ARPA–E program brings diagnostics to fusion companies

Physicist James Mitrani sets up scintillator detectors.
Physicist James Mitrani of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory installs scintillator detectors on Zap Energy’s fusion Z-pinch experiment. Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Fusion companies are famous for making big claims about the viability and timeline for their technology, and Zap Energy is no exception. “Fusion energy is our inevitable future,” claims the company’s website. “Zap Energy is building it.” Founded in 2017 after years of academic incubation at the University of Washington, Zap is targeting 2023 for demonstrating with a deuterium-only plasma that it could achieve scientific breakeven—when the energy that’s put into its device equals the energy that comes out—with a plasma fueled by both deuterium and…

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