My Visit w Doug Coulter

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Bob Reite
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Bob Reite » Sun Nov 01, 2015 8:42 pm

Considering that Doug has close to a megabuck invested, I don't blame him at all if he wants to patent the device and at least get his investment back. I also agree that he needs to be able to operate the machine for longer than one second bursts. Who knows? He may find out that all you can get out of it is extremely intense, but short bursts. He needs to know what part is actually the "secret sauce" that makes it go. I'm itching to find out of course so that I can build a copy and verify the results. Then again, as they say in programming, "There is more than one way to do it", so perhaps I should continue with my own experiments.
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Sun Nov 01, 2015 9:05 pm

Even a "one second burst" would put him league with MUCH more costly operations. But still.. Verification and replication.
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Doug Coulter
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Doug Coulter » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:58 pm

I limited replication to 1 second bursts for no other reason than desiring to stay alive - there is no indication this can't run continuously.

Please do build fusors and do your own experiments - if you want to dupe my results later, you'll need one to do it with that already works right in "stable, Farnsworth" mode. In fact, you will need one that works well enough to not require a big ballast resistor in the HV due to micro arcs here and there - and lack of perfect gas pressure control - no small challenge.

For reasons having to do with accurate electrostatic lensing - cylinder designs work better here. If you're going to do a sphere, you should at least have a hole in the end (instead of simple crossed loops) so the end doesn't burn up and waste so much power with ions hitting it (and ejecting electrons). Of course, that just winds up as a warped, imperfectly shaped cylinder in the end...but it would probably be better if you've got a spherical tank than a pure cylinder grid.

Element spacing determines the effective E-lens focal length, so the usual sphere design has "issues" due to variable element spacing. You can't (basic geometry) tessellate a sphere with circles for an accurate common focus. A buckyball would be a reasonable approximation, perhaps, but I doubt anyone could build that.
And it's not like spherical chambers are easier or cheaper than a pipe(!).

Our boron nitride/pyrex feedthrough design turned out to be a necessary (but not sufficient) prerequisite. I should write that design up better somewhere; while it's simple in a picture, the reasons things are as they are aren't so simple - it took a few years of iterations to get it all right. In short, I'm using pyrex as a slightly conductive glass to control field gradients inside and outside the tank (almost as a replacement for corona rings on the outside), and having the BN project past the pyrex inside the tank for E field shaping and to keep the pyrex out of "the action" where hot D will reduce it to a good conductor. It turns out that BN is about the only thing you can use (other than *maybe* Al99) that hot H doesn't destroy. Sadly, most of my documentation on HV feedthroughs was for things that turned out to be failures in the end - the result of trying to do good documentation in general (and then failing to go back and say "this didn't really work out" - a human failing)...most of that turned out to be "don't bother with this, it doesn't work that well", which is still useful information if you know that. The all-glass or quartz designs turned out to be a waste of time and materials, part of that 99% perspiration involved in invention. You can save yourself the trouble at least. Ditto - the Al-85 commercial feedthroughs fail young due to the binder being chemically reduced by the hot D ions, and don't control the E field shape well at all, which turns out to be really important.

This isn't telling you "the secret" but you'll need this stuff too, which is far from a secret - and stuff I've been saying all along. My gut turned out to be right, it just took all too long (and too much effort and $) to prove it out.
Why guess when you can know? Measure!

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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Bruce Meagher » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:57 pm


You've made some pretty bold claims in this thread and in Paul’s front page article.

1) A 10^11 n/s fusor
2) Radiation sickness caused by said fusor
3) Activation in the lab that required disposal of thousands of dollars of equipment

For those of us struggling to believe can you provide a little bit of data on your amazing runs?

1) The approximate operating voltage and current.
2) The number and length of time of each of these groundbreaking runs.
3) What’s a typical distance you stand/sit from your fusor during operation?
4) How long after your runs did you start “puking” and how long did this last?
5) Did you seek medical attention?
6) You state “I had to toss a couple thousand bucks worth of activated machine tools in the trash.” What equipment did you trash, where was it located w.r.t your fusor, and what activity level did you use to determine the equipment needed to be removed?


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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Jeroen Vriesman » Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:40 pm

Is it true that for acute rad sickness you need a minimum dose of about 1 Sv? ( )

25E+6 neutrons / cm^2 is about 1 rem or about 0.01 Sv, so to get 1 Sv you need 25E+8 neutrons per cm^2. ( ... -1004.html )
If the projected front surface area of the body is about 80x100cm = 8E3 cm^2 this translates to 20E+12 neutrons absorbed by the body.

The symptoms could also occur at 0.35Sv, but that would still be more neutrons absorbed by the body than the reported total flux of 1E+11 for that 1 second burst.

What was the distance to the reactor?

If very close (2m), assuming a non-directional point-source, the total flux would be about 60 times more than the radiation absorbed by the body, so total flux would be 1.2E+15 ( or 4.2E+14 for the 0.35 Sv ) n/s.

