By Vena Carter
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As such, the main technical difficulty for fusion is getting the nuclei close enough to fuse. Distances not to scale. The net result of these oppos ing forces is that the bind ing energy per nucleon generally increases with increasing size, up to the elements iron and nickel, and then decreases for heavier nuclei. Eventually, the bind ing energy becomes negative and very heavy nuclei (all with more than 208 nucleons, corresponding to a diameter of about 6 nucleons) are not stable. The four most tightly bound nuclei, in decreasing order of binding energy, are 62 Ni, 58 Fe, 56 Fe, and 60Ni.
Most early mirror devices attempted to confine plasma near the foc us of a nonplanar magnetic field, or to be more precise, two such mirrors located close to each other and oriented at right angles. In order to escape the confinement area, nuclei had to enter a small annular area near each magnet. It was known that nuclei would escape through this area, but by adding and heating fuel continually it was felt this could be overcome. As development of mirror systems progressed, additional sets of magnets were added to either side, meaning that the nuclei had to escape through two such areas before leaving the reaction area entirely.
In this approach the lasers are focused on the inner side of the cylinder, heating it to a superhot plasma which radiates mostly in X-rays. The X-rays from this plasma are then absorbed by the target surface, imploding it in the same way as if it had been hit with the lasers directly. The absorption of thermal x-rays by the target is more efficient than the direct absorption of laser light, however these hohlraums or "burning chambers" also take up considerable energy to heat on their own thus significantly reducing the overall efficiency of laser-totarget energy transfer.