella, R. C. Kirkpatrick, C. E. Knapp, F. Wysocki, P. Parks, and G. Schmidt, “Magnetized target fusion in a spheroidal geometry with standoff drivers,” in Proc. 2nd Int. Symp.— Current Trends International Fusion Research, E. Panarella, Ed., 1999, p. 113].
Funding for PLX-α research is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) under their Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA) program. The purpose of the ALPHA program is to develop tools to build foundations for new pathways to practical low cost, low complexity fusion energy technologies. Specifically, ALPHA is focused on approaches in the intermediate ion density regime between lower density magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and higher density inertial confinement fusion (ICF).
ARPA-E Energy Summit
HyperV and LANL participated in the ARPA-E Energy Summit Feb 29 – Mar 2 in Washington, D.C.