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Simulations indicate trouble for cone-guided fast ignition

Researchers at The Ohio State University have evaluated a two-stage process called 'Fast Ignition', in which a pellet of fusion fuel is first crushed by lasers on all sides, followed by fan ultra-intense burst of laser light to ignite a chain reaction. The researchers simulated a cone-guided approach to focus laser energy on the compressed pellet core, and concluded that it is unlikely to work.

The simulations pointed to the electric fields building up on the edge of the cone disturb the forward focus of the electrons. "The thicker the cone is, the further away the cone edge is from the laser, and as a result fewer energetic electrons are deflected forward, which is the crucial issue in making cone-guided Fast Ignition a viable approach.", said project leader Chris Orban in an article in e! science news.

This might push the research to other ways of igniting the fusion pellet, now that the plasma surrounding the cone is identified as problem-source.