Fusion Plasma Generator Performance Heats Up

Engineering 360 S. Himmelstein | 12 February 2018

The Norman fusion device. Source: TAE Technologies

Norman, the proprietary, beam-driven, field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasma generator developed by TAE Technologies, has set a new plasma temperature record for the California-based fusion energy technology company.

After more than 4,000 experiments to date, the generator has now exceeded the capabilities and performance of the company’s previous FRC plasma generator, C-2U. Norman is a $100 million national laboratory-scale device named after company founder Norman Rostoke. It was unveiled in May 2017 and reached first plasma in June.

Plasma must be hot enough to enable forceful enough collisions to cause fusion and sustain itself long enough so that the power may be harnessed. These are known as the ‘hot enough’ and ‘long enough’ milestones. The company achieved the ‘long enough’ component in 2015, after more than 100,000 experiments. A year later, the company began building Norman, its fifth-generation device, to further test plasma temperature increases in pursuit of ‘hot enough.’

TAE Technologies’ approach to fusion combines advanced accelerator and plasma physics, and uses abundant, non-radioactive hydrogenboron (pB-11) as a fuel source. The proprietary, magnetic, beam-driven FRC technology injects high-energy hydrogen atoms into the plasma to make the system more stable and better confined. This solution is compact and energy efficient, and is designed to yield a practical commercial power plant that is economically competitive with other energy technologies and provides continuous baseload power generation.