Richard Hull's Attic

This section contains files, photos, and commentary by Philo or those who have worked with, known him, or are related to him.
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Richard Hull
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

A special side note on Fred "Freddy" Haak"

One of the great treasures of the ITT buy out of Farnsworth electronics in 1949 was the prized vacuum tube division. Within the tube division at Pontiac street was their phosphors lab! This is where their weird group of tubes were birthed. Phosphors were key to many military designs.

My visit in 1999 included lengthy interview time with Freddy Haak. He was a BS in chemistry specialized in phosphors. He was transferred to the Farnsworth team in late 1961 or early 62... He could not remember precisely.... He was transferred due to his knowledge of vacuum techniques and his phosphor knowledge. Freddy showed me many odd ball tubes that he was responsible for. Early computer phosphor scanned memory tubes, were his specialty. It is not known now, but only to me, that Freddy, Gene, and George, told me that in the many, over 20 bell jar type tubes created before the arrival of Bob Hirsch, and that almost every one and their test versions contained Fred Haak applied phosphors so that electron paths and ion paths might be followed or observed either on electrodes or the glass of the bell jar tubes.

By bell jar tubes, we make the distinction that it was a mix of bell jars, (very few), and special tube lab blown glass fusor tubes designed from Farnsworth's crude drawings supplied to Jim Hiney who produced precise design drawings for the tube lab to make up. According to Gene and Fred, bell jars were often used with phosphors to design the internals and then moved to blown glass tubes by the tube lab. None ever did fusion until they got a neutron counter in later 1962. All of these early tubes 1959-1964 are lost. They went through many such iterations, unseen and lost forever. According to George Bain, when Farnsworth was effectively fired, he saw a near dumpster full of old Fusor tubes as his office was cleared out. The older all metal versions were returned to stores for parts scrap out.

The all metal fusors were the doing of the arrival of Hirsch coupled with far more serious efforts to do fusion at a professional level with professional materials in ever expanding budgets.

In short Freddy showed me some tubes even he could not remember what they did!!
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One of the hundreds of oddball tubes to come out of the Pontiac street tube division's phosphors lab.  This is a WWII "sniper scope" tube.
One of the hundreds of oddball tubes to come out of the Pontiac street tube division's phosphors lab. This is a WWII "sniper scope" tube.
sniper tube.jpg (17.51 KiB) Viewed 17886 times
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Richard Hull
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

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Added 2024 due to specific questions related to the glass fusors and neutron numbers.

in 1960- late1962 the team had no neutron counter! If what they needed didn't exist at Pontiac street, they did without. Gene cobbled together their first HV supplies from the old stores of the discontinued TV manufacture which ended in 1958! His second supply built in 1961 could just do 34kv.

They had no money until the 1962 budget. It was then that they obtained a really fine 50kv universal voltronics power supply and in September a brand new Eberline PNC-1 neutron counter.

According to Hirsh, when he arrived in summer of 1963, they were still piddling around with all glass bell jar fusors and were getting very low neutron counts using deuterium gas, only.

Meeks, Bain and Haak, (arrived 1961) claimed that Farnsworth relied on two surplus military Geiger counters to claim fusion until they got a neutron counter which barely ticked when first used in early 1963. Bain and Meeks said that they always felt 1960-1963 that the roar of the GM counters were due to x-rays, which we all here know, that near a fusor, a GM counter will go nuts.

Thus, whether they produced any neutrons or not 1960-63 will never be known as they could not count them. The roaring GM counter early on produced grave concerns by the higher ups overseeing the program.

The Farnsworth effort was effectively a clown show 1960-62. No one had any knowledge related to neutron radiation detection! Not one human being on the team or at Pontiac street's high offices had any experience with radiation or its measurement!! I have reported that both Bain and Meeks had to more or less self-educate themselves in the area of radiation as they felt Farnsworth might be deceiving himself in his record keeping and reporting.

Regardless, the glowing reports from Farnsworth to his overloads forced them to cut loose with the first real money for the 1962 budget which saw the first professional HV supply arrive and a much needed neutron counter. Finally, their improved glass bell jars could be proven to be doing fusion.

Again, What did Pem know of radiation and neutron counting? Zip! She relied on her beloved husband to tell her what was going on.

