Fusion, In My Backyard?!

Here is the 32nd amateur fusion reactor built in a basement. [Mark Suppes] is right behind [Will Jack], the (then) 17 year old [Thiago Olson], and [Mileiux] in engineering a homemade nuclear reactor. By taking two light elements and colliding them under extreme speed and pressure, a heavier element and energy are produced.

[Mark’s] goal is to lasso in investors to earn enough money to build a larger Bussard Reactor, which will hopefully produce as much energy as it consumes. Free energy at only a couple million dollars; who wouldn’t pass up this opportunity?

[Thanks Imp]

79 thoughts on “Fusion, In My Backyard?!

  1. @DUH
    “Orgone”…you mean the 19th century crackpot idea known as the “aether”?

    Don’t worry, there are a lot more pro-nuclear-energy hippies to balance them out (myself included)

  2. @DUH
    “Aren’t we supposed to be the MOST free thinking and LEAST bound by mainstream ideas??”

    The laws of physics aren’t just “mainstream ideas”.
    F equals MA anywhere on the planet.

    You opened your mind so much your brain fell out :P

  3. lol stirling engines powering the net imagine that…. a bunch of low efficiency high maintenance devices producing meager amounts of electricity/mechanic work? what a waist of resources…..ive read an article (cant remember where tought) about using sunlight to turn water to steam an use the steam to run a turbine like in any big power plant that sound more plausible to me than using stirling engines….

  4. @TheFish

    Far more solar energy reaches the earth in a year than the human race uses in that year. Even with 5% efficient solar panels it would only take a few hundred thousand square kilometers of land. Compared to the 5 million sq km used for permanent crops, this isn’t really all that much land. The problem with solar is the extremely high cost.

  5. Why of COURSE allla them dumb eggheads at MIT and Princeton couldn’t design their way outta paper bag. We have a web designer who’s gonna solve the problems!

    Gee, if we’d only thunka that before, we’da had free energy since, like, forever!

    Note: It’s easy, after stuffing enough energy in, to produce a fusion reaction.

    Breaking even is NOT a matter of “getting some people to pony up some money to build a bigger one.”

  6. @snowdruid Ah now you’re thinking. That’s exactly what a company by the name of Brightsource Energy is looking to do. Others as well, but they’re my particular favorite for that market. Stirling energy probly won’t be competing there. Let Brightsource control the solar thermal for grid production. Stirling Energy engines are very efficient, just s you know, key is the lower power procduction and their ability to use low quality sunlight. IE brightsource needs highintensity solar to produce their high efficiency grid power, stirling energy can produce less energy but with lower quality stuff. So you can take 1 or 2 of their engines (they are very scaleable) and power an industrial park or a residential neighborhood. Thus they can supplement power in areas of high demand where it makes no sense to put a largescale Brightsource power plant nearby. As Opening the mind to the possibilities, different markets for each device, and we’re all one step closer to the way things should be done.

  7. You guys do realize that the neutrons hit the walls of this reactor and heat them up, right? So, put a few pelter effect thingson the outside and up the voltage and size and try to reach over unity. Read upon the cryogenics of the tokamak reactor, but that is magnetic confinement, this is different and it does fuse, and it lasts, the grids start to decay, but that’s not the big of a prob, the tokamak is mag confinement, and that is why they are having so much trouble, they have to slowly heat this D-T mix to millions of degrees, so they move as fast as this electrostatic reactor does, but the voltage basically decides the amount of fusion,so you might need to getinto MVor GV ranges before it starts to get more energy out that in (over unity) I am gonna smoke so much cannabis the day we reach just simple stable unity, and the thing basically powers itself, next after that, the machine that runs on water, and electroizes the water and burns it. better hope more helium in the atmosphere won’t become another bad thing, read up on helium, it was very hard to find and concentrate. I can see it now, “The Helium Problem…”

  8. @Ben
    The other big problem with solar is power delivery. The best places to put solar panels just happen to be in the middle of nowhere! Running super-long power lines will quickly eat up whatever efficiency you gain from mass solar.


  9. Article states that “He is the 38th independent amateur physicist in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from a homemade reactor[…]”

    Not the 32nd.

    Maybe somebody did some sloppy reading and pulled the “32” from the paragraph above? “Mr Suppes, 32, is part of a growing community […]”

    As for some commenters use of caps-lock; I find it remarkably thoughtful of them since it instantly tells me I don’t have to read them and the subsequent comments on that post. Thank you.

    (But it begs the question; who — since time immemorial, i.e., before CompuServe — reaches out and teaches all these crackpots the proper use of caps-lock? Or is it a co-marker for crackpotism?)

