Fusion Innovations

Launching a new era in Naval aviation

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is now replacing the Navy's steam catapults on aircraft carriers. Using the electromagnetic system will lower operating costs and improve catapult performance. The enabling innovation by General Atomics came from fusion research development of precision control of sequencing magnets. For EMALS, that precision enables enormous propulsion capacity and expands the range of manned and unmanned aircraft that carriers can now launch.

Cutting the cost of carbon fiber

Oak Ridge National Lab researchers developed a more efficient system for microwave plasma processing of carbon fiber at half the cost. Potential commercial applications include:

  • Automotive: Lighter weight material can improve vehicle performance
  • Wind turbine blades: Enabling longer and lighter weight blades to increase efficiency
  • Electronics and consumer goods: Ability to strengthen and cut weight for components of communications electronics and sporting goods.

Anti-terrorism technology

Princeton researchers developed the MINDS anti-terrorism device: Miniature Integrated Nuclear Detection System. It's used to scan moving vehicles, luggage, cargo vessels, and the like for specific nuclear signatures associated with materials employed in radiological weapons. The device developed by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory can be used to detect transportation of unauthorized nuclear materials. It works by detecting X-rays, gamma rays and neutrons. Radionuclides can be recognized and differentiated from one another since each has a distinctive energy signature or fingerprint. The device is already in operation at a U.S. military base and at a major rail and bus commuter center – technology working to make America safer.

World's most compact superconducting cable

Oak Ridge researchers worked with industry to develop high-temperature superconducting power cables. The technology can help electric utilities deliver more power with greater voltage control at high-current densities and fewer transmission losses. Result: Reduced need for additional transmission towers or new underground rights-of-way.

Saving the public from food poisoning

Princeton Plasma Physics Lab fusion researchers working with the USDA have developed a novel technique for rapidly pasteurizing eggs right in the shell – in a fraction of the time of conventional methods. And in a major breakthrough, Princeton's technology works without damaging the delicate egg white. The process could reduce illnesses from egg-borne salmonella bacteria, a widespread public health concern. The new method uses radio frequency (RF) energy to transmit heat through the shell.

Making cancer treatment more available

Developing advanced superconducting coils for fusion research at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center has led to important innovation in cancer treatment through proton beam radiotherapy. In this medical application, proton beams can be more precisely shaped to the size and thickness of tumors and leave surrounding tissue unharmed. MIT researchers developed a compact, superconducting, high-field synchrocyclotron that is about 40-times smaller, lighter (about 25 tons) and an order of magnitude less expensive than conventional magnet technology machinery, enabling more hospitals to provide the therapy. They are working on reducing the weight by almost another order of magnitude, by eliminating all iron from the design.

Providing 10-times the drilling power

During the course of plasma research, MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center developed millimeter- wave sources so powerful they could increase deep hard rock penetration rates, going deeper than current methods. Deep drilling into hard rock is done to access geothermal energy resources and natural gas, to mine precious metals and to explore nuclear waste storage options – a difficult and expensive process. MIT-pioneered millimeter wave drilling could help foster sustainable engineered geothermal systems, contributing to the world's energy needs.

New discoveries from fastest X-ray camera

DIXI captures an image in 5 picoseconds or 5 trillionths of a second. The General Atomics-developed technology is now installed on the National Ignition Facility laser and successfully capturing highresolution images of inertial confinement fusion. DIXI's eye is now revealing new features of the dynamics never before seen by researchers, a vital technology aiding scientific progress toward ignition.