The plasma focus device, a form of linear pinch discharge, produces an intense x-ray and neutron (D2) burst from a magnetically heated dense plasma. Rapidly changing magnetic fields at pinch time generate large axial electric fields which accelerate electrons and ions. In the experiments reported here the x-ray production during the plasma pinch of a 96 kilojoule (at 20 kV) plasma focus device was measured.
The purpose of these experiments was to evaluate the energy in accelerated electrons in the plasma focus device and to learn how to enhance these electron hursts. Well focused, megampere electron beams at a few hundred kilovolts, lasting less than 10 nanoseconds have applications in fusionable pellet heating experiments. (1) X-rays were monitored to evaluate these electron bursts using a defocusing bent crystal spectrometer, doubly diffused silicon (PIN) detectors, with Ross filters, thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLDs) with filters, and x-ray pinhole photography.
Thermoluminescent dosimeters indicated maximum x-ray yields of 140 joules above 3 keV at 57.3 kilojoules stored energy (16 kV) for a conversion efficiency to x-rays of 0.2%. 40 joules are above 60 keV and 15 joules above 80 keV. The hard x-ray pulse typically rises in 3 ns and frequently has a pulse width less than 10 ns. The low energy x-ray spectrum consists almost entirely of lines from the high Z anode insert, and the high energy spectrum is characteristic of a nonthermal power law distribution with an exponent of 2.2 ± 0.8. Peak hard x-ray production is obtained at 1 torr deuterium in contrast to peak neutron production (3 x 1010) at 5 torr. The addition of argon reduces total x-ray yield and increases the relative fraction of soft x-rays.
These measurements suggest that the plasma focus produces 1200 joules of electrons with an average energy of 150 keV, in 10 nanoseconds with a stored energy of 57.3 kilojoules. This is a power of 1.2 × 1011 watts and power density of 1.5 × 1013 watts cm−2.