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Pulsed power is the science and technology of accumulating energy over a relatively long period of time and releasing it very quickly, thus increasing the instantaneous power.
Steady accumulation of energy followed by its rapid release can result in the delivery of a larger amount of instantaneous power over a shorter period of time (although the total energy is the same). Energy is typically stored within electrostatic fields (capacitors), magnetic fields (inductor), as mechanical energy (using large flywheels connected to special purpose high current alternators), or as chemical energy (high-current lead-acid batteries, or explosives). By releasing the stored energy over a very short interval (a process that is called energy compression), a huge amount of peak power can be delivered to a load. For example, if one joule of energy is stored within a capacitor and then evenly released to a load over one second, the peak power delivered to the load would only be 1 watt. However, if all of the stored energy were released within one microsecond, the peak power would be one megawatt, a million times greater. Examples where pulsed power technology is commonly used include radar, particle accelerators, ultrastrong magnetic fields, fusion research, electromagnetic pulses, and high power pulsed lasers.
Pulsed Power was first developed during World War II for use in Radar. Radar requires short high power pulses. After the war development continued in other applications leading to the super pulsed power machines at Sandia National Laboratories (above).
Triple-threat – lasers, magnets and a big pinch – sparks hope for fusion Nature News & Comment 30 December 2013
The Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico discharges the most intense pulses of electrical current on Earth. Millions of amperes can be sent towards a metallic cylinder the size of a pencil eraser, inducing a magnetic field that creates a force — called a Z pinch — that crushes the cylinder in a fraction of a second.
Since 2012, scientists have used the Z pinch to implode cylinders filled with hydrogen isotopes in the hope of achieving the extreme temperatures and pressures needed for energy-generating nuclear fusion. Despite their efforts, they have never succeeded in reaching ignition — the point at which the energy gained from fusion is greater than the energy put in. But after tacking on two more components, physicists think they are at last on the right path.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Z Machine is the worlds largest X-ray generator. When discharged, for a brief period of about 70 nanoseconds, the Z machine releases 80 times the electrical output used by the entire planet. One of its main objectives is to study the conditions of extreme temperature and pressure, with the hope of solving the practical difficulties in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion. The temperatures reached in the Z Machine (up to 3.7 billion kelvins) are well beyond those required for standard hydrogen, deuterium and tritium fusion. This could potentially allow for the fusion of light hydrogen atoms with heavier atoms, such as lithium and boron. These fusion reactions would not produce neutrons, which means they would not produce radioactivity or nuclear waste, which would provide a far cleaner and more efficient source of power than is currently available.