World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Inertial electrostatic confinement

Article Id: WHEBN0000368319
Reproduction Date:

Title: Inertial electrostatic confinement  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fusion power, Fusor, Polywell, Migma, Inertial fusion power plant
Collection: Fusion Power
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Inertial electrostatic confinement

A fusor, doing nuclear fusion in star mode

Inertial electrostatic confinement is a branch of fusion research which uses an electric field to heat a plasma to fusion conditions. Electric fields can do work on charged particles (either ions or electrons), heating them to fusion conditions.[1] This is typically done in a sphere, with material moving radially inward, but can also be done in a cylindrical or beam geometry.[2] The electric field can be generated using a wire grid [3] or a non-neutral plasma cloud.[4][5][6]


  • Mechanism 1
  • History 2
    • 1930s 2.1
    • 1950s 2.2
    • 1960s 2.3
    • 1980s 2.4
    • 1990s 2.5
    • 2000s 2.6
    • 2010s 2.7
  • Designs with cage 3
    • Fusor 3.1
    • POPS 3.2
  • Designs with fields 4
    • Polywell 4.1
    • Penning trap 4.2
    • Marble 4.3
    • MIX 4.4
  • General criticism 5
    • Thermalization 5.1
    • Radiation 5.2
    • Core focus 5.3
    • Brillouin limit 5.4
  • Commercial applications 6
  • Devices 7
    • Government and commercial 7.1
    • Universities 7.2
    • Amateur 7.3
  • See also 8
  • Patents 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


For every volt that an ion is accelerated across, it gains 11,604 kelvins. For example, a typical magnetic confinement fusion plasma is 15 keV, or 170 megakelvin. An ion with a charge of one can reach this temperature by being accelerated across a 15,000 V drop. In fusors, the voltage drop is made with a wire cage. However high conduction losses occur in fusors because most ions fall into the cage before fusion can occur. This prevents current fusors from ever producing net power.

This is an illustration of the basic mechanism of fusion in fusors. (1) The fusor contains two concentric wire cages. The cathode is inside the anode. (2) Positive ions are attracted to the inner cathode. They fall down the voltage drop. The electric field does work on the ions heating them to fusion conditions. (3) The ions miss the inner cage. (4) The ions collide in the center and may fuse.[7][8]



Mark Oliphant adapts Cockcroft and Walton's particle accelerator at the Cavendish Laboratory to create Tritium and Helium-3 by nuclear fusion.[9]


This picture shows the anode/cathode design for different IEC concepts and experiments.

Three researchers at LANL including Jim Tuck first explored the idea, theoretically, in a 1959 paper.[10] The idea had been proposed by a colleague.[11] The concept was to capture electrons inside a positive cage. The electrons would accelerate the ions to fusion conditions.

Other concepts were being developed which would later merge into the IEC field. These include the publication of the Lawson criterion by John D. Lawson in 1957 in England.[12] This puts on minimum criteria on power plant designs which do fusion using hot Maxwellian plasma clouds. Also, work exploring how electrons behave inside the Biconic cusp, done by Harold Grad group at the Courant Institute in 1957.[13][14] A biconic cusp is a device with two alike magnetic poles facing one another (i.e. north-north). Electrons and ions can be trapped between these.


U.S. Patent 3,386,883 - Schematic from Philo Farnsworth 1968 patent. This device has an inner cage to make the field, and four ion guns on the outside.

In his work with vacuum tubes, Philo Farnsworth observed that electric charge would accumulate in regions of the tube. Today, this effect is known as the Multipactor effect.[15] Farnsworth reasoned that if ions were concentrated high enough they could collide and fuse. In 1962, he filed a patent on a design using a positive inner cage to concentrate plasma, in order to achieve nuclear fusion.[16] During this time, Robert L. Hirsch joined the Farnsworth Television labs and began work on what became the fusor. Hirsch patented the design in 1966[17] and published the design in 1967.[3] The Hirsch machine was a 17.8 cm diameter machine with 150 kV voltage drop across it and used ion beams to help inject material.

Simultaneously, a key plasma physics text was published by Lyman Spitzer at Princeton in 1963.[18] Spitzer took the ideal gas laws and adapted them to an ionized plasma, developing many of the fundamental equations used to model a plasma. Meanwhile, Magnetic mirror theory and direct energy conversion was developed by Richard F. Post's group at LLNL.[19][20] A magnetic mirror or magnetic bottle, is similar to a biconic cusp except that the poles are reversed.


