(For the original greeting to this site from 2007, click “What Is This Site About?” in the sidebar to your right. Then just keep going through all the other links below that to get your introduction to fusion and fusor construction and operation.)
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Greetings, Newbie, and welcome to the wonderful world of “table top nuclear fusion.”
Yes, it is really true: you can build and operate your very own fusion reactor right there on your own desk or workbench.
And no, please, this is not “cold” fusion – a pox on every media outlet that ever let that oxymoron seep into the vernacular.
This is the real thing: “hot” fusion, if you insist on a descriptor. The most fundamental energy source in the entire universe. The same reaction that powers the sun and all the stars.
In other words: A star in a jar.
The regulars on this site have been messing about with fusion for well more than a decade. Indeed, the earliest iterations of this site reach back to the late 1990s. Those early iterations can be found among the resources offered from this page.
The primary focus on these efforts is a device dubbed the “Fusor” by it’s inventor, Philo T. Farnsworth. That name should be familiar to you, not because it’s the name of a character in a cartoon, but because long before he came up with a gizmo that could bottle an actual star, he came up with another gizmo that could bottle a star of an entirely different sort. You see, Philo T. Farnsworth is the inventor of television. That’s not fact you hear very often but it’s the truth. You could look it up…
But I digress. You are here because you’ve been bitten by the fusion bug. You’ve got some science and engineering chops, and maybe you’ve heard that fusion offers the temptation of clean, safe, and inexhaustible industrial energy from the same source that God himself came up with on day one when he said “Let there be light…”
Fusion is (relatively) easy when your reactor is a giant ball of gas the size of, say, our sun, and it can be surrounded by millions of miles of empty space. It’s a lot harder when you’re trying to do it here on earth.
That begs the question: “How Do You Bottle A Star” ? What sort of container can possibly hold a seething mass of plasma that can reach temperatures measured in the millions of degrees – without either destroying the bottle or extinguishing the star?
That is precisely the dilemma that Philo Farnsworth addressed in the 1950s and 60s, producing the prototypes of the devices that the regulars at Fusor.net have constructed in their basements.
If that sounds like something that you would like to try your hand at, then you will find a welcoming community here of individuals from all walks of life around the world who share that interest. There is already compiled here a vast database of info pertaining to the construction and operation of the fusor. I dare say that this site represents the most comprehensive knowledge base on the subject on the entire planet,
Part of the myth of fusion is that the subject is so complex that it requires millions – no, billions! – of dollars and machines that would fill a gymnasium to get any reaction at all. The resources you will find on this site prove otherwise.
Fusion is easy, if you can approach it with a few basic skills in machining, vacuum management, and high voltage operations. The components necessary to build a fusor can be found at surplus stores, hardware stores, and eBay.
Before you begin, let’s be clear about one thing: the ultimate goal of all fusion efforts is “break-even” – a device or system that is capable of generating more energy than it takes to get the reaction started an sustained. But the devices that you will learn about here will never reach that exalted goal. To the contrary, the input/output ratio is pretty paltry: it takes about 100watts of juice to generate a reaction that produces less than a watt of its own energy.
But these devices are actually a low-power variation of the device that Philo Farnsworth developed. At one point a couple of Farnsworth’s colleagues – Robert Hirsch and Gene Meeks – needed to demonstrate the theoretical concept (called “Inertial Electrostatic Confinement,” or IEC) to the authorities at what was then called the NRC – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – which held dominion over how government funds were dispersed for this kind of research.
Hirch and Meeks came up with what I call the “Hirsch/Meeks Variation” of the Farnsworth Fusor. That is what we are talking about when we speak of the “Fusor” on this site. But this is a very different beast from what Farnsworth actually had in mind; This was a device that Hirsch and Meeks could, literally roll into the NRC on a dessert cart. Not that it did them any good… but that, too is a story for another time.
There is lots of debate re: whether or not the Farnsworth Fusor offers a viable approach to a truly useful source of clean, safe, and inexhaustible nuclear energy. Some think it’s a dead end. Others think that Farnsworth took the Real Secret with him to his early grave in 1971.
Regardless of where you fall between those two sides of the debate, there is no question that learning about the Fusor, building one, and operating it is a very specialized area of knowledge and experience. The info you will find here – in the form of stored data, and the willingness of the regulars to steer you in the right direction – will guide you down a path of valuable experience.
So what are you waiting for?
Fusion is easy! Amaze your friends! Be the first on your block!
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Posted May 8, 2013 by Paul Schatzkin
aka “The Perfesser”
Founder of Fusor.net