Greetings readers! After a short and sweet vacation, I’m back with a story from the Wall Street Journal, on average Joes who build homemade nuclear-fusion reactors as a hobby ( see, the WSJ isn’t always abysmally bland).
Amateur fusioneers like Richard Hull (pictured) spend copious amounts of time in their basement laboratories, tinkering with things like Tesla coils, causing flashes and sparks to spurt out of their homes in an alarming display (at least to their neighbors). Tesla coils are used to generate high-voltage alternating current electricity.
But mainly, these folks pursue their ultimate goal of making usable nuclear-fusion reactors. They even have a “Neutron Club”, and techincally anyone can be accepted, under the condition that they must be able to produce a workable homemade reactor that is able to fuse hydrogen isotopes like deuterium. Oh, and glowing is a must. Its gotta glow. So far, only 42 people have achieved the requirement and become official Neutron Club members.
Originally based on Philo Farnsworth’s 1960s design ( he also invented the television), reactors are devices that can fuse atoms together to create energy. In a fusion reaction, hydrogen atoms coalesce to form helium atoms, X-rays, and neutrons, along with an abundant supply of energy. According to some fusion experts, the attractive part is the cleanliness of the process- it generates very tiny amounts of air pollution and radioactive waste.
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to create a viable nuclear reactor that can be used practically for abundant, clean, nuclear power supply. For decades, scientists have been working furiously on ways to fuse atoms, to little avail. Fusors currently use more energy than they produce.
Right now we’re stuck with fission reactors to generate nuclear power, where energy is created from splitting one atom into two atoms. A typical nuclear fission reactor splits heavy uranium atoms that create huge amounts of energy, but leave behind burdensome quantities of longevous radioactive waste.