In 1980 Robert W. Bussard developed a cross between a fusor and magnetic mirror, the polywell. The idea was to confine a non-neutral plasma using magnetic fields. This would, in turn, attract ions. This idea had been published previously, notably by Oleg Lavrentiev in Russia.[21][22][23] Bussard patented [24] the design and received funding from Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DARPA and, Navy to develop the idea.[25]


Bussard and Nicholas Krall published theory and experimental results in the early nineties.[26][27] In response, Todd Rider at MIT, under Lawrence Lidsky developed general models of the device.[28] Rider argued that the device was fundamentally limited. That same year, 1995, William Nevins at LLNL published a criticism of the polywell.[29] Nevins argued that the particles would build up angular momentum, causing the dense core to degrade.

In the mid-nineties, Bussard publications prompted the development of a

  • Polywell Talk at Microsoft
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison IEC homepage
  • IEC Overview
  • From Proceedings of the 1999 Fusion Summer Study (Snowmass, Colorado):
  • Summary of Physics Aspects of Some Emerging Concepts
  • Inertial-Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) of a Fusion Plasma with Grids
  • Fusion from Television? (American Scientist Magazine, July-August 1999)
  • Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean, cheap, nuclear power (no, really)
  • Latest Fusion developments (WB-7 - June 2008) based on the work of Dr. Robert Bussard
  • Website of FPGeneration, Inc
  • The Polywell Blog Amateur blog about the Polywell
  • NSD-Gradel-Fusion, NSD-Gradel-Fusion (Luxembourg)

