Fusion isn't so hard

Thursday October 8, 2020

I saw somebody post about a kid achieving nuclear fusion at home, and I was sure it was fake news. It referenced fusor.net, which also looks fake. But the concept, at least, is real! (WikiPedia/IEEE) How cool! For a couple thousand dollars or so, you can make a fusion reactor in your house, on a desk! I feel like this should be more widely known.

You mostly hear about fusion in stars, which makes it seem... big. And far away. Knowing you can do it as a hobbyist if you feel like makes it seem so much more approachable! Together with the naturally occurring fission reactors, there are cool non-bomb, non-star examples of both fission and fusion. Nice!

Also did you know you can buy deuterium? I think you can probably get it as a gas, but you can also just buy yourself some heavy water if you want! It's just water, but with extra neutrons on the hydrogen! How cool!

The good and bad of home fusion is that it's just a little bit of fusion, and it takes a lot more energy to make it happen than you get out. So it doesn't blow up, and the extra radioactivity won't kill you very fast. As far as I can tell, these fusor devices are in a weird zone of not being regulated, I think, because they're hard enough to make and not quite dangerous enough to be a big risk.

I think it'd be a great thing to see more fusors in children's museums (and other science museums). They don't have to turn it on; it'd just be a cool exhibit to demonstrate that it's so possible.