A UK fusion start-up claims to have broken a pressure record in a test of its technology at the world’s most powerful pulsed power machine.

First Light Fusion announced today that it had set a new pressure record of 1.85 terapascals – a unit of pressure – at the US-based Sandia National Laboratories ‘Z Machine.’

That broke a “long-standing” record of 1.5 terapascals, it claimed.

First Light said this “strengthens the case” for its “unique amplifier technology” and showed it can be used across different platforms.

Fusion uses the same process that generates light and heat from stars, fusing hydrogen and other light elements to release huge amounts of power that pioneers in the sector hope to tap for unlimited zero-carbon electricity, sometimes referred to as the 'Holy Grail' of the energy transition.

First Light is pursuing a form of inertial confinement fusion called projectile fusion, which creates the extreme temperatures and pressures required to achieve fusion by compressing a target containing fusion fuel using a projectile travelling at a tremendous speed.

“This differs from approaches pursued by other mainstream fusion companies,” said First Light, “in that it doesn’t involve using complex, energy-intensive, expensive lasers, or magnets.”

“Without the need for hugely complex and expensive lasers to facilitate the fusion reaction, this is a simpler, cheaper, more energy-efficient approach to achieving fusion with lower physics risk.”

First Light said its amplifier technology “massively increases the pressure delivered from the impact of the projectile, necessary to achieve fusion.”

To test this First Light used Sandia’s Z Machine, based in the US state of New Mexico, which is the most powerful pulsed power facility in the world.

“With a peak power of 80 trillion watts, more than the world’s entire electricity grid, it electromagnetically launches projectiles to higher velocities than any other facility in the world,” said First Light.

These are used to impact samples of material, testing their properties at extreme pressures.

Nick Hawker, Founder and CEO of First Light, said: “We are delighted to report that our first shot on the Z Machine was a resounding success – breaking the pressure record for the facility.”