External links

  1. ^ Elmore, WC; et al. (1959). "On the Inertial-Electrostatic Confinement of a Plasma". Physics of Fluids 2: 239.  
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b c d Hirsch, Robert L. (1967). "Inertial-Electrostatic Confinement of Ionized Fusion Gases". Journal of Applied Physics 38 (7). 
  4. ^ a b Gummershall, Devid; Carr, Matthew; Cornish, Scott (2013). "Scaling law of electron confinement in a zero beta polywell device". Physics of Plasma 20: 102701. 
  5. ^ Carr, M.; Khachan, J. (2013). "A biased probe analysis of potential well formation in an electron only, low beta Polywell magnetic field". Physics of Plasmas 20 (5): 052504.  
  6. ^ "Electrostatic potential measurements and point cusp theories applied to a low beta polywell fusion device" PhD Thesis, Matthew Carr, 2013, The University of Sydney
  7. ^ a b Thorson, Timothy A. (1996). Ion flow and fusion reactivity characterization of a spherically convergent ion focus (Ph. D.). University of Wisconsin-Madison.  
  8. ^ Thorson, T.A.; Durst, R.D.; Fonck, R.J.; Sontag, A.C. (17 July 1997). "Fusion reactivity characterization of a spherically convergent ion focus". Nuclear Fusion (International Atomic Energy Agency, published April 1998) 38 (4): 495.  
  9. ^ Oliphant, M. L. E., P. Harteck, and Lord Rutherford. "Transmutation effects observed with heavy hydrogen." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A 144.853 (1934): 692-703.
  10. ^ "On Interial-electrostatic confinement of a plasma" Elmore, Tuck and Watson, Physics of Fluids, Volume 2, Number 3 June 1959
  11. ^ W. H. Wells, Bendix Aviation Corporation (private communication, 1954)
  12. ^ "Some Criteria for a Power Producing Thermonuclear Reactor" J D Lawson, Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, Berks, 2 November 1956
  13. ^ Grad, H. Theory of Cusped Geometries, I. General Survey, NYO-7969, Inst. Math. Sci., N.Y.U., December 1, 1957
  14. ^ Berkowitz, J., Theory of Cusped Geometries, II. Particle Losses, NYO-2530, Inst. Math. Sci., N.Y.U., January 6, 1959.
  15. ^ Cartlidge, Edwin. The Secret World of Amateur Fusion. Physics World, March 2007: IOP Publishing Ltd, pp. 10-11. ISSN: 0953-8585.
  16. ^ US Patent 3,258,402 June 28, 1966
  17. ^ US Patent 3,386,883 June 4, 1968
  18. ^ Lyman J Spitzer, "The Physics of Fully Ionized Gases" 1963
  19. ^ G. G. Kelley, Plasma Phys. 2, 503 (1967)
  20. ^ a b "Mirror Systems: Fuel Cycles, loss reduction and energy recovery" by Richard F. Post, BNES Nuclear fusion reactor conferences at Culham laboratory, September 1969.
  21. ^ Sadowsky, M (1969). "Spherical Multipole Magnets for Plasma Research". Rev.Sci.Instrum 40: 1545. 
  22. ^ "Confinement d'un Plasma par un Systemem Polyedrique a' Courant Alternatif", Z. Naturforschung Vol. 21 n, pp. 1085–1089 (1966)
  23. ^ Lavrent'ev, O.A. (1975). "Electrostatic and Electromagnetic High-Temperature Plasma Traps". Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 251: 152–178.  
  24. ^ a b R.W.Bussard in U.S.Patent 4,826,646, "Method and apparatus for controlling charged particles", issued May 2, 1989
  25. ^ Dr. Robert Bussard (lecturer) (2006-11-09). "Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean, cheap, nuclear power (no, really)" (Flash video). Google Tech Talks. Google. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
  26. ^ Krall, N. A.; Coleman, M.; Maffei, K.; Lovberg, J.; Jacobsen, R.; Bussard, R. W. (1995). "Forming and maintaining a potential well in a quasispherical magnetic trap". Physics of Plasmas 2: 146.
  27. ^ "Inertial electrostatic fusion (IEF): A clean energy future" (Microsoft Word document). Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g "Fundamental limitations on plasma fusions systems not in thermodynamic equilibrium" Thesis, Todd Rider, June 1995
  29. ^ Nevins, William M. "Can Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Work beyond the Ion-ion Collisional Time Scale?" Physics of Plasmas 2.10 (1995): 3804-819. Print.
  30. ^ "IEC Lab Timeline" accessed 1-25-2014
  31. ^ a b "A portable neutron/tunable X-ray source based on inertial electrostatic confinement", Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, A 422 (1999) 16-20
  32. ^ Miley Abstract Accomplishments,
  33. ^ "The IEC star-mode fusion neutron source for NAA--status and next-step designs". Appl Radiat Isot 53 (4-5): 779–83. October 2000.
  34. ^ a b "Living with a nuclear reactor" The Wall Street Journal, interview with Sam Schechner,
  35. ^ a b "The Neutron Club", Richard Hull, Accessed 6-9-2011,
  36. ^
  37. ^ "President Obama Hosts the White House Science Fair".  
  38. ^ a b c "The Multipole Ion-beam eXperiment", Presentation, Alex Klien, 7–8 December 2011, 13th US-Japan IEC workshop, Sydney 2011
