I Guess There’s Not Enough Water Here…

….so the Chinese are thinking about going to the Moon. to get Helium-3 for their nuclear fusion experiments.

Today the Chinese are reaching for the moon. The first step, the launching of an unmanned lunar orbiter, is tentatively scheduled for April 17. A three-man mission will orbit the Earth later this year, and a spacewalk is planned for next year. Two years after that, the plan is to put down a lunar rover, followed in 2020 by a craft that will collect lunar samples and bring them home.

But why are the Chinese in such a hurry to get to the moon and bring samples back? What are they after? What they are after is a limitless source of clean energy to feed their voracious economy. The moon is rich on helium 3 (3He), which is a potential fuel for nuclear fusion.


Y’all be sure to say hello to Alice when you get there….

Bussard Fusion Papers

Link: Announcements – Inertial Electrostatic Fusion systems can now be built.

After re-posting a link to Dr. Robert Bussard’s lecture at Google last fall, I received a blog-comment asking where in our forums Dr. Bussard’s recent papers on the subject might be found.  I am posting the link above in answer to this post.  There are actually a couple of threads discussing Dr. Bussard’s work in the forums.  Just enter his name in the "Google Site Search" box to the right, and the resulting page will lead you to all the entries here about Dr. Bussard.

Who Are They Kidding?

There’s an article floating around the web this week about how China intends to build the world’s first "artificial sun"

"The project, dubbed EAST (experimental advanced superconducting
Tokamak), is being undertaken by the Hefei-based Institute of Plasma
Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It will require a total
investment of nearly 300 million yuan (37 million U.S. dollars), only
one fifteenth to one twentieth the cost of similar devices being
developed in the other parts of the world."

Somebody want to tell them we’ve been doing that for years here at fusor.net?

What Is This Site All About?

Pictured at the top of these pages is a man named Philo T. Farnsworth. On the left is the difficult thing that he invented in the 1920s. You are probably familiar with it. It’s called "television."

On the right is the "impossible" thing that he invented in the 1950s.. You are probably less familiar with it. In fact you are probably not familiar with it all, because the device was never perfected nor made practical. At least, not yet. Indeed, the impossible takes slightly longer. In this case, about 40 years longer…

The device is a nuclear fusion reactor.

If you are familiar with the subject at all, then you probably know that controlled nuclear fusion poses the seemingly impossible task of taming the very same process that triggers a hydrogen bomb. They managed to control fission – the process at the heart of the original atomic bomb and the nuclear reactors in use as electrical generating plants today. But controlling fusion has proven to be a much stickier wicket.

You see, fusion – the combining of light nuclei – is also the process that powers our Sun and all the stars in the heavens. It is God’s own way of powering the universe. But controlling fusion here on earth, to harness its power in the same way that fission has been harnessed to convert nuclear energy industrial power, well…. that has proven infinitely more difficult. Over the past fifty years, billions have been spent trying to solve the riddle: how do you bottle a star? How do contain a reactive mass as hot as the sun without either melting the container, or extinguishing the reaction? It’s no wonder that some have concluded that harnessing fusion is, simply, impossible.

Still, the lure of fusion is unmistakable. Particularly when compared to fission, a fusion reactor would be "clean" – there are no radioactive by products that will take hundreds of thousands of years to decay, as there is with the nuclear waste from a fission plant. The only by product is helium – an inert gas. The reactors themselves would be safe; there is no danger of a "meltdown" as there is with a fission reactor because there is only a tiny amount of nuclear fuel present in the reaction chamber at any given time.

So fusion would be safe, and there is no radioactive waste as there is with fission. But the most compelling promise of fusion is in the fuel itself: fusion is produced from an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium, which exists in the Earth’s oceans in sufficient abundance to supply the planet’s energy needs for hundreds of millions of years – until long after the Sun itself has flamed out.

So, understandably, science has been trying to solve this riddle for as long as the potential of fusion has been understood. Government, business, and academia have invested vast sums on a variety of approaches, but the results to date have been disappointing, to put it mildly.

Farnsworth spent his life and career outside the scientific and industrial mainstream. Though his contribution to our contemporary culture is undeniable – the man invented video, precisely what you are looking at this very instant – when the time came to deliver his second great invention, he was unable to either prove or disprove his theories. The work remains, in a word, "unfinished."

Farnsworth’s approach to fusion has been dubbed "Inertial Electrostatic Confinement" or "IEC" for short. (VERY) simply put, the process uses forces within the atomic particles themselves to bring them close enough to fuse. The more common approach uses tremendous external forces to achieve the same effect. These enormous machines employ powerful magnetic fields and the method is called "magnetic confinement" Literally billions of dollars have been spent in the last thirty years with little to show in the way of meaningful results. After thirty years, the "experts" still say that a practical fusion power plant is still – would you believe? – at least another thirty years away.

Experiments with Farnsworth’s "Fusor" in the early-to-mid 1960s were impressive but inconclusive: despite tremendous "neutron counts" (the evidence of fusion), the Fusor never conclusively reached "break-even" — the point at which there is more energy coming out of the device than goes in to start and sustain the reaction.

Nevertheless, in the past few years there has been a resurgence of interest in the Farnsworth approach to fusion. There is now a small cadre of "fusioneers" building "Fusors" in their basements and garages. These are low-power devices, based on a variation of the Farnsworth approach that was developed by Farnsworth’s colleagues Gene Meeks and Robert L. Hirsch, that are relatively simple to build and employ all the multidisciplinary techniques that fusion requires: vacuum pumping, stainless steel machining, power supply management, etc. Believe it or not, some of these devices, which really do produce fusion reactions, have been built for "less than the cost of a set of used golf-clubs."

Building these devices is teaching a grassroots group of dedicated experimenters how to produce fusion. This website – fusor.net – is where these people gather to share their experiences, to swap tips and techniques, and pass on encouragement. Who knows, perhaps one of the people who visit this site will learn a thing or two and go on to do what "the experts" have been unable to accomplish.

If this is your first visit to this site, then the links on the right are here for you. This is your "primer" on fusion, on electrostatic confinement, and on how to build and operate a fusion device in your basement or garage.

Fusion may sound like an exotic, "impossible" feat. But the fact is people like you are achieving the "impossible" on an almost daily basis. It is only a matter of time before somebody stumbles on the breakthrough that we are all hoping for.

Have a look around… maybe that "somebody" is you….

Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean, cheap, nuclear power (no, really)







Google Tech Talks
November 9, 2006

This is not your father’s fusion reactor! Forget everything you know about conventional thinking on nuclear fusion: high-temperature plasmas, steam turbines, neutron radiation and even nuclear waste are a thing of the past. Goodbye thermonuclear fusion; hello inertial electrostatic confinement fusion (IEC), an old idea that’s been made new. While the international community debates the fate of the politically-turmoiled $12 billion ITER (an experimental thermonuclear reactor), simple IEC reactors are being built as high-school science fair projects.

Dr. Robert Bussard, former Asst. Director of the Atomic Energy Commission and founder of Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2), has spent 17 years perfecting IEC, a fusion process that converts hydrogen and boron directly into electricity producing helium as the only waste product. Most of this work was funded by the Department of Defense, the details of which have been under seal… until now.

Dr. Bussard will discuss his recent results and details of this potentially world-altering technology, whose conception dates back as far as 1924, and even includes a reactor design by Philo T. Farnsworth (inventor of the scanning television).

Can a 100 MW fusion reactor be built for less than Google’s annual electricity bill? Come see what’s possible when you think outside the thermonuclear box and ignore the herd.