This blog will document my attempt to build a working open source Bussard fusion reactor (also know as the Polywell). The Bussard reactor was invented by Robert W. Bussard and is based on the Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor.
This project is open source, and all source code is available here.
What’s the short version?
Why are you doing this?
The Bussard reactor holds the promise of cheap clean abundant energy. A definitive energy solution. I hope to catalyze an open source movement to bring the Bussard reactor to fruition.
What have you accomplished?
To date we have fused the atom with a fusor, complete with data acquisition and remote control. We have fabricated a stainless steel Bussard magrid for use with superconducting cable. We have acquired and tested superconducting cable. We are well on our way to building a copper coil Bussard reactor. We have successfully completed our first round of community fundraising. We attracted the interest of an angel investor. This project has been permanently added to the wikipedia page on Polywell. I have given talks at nerd nite NYC, Phreaknic and Toorcamp. I have interviewed other IEC researchers.
Are you looking for investors?
Yes. If successful, the Bussard reactor it will generate revenue on the order of $100 billion a year. It will become the core of the energy economy. Bussard estimates it will require $200MM to build a break-even prototype reactor. I need $1MM immediately, and $412MM over 6 years. See this conversation with an investor for details.
Why do you think you can build a Bussard reactor?
The story of Thiago Olson. The high school student who achieved fusion with the fusor (precursor to the polywell) he built in his basement for $3000. There is a long tradition of amateur fusion using the fusor. About 24 amateurs so far have achieved fusion.
Is this safe?
The biggest safety risk for this project is the HIGH VOLTAGE electrical equipment. This presents a potential danger to people in my lab. So _you_ the reader out there in cyberspace, are fine. _I_ on the other hand really have to be careful because I’m in close contact with HIGH VOLTAGE equipment.
Radiation; this should be the least of your worries until about 15,000 volts of acceleration potential. At this point, x-rays start to emanate from viewports due to electron and ion bombardment of metals in the chamber. Always use a camera or mirror to peer into the viewport. X-rays can cause burns and lead to cancer. Above 40,000 volts, x-rays will start to come through the stainless steel chamber walls. At this point, you will need to use lead shielding. Neutron radiation is the most dangerous form of radiation known to man, but the fusor does not put out enough of it to be dangerous until about 45,000 volts. It can easily be shielded with water, wax or plastic. You can also minimize your exposure by standing well away from the fusor, or by operating it for only 20 minutes per week. (this paragraph courtesy of Brian Mcdermott)
Lesser risks include:
Liquid nitrogen handling (can burn skin, cause asphyxiation in close quarters)
Structural failure of the core (projectile pieces of metal). This is mitigated by the very thick stainless steel vacuum chamber that contains the core.
Back strain (everything is heavy)
Boredom (waiting for parts to arrive)
What do you hope to achieve?
First fusion. Building the world’s first superconducting Bussard Reactor. Ultimately break-even fusion.
What’s your Background?
Entrepreneur, Technologist, Coder, Creative.
photo credit Andrew D Musson