  39. ^ accessed: 1-25-2014, "FP generation funded"
  40. ^ a b c "The Multiple Ambipolar Recirculating Beam Line Experiment" Poster presentation, 2011 US-Japan IEC conference, Dr. Alex Klein
  41. ^ "Equilibrium and low-frequency stability of a uniform density, collisionless, spherical Vlasov system" DC Barns, L Chacon, Physics of plasma November 2002
  42. ^ a b "Observation of Spherical Focus in an Electron Penning Trap", T. B. Mitchell and M. M. Schauer, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, VOLUME 78, NUMBER 1
  43. ^ Ph.D. Thesis "Improving Particle Confinement in Inertial Electrostatic Fusion for Spacecraft Power and Propulsion", Carl Dietrich, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY FEBRUARY 2007
  44. ^ Ph.D. Thesis "Improved lifetimes and synchronization behavior in Mutlt-grid IEC fusion devices", Tom McGuire,MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY FEBRUARY 2007
  45. ^ a b c "Phoenix Nuclear Labs meets neutron production milestone", PNL press release May 1, 2013, Ross Radel, Evan Sengbusch
  46. ^ SirPhilip (posting an e-mail from "RW Bussard") (2006-06-23). "Fusion, eh?". James Randi Educational Foundation forums. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
  47. ^ a b "The Advent of Clean Nuclear Fusion: Super-performance Space Power and Propulsion", Robert W. Bussard, Ph.D., 57th International Astronautical Congress, October 2–6, 2006
  48. ^ M. Simon (2007-10-08). "Dr. Robert W. Bussard Has Passed". Classical Values. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  49. ^ "Funding Continues for Bussard's Fusion Reactor". New Energy and Fuel. 2007-08-27. Note that this source is a blog and not necessarily reliable.
  50. ^ "A—Polywell Fusion Device Research, Solicitation Number: N6893609T0011". Federal Business Opportunities. October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  51. ^ "A—Spatially Resolved Plasma Densities/Particle Energies, Solicitation Number: N6893609T0019". Federal Business Opportunities. October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  52. ^ "Statement of work for advanced gaseous electrostatic energy (AGEE) concept exploration" (PDF). United States Navy. June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  53. ^ Dutton, Judy. "Teen Nuclear Scientist Fights Terror",, September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  54. ^ "Rock Center: 19-year-old hopes to revolutionize nuclear power". NBC. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  55. ^ TED2013. "Taylor Wilson: My radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  56. ^ "Good energy comes in small packages: Taylor Wilson at TED2013". February 27, 2012.
  57. ^ "President Obama Hosts the White House Science Fair". The White House. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  58. ^ "The Boy Who Played With Fusion". Popular Science. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  59. ^ Carr, M.; Khachan, J. (2010). "The dependence of the virtual cathode in a Polywell™ on the coil current and background gas pressure". Physics of Plasmas 17 (5): 052510. Bibcode:2010PhPl...17e2510C. doi:10.1063/1.3428744
  60. ^ Carr, Matthew (2011). "Low beta confinement in a Polywell modeled with conventional point cusp theories". Physics of Plasma 18 (11).
  61. ^ a b Carr, M.; Khachan, J. (2013). "A biased probe analysis of potential well formation in an electron only, low beta Polywell magnetic field". Physics of Plasmas 20 (5): 052504. Bibcode:2013PhPl...20e2504C. doi:10.1063/1.4804279
  62. ^ a b
  63. ^ a b
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^ Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) Fusion, fundamentals and applications, ISBN 978-1-4614-9337-2 (Print) 978-1-4614-9338-9, published December 26, 2013
  69. ^ a b
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ - Will's Amateur Science and Engineering: Fusion Reactor's First Light!, Feb 2010 (from blog)
  73. ^ accessed 1-7-2014
  74. ^ NSD-Gradel-Fusion
  75. ^ Evstatiev, E. G.; Nebel, R. A.; Chacón, L.; Park, J.; Lapenta, G. (2007). "Space charge neutralization in inertial electrostatic con?nement plasmas". Phys. Plasmas 14: 042701. 
  76. ^ Periodically Oscillating Plasma Sphere (POPS)
  77. ^ Park, J.; et al. (2005). "Experimental Observation of a Periodically Oscillating Plasma Sphere in a Gridded Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Device". Phys. Rev. Lett. 95: 015003.  
  78. ^ D. C. Barnes and R. A. Nebel, Phys. Plasmas 1998; 5, 2498.
  79. ^ R. A. Nebel and D. C. Barnes, Fusion Technol. 38, 28, 1998.
