“A high-energy accelerator, such as RHIC or LHC, would send an particle beam through the target like a bullet through paper, with only a tiny fraction of its energy lost,” says Joe Kwan of AFRD, the principal investigator of NDCX-II. “Our ion beam is optimized to deposit most of its energy in the thin target itself, heating it instantly to warm dense matter conditions.”
Construction of the NDCX-II accelerator began in 2009 and its first phase is expected to be completed early in 2012, when experiments will begin. The field of warm dense matter is an important research discipline in itself, necessary to understand the state of matter inside giant planets like Jupiter, and a variety of other astrophysical phenomena. Although its targets are thin foils, not heavy-hydrogen capsules, NDCX-II will make advances in acceleration, compression, and focusing of an intense ion beam, which will inform driver concepts for heavy-ion fusion energy production.