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A fusor is a device that uses an electric field to heat ions to nuclear fusion conditions. The machine induces a voltage between two metal cages, inside a vacuum. Positive ions fall down this voltage drop, building up speed. If they collide in the center, they can fuse. This is one kind of an inertial electrostatic confinement device – a branch of fusion research.
An electric field surrounds an electric charge, and exerts force on other charges in the field, attracting or repelling them. Electric field is sometimes abbreviated as E-field. The electric field is defined mathematically as a vector field that associates to each point in space the force per unit of charge exerted on an infinitesimal positive test charge at rest at that point. The SI unit for electric field strength is volt per meter (V/m). Newtons per coulomb (N/C) is also used as a unit of electric field strengh. Electric fields are created by electric charges, or by time-varying magnetic fields. Electric fields are important in many areas of physics, and are exploited practically in electrical technology. On an atomic scale, the electric field is responsible for the attractive force between the atomic nucleus and electrons that holds atoms together, and the forces between atoms that cause chemical bonding. Electric fields and magnetic fields are both manifestations of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.
An ion is an atom or molecule that has a net electrical charge. Since the charge of the electron is equal and opposite to that of the proton, the net charge of an ion is non-zero due to its total number of electrons being unequal to its total number of protons. A cation is a positively charged ion, with fewer electrons than protons, while an anion is negatively charged, with more electrons than protons. Because of their opposite electric charges, cations and anions attract each other and readily form ionic compounds.
In nuclear chemistry, nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as either the release or absorption of energy. This difference in mass arises due to the difference in atomic "binding energy" between the atomic nuclei before and after the reaction. Fusion is the process that powers active or "main sequence" stars, or other high magnitude stars.
A Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor is the most common type of fusor.This design came from work by Philo T. Farnsworth in 1964 and Robert L. Hirsch in 1967. A variant type of fusor had been proposed previously by William Elmore, James L. Tuck, and Ken Watson at the Los Alamos National Laboratory though they never built the machine.
Robert L. Hirsch is a former senior energy program adviser for Science Applications International Corporation and is a Senior Energy Advisor at MISI and a consultant in energy, technology, and management. His primary experience is in research, development, and commercial applications. He has managed technology programs in oil and natural gas exploration and petroleum refining, synthetic fuels, fusion, fission, renewables, defense technologies, chemical analysis, and basic research, for example the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor.
James Leslie Tuck OBE, was a British physicist. He was born in Manchester, England, and educated at the Victoria University of Manchester. Because of his involvement with the Manhattan Project, he was unable to submit his thesis on time and never received his doctoral degree.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory initially organized during World War II for the design of nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. It is located a short distance northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the southwestern United States.
Fusors have been built by various institutions. These include academic institutions such as the University of Wisconsin–Madison,the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and government entities, such as the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority. Fusors have also been developed commercially, as sources for neutrons by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and as a method for generating medical isotopes. Fusors have also become very popular for hobbyists and amateurs. A growing number of amateurs have performed nuclear fusion using simple fusor machines.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848, UW–Madison is the official state university of Wisconsin, and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It was the first public university established in Wisconsin and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. It became a land-grant institution in 1866. The 933-acre (378 ha) main campus, located on the shores of Lake Mendota, includes four National Historic Landmarks. The University also owns and operates a historic 1,200-acre (486 ha) arboretum established in 1932, located 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the main campus.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with a campus that extends more than a mile alongside the Charles River. Its influence in the physical sciences, engineering, and architecture, and more recently in biology, economics, linguistics, management, and social science and art, has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is the main official body responsible for implementing regulations and operating nuclear energy installations in Iran.
For every volt that an ion of ±1 charge is accelerated across it gains 1 electronvolt in energy, similar to heating a material by 11,604 kelvins in temperature. After being accelerated by 15 kV a singly-charged ion has a kinetic energy of 15 keV, similar to the average kinetic energy at a temperature of approximately 174 megakelvins, a typical magnetic confinement fusion plasma temperature. Because most of the ions fall into the wires of the cage, fusors suffer from high conduction losses. On a bench top, these losses can be at least five orders of magnitude higher than the energy released from the fusion reaction, even when the fusor is in star mode.Hence, no fusor has ever come close to break-even energy output. The common sources of the high voltage are ZVS Flyback HV source and Neon Sign Transformers. It can also be called a particle accelerator.
