Do-It-Yourself: Building a homemade nuclear reactor

In an article titled Extreme DIY: Building a homemade nuclear reactor in NYC the BBC is reporting on a Brooklyn web designer who spends his free time working on a nuclear fusion reactor.

Mark Suppes with his fusion reactor

    “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 (The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium). Others on the list include a 15-year-old from Michigan and a doctoral student in Ohio.”

While neighbors are not all positive, the scientists that were asked had no trouble confirming that the quest for fusion is basically a safe undertaking. There is no “runaway” reaction, like you have with nuclear fission. Fusion is either happening or it isn’t, and you need to put energy in to collide the particles. The output that is sought is heat, and so far, not enough of it is being produced to exploit the process as an energy technology. However, this might change in the not too distant future.

    “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.”
    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.
    “But that does not eliminate other ideas coming from a different group of people.”

The BBC article: Extreme DIY: Building a homemade nuclear reactor in NYC

Open Source is better
(Comment by Sepp)

Government funded and university based efforts have been promoted as the way to commercial fusion for decades now, but somehow it does not seem that our research labs are a climate conductive to breakthrough research. Technologies can be refined with funds and manpower, but original discovery apparently is a very personal affair.

This is why open source development of technologies may well turn out to be superior. The enthusiasts are happy to share ideas and progress with others. And what’s perhaps more important, they don’t have to follow a fixed program or report to any superiors. Serendipity has a chance to work its miracles.

Right now, it’s the absolute pioneers that get into this kind of research. They adapt scavenged material, combining it with specially manufactured parts to produce the first working models of tomorrow’s technology, be it a fusion reactor or a car that doesn’t need any gasoline to run.

Once there are some working models, it could well be that manufacturers discover the hidden gold mine which is decentralized, DIY production. There could be mass production of standard components made specially for Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts who can use and combine them in ever new ways to produce specialty technology that can do anything we would want – first of all make it possible for us to produce energy and get from one place to the other without leaving a trail of pollution.

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