chronology of Fusion Development and History

1950-1960sEarly fusion research is marked by breakthroughs and disillusionment as scientists – and policy-makers – become captivated by the long-term prospect of cheap and clean energy.


  • May 11, 1951The U.S. magnetic fusion energy program, called Project Sherwood, is formally launched under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission.


  • 1958the major nations participating in controlled thermal nuclear research agreed to declassify their work and preparation for the second international atoms for peace conference in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • 1968the most successful fusion reactor, the Tokamak, is invented at the Kurchatov Institute of atomic energy in Moscow, providing new stimulus for fusion research.


  • 1970s  The onset of the energy crisis, the environmental movement and a growing public uneasy over nuclear fission technology all serve to make nuclear fusion a more attractive energy option.


  • 1973   The organization of petroleum next boarding countries imposes an oil embargo of Western nations, prompting a worldwide energy crisis.


  • 1974   Congress approves the construction of the Tokamak fusion test reactor at Princeton, the largest  experimental fusion reactor in a nation.


  • 1977  The federal budget for magnetic fusion research (adjusted for inflation) reaches its peak.


  • 1980s  Receding public concern over energy and unresolved problems with fusion technology results in declines in the fusion budget, despite a proclaimed political commitment.


  • August 1980   Congress passes the magnetic fusion energy engineering act, calling for a major commitment to magnetic fusion energy, including a doubling of its budget over the next 10 years.


  • 1986   Construction of the 372 million mirrors fusion test facility at Lawrence Livermore national laboratory is completed; the facility is mothballed before being tested.


  • Mar. 23, 1989  University of Utah chemists be Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced during a press conference that they have created nuclear fusion at room temperature, so-called ” ColdFusion”.


  • June 1989   Robert Hunter, director of the Department of Energy (DOE) office of energy research, launches a controversial effort to reconstruct the fusion program in the hope of redirecting money from magnetic confinement into inertial confinement; the effort leaves the fusion community divided.


  • 1990s   As the fusion community regroups and turns to international collaboration, the public begins to question whether fusion will ever be a commercially viable energy option.


  • Sept. 25, 1990The DOD’s fusion policy advisory committee releases a report setting an ambitious timetable for the US fusion program including a demonstration reactor by 2025 and a commercial reactor by 2040.


  • Sept. 1991   The DOE’s fusion energy advisory committee recommends scrapping the 1.9 billion burning plasma experiment at Princeton.


  • Nov. 9, 1991   Scientist at the Joint European Torus (JET) experimental fusion reactor in England produces more than 1,000,000 W of power using a combination of deuterium and tritium.


  • July 21, 1992   The European Community, Japan, Russia and the United States agree to a $1.2 billion, six-year effort to design the international thermal nuclear experimental reactor, under the direction of the International Atomic Energy Agency, headquartered in Vienna Austria.


Most current fusion reactors work by fusing two heavy isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium (D = 2H) and tritium (T = 3H), which is called the DT Reaction:


                                        D + T → 4He + n + 17.6 MeV

This reaction releases a tremendous amount of energy.

A single gram of fuel can produce the equivalent energy of 80 tons of  TNT.

 Deuterium,  has one proton, electron and one neutron it is referred to as heavy  water or also called heavy hydrogen.  It is abundant in the worlds oceans and  accounts for .02% of all water found on the Earth.

 Inertial Confinement Reactor or laser ignition

 The National Ignition Facility that is just coming into operation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a laser ignition facility.

 In Inertial Confinement Fusion, a pellet of DT fuel is compressed by a laser.


 The pellet of DT fuel is heated by the external power source. This heating blows off the outer layers of the pellet, and by Newton’s Third Law, compresses the core to 1/1000th of its original volume. This sends a compressional shockwave to the center the pellet, which will produce extreme temperatures and pressures at the center of the pellet.

 ρr > 3 g/cm2

(Here Rho ρ is the compressed pellet mass density and r is radius).

 In order to achieve this compression, Keefe (1982) states three conditions that a laser confinement system must satisfy. The lower limits for the laser’s Energy, Power, and power flux density  (S) are as follows:


S > 200 TW/cm2


More recent simulations indicate that around 2 MJ and 500 TW are needed to ignite the fuel. The gain of a fusion event refers to the ratio of energy out to energy in:


1 D 2 + 1 D 2 -> 2 He 3 + n + 3.2 MeV

1 D 2 + 1 D 2 -> 1 T 3 + p + 4.00 MeV

1 D 2 + 1 T 3 -> 2 He 4 + n + 17.6 MeV

1 D 2 + 2 He 3 -> 2 He 4 + p + 18.3 MeV

This really is the most efficient1 g of deuterium à 10 12 J of energy worth $ 30,000.00 U.S. dollars.

1 KwH = 3.60 x 10 6 J

10 12 J of energy would equal = 2.7 x10 5 KwH or 270,000 KwH

House uses 800 – 1200 KwH per month or about 2,700 houses.



*  Magnetic Confinement Reactors.

Most work done today focuses on Tokamaks, The ITER project being built in France is a Tokamak

 *  Inertial Confinement Reactor or laser ignition.

The National Ignition Facility that is just coming into operation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a laser ignition facility. 

 *  Inertial Electrostatic  Confinement  Reactors.

The Fusor type reactor is mostly built by experimenters

The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) set a number of world records, including a plasma temperature of 510 million degrees centigrade — the highest ever produced in a laboratory, and well beyond the 100 million degrees required for commercial fusion.

