Sandia’s Z-Pinch Machine
can create about 240 Trillion watts of energy, but only for a billionth of a second. Still that represents 80 times the worlds output of electricity. The z-pinch or zeta-pinch
refers to the confinement of plasma down the z-axis of a three dimensional graph which was used in the earliest experimental devices in England. This is used in fusion research by “pinching” the plasma to reach very high temperatures. Early versions proved unstable until the 1980s when researchers reconfigured the device to use tungsten wires rather than external magnets to create the pinching effect. In general, non-nuclear energy outputs are less than the inputs. Fusion energy output is higher than the input – in this case by a factor of four.
Sandia continues the research with their Z-machine
which is the world’s highest peak-current pulsed-powered device in the world. The key finding is that such a machine demonstrates the ability to generate very high temperatures with a much smaller machine than other facilities use. This means generating fusion at a potentially lower cost.