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.

For a good overview of the Polywell and it’s potential, check out the wikipedia entry for the Polywell and Dr.Bussard’s video “Should Google Go Nuclear?“.

This project is open source, and all source code is available here.

What’s the short version?

Green Fusion.

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

26 responses

29 12 2008

i’m following your blog with much interest. it’s such a good idea ! some of the stuff you are talking about must cost you a bit of money like the superconducting wire(tape ?) so i hope you can keep going during the second half of the build where things like a vacuum chamber, liquid nitrogen and a large battery of batteries will cost oven more, so i hope that you have the ability to keep re-growing your funds(liver) as the project continues ;)

if you have some time left (and i can’t see how you could :) could you please tell a bit about your background ?

8 01 2009

Hey, strangely enough, I found your blog through an independent search for polywell information. I was kind of shocked to see you building a RepRap, but it certainly makes sense! Let me know if you need any help; I got my machine (a hand cast Darwin) running fairly well using ReplicatorG and a version of the Gcode interpreter. I’m just firing up my Sanguino now, as I’ve hit the limit with what I can do with an Arduino. Nice to see Zach’s new motherboard in action!

Good luck!


12 08 2009

Nice blog and project!

I discovered the polywell device a couple months ago and it has really lit a fire in the physicist in me. Sometimes it’s so strong I feel I may have made a mistake in pursing a career in software development.

I started building my own ‘decawell’ as well, even before I discovered this blog. :) Finding your blog was refreshing as now I know I’m not the only amateur trying this stuff. You seem to have a much larger budget than me ;) One thing I really wanted to play around with is POPS (http://www.lanl.gov/p/rh_pp_park.shtml) manipulation of the fields in a polywell configuration as apposed to the fusor configurations that are currently being tried. Actually I think POPS is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do using variations of the POPS technique.

3 09 2009

Hi, It’s Forrest from Defcon – my friend Josh introduced us by the pool. I just read through all the archives on your blog and I am psyched for first fusion.

9 09 2009

Hi Forrest! Looks like we’ll have to wait a few weeks for first fusion.

7 02 2010

Just send you an email. Great project! We are doing quit some research on the subject. keep us all posted on your progression.

23 02 2010

I saw Bussard give a talk at Yahoo! not long after he gave his famous Google talk. Amazing stuff, totally blew my mind. I hope you or someone else gets it working.

You know the Polywell is patented, right? How do you plan to open source your work if the core idea already under patent protection?

23 02 2010

Hey Jeff, thank you for the encouragement.

The main patent has expired and the renewal was withdrawn. I just checked this with a patent specialist.

25 05 2010

Sounds awesome! So much so that I tweeted it! http://twitter.com/xovan2

26 05 2010
Blinnie Nolter

Hey, strangely enough, I found your blog through an independent search for polywell information. I was kind of shocked to see you building a RepRap, but it certainly makes sense! Let me know if you need any help; I got my machine (a hand cast Darwin) running fairly well using ReplicatorG and a version of the Gcode interpreter. I’m just firing up my Sanguino now, as I’ve hit the limit with what I can do with an Arduino. Nice to see Zach’s new motherboard in action!

29 05 2010

Blinnie, can you try printing this shape?


It requires support material, but I think that’s possible now.

23 06 2010
Brady Soule

Hello, I’m a businessman who is working to bring green tech to market. We’re currently working on the first solar-powered cargo airship (website above).

I am very interested in this project and would like to ask if there is any way I could help from a business side of things.

Thanks and good luck!

23 06 2010
Adam Harris

I’m sure you’re going to be receiving a lot of similar comments after the article on Gizmodo, so I’ll be brief.

What you’re attempting is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for reminding us that science and physics is still accessible to anyone with curiosity and perseverance. Best of luck and I’m looking forward to reading about your work and future results.

5 07 2010

Excellent project!

I’m in electrical engineering. If I ever happen over to the east coast I’d volunteer my services.

May you light up the world someday!

14 05 2011

Just heard about the fusor a few hours ago and ended up here, i realy hope you can pull it off and if i was rich or won the lottery tommorow you’d have your $1 million investment.

This is genuinnely exciting stuff and i hope you can pull it off.

7 06 2011

Keep up the good work sir :)

11 06 2011

Hi there,
I found you by viewing successful kickstarter projects, and boy was I blown away when I saw this.
I’ve been following the Polywell since the “should Google go nuclear” talk, a couple of years ago. Since then I haven’t seen anything new pop up, until now.
Anyway, I’d like you to know that I’m personally happy to hear someone is openly working on this technology.
Good luck, and keep it up :)

19 07 2011
Sergio Bermejo

What number can you be reached at? I have been trying to contact you for a television story. Please give me a ring at 202-460-4034.

4 08 2011
ירון קפלן

What kind of material your reactor needs in order to work? (Or in another phrasing: Your reactor is fusing atoms together. Which material do these atoms come from?)

18 08 2011
Lao Tzu (@isomorphisms)

“Famulus”, you had a lot more hair the last time I saw you! How does the data you generate aid the commercial viability of nuclear fusion? How does your work combine with the work of other amateurs fusionists?

2 07 2012
Dad the Hero

This is an excellent blog based on a great idea. I will follow your progress with interest.

12 12 2012
the guy with a grandpa

this sounds interesting. will follow if I can’t help my grandpa’s cold fusion reactor

24 12 2012

Stupid question but I can’t find the answer in any of the articles on Polywells, Assuming it works and you get net energy, How do you take it from the system? Is it simply a better heat source for driving turbines?

24 12 2012
Mark Suppes

No research has achieved net energy with fusion. That’s the goal of the research.

24 12 2012

Yes, I realise that hasn’t happened yet, but if/when it does, what sort of energy is going to be available? because this sounds like it could potentially be tapped for current, or maybe it’s just a better fire under the kettle?

4 05 2013
Dermot Harnett

Following with interest. Your ambition and initiative is phenomenal.
I have an obvious question – why did the U.S. government give up on this? Do we know? It seems like they must have a reason for not pursuing the polywel reactor. If so what is it, and why do you think they were wrong?

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