Surprisingly enough, people ask quite a few questions about me and my projects. This page is meant to answer some of the most common ones (mostly about my fusor, as that is the most eye-catching). You may also wish to read my Reddit AMA.
- Is what you’re doing legal?
Gee, I sure hope so!
On a more serious note, yes. Everything I do is legal. The reason why fusion is legal and a fission is illegal is that the relative danger level is very different. To quote myself:
“…fusion is very different than fission. Fusion is not dangerous (relatively speaking); fission is. Fission splits a heavy nucleus into two smaller nuclei, causing a chain reaction that releases enormous amounts of energy. Fusion, on the other hand, involves combining two small nuclei to create a larger one, and does not cause a chain reaction.”
This means that fusion does not need to be regulated, for if pure fusion (i.e., not fission catalyzed fusion) actually created energy at a net gain, the person doing it would get a Nobel prize.
Thus, a fusor does not need to be registered with the NRC, nor does it present any significant danger to the people around us.
This is why I dislike the phrase “nuclear reactor”; it connotes something very different from what I have done.
- Where did you get the nuclear material necessary to do this?
It doesn’t require any “nuclear material” beyond deuterium (not radioactive). Deuterium gas is created on-demand via the electrolysis of heavy water (D2O). It is perfectly safe and legal.
- Is this safe?
For a certain definition of “safe”. It’s safe for me to do, because I’m an expert. I know the risks and mitigate them effectively. Were I not an expert, the hazards presented by the high voltage and vacuum system would be somewhat hazardous indeed.
There is a reason I keep signs in and around the garage saying “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”.
- What about the RADIATION‽
The x-ray, gamma ray, and neutron radiation produced by the fusor is minimal. Even a meter from the shell, Richard Hull’s fusor produced no more radiation than the average background level in an airplane.
Nonetheless, I take multiple precautions to protect myself and the others around me, even more than most other fusioneers. I have lead sheeting fully around the chamber, stopping all of the x-ray and gamma ray radiation until about -60kV applied, which is far beyond my system. I have borax, paraffin wax, and HDPE to moderate and absorb what little neutron radiation escapes the shell (which is barely detectable even without it).
Lastly, the inverse square law protects everyone. Because radiation intensity falls off as the inverse of the square of the distance from the source, it means that other people cannot possibly be affected by this.
Anyway, the my Geiger counter 6 inches away from the shell reads background radiation only within statistical significance.
- How does it work (ELI5)?
Deuterium atoms are accelerated by powerful electric gradients until they cross the Coulomb barrier, hit each other, and fuse together, releasing energy and a sometimes neutron. See here for more detail.
- Have you reached ignition (the point at which the reaction becomes self sustaining)?
I wish! If I had done that, I would win the Nobel prize and solve the energy crisis. Unfortunately, it only produces a very very small fraction (~1 microwatt) of the power applied (1.5 kW).
- What’s your favorite subject?
Physics and engineering. It’s hard to chose between them; I love them both equally (hence, applied physics).
- What’s your favorite TV show?
Star Trek, without any doubt. It’s what drove me to pursuing science and physics in the first place!
- Who’s the best Star Trek captain?