My job can be pretty awesome. Today was one of those really special days. I visited the Air Force Research Laboratory's Shiva Star. It is the Air Force’s largest pulsed power system. Shiva Star will store nearly 10 million joules of energy (equal to 5 pounds of TNT). It produces a pulse of 120,000 volts and 10 million amps in one millionth of a second to produce a power flow equivalent to a terawatt.
Shiva Star has evolved from a 1 mega joule system in 1975, a 2 mega joule system in 1979, to its final form as a 10 mega joule system in 1982. Shiva Star has been used over the years for many different types of experiments such as pulse compression to increase energy in the pulse, plasma liner implosion for production of xrays, solid liner implosions to compress matter to high density and pressure, compact toroids for generating high energy plasmas, and simulation of explosive pulsed power generators. In addition, the facility is used for diagnostics of high-energy pulsed power systems by using magnetic probe arrays, laser interferometry, time and space-resolved optical spectroscopy, x-ray grazing incidence, photodiode array spectroscopy, x-ray pinhole photography, and fast optical photography.
Today they were setting it up to conduct an experiment where they will attempt to fuse plasma and aluminum and achieve fusion. It's not easy. And this device can make quite a boom. On one occasion the Shiva Star facility's roof was partially blown off. "Oops, we might want to dial that down next time."
It was truly fascinating to watch these scientists and researchers work hard to understand fusion science.