  10. The comments on here have gone crazy. People are talking about nuclear waste (um, this is a fusor… so what waste are we discussing?). Others about free energy.

    Does anyone else think this is a pretty sweet build? May not be the most practical, but its awesome.

  11. and the answer is:
    J. P. Morgan, who pulled to plug on Nikolai Tesla’s funds after learning about his plan to distribute energy wireless and realising that he would have a hard time putting a meter on it and profit from it.

  12. @Patrick
    Nuclear is perfectly sustainable, and with new reactor designs it’s completely safe.

    The problem with nuclear right now is threefold:
    a) the public fears it due to accidents such as Chernobyl and TMI (very old reactor designs)

    b) the approval process for new reactor construction has gigantic roadblocks built into it due to public fears. this is why the new reactors being built right now are mostly old and dangerous 1970s-era designs, furthering public fear

    c) the USA has an oppressive and unfair foreign policy regarding reactor construction in other countries.
    funny — the US government doesn’t want anyone to have the ability to refine fissionable materials, other than themselves :)

  13. I’m wondering how many people realize the difference between fusion and fission. I’m willing to bet that most of the fears are coming from thinking of fission any time the word “nuclear” comes into play.

  14. @isama I can’t understand half of what Mr. Hawkings says when I am sober. For all I know, he was on drugs, problem is, I would never know it.

    @–j The problem is that we have made computer usage so easy, and that started with Compuserve as far as I care, that we have taken an elite club, and let anyone in. Personally I am all for it. But when you let everyone in, then expect everyone to come in. Right now the people in are the coke snorkin’, tinfoil hat wearing, hemp clothed, Marty Feldman eyed, stark raving mad, lunatic fringed morons, to be exact, the energy for nothing and your chicks for free group. Also known as the tinfoil brigade.

    @Digital I am against removing caps, as I feel like –j, in that it allows me to ignore whatever they say instantly.

  15. After some thought I’d feel more comfortable with someone experimenting with this next door than I would with someone experimenting with “hydroxy”. Your average Joe isn’t going to be experimenting with fusion, primarily be cause it it doesn’t have an immediate direct application for him. Not to mention the cost, availability of pats and material, along with the knowledge required. Joe an the other hand can see himself using hydroxy in the family vehicles. Materials are readily available inexpensively, and while not exactly Heathkit in scope step by step instructions are to be found.

  16. I really expected more HaD readers (and general public, really) to know the difference between fusion and fission…lulz

    I’d also expect the hippies to at least realize that equating oil and fission is pretty stupid as well, as you get a lot more energy per pound of fissionable material than you do from oil. e=mc^2 and all that. Of course, some people say the speed of light is changing so maybe we’ll run out faster than I think…

    Shoutout to all my pro-fission homies! Bring on the neighborhood pebble-bed reactors!

    Interesting point about high-efficiency stirling engines, I wonder if they could miniaturize them so I can charge my UPS off them. We get a lot of heat here, but not much direct sunlight. I could probably get a good delta with an in-ground radiator tho. Just need someone to ship me some freon…

    Most Ironic Image Ever: stirling engine powered aircon :D

  17. Missed this until now. So a late posting.

    Read up about bussard, and the farnsworth fusor. Would be really interesting. However a Navy guy, forget who proved that it will not be able to generate energy. Even if the grids where infentesimal in size.

    Mind you I would love to know if you could use a plasmid, ie one of the microwave created gasballs to generate enough of a virtual cathode for it to build from there…

  18. So, I was reading through here and due to my general liking of HaD and all the misnomers in this thread regarding energy i though I might make a Post to help clear this up.

    First for the guy who cant figure out how to turn off Caps Lock regarding the USNRC.


    The NRC is the premier gold standard for regulatory bodies where nuclear forms of power are concerned in the world. It is the only one that is backed up by force of law. If ANY safety or safety related violation occurs that could in anyway affect the public health, safety, or good then they will shutdown your build, force reactor shutdown, etc etc. Plus american reactor designs are fail-safe and do not have the ability to turn off safe-guards. (Three Mile Island actually is an example of perfect containment of an american designed reactor even when the operators did essentially everything wrong. [funny thing is the indicator that would have told them there was a problem so they could mitigate the issue was blocked by a new OSHA requirement called lock out tag out… the tag being like 4″x10″ was big enough that it blocked the indicator] but still perfect containment)
    As for Chernobyl that was a whole other folly. First Russian designs are not necessarily fail-safe plus due to their belief system where human life is an acceptable loss when it comes to progress the reactor operator turned off all of the safety systems in order to conduct an unimportant test that led to the catastrophe. The design is still in use in Russia today.