So, the total amount of neutrons for 0.35Sv in one second would be 4.2E+14 ( 2.45MeV ), and there would also be 4.2E+14 protons ( 3.02 MeV ), this is a total of about 370 J, way beyond break-even.

Or was the distance to the reactor less than 2m? Or are my calculations wrong? Or can you get sick from less than 0.35 Sv?

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Doug Coulter
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Doug Coulter » Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:58 pm

Sorry, there are some details I won't reveal till legal protection is had. I didn't set out to popularize/claim a bunch of stuff, I merely informed my own board (which I guess Paul reads - he's now a member there as well) why I hadn't been posting for awhile. Actually, I don't care if anyone believes this report or not - it's better for me if people don't, at this point. I don't need the attention, I need to finish my work. This is a distraction. I will be more than happy to give a full report with all the details at the right time - it's the entire point of the open source exercise.

If no one believes me, I would then have to worry less about theft of IP and the feds...and so on. Replication (hopefully not only in my lab! I'm lining up candidates now.) will happen soon enough, and either I'm right, or I'm wrong. There's no need for argument of any kind at this point. It will only make one side or the other feel stupid later. And trying to steal my IP by fishing and argument is not how you'll make a friend of me. The truth will out and will take care of itself. Just be patient. If I give enough clues for $BigCorp to steal it - we all lose. Give it a break.

I normally sit quite close - about 18" - from "the action". But that is behind 3/4" of pyrex followed by half an inch of radiology lead glass, and the fusor itself is coated with lead other than a tiny hole in the back I left to be able to count (X ray) radiation output there. Neutrons of course aren't bothered by lead, nor are high energy gamma rays - lead may as well be paper at 2 MeV. Wikipedia used to have a nice plot for lead vs energy, I couldn't find it just now, but other than the K line glitch location, it's about the same for iron, like this -
Increasing the thickness is pointless when it just doesn't absorb at high energies anyway. Note log scale here.
The run I assume made me ill was around 30 seconds long before I turned things off to investigate why all my counters (two neutron detectors and a geiger counter, all behind at least 1/8" lead and in some cases much more - 5" for the geiger so it would only see either high energy stuff, or stuff that had backscattered) blanked - during which time I walked around a bit to look at things trying to figure out what was wrong. When the cosmic ray clicks came back as soon as I turned off main power - I knew there was an "issue". I'll have to thank Richard for inspiring me to hook all those up to audio outputs, else I might not have noticed that as quickly.

I was running around 50kv at around a 10ma current limit, but the current input went down when the event happened. I was not using the usual hookup.

I moved the detectors further out and then tried two replication runs of about a second each (people, please read fully!) and they still blanked. I'd have made them 1/10 second if I could have, but the power supplies have ramp up times.

I was pretty euphoric, but lacked good data collection, as there were no counts, and my computers crashed (I use several computers and uP's for data aq). As I stated, this prevented me from doing an accurate measurement of silver activation, which requires a precisely known time between the neutron flux cutoff and the measurement, since that's handled normally by the computers that crashed. Nearby indium, gold, and antimony were noticeably active later on, though. Not hot enough to be dangerous, but above background significantly.

I started puking the next day, and it continued for ~8 weeks with varying severity, but it was far worse feeling than a bad flu, and much longer in duration. Kind of reminds one of being seasick - you wish you were dead, but fear you won't die.

I did get medical attention from a local retired doctor and friend, whose wife is also a radiologist. Mostly having to do with keeping hydrated while my body was flushing out the dead cells. Had I gone to a hospital (assuming I could have made it to one, I'm pretty far out in the sticks) and explained why I was sick (what would have been the point otherwise?) - it would have made front page news and the feds would likely have confiscated all my toys. There's really not much modern medicine can do for this kind of case, so I opted not to go that route.

This fellow has already been out to talk to me about the possible dangers of fusors in private hands. Luckily, I'm good at seeming harmless and he's true to his name. I don't think you people realize what the risks are of making these guys afraid of us. We could lose it all - don't assume the laws in one country today will always apply here or in other places - if they even do here and now. Let's don't go there.
My friend at DHS - truly a good guy.
I think the math on the dose is wrong. I can only guestimate the total output for that time, but it was more like 100mw, not many joules (watt-seconds) in 30 seconds. Remember, just being hit by a fast neutron (and there are many slow ones in a room with moderators in it) - you don't actually absorb it all, most energy just goes on through. IIRC, enough absorbed energy to heat one up by .01 degree C will kill promptly. This was pretty close to the hairy edge. That's subjective, of course, but it felt very close to dying. I doubt it was a whole Sievert - but it was close enough. I don't recommend trying it.