Thank God I went to the worker bees and got the straight dope before they started dying. I was the only one that ever interviewed 100% of all these technical and engineering, fusor pioneers. They respected that I had done D-D fusion, that I had a working and useful knowledge of radiation physics, (neutron detection physics specifically), vacuum system assembly, and that I had a professional level of electronic background and fully understood what they went through. Many have interviewed only a few of them for a quick rinse in the basic history in the past. No one with the technical, electronic and nuclear chops ever interviewed them related to the reality of working, day-to-day technical details related to the fusion effort in their lab. They told me things that they admitted they never bothered to tell others. They all told me that they would not openly besmirch the reputation of Farnsworth. They all respected him as a man. However they all, to the man, felt he was unprepared for the work and 4 admitted that they, too, as it turned out, were also unprepared. They were thrown into the caldron of having to perform in an area for which they had no real background or useful knowledge, for a time.

All on the team, in the end, admitted that the work really took off with the arrival of Hirsch, metal fusors and deuterium-tritium fueling. Oh, in 1964 they purchased a giant rack controlled Universal Voltronics 150kv supply for the pit fusor, later shared with the cave fusor. Money flowed rapidly from 64-67. Farnworth, as a working, functioning team member, ended for the most part in 1961 with his virtual total displacement taking place with the arrival of Hirsch.

1960-1962 no neutron counter (open, yet unrealized self-deception)
1961-1962 Bain and Meeks self-educate themselves in rudimentary radiation physics over doubts about Farnsworth's claims
1961 The arrival of Haak makes for three main working team members plus one technician always there (3 total came and went)
1960-1963 All glass fusors
1962-1967 Money starts to flow, ever more increasing until the end.
1963-1964 Accurate, honest neutron counting and detection showing weak but real fusion in the last glass fusors fueled by deuterium, only.
1964-1967 end of glass fusors, all metal fusors. Real fusor work, D-T fueled fusors takes over and true scientific advancement.

Richard Hull
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Gene Meeks circa early 1962 with one of the last series of advanced glass fusors using his 34kv homebrew supply.  No neutron counter yet.
Gene Meeks circa early 1962 with one of the last series of advanced glass fusors using his 34kv homebrew supply. No neutron counter yet.
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Richard Hull
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

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Follow up to above post related to dates and achievements related to the glass fusor era.

As noted from early 1963 through 1964, part of the last gasp of the glass bell jar work, The team had two things brand new due to funds of 1962......
They had a real working neutron counter. They had a nice new 50kv Universal Voltronics 50,000 volt power supply that let them go beyond the 1962 limit of 34,000 volts into their fusor.

Thus, they did real proven fusion for about a year and a half in glass bell jar fusors! Albeit at a rather low level. (Meeks statement to me) From this the best they ever did in glass fusors 1960-64 was what they measured in those last 18 months where they knew what they were getting....
They worked at low pressures in the 3 micron range when successful at the end with deuterium in glass. Fusors cannot ever do fusion in glass at our level where pressures are 8-20 or more microns due to simple gas plasma dynamics. More D2 means more current, more current means more heat and glass implodes via local beam heating. That is why they, and we, do more fusion in all metal systems. This is why we tell newbies to never attempt any fusion in glass containment vessels! One thing that did come from all the clown circus days. 1960-62... They learned to vacuum out the glass well and just let a tiny bit of deuterium in to avoid implosion at high voltage and resultant currents. 34,000 volts from Gene's best and final homebrew HV supply was not a lot of voltage to do decent fusion in glass. It was enough to implode a glass system at high currents with higher Deuterium gas pressures where fusion can really "step out" to higher levels.

All of the above knowledge comes from self-directed learning, but far more so due to the "hands on imperative"... the "doing" which allows you to be one with the science and physics...to own it, internally..
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The last and best technician team member stands at the pit fusor rack group needed to control the vacuum, ion gun and the oil drummed 150kv Universal Voltronics power supply. According to Gene Meeks, the fusor supplies: 1960 - 18kv homebrew, late 1960-62 - 34kv homebrew, 1962-64 50 kv universal voltronics, 1964 to 67 - 150kv Universal Voltronics.
The last and best technician team member stands at the pit fusor rack group needed to control the vacuum, ion gun and the oil drummed 150kv Universal Voltronics power supply. According to Gene Meeks, the fusor supplies: 1960 - 18kv homebrew, late 1960-62 - 34kv homebrew, 1962-64 50 kv universal voltronics, 1964 to 67 - 150kv Universal Voltronics.
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

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More specific data on Gene Meeks Mark II prime system. I was asked about the claimed 10e12 neutron numbers and if I saw any documentation regarding this claim by Gene Meeks for this final fusor system assembled during the end times of the ITT effort. Image attached below

Regarding Mark II prime: No! I have seen but little real documentation from the lab work during the entire effort. Files were kept at ITT, I am sure. What happened to them is anyone's guess. As to Gene's claims for the Mark II Prime, I never saw any documentation.

