San Diego Business Journal

General Atomics Scientist Participates in Nuclear Fusion Experiment

By Brad Graves Sunday, December 1, 2013

A scientist from a private San Diego company was part of a multinational effort to make nuclear fusion better suited for commercial power production.

Chinese, French, German and American scientists were able to sustain fusion for more than 30 seconds — a record time — in a specialized reactor in Hefei, China. Their work was described Nov. 17 in the journal Nature Physics. Gary Jackson of San Diego-based General Atomics was a co-author of the study.

Fusion takes place in a plasma inside a magnetic field. A specialized, doughnut-shaped reactor called a tokamak contains the magnetic field and the plasma. One trouble with the method is that the edge of the plasma becomes unstable. The paper describes a new way to keep that edge under control. This is accomplished through microwaves and a new treatment for the reactor’s lithium walls.

Jackson, the General Atomics physicist, is a specialist in plasma control. In a prepared statement, Jackson said that achieving a long, high-performance pulse was important, because that is what is necessary to connect to a power plant to generate electricity.

Privately held General Atomics does not disclose its revenue.