  80. ^ "Inertial Electrostatic Confinement and Nuclear Fusion in the Interelectrode Plasma of a Nanosecond Vacuum Discharge. II: Particle in Cell Simulations" Yu. K. Kurilenkova, V. P. Tarakanova, and S. Yu. Gus’kovb. Gas and vacuum discharges.
  81. ^ S. Krupakar Murali et al.,"Carbon Nanotubes in IEC Fusion Reactors", ANS 2006 Annual Meeting, June 4–8, Reno, Nevada.
  82. ^ "Vlasov–Poisson calculations of electron confinement times in Polywell(TM) devices using a steady-state particle-in-cell method". The DPP13 Meeting of The American Physical Society. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  83. ^ "Electrostatic potential measurements and point cusp theories applied to a low beta polywell fusion device" PhD Thesis, Matthew Carr, 2013, The University of Sydney
  84. ^ a b Bussard, R.W. (1991). "Some Physics Considerations of Magnetic Inertial-Electrostatic Confinement: A New Concept for Spherical Converging-flow Fusion". Fusion Technology 19: 273. 
  85. ^
  86. ^ D.C. Barnes, R.A. Nebel, and L. Turner, "Production and Application of Dense Penning Trap Plasmas", Physics of Fluids B5: 3651 (1993)
  87. ^ "Dynamics of Ions in an Electrostatic Ion Beam Trap", Presentation, Daniel Zajfman
  88. ^*/
  89. ^ Alex Klein, in person interview, April 30, 2013
  90. ^ "The effect of collisions in maintaining a non Maxwellian plasma distribution in a spherically convergent ion focus", Rosenberg, N Krall, Physics of Fluids, 1992
  91. ^ Science 17 July 1998: Vol. 281. no. 5375, p. 307
  92. ^ [W.M. Nevins, Phys. Plasmas <2> (10), 3804 (October, 1995)]
  93. ^ L. Brillouin, Phys. Rev. 67, 260 (1945).
  94. ^ "Brillouin limit for electron plasmas confined on magnetic surfaces" Allen H. Boozer Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics Columbia University, New York 10027,
  95. ^ "Observation of Spherical Focus in an Electron Penning Trap", T Mitchell and M. M. Schauer, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, VOLUME 78, NUMBER 1, VOLUME 78, NUMBER 1
  96. ^ a b
  97. ^ Talk. "Commercial Applications of IEC Devices" Web presentation, Performed by Devlin Baker, December 3, 2013.
  98. ^ "Stable, thermal equilibrium, large-amplitude, spherical plasma oscillations in electrostatic confinement devices", DC Barnes and Rick Nebel, PHYSICS OF PLASMAS VOLUME 5, NUMBER 7 JULY 1998
  99. ^ "Equilibrium and low-frequency stability of a uniform density, collisionless, spherical Vlasov system", D C Barnes, L Chacon and J M Finn, Physics Of Plasmas Volume 9, Number 11 November 2002
  100. ^ "Preliminary Results of Experimental Studies from Low Pressure Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Device", A. S. B, Y. A, A. A, Journal of Fusion Energy, May 2013
  101. ^ "Experimental Study of the Iranian Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Device as a Continuous Neutron Generator" V. Damideh, Journal of Fusion Energy, June 11, 2011
  102. ^ "Overview of IEC Research at Tokyo Tech." Eiki Hotta, 15th annual US-Japan IEC workshop, October 7, 2013,
  103. ^ R.P. Ashley, G.L. Kulcinski, J.F. Santarius, S.K. Murali, G. Piefer, 18th IEEE/NPSS Symposium on Fusion Engineering, IEEE #99CH37050, (1999)
  104. ^ "Improving Particle Confinement in Inertial Electrostatic Fusion for Spacecraft Power and Propulsion" SUBMITTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AERONAUTICS AND ASTRONAUTICS, Carl Dietrich, February 2007
  105. ^ "Improving Particle Confinement in Inertial Electrostatic Fusion for Spacecraft Power and Propulsion" SUBMITTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AERONAUTICS AND ASTRONAUTICS, Carl Dietrich, February 2007
  106. ^
  107. ^ Dutton, Judy. "Teen Nuclear Scientist Fights Terror",, 1 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  108. ^ TED2012. "Taylor Wilson: Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor". Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  109. ^ "Building Electronics is teen's favorite leisure activity" Democrat and Chronicle, Ashwin Verghese, Jan 6th 2010
  110. ^ Michael Li, Resume, Accessed 2013,
  111. ^
  112. ^ Mark Suppes Presentation at Wired 2012, October 2012
  113. ^
  114. ^ Teen builds basement nuclear reactor, Popular Science
  115. ^ Stephen Ornes: Radioactive Boy Scout, Discover Magazine, March 2007
  116. ^ "Neutron Activation Analysis Using an Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Reactor", Thiago David Olson of Stoney Creek High School, Rochester Hills, Michigan AVS Newsletter, Fall 2007, page 3, 2007 Intel 58th International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)
  117. ^
  118. ^
  119. ^
  120. ^
  121. ^
  122. ^ Research reactor work at University of Maryland; reference by personal testimony of James M. Kovalchick
  123. ^ Young scientist Jamie Edwards in atomic fusion record


