Fusion Energy: An Alternative Generation Method
Fusion energy offers a potential source of energy that is carbon-free, safe and on-demand. While a few large-scale fusion energy projects have captured the majority of resources and attention over the last several decades, there’s been a recent resurgence in exploring alternative methods of generating fusion power. One example is the sheared-flow-stabilized Z-pinch (SFS ZP) concept incubated at the Univ. of Washington which Zap Energy is developing for commercial power. By taking advantage of the self-generated magnetic field in a linear conductive plasma, the SFS ZP configuration offers the promise of a compact fusion device with a simple geometry, unity beta, and without the need for superconducting magnetic field coils or high-powered lasers.
Recent experiments on Zap’s Fusion Z-pinch Experiment (FuZE) devices corroborate expected plasma stability and thermonuclear fusion reaction rates. Experimental campaigns are now underway to increase the pinch current, the stable plasma duration, and fusion neutron production. In addition to a robust experimental program pushing plasma performance towards net energy gain conditions, Zap Energy has parallel programs developing power handling systems suitable for future power plants. Technologies under development include high-average-power repetitive pulsed power, high-duty-cycle cathodes, and liquid metal wall systems.
This talk will provide an overview of Zap Energy, the SFS ZP fusion concept and its underlying physics, and a preview of the design of a commercial energy system based on SFS ZP which is currently in development by the Zap team.
About the speaker, Matthew Thompson of Zap Energy
Matthew Thompson is VP of Systems Engineering at Zap Energy. He leads a 35-person division tasked with increasing the technology readiness level of fusion power plant technologies including liquid metal first wall and blanket, durable cathodes, and repetitive pulsed power.
Dr. Thompson received his BS in physics from Stanford Univ., and his MS and PhD in experimental plasma physics are from the UCLA. He previously has worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, TAE Technologies, and BAE Systems. Dr. Thompson is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), past Chair of the APS Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics, and a past Chair of the APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development. He has also mentored dozens of STEM students, and co-founded a major mentoring program called IMPact. Matthew writes about career issues for physical scientists on his personal website and on his book website.