Astrophysics X-rays

44th Annual Meeting of the Division of Plasma Physics

More articles in Astrophysics

Working toward the vision of generating clean energy from nuclear fusion, researchers have successfully imploded fuel capsules by bombarding them with intense x-rays. The results show that the process generates significant fusion and that the implosion method looks capable of generating large-scale energy production.

Photograph of z-pinch-driven ICF capsule (on Lincoln penny)

The process works by bombarding two millimeter (about 1/16th inch) fuel capsules with intense x-rays from Sandia National Laboratories Z-pinch machine. The x-rays, impacting from all directions, cause an implosion that reduces the capsule’s size by a factor of ten (see images). This implosion needs to be symmetrical or else the capsules will break apart and fusion won’t take place. In one set of experiments, a high degree of symmetry has been achieved in the implosion process, indicating that the process might be scaled up to energy production levels. In another set of experiments using the Z-pinch, researchers observed significant production of neutrons, a sign of nuclear fusion.

X-ray images of imploding capsule

These successful experiments are an important step toward ignition, the level at which the fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining and excess energy can be drawn from the process for other applications.


Tom Mehlhorn, Sandia National Labs, 505-845-7266,
John Porter, 505-845-7526,