Z Machine Firing

Z machine firing


Flashes of electricity crackle across the surface of the Z Pulsed Power Facility as it fires during an experiment. Informally known as the “Z machine”, this creates conditions found nowhere else on Earth. A ring of 3 metre long capacitors is used to store huge amounts of electricity. These are discharged all at once in a pulse lasting about 100 nanosecond (a ten millionth of a second) which is concentrated through a cylindrical tungsten wire target. This collapses due to a process called ‘Z-pinch’, creating a plasma with temperatures of two billion degrees Celsius and pressures of 90 million atmospheres. Such extreme conditions make the plasma emit very intense high-energy X-rays. Experiments conducted at the Z machine include extreme physics, nuclear fusion and the long-term stability of nuclear weapons. 

Image © Randy Montoya, Sandia National Laboratories


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