Z-Machine

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories' Z machine — the former dark horse among accelerators meant to produce conditions required for nuclear fusion — have increased the machine's X-ray power output by nearly 10 times in the last two years.

The most recent advance resulted in an output X-ray power of about 290 trillion watts — for billionths of a second, about 80 times the entire world's output of electricity.

The figure represents almost a 40 percent increase over the 210 trillion watts — itself a world record — reported last summer.

Strangely, the power used in each trial is only enough to provide electricity to about 100 houses for two minutes. Electricity is provided by ordinary wall current from a local utility company.

Yet particles imploded in the accelerator's tiny targets — about the size of a spool of thread — reach velocities that would fly a plane from Los Angeles to New York in a second.

Z's advance in power is expected to make a major contribution to the Department of Energy's (DOE) science-based approach to stockpile stewardship, which must use giant computing and laboratory experiments to provide the basis to sustain the nation's nuclear stockpile without above- or below-ground tests. This achievement resulted from advances in theory and experiments by a team involving DOE and Department of Defense labs, and universities.

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James A. Restucci is the author of this blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Internal License.

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