Nuclear fusion in a workshop…
The extraordinary devices designed and built by the major nuclear physics laboratories never leave a technology enthusiast indifferent, just as the world of the infinitely small, atoms and particles, and the great challenge about fusion energy, exert an unalterable fascination over people of all ages. Most will just watch, read and dream, but a few, the “sorcerer’s apprentices”, will decide to take up the challenge and devote time and money to learn and to try to achieve machines out of the ordinary.
Our time is favorable to this: the evolution of techniques and the availability of second-hand equipment now allow amateurs to build all or part of machines formerly reserved for laboratories and universities. This market of scientific surplus, which has been accompanied by the generalization of online purchases in all technological fields, gives access to resources that did exist fifteen years ago. We can now buy a used electron microscope for a few thousand euros and find the parts for its maintenance without difficulty. We can also buy high-performance vacuum pumps that were not available for the individual until recently.
It is therefore not surprising that in recent years, electron and ion accelerator projects and their various applications in plasma physics have proliferated in schools and in home workshops. And the temptation is great when you take a look at the extraordinary amount of documents accessible via the Internet, which makes it possible to understand both the theoretical and practical aspects of these achievements. The extraordinary profusion of forums has undoubtedly allowed some to go beyond the stage of envy seeing that others have managed to build functional machines, see that some amateurs have explored and tested technical solutions rejected by scientists. In any case, the sharing of passions and achievements of multiple anonymous has no doubt become a vector of scientific progress.
But the particle physics experiments have this particularity that they can not be realized with some small materials that hang in the bottom of your workshop. It will be necessary to start by having equipment to reach the medium or high vacuum and to carry out experiments. It is an essential and complex step, which can be blocking. It will then be necessary, in most cases, to have various and varied power supplies, measuring instruments … Only then, the experimental field will be open.
For many technology and science fanatics, the new technological challenges of the future energy gamble of controlled fusion is an inaccessible grail that is one of the most amazing achievements of science. Until the 2000s, this attraction seemed to find no way to materialize, the huge equipment built for physics laboratories obviously being completely inaccessible for the handyman. But this is where the Internet takes its full value, since appear at that time blogs and pages very well documented on amateur projects and / or students, especially American universities. Essentially, there are pages detailing the amateur construction of “fusors”, which are very clearly the accessible part of this area of research. The idea has gradually sprouted in my mind that today we could build a fusion tool in a corner of his house …
We think about it for years, and one day we start. But as we have a little knowledge, we start out methodically and reasoned. We draw up an initial list of what is missing (vacuum pump, fittings of all kinds, tools) and we plan and spread out the expenses over time. Meanwhile, we research, buy books, download hundreds of pdf. This is a first chance for the aspiring physicist: the source of internet is still growing: the physics laboratories are ubiquitous and share more and more information on their machines, some very technical construction-oriented, and the amateur community has grown steadily, bringing new successes that each time constitute an inexhaustible source of motivation … This is undoubtedly one of the positive effects of the astronomical cost of scientific installations, encourages the community of big labs to share, organize seminars … And all this is found on the web, accessible in a few clicks with a good dose of English translation.
The main purpose of these pages was, from the beginning of my project, to structure my research and to bring together the necessary knowledge into a coherent whole. Subsequently, I realized that I had the necessary material to share this experience with Internet users, and I systematically created a page either for a specific material, or for a field of knowledge, or to report the realization of a component of my project. At the same time, it became clear that a manual describing all the stages of my project could help other enthusiasts, so I continued my editorial effort with the dual objective of feeding an internet site and to complete a summary document.