The volt is the derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference (voltage), and electromotive force. It is named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745–1827).
In physics, the electronvolt is a unit of energy equal to approximately 1.6×10−19 joules in SI units.
The Kelvin scale is an absolute thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all thermal motion ceases in the classical description of thermodynamics. The kelvin is the base unit of temperature in the International System of Units (SI).
The fusor was originally conceived by Philo T. Farnsworth, better known for his pioneering work in television. In the early 1930s, he investigated a number of vacuum tube designs for use in television, and found one that led to an interesting effect. In this design, which he called the "multipactor", electrons moving from one electrode to another were stopped in mid-flight with the proper application of a high-frequency magnetic field. The charge would then accumulate in the center of the tube, leading to high amplification. Unfortunately it also led to high erosion on the electrodes when the electrons eventually hit them, and today the multipactor effect is generally considered a problem to be avoided.
In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit. The word was coined by William Whewell at the request of the scientist Michael Faraday from two Greek words: elektron, meaning amber, and hodos, a way.
A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence of electric charges in relative motion and magnetized materials. Magnetic fields are observed in a wide range of size scales, from subatomic particles to galaxies. In everyday life, the effects of magnetic fields are often seen in permanent magnets, which pull on magnetic materials and attract or repel other magnets. Magnetic fields surround and are created by magnetized material and by moving electric charges such as those used in electromagnets. Magnetic fields exert forces on nearby moving electrical charges and torques on nearby magnets. In addition, a magnetic field that varies with location exerts a force on magnetic materials. Both the strength and direction of a magnetic field vary with location. As such, it is an example of a vector field.
What particularly interested Farnsworth about the device was its ability to focus electrons at a particular point. One of the biggest problems in fusion research is to keep the hot fuel from hitting the walls of the container. If this is allowed to happen, the fuel cannot be kept hot enough for the fusion reaction to occur. Farnsworth reasoned that he could build an electrostatic plasma confinement system in which the "wall" fields of the reactor were electrons or ions being held in place by the multipactor. Fuel could then be injected through the wall, and once inside it would be unable to escape. He called this concept a virtual electrode, and the system as a whole the fusor.
Fusion power is a proposed form of power generation that would generate electricity by using heat from nuclear fusion reactions. In a fusion process, two lighter atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, while releasing energy. Devices designed to harness this energy are known as fusion reactors.
Farnsworth's original fusor designs were based on cylindrical arrangements of electrodes, like the original multipactors. Fuel was ionized and then fired from small accelerators through holes in the outer (physical) electrodes. Once through the hole they were accelerated towards the inner reaction area at high velocity. Electrostatic pressure from the positively charged electrodes would keep the fuel as a whole off the walls of the chamber, and impacts from new ions would keep the hottest plasma in the center. He referred to this as inertial electrostatic confinement, a term that continues to be used to this day.
All of this work had taken place at the Farnsworth Television labs, which had been purchased in 1949 by ITT Corporation, as part of its plan to become the next RCA. However, a fusion research project was not regarded as immediately profitable. In 1965, the board of directors started asking Geneen to sell off the Farnsworth division, but he had his 1966 budget approved with funding until the middle of 1967. Further funding was refused, and that ended ITT's experiments with fusion.[ citation needed ]
Things changed dramatically with the arrival of Robert Hirsch, and the introduction of the modified Hirsch–Meeks fusor patent.[ citation needed ] New fusors based on Hirsch's design were first constructed between 1964 and 1967. Hirsch published his design in a paper in 1967. His design included ion beams to shoot ions into the vacuum chamber.
The team then turned to the AEC, then in charge of fusion research funding, and provided them with a demonstration device mounted on a serving cart that produced more fusion than any existing "classical" device. The observers were startled, but the timing was bad; Hirsch himself had recently revealed the great progress being made by the Soviets using the tokamak. In response to this surprising development, the AEC decided to concentrate funding on large tokamak projects, and reduce backing for alternative concepts.[ citation needed ]
In the early 1980s, disappointed by the slow progress on "big machines", a number of physicists took a fresh look at alternative designs. George H. Miley at the University of Illinois picked up on the fusor and re-introduced it into the field. A low but steady interest in the fusor has persisted since. An important development was the successful commercial introduction of a fusor-based neutron generator. From 2006 until his death in 2007, Robert W. Bussard gave talks on a reactor similar in design to the fusor, now called the polywell, that he stated would be capable of useful power generation.Most recently, the fusor has gained popularity among amateurs, who choose them as home projects due to their relatively low space, money, and power requirements. An online community of "fusioneers", The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, or Fusor.net, is dedicated to reporting developments in the world of fusors and aiding other amateurs in their projects. The site includes forums, articles and papers done on the fusor, including Farnsworth's original patent, as well as Hirsch's patent of his version of the invention.
