Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

Project NEF-Hope, Nuclear Energy Future - Halt Oil and Petroleum Energy

  • Left to Right: Evan Firth and Vicente Estrada-Carpenter presenting their project to a student.
    Left to Right: Evan Firth and Vicente Estrada-Carpenter presenting their project to a student.

Evan Firth and Vincente Estrada-Carpenter
Sponsor: Steven Alexander, Professor of Physics 

The goal of this project is to build a fusor, a small nuclear fusion reactor. Amateur scientists have created several different types of fusors in recent years and our design is similar to those versions that are known to be successful. We intend to carefully record all of our methods so that this experiment is replicable by a typical college student. Our goal is to inspire people to think beyond oil and petroleum energies, and begin considering the possibility of a nuclear future.           

A fusor works by using electrostatic forces to fuse deuterium ions. The first step is to create a vacuum, about 10^-4 torr. After a good vacuum is achieved the next step is to inject the deuterium. A high voltage is then applied to the chamber. The chamber will be positively charged, stripping the electrons off the deuterium. The grid will be negatively charged which will then attract the deuterium ions to the center of the sphere. This is where the fusion will occur. If the voltage is high enough the collisions will be powerful enough to overcome the electromagnetic force and we will achieve fusion.           

While we still need some work to complete our fusor, we have made a lot of progress with the materials we have had available. We first started out with the idea of making ions guns to propel the deuterium ions. We started making the ion gun structures using glass. Due to the difficulty of working with the glass and the problems that the guns could cause we decided to go back to a more traditional fusor design. When we got our steel chamber from the fabricator it had a lot of weld marks and burn throughs. All of this had to be cleaned up in order for the fusor to work properly. All the bumps had to be ground off with a dremel tool, and then the chamber was cleaned using a steel wire wheel brush. After the chamber was cleaned up the next step was to electroplate three of the inputs. Because of the size of the chamber we couldn’t use the traditional method of submerging it into a solution to plate. Mr. Wade came up with the idea of using a copper pipe and some insulating fabric to manually apply the solution to the inputs in order to plate them. Currently we are fabricating the grid out of thermal couple wire.