Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Z-Machine, a Real World Example

On the subject of yesterday’s lesson, power, I thought I would briefly talk about one of the world’s most extravagant demonstrations of electrical power, the Z-Machine at Sandia National Laboratories. For those who have never heard of it, the Z-Machine is basically a very large energy storage device and it is used to produce extremely hot plasma, focused onto a very tiny area, in an attempt to create a nuclear fusion reaction. This machine is capable of firing pulses of energy close to 290 terawatts. That’s 290,000,000,000,000 watts! That's 80 times the world's electrical power! But you may be asking yourself, how this is possible? 

 The Z-Machine

The answer comes down to the unit time in which the energy is discharged, and that time is equal to about 100 nano seconds. To give you an idea of how short of a time frame that is, 100 seconds is to 100 nano seconds as the diameter of the earth is to the width of a human hair.

The interesting thing about this is how much energy is actually consumed during this event.
If you remember from yesterday’s lesson, power is equal to a change in energy per change in time (dw/dt). Sparing everyone the mess of a derivation of the equation, the expended energy can be written as..

where
w = the work done in joules
p = the power in watts
Δt = the change in time

Now we have an expression for the energy consumed within a time frame, where Δt is the change in time. Now you simply fill in the blanks! Remember that the Z-Machine fires a 290,000,000,000,000 watt pulse in 100 nano seconds.

We get about 29 mega joules. It may not seem like it, but that's actually not very much energy considering the power discharged.

Well that was longer than intended. Hope you found that real world application interesting! Lesson two will be posted later this week.

20 comments:

  1. I am not smart enough for any of this.So its used for electricity? So it could power homes and stuff?

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  2. Not quite. You can think of it as a temporary energy storage devise, but having the unique ability release all of its energy basically all at once. Imagine a battery and all of the energy stored inside of it that would normally be released slowed to power things. Now imagine what would happen if you were able to discharge all of that energy at once. Much bigger 'bang' right? Same concept as the Z-Machine.

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  3. That's phenomenal, even just the aesthetics of the picture!

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  4. Yeah but does it do what it's meant to? :D

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  5. I love seeing machines like these, as an engineer myself, I love seeing how man's will shapes and directs nature's power.

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  6. at least it dont fail at smashing atoms!

    http://teemoreporting.blogspot.com/

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  7. That is a huge amount of power, wow. All these science related numbers always confuse me, theres no way normal people can understand the sheer size or lack of some things.

    Keep it up! Will be back, make sure your blogs always this interesting :)

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  8. Wow imagine the power of this baby !

    Great blog, following (:

    http://livintrip.blogspot.com/

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  9. Great post! I love the picture

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  10. Great writeup, very interested in further readings
    Keep up the good work :D

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  11. just amazing! following for upcoming posts about smth like that!

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  12. that looks honestly amazing! stuff like this interests me so much

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  13. Regardless of what it does, that thing just looks freakin amazing

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  14. I love seeing how man bends nature at his will

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  15. Out-freaking-standing. It must be a feat to design something such as this. That's one quick burst of power.

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