  • P.T. Farnsworth, U.S. Patent 3,258,402, June 1966 (Electric discharge — Nuclear interaction)
  • P.T. Farnsworth, U.S. Patent 3,386,883. June 1968 (Method and apparatus)
  • Hirsch, Robert, U.S. Patent 3,530,036. September 1970 (Apparatus)
  • Hirsch, Robert, U.S. Patent 3,530,497. September 1970 (Generating apparatus — Hirsch/Meeks)
  • Hirsch, Robert, U.S. Patent 3,533,910. October 1970 (Lithium-Ion source)
  • Hirsch, Robert, U.S. Patent 3,655,508. April 1972 (Reduce plasma leakage)
  • P.T. Farnsworth, U.S. Patent 3,664,920. May 1972 (Electrostatic containment)
  • R.W. Bussard, "Method and apparatus for controlling charged particles", U.S. Patent 4,826,646, May 1989 (Method and apparatus — Magnetic grid fields).
  • R.W. Bussard, "Method and apparatus for creating and controlling nuclear fusion reactions", U.S. Patent 5,160,695, November 1992 (Method and apparatus — Ion acoustic waves).


See also

  • Richard Hull Since the late nineties, Richard Hull has built several fusors in his home in Richmond, Virginia.[34] In March 1999, he achieved a neutron rate of 10E5 neutrons per second.[35] Hull maintains a list of amateurs who have gotten neutrons from fusors.
  • North West Nuclear Consortium This is an organization in Washington state which teaches a class on nuclear engineering principles, to high school students, using a 60 kvolt fusor.[62][63]
  • Taylor Wilson In 2008, Taylor Wilson became the youngest person to build a working fusor, at age 14.[107][108]
  • Matthew Honickman Was a high school student who built a working fusor in his basement in Rochester, New York.[109]
  • Michael Li In 2003, Michael Li built a fusor and won second place [110] in the US's Intel Science Talent Search winning a $75,000 college scholarship.[111]
  • Mark Suppes Built a working fusor and measured electron trapping inside a polywell.[112][113]
  • Thiago David Olson Built a 40 kV fusor at age 17, in his home in Rochester, Michigan.[114][115][116]
  • Andrew Seltzman Has built several fusors with neutrons detected in 2008.[117]
  • Mert Soykan and Ferit Kutay built a 45 kV homemade fusor together in 2013 when they were both 16 years old.
  • Conrad Farnsworth of Newcastle, Wyoming produced fusion in 2011 at 17[118][119] and used this to win a regional and state science fair.
  • Michael Kovalchick of York Pennsylvania achieved fusion in 2011 with a fusor he built in his family's basement. Kovalchick was the first to record video evidence of rotational electrostatic forces on the fusor inner grid. He used his fusion work to win high school and regional science fairs and a fourth award at the 2012 Intel ISEF. In 2012 at the age of 17, under instruction of a licensed operator, Kovalchick pulled control rods of a fission research reactor to critical and in doing so may have been the youngest person to have directly controlled both nuclear fission and fusion reactors.[120][121][122]
  • Jamie Edwards 13 became the youngest fusor builder in March 2014.[123] He received a letter of congratulations from his royal highness, the Duke of York.[69] He also appeared on the late show with David Letterman.

Amateurs mainly build fusors. Listed here are teams or machines which have produced neutrons.



  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Researchers developed [98] POPS and penning trap [99]
  • Turkish Atomic Energy Authority In 2013 this team built a 30 cm fusor at the Saraykoy Nuclear Research and Training center in Turkey. This fusor can reach 85 Kv and do deuterium fusion, producing 2.4E4 neutrons per second.[100]
  • [101]
  • ITT Corporation Hirschs original machine was a 17.8 cm diameter machine with 150 Kv voltage drop across it.[3] This machine used ion beams.
  • Phoenix Nuclear Labs Has developed a commercial neutron source based off a fusor, achieving 3X10^11 neutrons per second with the deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction for 24 hours of continuous operation.[45]
  • Energy Matter Conversion Inc Is a company in Santa Fe, which has developed large high powered polywell devices for the US Navy.
  • NSD-Gradel-Fusion sealed IEC neutron generators for DD (2.5 MeV) or DT (14 MeV) with a range of maximum outputs are manufactured by Gradel sárl in Luxembourg.[96]

Government and commercial


Since fusion reactions generates neutrons, the fusor has been developed into a family of compact sealed reaction chamber neutron generators [96] for a wide range of applications that need moderate neutron output rates at a moderate price. Very high output neutron sources may be used to make products such as Molybdenum-99[45] and Nitrogen-13, medical isotopes, used for PET scans.[97]

Commercial applications

Where B is the magnetic field, \mu_{0} the permeability of free space, m the mass of confined particles, and c the speed of light. This may limit the charge density inside IEC devices.


In 1945, Columbia University professor Léon Brillouin, suggested that there was a limit to how many electrons one could pack into a given volume.[93] This limit is commonly referred to as the Brillouin limited or Brillouin density,[94] this is shown below.[95]

Brillouin limit

The core focus problem was also identified in fusors by Tim Thorson at the University of Wisconsin–Madison during his 1996 doctoral work.[7] Charged ions would have some motion before they started accelerating in the center. This motion could be a twisting motion, where the ion had Angular momentum, or simply a tangential velocity. This initial motion causes the cloud in the center of the fusor to be unfocused.

In 1995, Nevins argued that such machines would need to expend a great deal of energy maintaining ion focus in the center. The ions need to be focused so that they can find one another, collide and fuse. Overtime the positive ions and negative electrons would naturally intermix because of Electrostatic attraction. This causes the focus to be lost. This is core degradation. Nevins argued mathematically, that the fusion gain (ratio of fusion power produced to the power required to maintain the non-equilibrium ion distribution function) is limited to 0.1 assuming that the device is fueled with a mixture of deuterium and tritium.[92]

Core focus

Rider estimated that once the plasma is thermalized the Radiation losses would outpace any amount of Fusion energy generated. He focused on a specific type of radiation: x-ray radiation. A particle in a plasma will radiate light anytime it speeds up or slows down. This can be estimated using the Larmor formula. Rider estimated this for D-T (deuterium-tritium fusion), D-D (deuterium fusion), and D-He3 (deuterium-helium 3 fusion), and that breakeven operation with any fuel except D-T is difficult.[28]


This spreading of energy causes several problems. One problem is making more and more cold ions, which are too cold to fuse. This would lower output power. Another problem is higher energy ions which have so much energy that they can escape the machine. This lowers fusion rates while raising conduction losses, because as the ions leave, energy is carried away with them.

