Sydney Experiment: We Have Electron Confinement!!!

2 08 2011

All photos.

1 year,  7 months  and 8 days ago I learned of the copper coil Polywell that Joe Khachan and his team built.

I decided to repeat Joe’s experiment. Although challenging it seemed possible to achieve. I dubbed this endeavor the Sydney Experiment.

It took far longer than I expected to fabricate all the necessary parts for the experiment.

Today with great pleasure I ran the Sydney Experiment. Here we see what appears to be electron confinement:

This acquisition shows the floating potential of the langmuir probe.

This run was done with air plasma at 10 millitorr :

The electron gun was running  10KvDC @ 6.5mA:

The coil power supply was charged to ~ 400VDC:

This is just a first run. Now begins the actual experimentation and data gathering.

I do believe this is the WORLD’S FIRST AMATEUR POLYWELL!!!


The plasma during the run:



21 05 2011

Etsy just did a sweet profile of Prometheus Fusion Perfection:

Another favorite Etsy post is the Handmade Portraits: Glassblowing With Kiva Ford. Ford does pro scientific glassblowing.

Thanks to Michelle  for the writeup!


20 05 2011

About a year ago Alex Klein got in touch with me:

Hello, have been perusing your website for a while now, and I’m pretty impressed. I will be in NYC the first week in June, and would love to visit your lab. Some background: I worked for Bussard for a few years around the turn of the century, also worked for MIT on big Tokamaks, and have built plenty of fusors. I think you would get something out of a visit (e.g. : technical advice), and I hope I would learn a thing or two as well. We could even start collaborating on a regular basis, although there would be some complications that I can explain if/when we meet.

I though to myself WOW.

This guy had actually worked with Bussard.

Alex came to visit my lab soon after. We had a blast. He told me stories of Bussard. One story involved a massive short circuit which spewed molten copper all over the walls! Bad ass!

Before working with Bussard from 1999 to 2002, Alex conceived of a fusion device with similarities to the Polywell.  In 2005 Alex went on to found his own fusion research laboratory: FPGeneration. Here he would run the Multipole Ion-beam Experiment.

A few months later Alex asked me if I’d like to interview to work at FPGeneration! I was so excited. HOT DAMN.

But before any of that I had to sign an NDA. No blogging this story… until now.

In September of 2010 I went to Boston to meet the team and see the lab.

Alex explained how the MIX device worked and showed me around. The lab is amazing. Huge radiation cave, huge sperical vacuum chamber with huge turbo. A whole high voltage section above the radiation cave. Not to mention a supercomputer on site. It was awe inspiring.

They explained their situation was tenuous: they only had enough money to go to April 2011. Additionally the MIX device wasn’t working as hoped. Unfortunately I did not get the job. I was so bummed.

Since then Alex has abandoned MIX:

Two problems: A) Main problem: space charge limitations are such that individual beams can never exceed a few Amperes. Even with 10 crossed beams, total fusion power < 1 Watt. With trapping a plasma in the core that serves as a target, possibly 10 Watts produced – not useful for energy B) Big Problem: Ions from external ion sources cannot be efficiently introduced into the trapping phase space. Some fundamental physics make it so this will never provide more than a few ions, and those ions are subject to large probabilities that they are quickly lost. “Internal” ion introduction is required.

Since Jan 2011, FPGeneration has been working on the MARBLE device.

One of the major obstacles that limits the fusion output in IEC devices is the result of repulsive electrostatic forces arising from the ions themselves. This limits the amount of current that can be injected/contained, and is related to the well-known Child-Langmuir current limit for unneutralized particle beams. In 2010 FPGeneration invented an approach that circumvents such limitations, by overlapping multiple ion beams at different energies on the same axis. This is a significant breakthrough which has the potential to impact a number of technologies (wherever space charge limitations arise).

But sadly FPGeneration’s funding has been exhausted. Alex is currently looking for investors to continue his research.  The MARBLE experiment was only partially completed. Alex had this to say about the MARBLE based on the data gathered so far:

don’t have too much data so far, hopefully I get some this week (was waiting for an amplifier). The current MARBLE could conceivably do breakeven, but at ridiculously low power levels. Distance to worthwhile machine (>10 kW) is quite far: requires souped up MARBLE with 20 stages, and 20 of these crossed over a common core, and some engineering things involving gas jets…

Several years and tens of thousands of man-hours, I would say

I’d say fusion research is a rough road littered with the dead. But we keep trying. Some day… some day.

Alex can be reached at

Cryogenic Cocktail Party

21 12 2010

All photos.

Last night my shop mate Stuart hosted a cryogenic cocktail party using his cryo-freezer and my liquid nitrogen.

The cryofreezer goes down to -120˚ C, cold enough to freeze liquor! We had vodka, bourbon, and gin ice cubes:

Ben made a silicon cast of a drinking glass to cast an ice glass:

We used the liquid nitrogen to make flash ice cream. Delicious:

I made white russian ice cream:

New Polywell Simulations

3 11 2010

Joel Rogers has published new Polywell simulations. Get it while it’s hot:

Projects I Dig

1 11 2010

I’ve come across some projects I really dig. Though I’d share:

ChemHacker is building an open source scanning tunneling microscope:


Ivan Bozovic has fabricated a nanometer scale superconductor at Brookhaven National Laboratory:


Junior has hacked together an incredible SLA style DIY 3D printer:

This project has sparked my interest in the amazing Digital Light Processing technology.


Kenneth V. Noren shows genetic algorithms can design electronic circuits!

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics

4 10 2010

All photos.

Today I visited Lawrenceville Plasma Physics where Eric J. Lerner, Murali S. Krupakar, and Derek Shannon are researching Dense Plasma Focus Fusion. Eric Lerner was out today.

Provided it works, the real promise of Dense Plasma Focus Fusion is that it does not require physical scaling. In other words, you don’t have to build it any bigger than the machine pictured below, but it would require a larger capacitor bank.

Murali comes from the IEC world and has a ton of published papers on IEC. Previously he worked on POPS at Los Alamos. Derek recently joined the team and has a background in artificial intelligence.


Murali, me, and Derek in front of the reactor


Their radiation room is made of ~1 meter thick walls of normal cinderblock lined with EMF blocking metal screen.


Murali showing the spark gap triggers


The oscilloscopes below are used to ensure the capacitors trigger together. They use fiber optic to electrical converters with the fiber optic directly measuring the light from the spark gap plasma. At 20 torr, their reaction runs at 1,000 times the pressure of most IEC experiments. Murali stressed that DPF takes advantage of plasma instabilities… sort of going with the grain rather than against it.


Rezwan and Derek


Rezwan made contact with me and runs a non-profit for the advancement of fusion.

Here is a shot of the vacuum chamber where the fusion happens:

You can tell these guys are scrappy, check out the copious aluminum foil shielding:

I talked to the team for hours, so this is just a bit of what I learned.

Big thanks to the Lawrenceville Plasma Physics team for showing me the lab!



Murali pointed out that although they have electron neutron counters, they still use bubble neutron dosemeters as a double check… because the bubble dosemeters are not susceptible to EMF interference. Smart.



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