On the left is the difficult thing that he invented in the 1920s. You are probably familiar with it.
It's called "television."
On the right is the "impossible" thing that he invented in the 1950s – a nuclear fusion reactor.
Since the middle of the 20th Century, the prospect controlling nuclear fusion has been the Holy Grail of contemporary science.
Fusion is the process that powers our Sun and all the stars in the heavens. It is God's own way of powering the universe.
Over the past sixty years, billions of dollars, pounds, and rubles have been spent trying to solve the riddle: how do you bottle a star? How do contain a seething plasma as hot as the sun without either melting the container, or extinguishing the reaction?
It's no wonder that some have concluded that harnessing fusion is, simply, impossible.
Still, the lure of fusion is unmistakable. Compared to its dirty sister fission, a fusion reactor would be "clean" - there are no radioactive by-products that will take hundreds of thousands of years to decay. The only by-product is helium - an inert gas. The reactors themselves would be safe; there is no danger of a "meltdown" because there is only a tiny amount of nuclear fuel present in the reaction chamber at any given time. If the reactor vessel is breached, the vacuum is lost and everything just stops.
But the most compelling promise of fusion is in the fuel itself: fusion can be produced from an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. The deuterium in a single cubic meter of seawater contains the as much energy as nearly 1,400 barrels of crude oil - enough to supply the civilizaton's energy needs for hundreds of millions of years - until long after the Sun itself has flamed out.
Science has been trying to solve this riddle for as long as the potential of fusion has been understood. Government, business, and academia have invested vast sums on a variety of approaches, but the results to date have been disappointing, to put it mildly.
Philo Farnsworth spent his life and career outside the scientific and industrial mainstream. Though his contribution to our contemporary culture is undeniable - the man invented video, precisely what you are looking at this very instant - he was not afforded the means to complete deliver his second great invention. The work remains, in a word, "unfinished."
Farnsworth's approach to fusion is known as "Inertial Electrostatic Confinement" or "IEC" for short. Simply put, the process uses forces within the atomic particles themselves to bring them close enough to fuse.
The more common approach uses tremendous external forces to achieve the same effect with a method is called "magnetic confinement" Literally billions of dollars have been spent in the last fifty years with little to show in the way of meaningful results.
Experiments with Farnsworth's "Fusor" in the early-to-mid 1960s were impressive but inconclusive: despite tremendous "neutron counts" (the evidence of fusion), the Fusor never conclusively reached "break-even" -- the point at which there is more energy coming out of the device than goes in to start and sustain the reaction.
Nevertheless, the past two decades have seen a resurgence of interest in the Farnsworth approach to fusion – and this website is the embodiment of that fresh interest.
There is now a small-but-global cadre of "fusioneers" building "Fusors" in their basements and garages. These are low-power devices, based on a variation of the Farnsworth approach that was developed by Farnsworth's colleagues Eugene Meeks and Robert L. Hirsch are relatively simple to build and employ all the multidisciplinary techniques that fusion requires: vacuum pumping, stainless steel
Building these devices is teaching a grassroots group of dedicated experimenters how to produce fusion. This website - fusor.net - is where these people gather to share their experiences, to swap tips and techniques, and pass on encouragement. Who knows, perhaps one of the people who visit this site will learn a thing or two and go on to do what "the experts" have been unable to accomplish.
If this is your first visit to this site, then the links above and to the right are for you. This is your "primer" on fusion, on electrostatic confinement, and on how to build and operate a fusion device in your basement or garage.
Fusion may sound like an exotic, "impossible" feat. But the fact is people like you are achieving the "impossible" on an almost daily basis. It is only a matter of time before somebody stumbles on the breakthrough that we are all hoping for.
Have a look around... maybe that "somebody" is you....