I ditched everything in my shop that counted above my normal background. I probably didn't need to - it wasn't all that hot, but after being that sick, enough is enough - and I need to keep my background low (it's about 1/4 of what I measured at Richard's, normally - I take pains to keep it down, including force venting the radon out of the crawl space underneath) to make my other measurements accurate.
Not that big a deal to replace things like drill bits and lathe tool inserts that have odd, easy to activate components in their alloys. Seemed like a good idea at the time. After that level of illness, anything you can do to make it never happen again seems like the smart move.

Again, to repeat myself, anyone hardcore enough who knows their stuff and has their own gear (why trust mine if you don't trust my word?) is welcome to come try themselves. But it's on you if it does replicate and you get sick. I prefer to try again from a distance...
Why guess when you can know? Measure!

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Frank Sanns
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Nov 03, 2015 4:44 am

Good to see you posting Doug. It has been a while but I see you are still pushing into new territory with your fusion research.

Many of you have questions for Doug but for those of you that have operated a fusor, you know the x-rays are prolific even at relatively low voltages of 20kv through a sight glass. By 50 kv, the fusor shell becomes transparent to x-rays and back scatter from the room even becomes a problem. By 70kv and certainly 100 kv like I think Doug runs, the x rays are screaming out of the machine and bouncing off of everything. It is not a good environment especially with some of the currents that Doug and some others on here have run.

Neutrons have a quality factor of 20 so they are 20 times more damaging to biological material than gamma rays. Put them together and it is not a good combination no matter what the actual calculated numbers come out to be.

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Richard Hull
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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:14 am

I have held off on comment as replication via good instrumentation is needed.

I am 100% with Jim Kovalchick and his critical observation and comments regarding activation of tools and other items and the required thermal flux and length of exposure to said thermalized flux in order to truly activate to a readable level long half-lived materials.

10e11n/sec isotropic still converts to a smallish flux even if fed through a blanketed moderator fully surrounding the device. Such a flux at most any range as relates to serious activation over small increments of time save for the shortest half-life materials, like rhodium, silver, indium, etc., would not activate long half life items to any significant degree. I am assuming there was no all encompassing moderator surrounding the fusor. Fast neutrons don't activate stuff very well and distant moderators and local scattering to thermal energies would not intercept a decent fast flux to a significant degree to create a distant thermal flux to activate much in longer half-life materials around them.

I'll take the wait and see attitude, just like in the cold fusion debate. Extra-ordinary claims and all that sort of thing......

'nuff said.

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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Jeroen Vriesman » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:17 am

Looking at radiation sickness time lines, the symptoms you describe might be somewhere between 0.5 or even 2 Sv.

The main mistake in my calculations was the distance and the run-time, I thought the 1 second run made you ill.

Correcting it for a 30s run and a distance of 18 inch (that's very close...), still assuming 100% absorption of the neutrons, the flux needed to get 1 Sv would be 550 times lower than under my previous assumptions, that would translate to about 2J of energy in the fast protons and neutrons, over 30s that is 66mW ( p + n ) of fusion output. Extremely impressive!

This is still a low estimate, not all neutrons are absorbed by the body. Any idea which percentage of 2.45MeV neutrons are absorbed by a human body? It would take me some time to look at moderation and absorption of neutrons in the human body, but maybe someone here knows an estimate?

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Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Dennis P Brown » Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:42 am

Doug, I always enjoy your posts and you are certainly one of the better fusion/electrical engineer's here.

You talk of radiation exposure so I felt I should pass on the tiny amount of information I have read on this subject relative to treatment.

Obviously, there are MD's who can do tests to determine the severity of any effects/illness due to radiation exposure. I, of course, know little on this subject (critically, you need a blood test to check white blood cell count among other flags a doctor can use to determine if there are any issues. A baseline is always a good idea no matter what for future reference during your research.)

That all said, I do read on the subject and one major peer reviewed article I read in a medical journal indicated that large doses of Vitamin D was the best "anti-radiation" sickness medicine that is available - it can counter some of the effects of radiation exposure (help repair radiation damage in tissues/organs) and help prevent cancer development later in life (as can low dose aspirin but that can be very dangerous if not dissolved first in water.) I'd guess that as long as one used a safe dose of Vit D - under 6,000 IU a day (aim for 70-90 ng/dL blood levels) - it couldn't hurt but could do a great deal of good.

Neutrons are readily absorbed by water and the human body is about 72% water so neutron radiation is a major threat to health. So caution and proper shielding (for neutrons as well as x-rays) is critically important. Shielding is a must if you are creating any significant radiation flux. A good neutron shield should also absorb (boron or proper lithium isotope), not just modulate.

I do run models to check radiation protection for space environments (on my spare time) to shield against both high energy cosmic (protons up and past iron nuclei) and moderate to low level neutron radiations. Basically, these require opposite types of shielding materials - any gamma or x-ray need high density shielding; as you well know; neutrons (especially fast) need high hydrogen materials like paraffin for shielding to defeat this threat. I have both types for my accelerator (which to date, has created zero protons and zero radiation levels ... lol.)

Best of luck in your exciting research and be safe!

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