ANALYSIS: Could Starships Use Cold Fusion Propulsion?
That current vaporizes the liner, but before it does so, it generates a very strong magnetic field nestled inside the one from the coils. As such, the outer magnetic field squeezes the liner with so much force that it shrinks to a small fraction of its original size. That crushing force is enough to get the deuterium and tritium atoms confined long enough to fuse into helium, releasing a neutron and some extra energy.
The method, which is different from the controversial cold fusion in that temperatures go well above room temperature, was first proposed by Sandia researchers Stephen Slutz and Roger Vesey in December; they published their work in the journal Physical Review Letters.
In their computer simulations, the output was 100 times that of a 60 million amperes put into the system. The output rose as the current went up: 1,000 times the input power was reached from an incoming pulse of 70 million amps.
Even at Sandia, there isn't a machine that can generate such a huge pulse of energy. The Z machine, a powerful X-ray generator, can hit about 26 million amperes. That might be enough, though, to prove the concept works by hitting the break-even point, where the energy put into the reaction is the same as that which comes out.