Sheared Flow Stabilized Z-Pinch Performance Improvement

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Seattle, Washington
Project Term:
07/01/2020 - 06/30/2023

Critical Need:

Controlled fusion has long been thought of as an ideal energy source—safe, clean, abundant, and dispatchable. Fusion is on the cusp of demonstrating net positive energy gain, spurring interest in both the public and private sectors to adopt a more aggressive development path toward a timely, grid-ready demonstration. A critical need today is to increase the performance levels and the number of lower-cost fusion approaches that might eventually lead to commercial fusion energy with competitive capital cost and levelized cost of energy. To address this need, the BETHE program supports (1) advancing the performance of earlier-stage, lower-cost concepts, (2) component-technology development to lower the cost of more-mature concepts, and (3) capability teams to assist multiple concept teams in theory, modeling, and diagnostic measurements.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

A Z-pinch fusion device has an electrical current driven through the fusion fuel, creating self-generated magnetic fields that compress and heat the fuel toward fusion conditions. While a Z-pinch with no equilibrium flows has rapidly growing instabilities that disrupt the plasma within nanoseconds, the Z-pinch can be stabilized if an axial plasma flow varying strongly enough with radius is introduced. This sheared-flow stabilized (SFS) Z-pinch may be the simplest and most compact of all known controlled-fusion approaches, as it does not require magnetic coils nor any external heating systems other than the source to drive the electrical current. Under the ALPHA and OPEN 2018 programs, the SFS Z-pinch provided evidence of a fusion triple product exceeding 1017 keV s/m3, a factor of 50 increase in 3–4 years. This project will enable Zap Energy to build a more versatile SFS Z‑pinch device to eventually allow for independent control of the plasma formation and acceleration stages. They will use the new device to advance their triple product toward breakeven conditions.

Potential Impact:

Accelerating and lowering the costs of fusion development and eventual deployment will enable fusion energy to contribute to:


Fusion energy will ensure the U.S.’s technological lead and energy security.


Fusion energy will improve our chances of meeting growing global clean-energy demand and realizing cost-effective, net-zero carbon emissions, while minimizing pollution and avoiding long-lived radioactive waste.


As a disruptive technology, fusion energy will likely create new markets, opportunities, and export advantages for the U.S.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Ahmed Diallo
Project Contact:
Dr. Brian Nelson
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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