Steve Blaising and Fred Haak both told me that George Bain and Bob Hirsch were very serious about Gene not running it due to its high output. It was right below Farnsworth's office. As Farnsworth was long gone in 1967, I would imagine the office was occupied by someone else. I think the fact that it was not in a pit and not in a neutron absorbing cave, gave the team leaders pause.

It is to be noted that the Mark II prime was a fully ion gunned system! (see photo above) Perhaps as good as or better than the cave fusor! I am sure its numbers were very impressive if not rather frightening in an unshielded environment.

This was late in the ITT effort. Gene told me that Bob was in and out preparing to leave for his promised AEC position and when George was either very busy or out at the same time, he would run it, in spite of the admonitions, chuckling to himself. Gene remained a lifelong imp, even when I knew him. He loved to poke the bear. This nature almost cost him his job early on in the fusor effort at ITT.

Do I think Gene reached 10e12? No! I do think it was a superior performer or he would not have been forbidden to run it once his numbers were shared with his superiors. Gene was a very quick study and save for the lack of a college background, I think during his 2 1/2 years with Hirsch, he became a master in all aspects of fusor construction, operation and data taking. In 1960, Like Bain, Gene was thrust into the effort ignorant of fusion and the technologies and physics involved, but by the time he joined Hirsch in the cave, his good pair of hands, soon blossomed into a good head for fusor fusion.

Richard Hull
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FusorITT3.anno.jpg
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Joe Gayo
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Joe Gayo »

I have no direct knowledge of the efforts at ITT, however, a hand-held neutron detector like the PNC-1 would likely have terrible X-ray pile-up effects above 100kV. The cable capacitance, poor charge amp, lack of semi-gaussian shaping, no base-line restoration, and generally low SNR all contribute to the challenge. The problem at 150kV would render "neutron" measurements untenable. I've operated systems beyond these thresholds and can attest to the difficulty of making accurate neutron measurements in high photon fields. In the absence of absolute counting of activation foils, I would be skeptical of any neutron numbers.

Joe
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Richard Hull
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

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I had a look at some of Hirsch's notes from 1966 and the largest I saw run on the cave fusor was 102 kv 4microns D-T mix 6 ma. This was certainly there best fusor and his notes are filled with this or that burned out when working near 100kv. The notes often resume 3 days later with the beginning line..."repairs were made and...".

I have no knowledge of them going near that 150kv limit on that last super supply. Gene told me that the ion guns were tough to balance and control at the higher voltages. They learned a lot about field control via osmosis. Gene had to constantly swap out extractor cones in the guns of both the pit and cave fusors. The last used hollow internal dynodes using the new custom made, Linde sapphire standoffs. (hyper expensive in 1966 according to George Bain who saw the bills.)

Pushing a lot of voltage into a small IECF fusor is no simple task.

I do not think that they ever built a classic simple fusor like we run. They came close with the AEC demo fusor on the cafeteria dessert cart.

All of their later devices were gunned systems and were far more efficient at doing fusion from 1964 onward, especially with D-T. They did a lot of low power experiments in specially constructed devices in an effort to codify the theory of confinement. The basics of this work was published. It also appeared in a large internal report released to a number of universities who contributed to the effort with critical reviews. I have one original from Gene Meeks sent to me before he died.

The PNC-1 is suitable for the average fusioneer but due to its small volume N. Woods BF3 tube. It is of little value, unless you are doing 100kn/s. This means real fusion in the 30kv plus range. It is not for a newbie and there are a rare bird on e-bay now. 3He at 4 atm + is the way to go for simplistic easy to implement neutron counting. For big fusion claims 10e7+, foils are the way to get a good flux number.

Alas, it turned out to be a doomed effort as we now know. It was doomed from the very first in view of current knowledge.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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