The Fusion Torch is a concept for the application of ultra-high temperature plasmas found in fusion research
devices and future fusion reactors. Because of the special properties of fusion plasmas it is possible to reduce any
material to its basic elements for separation. This effectively closes the cycle from use to reuse. The fusion
torch concept envisioned the use of fusion torches on an industrial scale in order to reuse any material that has been
used by reducing it to the elements it was made of. It effectively reduces the number of separation steps from
hundreds of thousands to a maximum of the number of elements.
By the year 2,000 the population of the United States will have grown to an estimated 315 million. With a
population of this magnitude, a highly industrialized society such as ours will demand large amounts of
energy and will generate large amounts of wastes while it consumes its finite supplies of raw materials.
We suggest that thermonuclear fusion reactors could essentially solve the urban problems of energy,
waste disposal and raw materials supply.
We propose a number of concepts. First, that the energy of a fusion plasma be used as an ultra-high
temperature torch (fusion torch)(1) to close the basic link from user back to resource. This would be
accomplished by vaporizing and ionizing solids (for example ores or waste products) in the plasma and
then separating the elements from the mixture of ionized species. A fusion plasma is able to vaporize
solids easily by the propagation of shock waves. This is because of the plasma's tremendously large flux
of random kinetic energy and its high thermal conductivity. (Conventional plasma arcs cannot supply this
much energy. Arc work is noted in the literature (2,3,4,5)
Second, we show that the plasma can be used to radiantly heat bulk fluids and thus permit entirely new
approaches to such important goals as desalination. This is accomplished by producing intense
ultraviolet radiation from high Z material injected in the plasma. The transparency of the plasma to these
wavelengths and its "coronal" properties lead to this possibility.
Other applications of the fusion torch, such as it s use in plasma chemistry are also treated. In brief, we
indicate a tremendous range of fusion plasma applications. These applications are made possible
because of the unique properties of such an environment."
"Ultra-high temperature plasmas are available now, although at a cost in energy. Little thought
has gone into their potential use for industrial applications, nor has much imaginative thought
gone into taking full advantage of the unique properties of fusion plasmas that will be
available in future controlled thermonuclear energy sources. While not attempting to minimize
the large amount of research both on fusion itself and on fusion torch physics, it is
entertaining to speculate on the vision this concept provides of the future-large cities, operated
electrically by clean, safe fusion reactors that eliminate the city's waste products and generate
the city's raw materials.
The vision is there, its attainment does not appear to be blocked by nature. Its achievement
will depend on the will and the desire of men to see that it is brought about."
In 1969, the United States had the largest program in fusion research in the world. Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
had a large Stellarator device. Los Alamos National Laboratory was pursuing Theta Pinches. Oak Ridge National
Laboratory had the DCX-2, a large accelerator driven mirror device. Lawrence Livermore Laboratory had the Astron and
plasma mirrors. This vigorous research program was still five orders of magnitude away from the physical confinement
parameters it needed for breakeven. (Obtaining as much energy from the plasma as was required to produce the plasma.
The Soviet Union had a small device called the "Tokamak" which was looking increasingly promising.
An article in the Journal of Applied Physics,
4919-4920, 1967 described experiments by
Bernard Eastlund et al on separation of
elements using a plasma and a magnetic
field. A hot plate ionized beams of alkali
metals that were contaminated with
cadmium and barium.. The ions were
transported along the plasma column while
the elements with higher ionization
potentials were lost to a solid angle.
A variety of applications of low temperature plasmas were under development. The key part of a fluorescent light is a low
temperature plasma. Westinghouse was developing high power arcs.