In fusion power research, the Z-pinch, also known as zeta pinch, is a type of plasma confinement system that uses an electrical current in the plasma to generate a magnetic field that compresses it (see pinch). These systems were originally referred to simply as pinch or Bennett pinch (after Willard Harrison Bennett), but the introduction of the theta-pinch concept led to the need for increased clarity.
The name refers to the direction of the current in the devices, the Z-axis on a normal three-dimensional graph. Any machine that causes a pinch effect due to current running in that direction is correctly referred to as a Z-pinch system, and this encompasses a wide variety of devices used for an equally wide variety of purposes. Early uses focused on fusion research in donut-shaped tubes with the Z-axis running down the inside the tube, modern devices are generally cylindrical and used to generate high-intensity x-ray sources for the study of nuclear weapons and other roles.