01 July 2005

Z tour

I got to tour the Z machine today. It turns out that the fusion experiments that they do are based on high-pressure plasma uniformly ablating the outside of a deuterium pellet (wait, how can deuterium be a pellet? a good question to ask). I think they said they only need to increase the current input by only a factor of 4 or so to reach the fusion break-even point. This only takes raw energy into account; it doesn't factor in thermodynamic inefficiencies or even the possible increase in energy they might get from using, say, a material that has an exothermic reaction with neutrons in the coolant.

The most interesting part was watching the assembly of the wires. They vary in size from 4 to 11 microns, and they (up to 600) must be assembled/threaded by hand (up to a 11 hour process). Apparently men don't have the patience/coordination to do it.

Each shot (about 220 a year) costs about $100 000 in people/equipment. Crazy.


dries said...

You don't think they could skip one of those shots and give me the $100,000 to pay for college, do you? :) (just wondering, you never know!)

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