Nuclear fusion refers to reactions in which lighter nuclei are combined to become heavier nuclei. This process changes mass into energy which in turn may be captured to provide fusion power. Many types of atoms can be fused. The easiest to fuse are deuterium and tritium. For fusion to occur the ions must be at a temperature of at least 4 keV (kiloelectronvolts) or about 45 million kelvins. The second easiest reaction is fusing deuterium with itself. Because this gas is cheaper, it is the fuel commonly used by amateurs. The ease of doing a fusion reaction is measured by its cross section.
At such conditions, the atoms are ionized and make a plasma. The energy generated by fusion, inside a hot plasma cloud can be found with the following equation.
This equation shows that energy varies with the temperature, density, speed of collision, and fuel used. To reach net power, fusion reactions have to occur fast enough to make up for energy losses. Any power plant using fusion will hold in this hot cloud. Plasma clouds lose energy through conduction and radiation.Conduction is when ions, electrons or neutrals touch a surface and leak out. Energy is lost with the particle. Radiation is when energy leaves the cloud as light. Radiation increases as the temperature rises. To get net power from fusion, you must overcome these losses. This leads to an equation for power output.
John Lawson used this equation to estimate some conditions for net powerbased on a Maxwellian cloud. This became the Lawson criterion. Fusors typically suffer from conduction losses due to the wire cage being in the path of the recirculating plasma.
In the original fusor design, several small particle accelerators, essentially TV tubes with the ends removed, inject ions at a relatively low voltage into a vacuum chamber. In the Hirsch version of the fusor, the ions are produced by ionizing a dilute gas in the chamber. In either version there are two concentric spherical electrodes, the inner one being charged negatively with respect to the outer one (to about 80 kV). Once the ions enter the region between the electrodes, they are accelerated towards the center.
In the fusor, the ions are accelerated to several keV by the electrodes, so heating as such is not necessary (as long as the ions fuse before losing their energy by any process). Whereas 45 megakelvins is a very high temperature by any standard, the corresponding voltage is only 4 kV, a level commonly found in such devices as neon lights and televisions. To the extent that the ions remain at their initial energy, the energy can be tuned to take advantage of the peak of the reaction cross section or to avoid disadvantageous (for example neutron-producing) reactions that might occur at higher energies.
Various attempts have been made at increasing deuterium ionization rate, including heaters within "ion-guns", (similar to the "electron gun" which forms the basis for old-style television display tubes), as well as magnetron type devices, (which are the power sources for microwave ovens), which can enhance ion formation using high-voltage electromagnetic fields. Any method which increases ion density (within limits which preserve ion mean-free path), or ion energy, can be expected to enhance the fusion yield, typically measured in the number of neutrons produced per second.
The ease with which the ion energy can be increased appears to be particularly useful when "high temperature" fusion reactions are considered, such as proton-boron fusion, which has plentiful fuel, requires no radioactive tritium, and produces no neutrons in the primary reaction.
Fusors have at least two modes of operation (possibly more): star mode and halo mode. Halo mode is characterized by a broad symmetric glow, with one or two electron beams exiting the structure. There is little fusion.The halo mode occurs in higher pressure tanks, and as the vacuum improves, the device transitions to star mode. Star mode appears as bright beams of light emanating from the device center.
Because the electric field made by the cages is negative, it cannot simultaneously trap both positively charged ions and negative electrons. Hence, there must be some regions of charge accumulation, which will result in an upper limit on the achievable density. This could place an upper limit on the machine's power density, which may keep it too low for power production.[ citation needed ]
When they first fall into the center of the fusor, the ions will all have the same energy, but the velocity distribution will rapidly approach a Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. This would occur through simple Coulomb collisions in a matter of milliseconds, but beam-beam instabilities will occur orders of magnitude faster still. In comparison, any given ion will require a few minutes before undergoing a fusion reaction, so that the monoenergetic picture of the fusor, at least for power production, is not appropriate. One consequence of the thermalization is that some of the ions will gain enough energy to leave the potential well, taking their energy with them, without having undergone a fusion reaction.
