Inertial Confinement Fusion with Light Ion Beams

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Science  16 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4752, pp. 831-836
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4752.831


The Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator II (PBFA II) is presently under construction and is the only existing facility with the potential of igniting thermonuclear fuel in the laboratory. The accelerator will generate up to 5 megamperes of lithium ions at 30 million electron volts and will focus them onto an inertial confinement fusion (ICF) target after beam production and focusing have been optimized. Since its inception, the light ion approach to ICF has been considered the one that combines low cost, high risk, and high payoff. The beams are of such high density that their self-generated electric and magnetic fields were thought to prohibit high focal intensities. Recent advances in beam production and focusing demonstrate that these self-forces can be controlled to the degree required for ignition, break-even, and high gain experiments. ICF has been pursued primarily for its potential military applications. However, the high efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the light ion approach enhance its potential for commercial energy application as well.