First Advisor

Erik Sánchez

Term of Graduation

Fall 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Physics






Inertial confinement fusion



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 153 pages)


While most of the fusion energy research is focused on magnetic confinement, there have been several alternative confinement methods aimed at the development of smaller and less expensive reactors. A number of these devices utilize a spherically convergent beam of recirculating ions, a technique known as inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC). This study looks at several aspects of IEC devices, including measurements of the fusion rate of an IEC device with a wire mesh electrode cathode, and a solid titanium cathode. In addition, several computational studies were performed to explore the possibilities for IEC fusion. These include development of a 1D-1P finite volume solver for the time dependent Vlasov equation, a steady-state Vlasov model, and a 1D-3V particle-in-cell (PIC) model.

The computational models were applied to a system similar to the ion-injected device described by Hirsch who reported a neutron production rate for deuterium-deuterium reactions in the range of 106 to 107 neutrons per second. The results of these studies were qualitatively consistent with work by Baxter and Stuart, though a new numerical scheme for Baxter and Stuart’s model is presented here which puts all three computational models into quantitative agreement. It was found that these numerical models did not exactly fit Hirsch’s results, and evidence is presented that the fusion rates reported may have been due to embedded-ion target fusion at the inner surface of the cathode.

In addition to studying Hirsch’s devices, the 1D-3V PIC simulation was coupled to a specialized power supply model to investigate an IEC discharge configured as an active element of a feedback triode circuit. This concept can be attributed to Doug Coulter, who made claims of a greatly enhanced fusion rate with such a configuration. It is shown here that this configuration, which bears similarities to a chaotic oscillator, can be driven to produce momentarily enhanced fusion rates.


© 2022 Jeffrey Edward Black

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