In December, 1993, TFTR became the world’s first magnetic fusion device to perform extensive experiments with plasmas composed of 50/50 deuterium/tritium.  In 1994, TFTR produced a world-record 10.7 million watts of controlled fusion power, enough to meet the needs of more than 3,000 homes

In 1995,  a new technique was develop  to reduce plasma turbulence.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

       (PPPL) from 1982 to 1997

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

Problems with the Tokamak Fusion  Reactor

 When these reactors reach  their density limit  they can spiral apart into a flash of light.  When additional heat is added to the plasma it does not yield a higher density.  It has been observed that tiny bubble like islands form in the hot, charged gases.  

These minute bubbles collect impurities that are kicked up from the plasma hitting the tokamak wall, which causes a disruption in the plasma when these minute bubbles coalesce. These bubble islands then subsequently blocks added power to the system and cools the plasma in which the current that helps to heat and confine the plasma collapses, allowing it to fly apart.   This is a key parameter that prevents a fusion reactor from operating at maximum efficiency.  This has been a problem over the last forty years.

 Experimental solution, inject the bubble islands directly with additional power to create the extreme density needed to maintain the 100 million degree temperatures that fusion requires.

 Operate Your Own Tokamak Reactor .  

Inertial Confinement Reactor or Laser Ignition
Laser or particle beams are focused onto the surface of a capsule a few millimetres in diameter, containing a small quantity of fuel. The evaporation and ionization of the outer layer of the material lead to the formation of a plasma crown. This expands and, as in a rocket, generates an inward-moving compression front which heats up the inner layers of material. The core of the fuel is thus compressed to as much as one thousand times its liquid density, and ignition occurs when the core temperature reaches about one hundred million degrees. Thermonuclear combustion spreads rapidly through the compressed fuel, producing energy equivalent to several times the amount deposited on the capsule by the beams. 


The National Ignition Facility is just

coming into operation at Lawrence Livermore

National Laboratory which is a laser ignition facility. 

 Problems with the Inertial Confinement Reactor or Laser Ignition


Scientific breakeven is defined as a gain of at least unity; thus far, no ICF facility has achieved scientific breakeven.


The National Ignition Facility (NIF) uses an indirect drive approach to compress the pellet. The laser light is not shined directly onto the pellet, but onto a cylindrical capsule called a hohlraum about a centimeter in size. Within a matter of nanoseconds, the hohlraum reaches temperatures of 250–300 eV, immersing the fuel pellet in a uniform, superhot bath of X-rays, which compress the pellet and ignite a fusion reaction. This heat bath is the critical advantage of the indirect drive, since this should prevent the onset of hydrodynamic instabilities like those that plagued NIF’s predecessor, Nova.

 Lasers vaporize the cylindrical hohlraum, which encloses a spherical deuterium-tritium pellet. (Courtesy of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.)



While testing a high power vacuum tube called a multipactor for use in television  in the 1930’s,  Philo T. Farnsworth discovered an anomalous point charge phenomenon. He named this point plasma phenomena “poissors”.

The Farnsworth multipactors utilized twin opposed concave cold cathodes. Electrons moving from one electrode to another were stopped in mid-flight .  When a high frequency magnetic field was applied, the charge would accumulate in the center of the tube, and would then produce amplification.

 Farnsworth was very interested in the ability of the device to focus electrons at a particular point.  When he began to think about how to put a star in a jar, he thought back to the multipactor and how that concept would keep hot gases confined without hitting the walls of the container.  Based on his early experiments he then concluded that containment of very hot plasma gases could be held in place by electrons (ions) and fuel could then be injected through the wall of the containment field which be unable to escape.  Thus he called this concept a virtual electrode, and the system the FUSOR.

The Farnsworth Fusor : The Most Notably Forgotten Episode in “Hot” Fusion History

The concept of this new modified fusor reactor is to create a protostar inertial electrostatic confinement system. We want to mirror what nature does, just on a smaller scale. This is the only time in stellar development that the fusion process can be continually fueled by charging the lighter atoms that fold into the core and the heavier elements are ejected in the bipolar outflow.
The following slides show the ideas, process and equipment that will continually fuel a fusion reactor. This reactor will use two counter rotating fields so that the charging of the deuterium atoms can be draw into the core.  

In a normal star the heavier elements produced during the fusion process will surround the core of the star. The heavier elements do not allow light elements to refuel the star creating the limiting factor for life cycle of the star.  

In the protostar state the heavier elements can be ejected, thus, allowing the continuous refueling of the core. The ejection of the heavier elements will be contained in carbon filters on either side on the jets.







The concept of fusion reactors has been around for decades. In addition our planet has enough basic fuel of deuterium for the fusion process to last millions of years.  

 That equates to just 1% of available deuterium in the world’s oceans, and to put that in perspective, that would be equivalent to using up all the world’s fossil fuel reserves 500,000 times.

 Deuterium,  has one proton, electron and one neutron it is referred to as heavy water or also called heavy hydrogen.  It is abundant in the worlds oceans and   accounts for .02% of all water found on the Earth

 *   Another advantage is that the products of fusion reactions are less radioactive then   the products of  fission reactions.  

 *   Among the products of the fusion reactions only tritium and the resultant neutrons  are radioactive.  The last advantage of fusion lies in its inherent safety.  

 *  There would be very little fusionable material at any given time in the reactor and   the likelihood of a runaway reaction would thus be very small.