National Nuclear Security Administration

Meet a Machine: Sandia Labs' Thor doesn't need a hammer to support national security

July 1, 2016

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Thor’s aim is to study materials at extreme pressures, which helps NNSA ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent. Thor is different from previous pulsed-power accelerators, which are comprised of a few massive components, because it instead uses many small capacitors linked together. Its novel design saves time and wastes less energy, and its components will last longer with less maintenance. One of Thor’s first goals is to create a new X-ray diagnostic to probe the atomic structure of materials under extreme pressure. Another purpose is to help develop designs for affordable and compact power accelerators that could be operated at universities.

A Sandia technician installs a gas exhaust line for a switch at Thor’s brick tower racks.

A Sandia technician terminates a transmission cable for installation on the silver disk that is the pulsed-power machine’s central powerflow assembly. The sophisticated machine crushes materials at 1 million atmospheres.