A GREEN energy researcher has installed the UK’s biggest ‘Two-Stage Hyper-Velocity Gas Gun’ in efforts to develop a simpler, faster, and cheaper route to commercial fusion energy.

First Light Fusion is an Oxford-based lab that aims to create clean energy using fusion technology.

The lab’s new 22 metre £1.1 million hyper-velocity gas gun can fire a projectile at 6.5 kms per second - 20 times the speed of sound - using up to 3 kg of gun powder.

First Light has successfully fired first test shots, with fusion experimental shots on the new device set to start in June.

The new gun will complement First Light’s electromagnetic propulsion device ‘Machine 3’ to advance its projectile fusion technology.

How does it work?

The gas gun works by converting the energy released from an ignited propellant into the compression of a light gas, such as hydrogen.

This process creates gas pressures about 10,000 times atmospheric pressure which then launches the projectile.

When the gun is fired it will launch a projectile into a vacuum chamber at huge speed impacting a fusion target which is the centrepiece of First Light’s unique technology.

That impact aims to create the conditions required for fusion.

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These ‘hyper velocity’ devices are typically used by astrophysicists to simulate meteorite impacts, and a similar gun was used to test the panels on the International Space Station to ensure it could withstand impact from small objects travelling at massive speed.

The gun will be used in parallel with First Light’s ‘Machine 3’ and will allow engineers to explore a different parameter space by launching larger but ‘slower’ projectiles.

The new gun will be housed in a specifically constructed 10mm steel clad facility within First Light’s headquarters in Oxford, nicknamed ‘The Citadel’.

Oxford Mail:

Dr Nick Hawker, CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “This new gun is an important piece of kit for First Light Fusion and will help us accelerate our development timeline. It will complement the work we are doing with our unique electromagnetic launch pulsed power machine, Machine 3.

“Our fusion technology is driven by the impact of a projectile travelling at significant speed into a fusion target. These targets trade pressure and size, amplifying the pressure from initial impact to final collapse of the fuel capsule, which is a small part of the whole target.

“This new gun will deliver lower pressure than Machine 3, so we will have to rely on designs that amplify more. The larger size means we can do this and still get good performance.

“With both facilities together, we can make more than twice as much progress on the most important aspect of our technology, which is the target. Thank you to everyone for their efforts in bringing this project together so quickly, it has been a fantastic team effort once again.”

The two-stage gas gun project took only 10 months from concept design to delivering a fully operational test facility.

First Light has said this shows the great focus and effectiveness of their team.

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