28 June 2010

A home-made fusion reactor is a bit beyond my DIY skills!

Most of us will be happy to build a shelf that is even and can bear the weight of a bit more than a feather, others will try something rather more complicated but few are as ambitious as Mark Suppes

According to the BBC Suppes, a web developer for Gucci spends his nights tinkering with his own nuclear fusion reactor. In a hired workshop on the third floor of a warehouse in Brooklyn Suppes fires up his device and tries to do something that has eluded some of the finest scientific minds on the planet - making a fusion reactor that produces more energy than its consumes to run.

Mr Suppes, 32, is part of a growing community of "fusioneers" - amateur science junkies who are building homemade fusion reactors, for fun and with an eye to being part of the solution to that problem. He is the 38th independent amateur physicist in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from a homemade reactor, according to community site Fusor.net.

"I was inspired because I believed I was looking at a technology that could actually work to solve our energy problems, and I believed it was something that I could at least begin to build,"

Government-led efforts to produce power from fusion have been going on around the world for 50 years. Iter - funded by the EU, US, Japan, Russia, India, China, and South Korea - is working on a multi-billion dollar, advanced reactor, due to be built in the south of France by 2019.

But the availability of equipment and technology has seen an increasing number of amateurs "We have people in the whole gamut, from physicists to electronics people to car mechanics to even one janitor - and all these people share a common bond to do nuclear fusion in their home," said Richard Hull, founder of Fusor.net.

Some experts are sceptical that all these people are producing fusion reactions, but when he demonstrates his device, Mr Suppes says a bubble meter placed next to the reactor indicates that a fast neutron, a by-product of fusion, has been produced.

The amateur scientist began building his reactor two years ago, purchasing parts on eBay with $35,000 of his own money and about $4,000 he raised on a website that connects artists and inventors with private investors.

Mr Suppes sees his work in nuclear fusion as more than just a hobby, and he intends to try to build one of the world's first break-even reactors - a facility producing as much energy as it uses to operate. The reactor will be built from plans created by the late Robert Bussard, a nuclear physicist who drew up plans for a fusion reactor that could convert hydrogen and boron into electricity.

Iter said it would be wrong to dismiss out of hand the notion that an amateur could make a difference. "I won't say something that puts these guys down, but it's a tricky situation because there is a great deal of money and time and a lot of very experienced scientists working on fusion at the moment," said Mr Calder of Iter."But that does not eliminate other ideas coming from a different group of people."

Mark Suppes go for it! Personally I would love to hear of your success.


Gledwood said...

If we could invent a viable method of nuclear fusion, so I hear, the waters in our seas would provide enough fuel to power the earth until the sun turned into a supernova and blew us all up anyhow...

jams o donnell said...

Here's hoping that we see the day we have this power abd not have to rely on fossil fuels and fission