The three pictures at the top of the page are from my personal collection. They are dramatic evidence from my own experience for the fact of American withdrawal from outstanding technical excellence. Part of the reason for this blog is to explore how and when our retreat from scientific achievement has occurred.
The left two images are from the DIII-D tokamak fusion facility at General Atomics Co and date back more than 25 years. A tokamak is a torus, a donut shaped chamber with magnetic coils wrapped vertically through the hole, the short way about the torus. The left most image shows three people next to a spare magnetic field coil. This is a great way to see DIII-D’s size. The next picture is DIII-D just prior to its first plasma in 1986. You can see the sets of coils that loop through the donut hole and enclose the torus. DIII-D is not the last tokamak to come on-line in the USA, but it is one of the last survivors here in America still doing productive research work. Even today, it is one of the major facilities in the world. This is both a tribute to the engineering done in the 1970’s (and 1980’s) and an indictment of America’s intent to survive in a world of depleting energy supplies.
The right-most image is a photograph of a target shot at the KMS Fusion, Inc. Chroma laser facility, taken about 1988 or ’89. KMS developed the Chroma laser in the early 1970’s and set early records in target implosion using a special “direct drive” configuration. The star-burst of light is where two beams focus on a foil target and generate the plasma. Laser fusion is one of several different ways to achieve inertial confinement fusion (ICF). Chroma was declared unnecessary and excess equipment in 1990 and decommissioned. 2/3 of it was moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory where it became a proud tool, an important instrument for studying basic laser interaction with matter, vital to national interests. KMS Fusion closed its doors, turned off its lights, and dismissed nearly 21 top physicists and another 50 committed engineers.
The loss of will to continue both magnetic fusion and ICF will be covered in some detail in future posts. (“Loss of will” may be a surprise to some Readers – but there is no better description, as we discuss in the postings.)
Interested in a larger copy of any of the Banner pictures? Click the [LastTechAge] button under the banner, then About The LastTechAge and send an email request. I will respond with the image.
Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor 2010
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