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Like any other IEC fusion reactor, TERA consists of four major systems which regulate and control various aspects of the fusor: the electrical system, which controls all of the electrical and power systems of the fusor, such as cathode and ion source potential; the vacuum system, which induces a high vacuum into the chamber, allowing for plasma formation; the gas handling system, which injects deuterium (or any other fuel or gas) either directly into the chamber or through ion injectors; and the data monitoring system, which is sometimes computer-controlled, and monitors data points in and outside of the fusor while it is running.
The electrical system consists of five major subsystems: a variac, or autotransformer, a 170kV X-ray transformer core submerged in Shell Diala AX dielectric insulating oil, a high voltage bridge rectifier, high voltage power lines, and a fluted ceramic feedthrough. The variac, or autotransformer, is, in essence, the “throttle” of the entire apparatus. It controls the primary input voltage into the x-ray transformer core. It is capable of variable outputs from 0-300 volts, and has a maximum power output of 5000VA. It is case grounded through a wall pin. The X-ray transformer core is the main power supply of the system, multiplying the variable voltage output by a coefficient of about 300 for each of the x-ray transformer’s four terminals. The X-ray transformer is submerged in dielectric insulating oil to prevent internal and external arcing, as well as to prevent overheating. The center tap is left floating in oil, although may be grounded in the future to allow for greater power input. Each of the four terminals on the transformer feed into a high voltage diode, harnessing the negative voltage and leaving the positive in float condition. The rectified voltage is then fed through a .75” X-ray cable rated for over 5.00 amps of current. This is fed through a fluted ceramic feedthrough into the central accelerator grid. The grid is designed in the form of a two piece, tension sealed sphere with longitudal patterned arcs coming from two perpendicular axes. This accelerates ions rapidly to the epicenter of the grid, causing them to collide and fuse, releasing intense amounts of energy.
The vacuum system is composed of the primary (and at times secondary) vacuum pump(s), the transfer tube, the cutoff valve, and the segmented vacuum chamber. The primary vacuum pump is a 40 or less micron rotary vane pump which allows the pressure in the chamber to be reduced to 1-40 microns, or milliTorrs, depending on the pump. T.E.R.A.’s primary pump reduces the pressure to 1 micron (and pumps at over 250cfm), although the demonstration pump is a 40 micron 7cfm pump. T.E.R.A. is also designed to easily accept a secondary pump, such as a turbomolecular or oil diffusion pump, which would be backed by the primary rotary pump. The transfer tube is the simplest of the components, being a 36” 275CFF flex hose to transfer the vacuum through the cutoff valve into the chamber. The cutoff valve allows the chamber to stay sealed after the pump has been turned off and also prevents backstreaming from the pump. The main segmented vacuum chamber is the chamber where the ions fuse. In reality, it is comprised of three main chambers – one for the electrical hub (Sector 1), one for the vacuum hub (Sector 2) and one for the monitoring instrument hub (Sector 3). Sector three has an additional cutoff valve to protect the various instruments attached.
The gas handling system – the simplest of the systems – is comprised of four main components: the deuterium source, the two-stage stainless steel regulator, the cutoff valve and tube, and the primary cutoff valve. The deuterium source is a 50L lecture bottle pressurized a 3000psi. The regulator reduces the 3000psi down to a usable 10psi (relative to atmospheric). This is then fed through the secondary cutoff valve through the tube to the primary cutoff valve, where it enters the electrified ionizer of Sector 3. Deuterium passes through the electrified gas feedthrough, becoming stripped of its electron and ionizing. The ions then disperse to the primary chamber, where they fall into the potential energy well of the cathode accelerator. The ionizer is inserted into the main body of Sector 3, taking the place of the top 4.5” CFF blank (with the addition of a flat reducer).
The data monitoring system monitors the activity and various vectors in the fusor. The sensors are scattered throughout the fusor, but are most concentrated in Sector 3. They consist of the primary pressure gauge, the micron pressure gauge, the primary and secondary deuterium input gauges (not including the regulator gauges), the primary and secondary cameras, and the triple redundancy BTI neutron detectors calibrated to various settings. All pressure gauges except the micron gauge are in an analog readout. The primary pressure gauge measures the chamber vacuum in the fusor. The micron gauge measures in milliTorrs below 2000. The cameras allow for indirect observation, and the BTI detectors allow for neutron detection with redundant checking and backups.