Wisconsin-headquartered SHINE Technologies has reported clearly visible Cherenkov radiation resulting from deuterium-tritium fusion.

In what is believed to be a historical first, SHINE Technologies achieved the visible proof with the target chamber of its fusion system submerged under water.

Up to now fusion has been demonstrated and detected with instruments, rather than visibly.

Cherenkov radiation is a form of energy that emits a blue glow when electrically charged particles move faster than light in a medium other than a vacuum, such as water.

In water, for example, light travels at about three-quarters of its normal speed – 299,792km/s in a vacuum, 299,705km/s in air – and particles moving faster than this form a shock wave as they slow down, releasing energy that creates the blue glow.

Specifically, the ‘blue’ arises from the high frequencies and short wavelengths of this radiation, which are in the blue part of the spectrum.

“Fusion has long captured the imagination of scientists and the public. To be able to create visual evidence of fusion is just really cool,” said Greg Piefer, founder and CEO of SHINE Technologies.

“This visible demonstration of fusion is proof that we are able to produce enough reactivity for some commercial applications historically served by reactors, and clearly demonstrates the next step in our multi-phased approach to ultimately commercialise fusion energy.”

Gerald Kulcinski, Grainger professor of Nuclear Engineering-Emeritus and director of Fusion Technology-Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has suggested in the company’s statement that for the Cherenkov radiation effect to be bright enough to be visible, about 50 trillion fusions per second were occurring.

At a billion fusions per second, there might be measurable Cherenkov radiation but not visible amounts, he said.

SHINE Technologies is focused on commercialising and industrialising near-term applications of fusion with a beam-target magnetic confinement approach.

In the current first phase, the focus is on non-destructive industrial component testing through neutron imaging, with the ‘FLARE’ (Fusion Linear Accelerator for Radiation Effects) service primarily for aerospace and defence applications due to begin in late-2023.

This will be followed in the second phase with medical isotope production, particularly of lutetium-177 used in cancer therapies and molybdenum-99 used in imaging diagnostics.

Further iterations of the technology are then envisaged for recycling of nuclear waste and ultimately for fusion power generation.

Originally published by Power Engineering International.

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