Letter to Bill and Melinda Gates
Plasma-Jet-Driven Magneto-Inertial-Fusion (PJMIF) was originally conceived in the late 1990s by Dr. Y. C. Francis Thio at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), where he initiated a R&D program in PJMIF. After Thio joined the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fusion Energy Sciences in late 2002, development of PJMIF was quickly expanded under Thio’s program leadership with DOE sponsorship. This included further system and modeling studies (at several institutions), further plasma-jet-technology development (at HyperV Technologies Corp. led by Dr. F. Douglas Witherspoon), and, in 2009, the initiation of the Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). In all cases, the PJMIF-related funding awards were made after competitive peer review conducted by DOE.
With Dr. Scott C. Hsu as principal investigator, PLX is the experimental facility for developing a suitable plasma-liner compression driver for PJMIF. The vacuum chamber shown above, with Dr. Hsu (2nd from left) standing next to Tom and Jeremy Tamarkin (3rd and 4th from left) along with two other LANL employees, was transferred from MSFC to LANL in 2010.
PJMIF is unique among low-cost magneto-inertial fusion concepts (e.g., compared to General Fusion or Helion) in having both reactor-friendly attributes (i.e., non-destructive liner compression enabling high shot rate and attractive power-plant economics) and high implosion velocity for overcoming plasma-target thermal-loss rates (an Achilles heel in 60+ years of controlled-fusion research). Led by LANL and HyperV Technologies Corp., the PJMIF effort was recently one of just nine projects selected for funding by ARPA-E’s new ALPHA program, which is aimed at seeding potentially transformative, low-cost, and high-shot-rate development pathways to economical fusion power. An objective of ARPA-E is to partner the PJMIF team with private investors for aggressive PJMIF development during or beyond the ALPHA program.