There are a number of unsolved challenges with the electrodes in a fusor power system. To begin with, the electrodes cannot influence the potential within themselves, so it would seem at first glance that the fusion plasma would be in more or less direct contact with the inner electrode, resulting in contamination of the plasma and destruction of the electrode. However, the majority of the fusion tends to occur in microchannels formed in areas of minimum electric potential,seen as visible "rays" penetrating the core. These form because the forces within the region correspond to roughly stable "orbits". Approximately 40% of the high energy ions in a typical grid operating in star mode may be within these microchannels. Nonetheless, grid collisions remain the primary energy loss mechanism for Farnsworth–Hirsch fusors. Complicating issues is the challenge in cooling the central electrode; any fusor producing enough power to run a power plant seems destined to also destroy its inner electrode. As one fundamental limitation, any method which produces a neutron flux that is captured to heat a working fluid will also bombard its electrodes with that flux, heating them as well.
Attempts to resolve these problems include Bussard's Polywell system, D. C. Barnes' modified Penning trap approach, and the University of Illinois's fusor which retains grids but attempts to more tightly focus the ions into microchannels to attempt to avoid losses. While all three are Inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) devices, only the last is actually a "fusor".
Nonrelativistic particles will radiate energy as light when they change speed.This loss rate can be estimated using the Larmor formula. Inside a fusor there is a cloud of ions and electrons. These particles will accelerate or decelerate as they move about. These changes in speed make the cloud lose energy as light. The radiation from a fusor can (at least) be in the visible, ultraviolet and X-ray spectrum, depending on the type of fusor used. These changes in speed can be due to electrostatic interactions between particles (ion to ion, ion to electron, electron to electron). This is referred to bremsstrahlung radiation, and is common in fusors. Changes in speed can also be due to interactions between the particle and the electric field. Since there are no magnetic fields, fusors emit no cyclotron radiation at slow speeds, or synchrotron radiation at high speeds.
In Fundamental limitations on plasma fusion systems not in thermodynamic equilibrium, Todd Rider argues that a quasineutral isotropic plasma will lose energy due to Bremsstrahlung at a rate prohibitive for any fuel other than D-T (or possibly D-D or D-He3). This paper is not applicable to IEC fusion, as a quasineutral plasma cannot be contained by an electric field, which is a fundamental part of IEC fusion. However, in an earlier paper, "A general critique of inertial-electrostatic confinement fusion systems", Rider addresses the common IEC devices directly, including the fusor. In the case of the fusor the electrons are generally separated from the mass of the fuel isolated near the electrodes, which limits the loss rate. However, Rider demonstrates that practical fusors operate in a range of modes that either lead to significant electron mixing and losses, or alternately lower power densities. This appears to be a sort of catch-22 that limits the output of any fusor-like system.
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The fusor has been demonstrated as a viable neutron source. Typical fusors cannot reach fluxes as high as nuclear reactor or particle accelerator sources, but are sufficient for many uses. Importantly, the neutron generator easily sits on a benchtop, and can be turned off at the flick of a switch. A commercial fusor was developed as a non-core business within DaimlerChrysler Aerospace – Space Infrastructure, Bremen between 1996 and early 2001.After the project was effectively ended, the former project manager established a company which is called NSD-Fusion. To date, the highest neutron flux achieved by a fusor-like device has been 3 × 1011 neutrons per second with the deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction.
Commercial startups have used the neutron fluxes generated by fusors to generate Mo-99, an isotope used for medical care.
Thermonuclear fusion is a way to achieve nuclear fusion by using extremely high temperatures. There are two forms of thermonuclear fusion: uncontrolled, in which the resulting energy is released in an uncontrolled manner, as it is in thermonuclear weapons and in most stars; and controlled, where the fusion reactions take place in an environment allowing some or all of the energy released to be harnessed for constructive purposes. This article focuses on the latter.
A fusion rocket is a theoretical design for a rocket driven by fusion propulsion which could provide efficient and long-term acceleration in space without the need to carry a large fuel supply. The design relies on the development of fusion power technology beyond current capabilities, and the construction of rockets much larger and more complex than any current spacecraft. A smaller and lighter fusion reactor might be possible in the future when more sophisticated methods have been devised to control magnetic confinement and prevent plasma instabilities. Inertial fusion could provide a lighter and more compact alternative, as might a fusion engine based on an FRC.
