The Basic Physics
Engineers, scientists and physicists have long attempted to develop a fusion device or accelerator that would work here on Earth. Many think that the devices could help end the environmental destruction being caused by harmful byproducts from traditional energy sources. The fear is backed up by recent statistics that claim by mid-century, the atmosphere will likely contain 500 parts per million of CO2, while towards the end of this century, the effects of this will cause major ecological harm. Renewable sources like solar and wind won’t play a significant part in solving the problem, because they fluctuate too much and are difficult to store. The hope is to harness the immense energy produced by fusion reactions.
Researchers have already built lab devices that cause fusion reactions by compressing a fuel pellet that contains deuterium (D), an isotope of hydrogen easily extracted from seawater, and tritium (T), made from lithium, also available from sea water.
Similar to what happens in the sun or a star, when deuterium and tritium nuclei are fused at high temperatures and pressures, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron – and huge amounts of energy.
At such high temperatures, matter exists in a plasma state where electrically neutral atoms or molecules have been converted to electrically charged atoms or molecules (ions). The hot plasma must be confined for a sufficiently long period so that it does not cool down and for fusion to occur and produce energy.
Because the plasma is electrically charged and extremely hot, it has been found that the optimal mechanism to “cage” it is a strong magnetic field in the shape of a torus.
Scientists have built devices that produce temperatures more than ten times higher than in the sun and cause fusion reactions which produce megawatts of power for a few seconds.
One project trains lasers on a tiny fuel pellet of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. The pressure from the lasers compresses the fuel pellet which is inside of a cylinder until the deuterium and tritium fuse together, releasing a huge burst of energy.
The ongoing challenge has been to create a device where the amount of energy released by the fusion reaction is greater than the amount of energy that went into creating the fuel pellet. The next step is creating a fusion reaction that – like the reactions in the sun or stars – is self-sustaining, a point called “ignition.” In other words, the challenge is to create a self-sustaining, synthetic star.
In developing its accelerator, Sorlox attacked the problem from another direction. The first innovation was developing a spiral shaped compressor made from cast metal, which the company dubbed the Nautilus, for a more compact device about the size of a refrigerator.
Sorlox makes a plasma by taking deuterium gas and ionizing it using a high-strength magnetic field. The plasma is in the form of a current ring called a compact toroid. The magnetized plasma is launched into the Nautilus compressor and squished down from 1015 ions/cubic centimeter to 1018 ions/cubic centimeter. This is hot and dense enough to facilitate ignition.