A new challenge in applied computational science and engineering
Projectile fusion is a new approach to inertially confined fusion (ICF) that is simpler, more energy efficient, and has lower physics risk. Inertial fusion is a pulsed process, like an internal combustion engine. Each target releases a large amount of energy. A pulsed approach gives great design flexibility, trading off energy per shot and frequency. Our aim is the lowest risk plant design possible. High energy per shot reduces physics risk, and slower frequency and small overall plant size reduce the engineering risk.
The key enabler is First Light’s unique new target technology. Successful target design is facilitated by rapid iteration. Enormous parameter spaces must be explored in a tractable and accurate way to identify robust optima. This is achieved by employing hierarchies of numerical model sophistication and fidelity, which generally trade-off execution time. Modern machine-learning approaches have the potential to tip this balance. Final target assessment comes from complex codes covering a vast range of physical scales and phenomena. Comprehensive verification and validation of these codes is essential to the system design cycle. Software quality must be assured at all times; algorithms must precisely represent the mathematical model and its solution, simulations must be reproducible, and the impact of code changes on historical results must be tracked. High software quality is essential to high scientific quality.
This approach has been successfully demonstrated in our experimental campaigns, most notably with the first ever observations of nuclear fusion from projectile driven targets.
Here is a press release and a news report on First Light's recent breakthrough.
Dr. Nathan Joiner, First Light Fusion, Yarnton, Oxfordshire
Dr Nathan Joiner, Head of Numerical Physics at First Light Fusion since 2017, oversees strategic development and qualification of a number of modelling and data science software tools with a team of 15 other scientists and engineers. Nathan obtained a PhD in Plasma Physics from Imperial College in 2005 for modelling microscale turbulence in Magnetically Confined Fusion (MCF) plasmas. After five years of postdoctoral research in Canada, he began an applied research career with Fluid Gravity Engineering, providing consultancy within the aerospace industry. This time was spent performing simulations and developing computational tools for the design and qualification of ballistic hypersonic vehicles, rocket motors, and demisable spacecraft. Nathan has contributed to a wide range of projects in collaboration with aerospace leaders including ESA, Thales, DLR, AWE, DSTL, Lockheed-Martin UK, Airbus DS, CIRA and numerous academic institutions.
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