A neutron source is any device that emits neutrons, irrespective of the mechanism used to produce the neutrons. Neutron sources are used in physics, engineering, medicine, nuclear weapons, petroleum exploration, biology, chemistry, and nuclear power.
Robert W. Bussard was an American physicist who worked primarily in nuclear fusion energy research. He was the recipient of the Schreiber-Spence Achievement Award for STAIF-2004. He was also a fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics and held a Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Inertial electrostatic confinement is a branch of fusion research that uses an electric field to elevate a plasma to fusion conditions. Electric fields can do work on charged particles, heating/confining them to fusion conditions. This is typically done in a sphere, with material moving radially inward, but can also be done in a cylindrical or beam geometry. The electric field can be generated using a wire grid or a non-neutral plasma cloud.
The Lawson criterion is a figure of merit used in nuclear fusion research. It compares the rate of energy being generated by fusion reactions within the fusion fuel to the rate of energy losses to the environment. When the rate of production is higher than the rate of loss, and enough of that energy is captured by the system, the system is said to be ignited.
Aneutronic fusion is any form of fusion power in which neutrons carry no more than 1% of the total released energy. The most-studied fusion reactions release up to 80% of their energy in neutrons. Successful aneutronic fusion would greatly reduce problems associated with neutron radiation such as ionizing damage, neutron activation and requirements for biological shielding, remote handling and safety.
DEMO is a proposed nuclear fusion power station that is intended to build upon the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor. The objectives of DEMO are usually understood to lie somewhere between those of ITER and a "first of a kind" commercial station, sometimes referred to as PROTO.
An inertial fusion power plant is intended to produce electric power by use of inertial confinement fusion techniques on an industrial scale. This type of power plant is still in a research phase.
A Riggatron is a magnetic confinement fusion reactor design created by Robert W. Bussard in the late 1970s. It is a tokamak on the basis of its magnetic geometry, but some unconventional engineering choices were made. In particular, Riggatron used copper magnets positioned inside the lithium blanket, which was hoped to lead to much lower construction costs. Originally referred to as the Demountable Tokamak Fusion Core (DTFC), the name was later changed to refer to the Riggs Bank, which funded development along with Bob Guccione, publisher of the adult magazine Penthouse.
Migma, sometimes migmatron or migmacell, was a proposed colliding beam fusion reactor designed by Bogdan Maglich in 1969. Migma uses self-intersecting beams of ions from small particle accelerators to force the ions to fuse. Similar systems using larger collections of particles were referred to as "macrons". Migma was an area of some research in the 1970s and early 1980s, but lack of funding precluded further development.
The polywell is a type of nuclear fusion reactor that uses an electric field to heat ions to fusion conditions. It is closely related to the fusor, the high beta fusion reactor, the magnetic mirror, and the biconic cusp. A set of electromagnets generates a magnetic field that traps electrons. This creates a negative voltage, which attracts positive ions. As the ions accelerate towards the negative center, their kinetic energy rises. Ions that collide at high enough energies can fuse.
Magnetized target fusion (MTF) is a fusion power concept that combines features of magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF). Like the magnetic approach, the fusion fuel is confined at lower density by magnetic fields while it is heated into a plasma. As with the inertial approach, fusion is initiated by rapidly squeezing the target to greatly increase fuel density and temperature. Although the resulting density is far lower than in ICF, it is thought that the combination of longer confinement times and better heat retention will let MTF operate, yet be easier to build. The term magneto-inertial fusion (MIF) is similar, but encompasses a wider variety of arrangements. The two terms are often applied interchangeably to experiments.
The Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) is a proposed nuclear fusion reactor project at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. Its high-beta configuration, which implies that the ratio of plasma pressure to magnetic pressure is greater than or equal to 1, allows a compact fusion reactor (CFR) design and expedited development.
Direct energy conversion (DEC) or simply direct conversion converts a charged particle's kinetic energy into a voltage. It is a scheme for power extraction from nuclear fusion.
The Horne Hybrid Reactor (HHR) is a development type of nuclear fusion research device produced by Horne Technologies in 2017. A prototype demonstration device that uses a combination of fusion technologies and implementation of Rare earth - Barium - Copper Oxide (REBCO) superconductors in a "high-beta" style magnetic configuration. Heating is achieved through the use of inertial electrostatic confinement, improved by a magnetically-shielded grid, and a "high-beta" fusion core.