Low-Impurity, Electrode-less Pre-ionizer Plasma Gun for Innovative Confinement Concepts

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Eagle Harbor Technologies, Inc.
169 Western Ave W Suite 263
Seattle, WA 98119
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Washington
Department of Aeronautics&Astronautics, Box 352250
Seattle, WA 98195


Innovative Confinement Concepts (ICC), like the spheromak and the field reversed configuration (FRC), provide an opportunity to study magnetic confinement in geometries other than the tokamak and may provide an alternative path to fusion energy. Many ICCs require a pre-ionizer or plasma injector in order to improve shot-to-shot repeatability. A pre-ionizer must meet several critical criteria so that it does not interfere with the experiment including high ionization percentage, low impurity production, injection from a remote location and low electromagnetic interference. An example of this need is seen in the Helicity Injected Torus with Steady Inductive current drive (HIT-SI) at the University of Washington. HIT-SI is designed to study the process of magnetic relaxation that generates an axisymmetric spheromak equilibrium from a nonaxisymmetric helicity injection configuration. The current pre-ionizer for HIT-SI utilizes a RF antenna operating at 13.56 MHz and the pre-ionizer violates all the desirable characteristics listed above. To operate HIT-SI in the desired operational regime a new solution for the production highly-ionized, low impurity starter plasma is now required. Recent experimental work on the High Power Helicon eXperiment (HPHX) at the University of Washington and Eagle Harbor Technologies (EHT) has lead to development of an electrode-less inductive plasma source that produces highly ionized low-impurity plasma that may be an ideal solution for producing the necessary pre-ionizer plasma desired by the HIT-SI and other ICC experiments. The proposed work seeks to investigate and design an upgraded plasma gun for this purpose and to conduct testing of the concept at the University of Washington. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: In the fusion science community, a high power inductive plasma gun that provides a directed, high energy plasma beam could be a replacement for several arc plasma sources used for plasma heating schemes, startup and refueling and current drive applications. The inductive coil geometry of the helicon source allow for electrode-less high density plasma production removing issues of electrode impurities. The unique nature of the downstream whistler wave has many similarities to the RMF current drive used in several confinement concepts for the generation of fusion energy and additional research into this area could provide increased capabilities in this area.