Affordable and Approachable Fusion
INERTIAL ELECTROSTATIC CONFINEMENT
The Quickest Path to Fusion
Although all fusion energy researchers are attempting to achieve the same goal, which is to produce an energy producing reactor, they are not all following the same route. There are a number of different types of fusion methods existent today, with the two most popular being Magnetic Confinement fusion, as used by ITER, and Inertial Confinement Fusion, as used by NIF. The problem with both of these methods is that the engineering required to design such reactors which operate with said methods is extremely complex and costly. There is an alternative method which is much less complex, much cheaper and much more feasible, that method is Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC). IEC was initially conceived by Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of Television, who first demonstrated the method using his Farnsworth Fusion Reactor (Fusor) in 1962. The principle of IEC is fairly simple, ions are accelerated to fusion conditions through an electric field, causing them to gain energy and fall towards a central electrical point of attraction. If you gather a large number of ions and accelerate all of them to the same point, then chances are that many of them will break their repulsion and fuse, releasing energy. There are currently two fusion devices which both rely on IEC to produce fusion. These devices are the Fusor and the Polywell, both of which have been largely ignored by large corporation and government funding, meaning that there is much more to be discovered about IEC.
FARNSWORTH FUSION REACTOR
The Farnsworth Fusion Reactor, or Fusor, is an IEC device first conceived by Philo T. Farnsworth in 1962. Perhaps the most fascinating feature about the Fusor is its size, the device can fit on a small desk and is portable. Along with this, the Fusor is incredibly simplistic when compared to other fusion reactors, with the main system consisting of a vacuum chamber, power supply and deuterium gas line. The Fusor achieves fusion through the ionization of deuterium atoms within a vacuum chamber which accelerates the ions, smashing them together and fusing them which releases energy.
POLYWELL FUSION REACTOR
Robert Bussard invented the Polywell in the 1980’s as an adaptation of the Farnsworth Fusor. Being an IEC device, the Polywell operates in a similar way of that in which the Fusor does which is through the use of an electric field to heat and accelerate ions. The Polywell has an advantage over the Fusor in the fact that it is much more efficient due to reduced heating losses. These heating losses were a major roadblock in the development of the Fusor. Fortunately the Polywell fixes this problem, this makes the Polywell much more promising as an energy producing reactor.
Fusion is simply the acceleration and bonding of two ions to form a single ion. This means that the primary action of any fusion device should be to accelerate ions to the conditions required for fusion. IEC achieves this through the direct use of an electric field. There is no complex machinery involved, allowing for IEC reactors to retain a simplistic design. IEC is therefore much more feasible than other models of fusion, most of which rely on complicated apparatus, driving up cost and technical issues.
Not only are IEC reactors scaled down in complications, they are scaled down in size as well. This is tied directly with the reduced amount of equipment needed to operate IEC reactors. Size is not the only factor which is reduced, the amount of workers required to maintain and operate IEC technology is also kept to a minimal. Additionally, because of their small size, IEC devices are portable, which allows them to be stationed in remote areas and relocated when needed.
Due to the simple nature of IEC, budgets for such projects remain at a much lower cost than other fusion reactors, some of which cost several billion dollars. This is a benefit for obvious reasons, not only are fewer resources required to construct such devices, but the maintenance and operation required also remains at a low cost. Along with this, the price needed to construct a single fusion reactor of larger scale, such as ITER, is the equivalent what could be used to construct several smaller IEC reactors.