Machine Design

20 mega amps in a can

Scientists at the DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory recently discharged about 20 mA of current through an aluminum cylindrical liner about the size and shape of a tuna can. The resulting high-speed implosion helped prove the Lab's Atlas pulsed-power facility is ready for research certifying the nuclear weapons stockpile.

As the electrical current surges through the giant Atlas power multiplier, it crushes targets at velocities high enough to escape the Earth's gravity, 22,000 mph or 10 times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet, creating pressures equal to those found at the center of the earth. During the few millionths of a second it operates at full strength, the electrical output of Atlas is nearly equal to four times the world's total electric power production.

The pulsedpower facility provides basic physics data to verify the computer codes used for weapon certification and to help scientists improve the models in those codes.

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