• First Light deepens relationship with Sandia National Laboratories as it conducts its first fusion experiment on its ‘Z’ Machine this month
  • First Light’s amplifier design broke the pressure record last year on its Gas Gun by a factor of 5 – recording the highest attainable pressure ever
  • The company has been granted two additional experiments on the ‘Z’ machine in 2025 as it doubles down on exploring the limits of its amplifier technology

13 FEBRUARY 2024, Oxford UK – First Light Fusion (“First Light”), the world’s leading inertial fusion start-up, has been awarded two additional shots on the on the ‘Z Machine’ at Sandia National Laboratories (“Sandia”) next year, as the UK fusion leader deepens its partnership with the US government-funded research organisation.

The two additional shots will follow First Light’s first later this month (February 2024) when it will make history as the first private fusion company to conduct an experiment on Sandia’s ‘Z Machine’ in New Mexico. First Light is the only privately-funded fusion company to have this unprecedented access to the Z Machine.

The Z Machine is the most powerful pulsed power facility in the world. Using high magnetic fields, it produces pressures that can release up to 80 trillion watts of electricity in one, single ‘shot’. To compare, all the power plants in the world combined generate around 15 trillion watts. The Oxford-based pioneer will leverage that colossal power to fire a projectile at its unique amplifier technology, which has unlocked a new and proven method of inertial fusion.

Additional shots were awarded to First Light after its amplifier technology successfully broke the quartz pressure record on Sandia’s two-stage light-gas gun by a factor of 5 in June 2023, increasing the attainable pressure from 200 Gigapascals (GPa) to 1080 GPa. This pressure is equivalent to 2.5x the pressure of the Earth’s centre.

First Light is focusing on exploring the limits of its unique amplifier technology. Access to the Z Machine will allow First Light access to pressure regimes that simply aren’t possible anywhere else in the world, including on its own pulsed power machine, Machine 3, one the largest machines of its kind in Europe.

Funded by the US Department of Energy, Sandia allows the Z Machine to be used for multiple high-energy density research fields in stockpile stewardship science and other forms of energy generation. It fires around 200 shots per year.

Founded in 2011, First Light is the leading private inertial company in the world, and the only inertial fusion company with proven technology, as well as simulation and target design capabilities. It’s unique approach of inertial fusion is based on its amplifier technology that can amplify and increase a small amount of pressure from the impact of a projectile to generate the pressures required for fusion. Rather than expensive lasers, First Light uses a projectile fired from a pulsed power machine as its driver.

Dr Nick Hawker, Founder & CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “We are truly excited to deepen our partnership with Sandia and continue to access the Z Machine.

“There’s no comparable facility anywhere on the planet. Having access to it is phenomenally important for us as we continue to explore the limits of what our unique amplifier technology can do.

“Practically, leveraging the Z Machine allows us to test our amplifiers at pressures we can’t access anywhere else. We know our amplifier technology works for fusion, and we know through our simulation platform what we think our amplifiers can achieve. Working with Sandia will allow us to demonstrate it.

“The better our amplifier technology works, the more effective in terms of cost and engineering the pathway becomes to commercialising fusion through the development of a power plant. The physics of inertial fusion works; ignition – the process of self-sustaining a fusion reaction to generate more energy – has been proven. The challenge and focus now is being able to build the technology to commercialise it.”