What is a Fusor…? (By Noah Liebnitz)
We can actually answer that question simply: a fusor is a device designed to fuse atoms. While this gets to the heart of the matter rather quickly, it is not particularly enlightening, nor is it completely correct. In reality, there are a number of devices designed to generate fusion reactions. Typically, when people use the word “fusor,” they are referring to the machine first built by Philo Farnsworth and Robert Hirsch in 1964 (you may recognize the former name, Fig. 1, as the inventor of the television) (“Fusor” 2021). The Farnsworth/Hirsch fusor uses an electric field to accelerate charged gas particles (ions) toward one another. If the ions happen to collide under the right conditions, they may fuse together to form a larger atom, releasing energy and neutrons in the process. So, a more detailed response to the question “what is a fusor?” may go something like this: a fusor is a device that generates fusion reactions by using electrical forces to generate continuous collisions between charged particles.
Fusion is often touted as the long-awaited solution to earth’s increasing appetite for energy, but—at least so far—nobody has been able to design a fusor that puts out more energy than it takes in. So, if you’re not trying to optimize the energy production, what then, is the point of building a fusor? Besides producing energy, fusion reactions spur the release of neutrons from atomic nuclei. As neutrally charged, fundamental particles, neutrons are useful in all sorts of physics experiments. So, functionally, a fusor is a low-cost means of producing neutrons and studying nuclear physics! It is our hope that the UPS Reactor Project will provide a learning tool for many future students!
“Fusor.” 2021. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fusor&oldid=1007442866.
Hull, Richard. 1997. “The Farnsworth/Hirsch Fusor,” 8.
Klopfer, Brannon. 2012. “The Fusor.” 2012. http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph241/klopfer2/.
“Philo Farnsworth.” 2021. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Philo_Farnsworth&oldid=1008296151.