Initial tests at UK pulsed power device

WNN 29 August 2018

First Light Fusion (FLF) – a researcher of inertial confinement fusion – has successfully fired the first test ‘shot’ on one of the six limbs of its newly-constructed pulsed power device ‘Machine 3’.

A rendering of Machine 3 (Image: FLF)

FLF – based in Oxford, England – announced today that the first test ‘shot’ was fired in late July. The company said it was able to repeat the test a few days later after all parts of Machine 3 had been checked and the data produced analysed, “proving the limb functions as designed”.

Machine 3 will be capable of discharging up to 200,000 volts and in excess of 14 million ampere – the equivalent of nearly 500 simultaneous lightning strikes – within two microseconds, FLF said. The GBP3.6 million (USD4.6 million) machine will use some 3km of high voltage cables and another 10km of diagnostic cables.

Machine 3 will be used to further research FLF’s technology as the company seeks to achieve first fusion. The company uses a high-velocity projectile to create a shockwave to collapse a cavity containing plasma inside a ‘target’. The design of these targets is the company’s “technical USP”, FLF said.

“These were test shots but are very important nevertheless because they were the first ‘end-to-end’ tests of Machine 3,” said Nicholas Hawker, founder and CEO of FLF. “The successful outcome de-risks the rest of the project because it was based on one of the six limbs of the device. The other five limbs are exact replicas of the one we tested.”

He added, “It was a fantastic achievement for the team to be able to fire the first test shot just five months from the beginning of construction of what will be a unique facility once fully commissioned. There is nothing else like it in the world.”

The next step in the technological development will be to achieve gain, whereby the amount of energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction, FLF said.

Machine 3 – the only pulsed power machine of its scale in the world dedicated to researching fusion energy – remains on schedule to be commissioned by the end of this year.

FLF Ltd, was spun out from the University of Oxford in July 2011, with seed capital from the IP Group plc, Parkwalk Advisors Ltd and a number of angel investors. Until May 2014, the company was named Oxyntix Ltd.