Desktop fusion in sights for researchers at University of Sydney

3 November 2011

Matthew Carr, a PhD student in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney has published research into a desktop device for studying fusion. Matthew has helped uncover some of the basic principles behind the fusion device called a Polywell, and brought the technology a step closer to being understood with impressive modeling and exciting plans for future research.

The paper was published in the American Institute of Physics Physics of Plasmas Journal in November 2011. It discusses how the Polywell uses a unique magnetic field structure to create a magnetic bottle structure that confines fusion plasmas. Electrons are then injected in to the device at high energy and are confined in the magnetic field structure, effectively creating a deep potential well. Ions are both confined and accelerated by the potential well to fusion energies.

The research aims to investigate alternative ways to create nuclear fusion on different scales in comparison to much larger international experiments such as the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom and the planned ITER experiment in France.

The research leader Associate Professor Joe Khachan said "These experiments had early success and have proven their status as the way forward to demonstrable fusion power plant, but it is an inherently large design that require enormous budgets to build. We would like to find out if it is possible to build a fusion device on a smaller scale."

"The Polywell will allow us to study fusion plasmas on a small scale that is difficult to do with other technologies," said Matthew.

"Our experiments aim to show the physics of fusion plasma confinement on the small scale, as well as discover their potential for a role in international fusion research."

The research is in the early stages, but has already gathered some international interest. Although the fusion device is not efficient enough to create usable power, the experimental confinement of electrons in the potential well matches the simulations and paves the way for further developments in Polywell physics.

"Once electrons are confined in the Polywell for a certain time, they can release energy by capturing and imparting energy to nuclei through fusion" said Matthew

Experiments so far have created enough electron confinement to generate potential wells up to 100V. Future work aims to increase the electron confinement enough to create a potential well many thousands of Volts, which would produce enough fusion reactions to enable comparisons with other fusion devices.

Contact: Tom Gordon

Phone: 02 9351 3201

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