The primary problem that Rider has raised is the thermalization of ions. Rider argued that, in a quasineutral plasma where all the positives and negatives are distributed equally, the ions will interact. As they do, they exchange energy, causing their energy to spread out (in a Wiener process) heading to a bell curve (or Gaussian function) of energy. Rider focused his arguments within the ion population and did not address electron-to-ion energy exchange or non-thermal plasmas.

This is an energy distribution comparison of thermalized and non-thermalized ions


Other fusion researchers such as Nicholas Krall,[90] Robert W. Bussard,[84] Norman Rostoker and Monkhorst disagreed with this assessment. They argue that the plasma conditions inside IEC machines are not quasineutral and have non-thermal energy distributions.[91] Because the electron has a mass and diameter much smaller than the ion, the Electron temperature can be several orders of magnitude different than the ions. This may allow the plasma to be optimized, whereby cold electrons would reduce Radiation losses and hot ions would raise Fusion rates.[47]

Rider argued that if such as system was sufficiently heated, it could not be expected to produce net power, due to high x-ray losses.

  • They were quasineutral, where the positives and negatives are equally mixed together.[28]
  • They had evenly mixed fuel.[28]
  • They were isotropic, meaning that its behavior was the same in any given direction.[28]
  • The plasma had a uniform energy and temperature throughout the cloud.[28]
  • The plasma was an unstructured Gaussian sphere.

In 1995, Todd Rider critiqued all fusion power schemes using plasma systems not at thermodynamic equilibrium.[28] Rider assumed that plasma clouds at equilibrium had the following properties:

General criticism

The multipole ion-beam experiment (MIX) accelerated ions and electrons into a negatively charged electromagnet.[38] Ions were focused using Gabor lensing. Researcher had problems with a very thin ion turning region very close to a solid surface [38] where ions could be conducted away.


MARBLE (which stood for: multiple ambipolar recirculating beam line experiment) was a device which moved electrons and ions back and forth in a line.[40] Particle beams were reflected using electrostatic optics.[87] These optics made static voltage surfaces in free space. Such surfaces reflect only particles with a specific kinetic energy, while higher-energy particles can traverse these surfaces unimpeded, although not unaffected. Electron trapping and plasma behavior was measured by Langmuir probe.[40] Marble kept ions on orbits that do not intersect grid wires—the latter also improves the space charge limitations by multiple nesting of ion beams at several energies.[88] Researchers encountered problems with ion losses at the reflection points. Ions slowed down when turning, spending lots of time there, leading to high conduction losses.[89]


A Penning trap uses both an electric and magnetic field to trap particles. A magnetic field to confine particles radially and a quadrupole electric field to confine the particles axially.[85] In the 1990s, researchers at LANL build a penning trap to do fusion experiments. Their device (PFX) was a small (millimeters) and low power (one fifth of a Tesla, less than ten thousand volts) machine.[42] The magnetic and electric fields are turned on. Electrons are emitted into the trap, caught and measured. Ideally, fusion schemes using Penning traps can hold in electrons which would then would attract ions, accelerating them to fusion conditions.[86]

Penning trap

The polywell uses a magnetic field to trap electrons. When electrons or ions move into a dense field, they can be reflected by the magnetic mirror effect.[20] A polywell is designed to trap electrons in the center, with a dense magnetic field surrounding them.[61][82][83] This is typically done using six electromagnets in a box. Each magnet is positioned so their poles face inward, creating a null point in the center. The electrons trapped in the center form a "virtual electrode" [84] Ideally, this electron cloud accelerates ions to fusion conditions.[24]


Several schemes attempt to combine Magnetic Confinement and electrostatic fields with IEC. The goal is to eliminate the inner wire cage of the fusor, and the resulting problems.

Designs with fields

In examining non-thermal plasma, workers at LANL realized that scattering was more likely than fusion. This was due to the coulomb scattering cross section being larger than the fusion cross section.[75] In response they built POPS,[76][77] a machine with a wire cage, where ions are moving at steady-state, or oscillating around. Such plasma can be at local thermodynamic equilibrium.[78][79] The ion oscillation is predicted to maintain the equilibrium distribution of the ions at all times, which would eliminate any power loss due to Coulomb scattering, resulting in a net energy gain. Working off this design, researchers in Russia simulated the POPS design using Particle-in-cell code in 2009.[80] This reactor concept becomes increasingly efficient as the size of the device shrinks. However, very high transparencies (>99.999%) are required for successful operation of the POPS concept. To this end S. Krupakar Murali et al., suggested that carbon nanotubes can be used to construct the cathode grids.[81] This is also the first (suggested) application of carbon nanotubes directly in any fusion reactor.


