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Fusion start-up co-founder presents seminar on May 26

May 19, 2023 - by Kim Delker

Brian Riordan, co-founder and COO of Avalanche Energy, a fusion start-up that received $40 million in venture funding in March, will be presenting a seminar May 26 at The University of New Mexico.

The seminar will be at 11 a.m. in Electrical Engineering Building, Room 118. Both students and faculty are encouraged to attend.

Riordan will be presenting "Electrostatic Orbitron Fusion Reactor: An Overview." The abstract of his talk is below.

The promise of fusion energy has long eluded physicists and engineers, leading to the decades-old joke that “fusion is 30 years away and always will be.” Since the 1950s thermonuclear fusion architectures have dominated the field of fusion research and the experiments have been largely within the domain of large government research labs or smaller university programs. Recent private sector investment in fusion technologies (over $3B in 2021 alone) has both increased the number of fusion endeavors and broadened interest in novel reactor architectures beyond tokamaks and laser inertial confinement. Avalanche Energy is pursuing a novel approach to fusion in their hybrid electro-static architecture- a micro reactor called the Orbitron. In an Orbitron, fusion ions are electrostatically confined in crossing elliptical orbits, with each crossing event a potential fusion reaction. This ion confinement scheme is similar to the Orbitrap mass spectrometer that was invented by Dr. Alexander Makarov 20 years ago. In the Orbitron the orbiting ion density is increased beyond space charge limits by co-confined electrons which are magnetically confined in a "crossed field" magnetron-type motion. Orbitrons are interesting plasma confinement devices that may have applications as small-scale bright neutron sources (>10^14 neutrons/s) and possibly even fusion energy generation. In this talk, we will discuss the Orbitron physics, recent advancements in theory, simulation and experiments and the remaining technical challenges.