Plasma Accelerator on the SSX

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Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Project Term:
09/28/2015 - 11/30/2019

Technology Description:

Swarthmore College, along with its partner Bryn Mawr College, will investigate a new kind of plasma fusion target that may offer improved stability at low cost and relatively low energy input. The research team will design and develop new modules that accelerate and evolve plasmas to create elongated structures known as Taylor states, which have helical magnetic field lines resembling a rope. These Taylor state structures exhibit interesting and potentially very beneficial properties upon compression, and could be used as a fusion target if they are able to maintain their temperatures and stability long enough to be compressed to fusion conditions. The new plasma-forming modules will be tested using the team’s existing Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment device (SSX), which has an advanced diagnostic suite and the capability to perform 100 experiments per day. This ability will enable rapid progress in understanding the behavior of these plasma plumes and illuminate their potential for use as new targets in the pursuit of fusion reactors.

Potential Impact:

If successful, Swarthmore’s work will introduce a new type of plasma fusion target, enabling a low-cost, rapid development path towards economical fusion power.


Swarthmore’s innovation could accelerate the development of cost-effective fusion reactors, which could provide a nearly limitless supply of domestic power and eliminate dependence on foreign sources of energy.


Fusion reactors offer nearly zero emissions and produce manageable waste products. If widely adopted, they could significantly reduce or nearly eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector


Swarthmore’s approach, if viable, could enable a low-cost path to fusion, reducing research costs to develop economical reactors.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Scott Hsu
Project Contact:
Dr. Michael Brown
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