    As for waste – America only uses one fuel cycle currently which is the low speed interactions found inside of boiling water and pressurized water reactors. The left over fuel rods go through a ‘cooling off’ period then are put into a repository that by NRC requirements must be retrievable.
    Later the high speed interaction reactor designs is done using liquid metal (usually sodium) cooled reactors such as breeder reactors. The only country that currently develops or uses this type of reactor for commercial power is Russia. Current American designs that use this type are the Toshiba 4S – PRISM – and to a lesser degree Hyperion Power Module
    This is done through a form of recycling when dealing with nuclear materials. Look closely at the PRISM design the plant has an onsite nuclear fuel recycling center. This fulfills the second fuel cycle. Then it must be stored again until a traveling wave reactor can be designed and tested (There is a design featured in i want to say scientific American about 2 years ago funded by Bill Gates but will not be available for use for at least another 75 years due to new technology having to be proven safe).

    Currently there are three new reactor Designs that will compete for near term future power generation to meet the DOE’s goal of 80% smaller carbon foot print by 2050. these reactor designs are termed “Generation III++” reactors that include the B&W mPower, NuScale Power Module, and the Westinghouse AP300 (there is word behind the scenes of this design coming out based on another DOE project called IRIS that Westinghouse helped fund).

    The DOE and similar governing systems internationally are working towards the Gen IV reactor: http://www.ne.doe.gov/geniv/neGenIV1.html
    Currently the only design that fits all of the GenIV reactor requirements and is technically viable with proper funding is the PBMR. However last check this project will not be completed and actually constructed. Not sure what killed it other than it is finding a hard time getting an American company to agree to build one in the US so that the NRC will evaluate it. (the local regulatory body bases their decision on our regulatory body (USNRC) approving the design.)

    The NuScale design can be retrofitted later for Thorium and sealed CV (Containment Vessel) to fit the GEN IV Reactor design criteria. B&W and AP300 can be close but since they still require a containment building and/or are not passively safe (no pumps/active mechanisms for safe shutdown/operation required). Without these features they do not qualify as Gen IV reactors. The Hyperion Power Module, PRISM, and 4S are also considered Gen IV reactors however due to their use of liquid metal cooling and the lack of historical data to test against they will be in development for a long time.

    It’s not public fear from Chernobyl and TMI that holds up nuclear builds in the US it’s the high upfront costs to achieve economy of scale. That’s why smaller modular designs are ideal since they can be built off site and setup modularly. The savings of building this way instead of the old way and the fact that they are orders of magnitude safer to run, offset the pricing enough to achieve the same or lower cost per kilowatt hour as current large reactors.

    Now specific list of energy sources and why they are and are not viable:
    First the big ones
    Fusion: the ITER was the first major project towards a fusion reactor using a Tokomak design. It is very viable however due to budget overruns it is not clear as to whether or not it will ever be completed in the near future (basically suspended indefinitely at the moment). But this will be the proving grounds for creating a regulatory guidance for the development of commercial fusion reactors. Until this is done no regulatory body, especially the NRC, will approve this to be built commercially.
    Other Fusion designs include the Laser initiated fusion systems such as those down in California.
    Also there is the Z-Pinch Method that is used in the Z-Machine (this project is my dream job i hope to one day be here) This uses a small coil that you dump a bunch of energy into causing an implosion which then explodes however the trick is that a magnetic field is used to contain the explosion and further compress the system causing a very large energetic fusion reaction. (actually many orders of magnitude greater than originally estimated). The Z-Machine is a Sandia National Labs project: http://www.sandia.gov/z-machine/

    A pdf describing the system can be found here

    FYI neat fun filled fact about the Z-Machine is that it is the machine to win as the power source capable of powering a theoretical hyper-drive design. (this is actually real, however until some kinks in the design of the Z-Machine can be worked out there is no point in developing something that wont work w/o it… The problem is that the Z-Machine can only be fired once per day but needs to be able to fire successively over and over again like say once every 10 minutes to supply constant power at high utilization.)