No fusor has come close to producing a significant amount of fusion power. They can be dangerous if proper care is not taken because they require high voltages and can produce harmful radiation (neutrons and x-rays). Often, ions collide with the cages or wall. This conducts energy away from the device limiting its performance. In addition, collisions heat the grids, which limits high power devices. Collisions also spray high-mass ions into the reaction chamber, pollute the plasma and cool the fuel.

The best known IEC device is the fusor.[3] This device typically consists of two wire cages inside a vacuum chamber. These cages are referred to as grids. The inner cage is held at a negative voltage against the outer cage. A small amount of fusion fuel is introduced (deuterium gas being the most common). The voltage between the grids causes the fuel to ionize. The positive ions fall down the voltage drop towards the negative inner cage. As they accelerate, the electric field does work on the ions, heating them to fusion conditions. If these ions collide, they can fuse. Fusors can also use ion guns rather than electric grids. Fusors are popular with amateurs,[73] because they can be easy to construct, can regularly produce fusion and are a practical way to study nuclear physics. Fusors have also been used as a commercial neutron generator for industrial applications.[74]

A homemade fusor.[72]


Designs with cage

In August 2014, Phoenix Nuclear Labs announced it had a high yield neutron generator available for sale. This device used an electric field to heat ions to fusion conditions. The device cost on the order of millions of dollars and could sustain 5E+11 neutrons per second, for a 24 hour period.[2] In January 2015, the polywell was presented at Microsoft Research.[71]

In early 2013 NSD-Fusion was acquired by Gradel sárl (LU) and has been enjoying increased sales of its compact sealed tube IEC NSD-Gradel-Fusion neutron generators. [70], to discuss his device.David Letterman with Late Show Jamie also appeared the [69].Duke of York In 2014, Jamie Edwards, 13, was covered by international press as having fused the atom, however, he has not proved this to the amateur community - - at the time of writing. (6/4/2014). Nonetheless, he received a letter of congratulations from HRH the [68] Bussard's publications prompted the


Robert Bussard began speaking openly about the Polywell in 2006.[46] He attempted to generate interest [47] in the research, before passing away from multiple myeloma in 2007, at the age of 79.[48] His company was able to raise over ten million in funding from the US Navy in 2007,[49] 2008[50][51] and 2009.[52] In 2008, Taylor Wilson achieved notoriety[53][54] for achieving nuclear fusion at 14, with a homemade fusor. He presented this work at two TED conferences,[55][56] a science fair hosted by the white house,[57] the Intel Science Talent Search and the Google Science Fair.[58]

Despite demonstration in 2000 of 7200 hours of operation without degradation at high input power as a sealed reaction chamber with automated control the FusionStar project was cancelled and the company NSD Ltd was founded. The spherical FusionStar technology was then further developed as a linear geometry system with improved efficiency and higher neutron output by NSD Ltd. which became NSD-Fusion GmbH in 2005. In early 2000, Dr. Alex Klein, developed a cross between a polywell and ion beams.[38] Using Gabor lensing Dr. Klein attempted to focus plasma into non-neutral clouds for fusion. He founded FP generation, which in April 2009, raised $3 million in financing from two venture funds.[39][40] The company developed the MIX and Marble machine, but ran into technical challenges and closed. In response to Riders' criticisms, researchers at LANL reasoned that a plasma oscillating could be at local thermodynamic equilibrium, this prompted the POPS and penning trap machines.[41][42] At this time, researchers at MIT became interested in fusors for space propulsion[43] and powering space vehicles.[44] Specifically, researchers developed fusors with multiple inner cages. In 2005, Greg Piefer graduated from Madison and founded Phoenix Nuclear Labs a company which developed the fusor into a neutron source for the mass production of medical isotopes.[45]

Taylor Wilson presenting fusor work to Barack Obama, February 7, 2012[37]


. fusors Through this open forum, a community of amateur fusioneers have done nuclear fusion using homemade [36] Hull and Paul Schatzkin, started in 1998.[35] neutrons per second.5 In March 1999, he achieved a neutron rate of 10[34] in his home in Virginia.fusors In the late nineties, hobbyist Richard Hull began building the first amateur [33] under the name FusionStar.Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace The following year, the first "US-Japan Workshop on IEC Fusion", was conducted. This is now the premier conference for IEC researchers. At this time in Europe, an IEC device was developed as a commercial neutron source by [32] and discovered the "star mode" of fusor operation in 1994.[31]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.