Zap Energy is a company developing Sheared-Flow-Stabilized Z-pinch plasma confinement to produce a commercially viable fusion reactor. Zap Energy’s work is an extension of that conducted by the FuZE team at the University of Washington and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Zap Energy’s fusion approach stabilizes plasma using sheared flows instead of magnetic fields. Driving electric current through the flow creates the magnetic field, confining and compressing the plasma. A greater current produces a greater pressure and density of the plasma. The company believes stabilizing the plasma with a sheared flow allows it to be confined long enough for fusion reactions to occur.
Through experimental and computational studies from 2015 to 2019, Zap Energy has successfully scaled this concept from 50 kA to over 300 thousand amps of pinch current. Zap Energy’s next step device is aiming to achieve 600 kA of plasma current where plasma density and temperature are predicted to approach conditions of scientific breakeven.
The company has been funded by the US Department of Energy since 1995. In 2015 they were awarded a grant from ARPA-E’s ALPHA program and exceeded the program milestones, leading to a $6.8M ARPA-E OPEN award in 2019, and further backing from an energy-focused investor base.