    Next Fission: This is the only viable alternative to destroying the ozone layer. Fission produces zero ozone gas emissions and with a pellet the size of an erasure at the end of a wooden pencil can produce as much power as burning over 1200 lbs (1 Ton) of Coal. So which is better burning 1200 lbs of coal releasing gases that destroy our atmosphere then having to store the ash in a pile outside the plant changing the landscape forever, or a small 1cm long x 0.5cm dia (approx) pellet that to produce energy, produces zero emissions so our atmosphere is in tact, and is stored away until it is safer to recycle the uranium. Also another neat fact is that we using uranium now that has the expended fuel waste however once testing is complete and the regulatory bodies approve it Thorium will be used to fuel these reactors with a small retrofit. Thorium cannot be used to produce nuclear weapons (no proliferation threat), is highly abundant in the world, and produces less dangerous radiation. (better all around)… http://www.thorenergy.no/

    Coal: is bad for the environment in every way and is a dieing area of energy production.

    Solar: first the production of solar panels creates about as many greenhouse gases as it saves so it is essentially break even. They are easily broken and must be kept up, energy output is variable, they are expensive, only really useful in areas with high amounts of sun exposure, and many other issues prevent them from becoming a main form of commercial power, however does create a nice supporting power source. (not to mention there isn’t enough usable surface area in the world to power our current power demands which have dropped but are still increasing)

    Wind: Here is a cool one, although not enough area in the world to use them everywhere, and the wind must consistently be blowing in one direction or another. Plus it takes about 5 years of testing to approve a spot for them to construct the system. Now that said there are some new designs in the works, one was just featured in Scientific America this month, that will make these systems more efficient and may help to bring them in to regular use. basically not enough area to make this viable for powering everyone but it is a good supporting power supply that should be fostered and continued. Basically another supporting power source.

    Geothermal: If you live somewhere with a dormant volcano or a place that has volcanic activity great… but remember every time you drill down into this you risk seismic activity and i have yet to see a study done to see what the ramifications are if you were to pull too much power from a single source area… (using this to generate steam for powering a system will cause the temperature down in the lava tubes slowing the velocity of the liquid rock as it becomes more “coagulated” then solid. This could cause a previously dormant volcano to go active if the flow is changed. think two resistors in parallel and a charge going through them that is greater than one can handle and you remove one… the resister that is left blows… think of this as the volcano). So long as we don’t push our luck by placing high demands on a single source without fully understanding the risks, this is a great way to produce power. I would just be hesitant to using as more than a supporting source until more understanding can be performed.

    Theoretical Power Sources:
    Vacuum energy: this is a form of energy that shows up in spaces where there is a complete vacuum, and also the basis for the source of Hawking’s Radiation at the event horizon of a black hole. basically as a consiquence in quantum chromodynamics (QCD) when a space is voided of everything else (a vacuum) virtual pairs of quantum particles will come in to existence and then destroy themselves. Currently we can only prove that energy is there, however no way to extract it in a usable way. They are only in existence for a very short time as new energy can not be created nor destroyed (conservation of energy) unless this new energy is only in existence for a short enough time to fulfill the requirements of the uncertainty principle. In Hawking’s Radiation what happens is the virtual pair are created at the event horizon and occasionally before they can annihilate one another one of the pairs is sucked into the black hole and the other virtual particle then radiates off into space… as far as i know this can only happen naturally, so applying this in a usable way is still outside of our abilities. But it is a very interesting area of study as it would seem since we can interact with these particle we should be able to harness them somehow.

    as for “DUH!” – stop posting please, thank you.

    Your inability to properly use caps-lock makes your post sound like the rants of a lunatic and the “alternative energy” or “free energy” forms you are posting about have been debunked many times over and are just myths.

    Also, Orgone energy is a theory produced by a crazy person who was a psychologist (psychology and physics are not the same in any respect) he was more talking about something similar to Chi that you find in Asian cultures. So your not even talking about the same type of energy so whether or not it is theoretically viable is irrelevant, because it is talking about more spiritual energy which falls under areas of faith not science.

    As for America being a nuclear dump, every repository is throughly tracked and accounted for because of the fact that it is required by the NRC and because one the requirements is that all nuclear waste MUST BE RETRIEVABLE because the future intent is to recycle the waste for use in other types of reactors. Remember that only about 5-10% of fissile materials are used in their first run… we can still use this so why throw it away.

    The reason we don’t recycle today in the U.S. is that bi-products of recycling uranium is weapons grade plutonium and uranium. (This information was from my boss who previously worked for the NRC as a Regulator)

    There is much more i could post on the subject but i got to get to work sometime. If you are one of those people who need to know why you should believe any of the above, well I Currently work for NuScale Power, Inc. in the Safety Analysis Group as a Code Developer. That said:
    The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of NuScale Power, Inc.

    And Finally don’t be a dope go check out my information for yourself and confirm/disprove it. I don’t respond to trolls so don’t bother, this was just an informational post take it as such or ignore just as easily.

    Thank You,

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