Powerful New Accelerator Named ‘Thor’ Will Crush Materials With The Force Of 1 Million Atmospheres

An extremely powerful, yet more compact, new accelerator at the Sandia National Laboratories will smash objects with the force of 1 million atmospheres. This force is equivalent to the pressure found at the center of the Earth and will be accomplished in an accelerator that is five times smaller, but 40 times more efficient than the laboratories Z machine which holds the spot as the world’s most powerful pulsed-powered accelerator.

The Sandia National Laboratories notes that Thor will crush materials at 1 million atmospheres giving scientists the ability to examine materials under extreme conditions.

“Thor’s magnetic field will reach about one million atmospheres, about the pressures at Earth’s core.”

Though 1 million atmospheres worth or pressure is impressive, it doesn’t come close to the Z machine’s ability to produce 5 million atmospheres of pressure. However, Thor is much smaller in size than the Z machine and will run up to 40 times more efficiently than its larger counterpart as it runs off of hundreds of small capacitors instead of the few large ones running the Sandia Z machine.

Researchers at the Sandia facility hope to be able to take design aspects of the Thor that work well and apply them to the Z machine to create the ultimate accelerator. One major benefit of Thor over the Z machine being the smaller capacitors small switches.

“A major benefit in efficiency is that while Z’s elephant-sized capacitors require large switches to shorten the machine’s electrical pulse from a microsecond to 100 nanoseconds, with its attendant greater impact, the small switches that service Thor’s capacitors discharge current in a 100-nanosecond pulse immediately, obviating energy losses inevitable when compressing a long pulse.”

Aside from the energy saving benefits, the smaller switches make it easier for researchers to observe materials while inside the accelerator. Scientists working on the materials projects note that materials must be introduced in a specific manner so that they are not “shocked” out of their solid state. If a solid material is pulsed incorrectly it will turn to a hot liquid rather than remain in its solid state. This makes it impossible for scientists to study the true behavior of the object under pressure. Therefore, with smaller switches, the team will be able to better control the pulse shapes making it possible to tailor the pulses even more precisely.

According to the Daily Mail, the Thor is also beneficial in that it doesn’t take up as much space. Thor is just 2,000 square feet in size, whereas the Z machine takes up an astonishing 10,000 square feet. The team at Sandia hopes that the improvements in the Thor accelerator can be used on the Z machine to create thermonuclear ignition, resulting in high-yield fusion as a means of green energy.

Likewise, Thor was also designed as a means to a more compact accelerator that could be utilized in a university setting, unlike the Z machine. What do you think about the idea of thermonuclear ignition and fusion energy as a means of green energy? What about Thor machines being built at universities around the globe?

[Image via Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratory]