My Visit w Doug Coulter

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
User avatar
Doug Coulter
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sun May 27, 2007 7:18 pm
Real name: Doug Coulter
Location: Floyd, VA, USA
Contact:

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Doug Coulter » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:03 pm

Thanks, Frank - we indeed had a problem with power supply energy X ray shine through - one we nearly eliminated via the lead coating of everything - perhaps surprisingly, we even had to do some of the vacuum plumbing. At least at those energies (50kv nominal here, probably more with some inductive kickback peaks we have seen when things aren't stable) lead works fairly well, but any hole means a lot of backscatter all over the place. I admit to some surprise over just how much. Bill was very helpful in chasing all that down. He worries more than I used to. BTW, one thing we did that helped (accidentally) was wind up coating most of the tank innards with a low Z material, in this case Al, in another experiment. We have also tried Richard's suggestion of something that holds D well, in our case Pd - and that made things a LOT worse re both X rays and the ability to control gas pressure as the temperatures changed. Low Z is the way to go here.

Ditto neutrons, which get scattered and moderated in the building materials and air itself (it's an old saw in the fast-neutron research papers - "first, remove the air from the lab"). Worst case for them - and our next test to explain the still-high geiger counts was going to be using a gamma spectrometer to see about capture gammas from neutron capture or decay - we were just about to do that test when this happened, but it would be significant in my estimation - and another reason to get to distance, since lead does little in that energy range (or for that matter, at the capture gamma range from boron - see the plot above). I asked Richard to do this test years ago but he never did, fearing for his NaI head (the I and Tl can be activated). Well, we now have spares, so it's going to get done even if we lose one. I could say "shame on you for refusing to advance our knowledge" but since it took us so long to get decent gamma ray spec heads ourselves - and they were pretty dear, financially, I understand. I suspect we'll see both those ~~ 2MeV gammas as well as the odd few from fast protons/He3/T hitting tank walls and happening to pass close to a heavy nucleus in the stainless steel. Of course, till that measurement is actually done, that's a guess.

I agree with Richard about the wait and see - and further replication(s) - one way or the other, we'll know in a few months, and yes, anyone who is willing to go the NDA route and try this - let me know, it will take some bucks on top of a decent normal fusor to do, as well. And I formally thank him for inspiring me to hook detectors to multiple indicators - including an audio amp (you might not be looking at a meter or plot, but you can't turn away from sound - if it's there, you'll hear it - or maybe notice that dog didn't bark), or I might not be making this post. Further, some replication is almost certainly going to show I wasn't even on the "sweet spot" for this new technique, there's probably more "in there" to be had, and I'm chomping at the bit to do just that - it would be nice to get to a practical net gain level, after all, that's my quest. This announcement was premature. Sadly, it's taking awhile to add the stuff to do that with some version of the definition of the word "safely". There was indeed quite a bit of moderator around, Richard (hundreds of pounds), and my counters saw what they saw re things sitting on the fusor table/next table being above background after. Not thousands counts/minute, but not the same as "nothing" either. I have no reason to make that up, just the observation that modern tooling uses some odd (and sometimes proprietary - trade secret) elements in the alloys and binders that might be easier to activate than the usual vanadium/tungsten/molybdenum/cobalt of old. Things move fast in that biz these days and I try to obtain the best. I know some of the cermets contain oxides of "things you wouldn't expect" in a tool bit. By the time I recovered enough to get serious back in the lab - and got some GR-130 gamma specs (thanks to Bill), the normal background made it difficult to see tiny additional bumps on the usual background spectrum and be sure. Just a longer tail at higher energies than usual. As well, a statistically valid higher count than normal on a good geiger counter (the nice pancake we got from GEO - wired in to good data analysis software).

I'm guessing I got a dose in the 100-200mS range FWIW - and it's a guess. I'm not a young guy and things like this probably affect the older and weaker of us more per dose (I have emphysema, for example). Yes, a vastly messed up white count could have also exacerbated things by making me susceptible to whatever other pathogens were floating around. For the reason stated above, I didn't get a blood count done. Really, we kind of already know what the effects of a big fast dose are - it would only have served to prove (and reveal to perhaps the wrong people) what I already knew from being intimately connected to my own body and symptoms. I know my old "be a cowboy, don't sweat it" days are over now.

I'll be reporting back in when I have the real rigor we all know is required for real science - and the transformation of that into engineering. It will take me awhile to do the code, the hardware, the EMI shielding, initial testing in "stable/safe" mode, and get back on this horse - lots to do, but I'll be doing it. I'll report either way - if it works, or doesn't. Revealing what didn't work is as much a part of open source as what does, after all - it can save time for other workers.
Why guess when you can know? Measure!

David Kunkle
Posts: 285
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:43 pm
Real name: David Kunkle

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by David Kunkle » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:39 pm

I know this is an old post, but several things:

1) I only ever follow the technical/construction forum- but I see that needs to change. Therefore, I totally missed this thread on Doug's reactor and possible massive output until recently. It's been a year here and about 7 months since he's mentioned anything about this project on his own site. Anyone heard anything from Doug about this lately?

2)If I read it correctly, he's spending about $1M rigging the reactor for remote operation. I was wondering why he didn't try to replicate his massive output run by "de-tuning" the reactor to non-lethal levels. This might confirm what he believes to be 10E11 n/s output instead of going to remote operation first. And by de-tuning, I thought of several methods:

(Assuming these don't conflict somehow with the way his reactor achieves high output)
-Since the cross-section charts start at 4-5 KV, start the reactor at a measly 4 or 5 KV and go up until measureable output achieved. If it's that powerful, should get measurable fusion by 5KV. Then extrapolate neutron output to whatever KV he initially ran it at.

-Dilute the deuterium with H or He to 1% or even .1% or less. Shouldn't be hard with a couple of empty gas bottles. If I'm figuring right, 1 part per 1000 deuterium should knock the neutron output down by 3 orders of magnitude. Then again, extrapolate the output numbers back to pure deuterium.

-A couple of bubble detectors wouldn't hurt- at least they won't blank out on you even if the output is still massive. ;)

5KV and .1% deuterium fuel together should knock the output down to a relatively harmless 10E6 neutron/sec., which should extrapolate back to E10 or E11 run at full power.

Most people struggle just to get measurable fusion, so this is probably the first ever post on the whole forum on how to hamstring your reactor!!
If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.

Ernest Rutherford

User avatar
Richard Hull
Site Admin
Posts: 10842
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:18 am

Doug's major assistant, Bill Fain, was here for HEAS 2016, but I forgot to ask about Doug's progress or status and he did not volunteer any info. So, we are still in limbo relating his revelations and or progress. Fusion is and has always been a waiting game. So, we wait.

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
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

John Futter
Posts: 1291
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2004 2:29 am
Real name:
Contact:

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by John Futter » Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:28 am

David
Doug is still in there.
He and Bill have been doing the remote control and from what I understand it is almost there

watch his space

ps I did stay with Doug for a week a couple years ago to help (maybe I wasnt that helpful) and attend HEAS
you guys are a long way from where I live in New Zealand

I am a global moderator on his website and I can confirm his presence on the site in the last week or so

User avatar
Richard Hull
Site Admin
Posts: 10842
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:22 pm

A couple of year along now........Where is this process. I saw Bill Fain at the Richmond Frostfest last week. I forgot to ask where the research is at this point. Like Jim Kovalchick, I want to believe that there was so much fusion neutron flux that Doug had to throw out a couple of thousand bucks worth of activated shop tools. What in the tools had a high enough cross section to activate even with 10e11 flux for a tiny run period? What activated and had such a long half-life from the short burst that remained so intense that they had to be discarded? Any followup hard data?

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
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

User avatar
Bob Reite
Posts: 279
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:03 am
Real name: Bob Reite
Location: Wilkes Barre/Scranton area

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Bob Reite » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:27 am

I would visit Doug's site at http://www.coultersmithing.com/forums/index.php for his latest news.
The more reactive the materials, the more spectacular the failures.
The testing isn't over until the prototype is destroyed.

User avatar
Richard Hull
Site Admin
Posts: 10842
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:25 pm

I actually called Bill Fain. He updated me. It seems several structural disasters have plagued Doug. The roof of the place he lives in caved in along with the solar panels on top. Other issues with health and such have held them back as Bill is helping with the construction on the roof and other areas on the week ends when he can.

Doug has converted his already good instrumentation to a network of computer connected screens and read outs for remote monitoring and has had a lot of trouble with RFI. (The fusor is famous for this as it is a fabulous RFI source, when operating normally.) Remember, it is not much different from how a Hewlett Packard calibrated noise source is operated, only at the kilowatt level.

Truly remote operation, (>100 feet from the fusor involves a lot of antenna like runs of data and signals. Shielding is a must and can be problematic until worked out. Remember, Doug claimed dangerous neutron radiation that has forced him to seek shelter from his system at some distance during operation...

Bill noted that they hope to get this good ship lolly-pop back in the saddle by better weather. Mountain living off the grid is a Grizzly Adams existence, but Doug seems to love it and thrives in spite of hardships imposed on occasion.

We remain awaiting future reports and data.

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
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

User avatar
Bob Reite
Posts: 279
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:03 am
Real name: Bob Reite
Location: Wilkes Barre/Scranton area

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Bob Reite » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:28 pm

I revisited David Kunkie post: I don't think that one could achieve a scaled back version of the "gonzo mode" by dropping the HV. My understanding from what has been reported is that Doug had rigged up his fusor as a power triode Armstrong oscillator. The oscillator was not only running at his design frequency but he had a parasitic oscillation, well known to any of us who have built 1 KW RF amplifiers for HF. The parasitic oscillation was part of the "magic" and probably would not occur at other voltages. However using impure D2 should work fine for "choking it back". In any case Doug had successfully operated his system by remote control, albeit just as a conventional Hirsch-Farnsworth fusor, before his recent run of "bad luck".
The more reactive the materials, the more spectacular the failures.
The testing isn't over until the prototype is destroyed.

User avatar
Richard Hull
Site Admin
Posts: 10842
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:39 pm

The original first Farnsworth fusor patent had a high frequency oscillator for energizing the system that sought to operate much as Doug's system. Farnsworth was looking at his multipactor concept to do fusion. (resonant/parasetic) oscillation concepts that worked in his multipactor tubes.

According to several Farnsworth fusion team members that I interviewed in person, the whole idea flopped and a change in direction occurred about 1961 or 62.

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
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

User avatar
Doug Coulter
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sun May 27, 2007 7:18 pm
Real name: Doug Coulter
Location: Floyd, VA, USA
Contact:

Re: My Visit w Doug Coulter

Post by Doug Coulter » Sat Feb 10, 2018 5:02 pm

Pretty much what I read above is correct, FWIW. As John and Bob say, there's more on my site. Which is why you don't see me here that much - I'm busy with my own. Thanks to Bill for the head's up here. He's been kind of a silent (to the world) partner and big contributor to the effort.

What I'm trying to do, though it uses AC, is substantially different than Farnsworth's plan and anything having to do with multi-paction at all. (The only things I want to hit are deuterons - each other -, not any part of the tank whatever, and electron multipaction in the enemy here too, though I think one-shot secondaries are important, it's complicated).

The basic idea is that of an RF/DC ion trap, based on similar math to what a quadrupole mass spectrometer uses. Now, over time, these let the trapped ions find orbits that actually avoid one another (lowest energy state for the system) - which isn't what I want, but it's a start, and it's forced recirculation, not "hoped for" - I have a youtube video up showing detection of this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQYqOsk5QRo&t=2s
This shows some bunches from previous cycles piling up - just not very well - and I'm getting a bit of fusion here even at ~~ 10kv - way out of the noise. For reference, to get that far out of the noise on the same gear here with pure DC - it takes ~20kv (and Q goes up MUCH faster than linear above that). I was working at much lower voltages and power because I didn't have higher, and because I haven't made this remote-controlled yet.

So this is officially "interesting" and "hmm, that's funny" turf.

Part of my scheme includes also controlling the electrons. As Richard has noted in the past, having them all whiz out to the tank walls at high energy is one of the main wastes in a fusor (and a source of obnoxious X rays). The same math applies, but the speeds and feeds are around 60x different, the square root of the charge to mass ratio ratio of the two types of things involved, (yes, the ratio of the ratios) Getting rid of this loss is key - and Bob's reference to a parasitic is what I believe was going on there and doing that for me. The electrons were being yanked back toward the middle when the fast oscillation drove the grid positive...I think.

Since tightening things up and creating the remote, the parasitic stuff went bye bye (I got rid of a huge inductive ground loop...), and everything is much more stable now. It works well as a normal fusor - around 3-5 million neutrons/sec at 50kv and 6 ma would be normal, but of course, that's not all that exciting - it's just what I measure in the old school mode. The high end of the Q range is reached using some external ionizer and a lower gas pressure, but otherwise nothing very special - it's just a good precise build.

Using the fusor as a power triode itself is slick, and might be "the way" once the real numbers are well known and it can be coerced to do what we want pretty precisely, but since it's not handing itself to me on a silver platter other than those couple of times - that kinda destroyed my data acq - I've reverted to just driving the thing with known waveforms (making arbitrary waveforms at 50kv levels ain't a picnic - this is part of what slowed me down). I can't just use the standard math, as we are in a rather strange set of conditions. The ion trap math basically assumes super low charge density - hardly any particles - and space charge when there is lot of charge flying around perturbs the math-assumed conditions one heck of a lot.

Here's a hint of the "shape" of the standard math stuff - we have a different mechanical shape, of course, but that's not all - we traverse from molecular flow to viscous flow depending on where in a cycle we are! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadrupole_ion_trap This math doesn't take that into account at all...but where it's right, it's right. It's also why polluting the fuel or going lower in voltage won't have the desired effect to lower output for testing - an ion trap or anything dynamic similar needs to change frequencies in concert with voltage, and the mass of the entities is one of the tuning parameters.

So, we search, the hard way again. Just getting to be able to do that, and the roof falls in on me - literally. It'll be fixed soon, it's just a pain. Those who won't be stopped...can't be.

The basic underlying idea here is to drive recirculation.
I have to oversimplify this at first - those who know, give me a little slack for a few words.

1. Assume we have a more or less uniform cloud of D+ ions in our tank. Assume the pressure is such that we're in molecular flow status.

2. We take the grid negative, starting them in towards the grid center.

3. To make them arrive all at the same time (bunched), we don't use a sine wave on the grid - we use an exponential increase to bunch them. We are trying to get more or less the same kind of bunching one gets in a klystron or for that matter a drift tube accelerator, but in one half-cycle.

4. As they come in, we get denser and denser, and we leave the molecular flow regime, and they start significantly repelling one another as well.
(This means we can't just use some sort of simple waveform, as we need to compensate the D+ charge effects on the net field which is no longer the same as what we think we are applying - it's the sum of our drive and the charge flying around in there). To help keep them bunched, we have to increase the negative volts on the grid even more - we want the tail-end charlies to be going faster than the ones that started closer in so they all get to the center at once.

5. As they get near the grid edge the Coulomb repulsion starts to be a real major problem - slows things down, spreads the beams we've created with our grid's electrostatic lens. To help overcome this, we now want electrons in there, stat. Luckily, they are much easier to move around, being lighter for the same charge. And they're following the ions fairly closely anyway, since the ions, particularly as they get near the grid, cancel our applied field, so the electrons don't see the negative grid field, but the one made by the ion concentration.

6. So, making a virtue of necessity - we flip the polarity of the grid right then - the ions are at the edge or inside already - they don't care, their trajectory is set, they don't have far to go, and won't be perturbed much. The flipping of the polarity perhaps drives them in a littler harder, but that's not the main thing - what it does is pull in tons of electrons, which help neutralize the Coulomb repulsion. The electrons move around 60x as fast (see above) so this can be done...

7. Now, some fuse and some don't, and everything flies back out towards the tank walls. A proper tuned circuit (this is for later on..don't need it yet) can absorb the kinetic energy as things leave and put it back in the power supply, again, somewhat klystron-like. This phenomenon is also mentioned by some of the accelerator labs when they slow down particles on purpose - you have to put the energy somewhere (charge induction). It's also how my faraday probes picked up charge bunches in my tests. The idea here would be to recover the energy invested in the ones that didn't fuse, and let them slow down and re-thermalize near the tank walls instead of wasting the input energy bashing them (and being neutralized - Richard was correct that most ions formed by the grid itself are already almost at the bottom of the potential well).
At low energy, this thermalization - randomization - helps us have a uniform starting place for the next cycle. We already got our money back, so to speak, this is just loose change energy helping us have a nice even starting cloud again.

8 Go to #1 and repeat. We always had a spring-mass system. Now we're driving it instead of hoping it will magically oscillate (recirculate) on its own.

There are cases in the literature of diodes (what a fusor kind of is) oscillating with tuned circuits because of transit time effects, but that's rare, flaky, and not high power. Most tech realizes you need an active element with power gain in there someplace...

Almost like an IC engine or Otto cycle -

(To the objections I can hear in my head from people who know this better - trust me, the electrons that get jammed into the tank walls early on - and are lost at LOW energy, are later released again at or near the grid as the D+ bunch arrives and a few hit and cause secondary emission and are therefore available as described above, again... Details like that...Also details like where/when we go from effectively molecular to viscous flow - which can be on part controlled by the basic pressure and in part by how well we get bunching to work - there's a lot of little demons in details I'm leaving out - I know)

This is what I think happened here, more or less by accident. A two-frequency oscillation with added DC is a pretty close approximation to what the ion trap theory math would predict would work for a 2 species system (D+ and e-). It's my best guess, at any rate.

An interesting tidbit is that at relative velocities in the range that electrons reach at ~ 50kv, the electron De Broglie wavelength becomes commensurate in size to the Schrodinger wavelength of a deuteron(otherwise stated, the distance they have to be within for a high probability of fusion to happen)...One might hope that at this point, the electrons are sufficiently "small" to actually get between deuterons on a small enough scale that they can still "see" each other's leaking strong force and tunnel into fusion, which otherwise would be (and we note, in standard fusors IS - quite rare).

So, nothing like multipaction, though I think secondary emission does have a part in this. Sorry Richard (and Philo). You were right about a metric ton of other stuff, though. One thing not otherwise mentioned here is Richard's intuition that most of the ions in a self-ionizing fusor are created near the grid and near the bottom of the potential well - I tested and verified this myself.

Really, the main advantage I or anyone has over Philo - we have much better data acq stuff. When I replicated some of what he claimed, that others couldn't replicate, and thus thought him nuts - at least I had proof I - and others - could believe in, and a ballpark reading of stuff he had no way of seeing at all - the oscillation frequencies (which, on examination of his gear, would be just about where I'm poking around now, looking at his lash up with parasitic L and C in mind). I note no pictures of oscilloscopes in Philo's work - or video recorders pointed at them. It might require fewer brains with help like that(!).

I have to say that something else Farnsworth mentioned - later also mentioned by U of Wis - was the use of BN in feedthroughs. This was actually the major enabling piece of technology that got rid of all the noise that was contaminating our attempts at precise measurements. Those who've followed my work for awhile know we thrashed hard on HV feedthroughs and did a lot of revising. All these had short lifetimes and always had a bunch of micro-arc noises they made as well - that EMI fusors are famous for largely comes from that. The "dog that didn't bark" is that once we went to the current design - that all stopped, and rev 1.000 of that feed through is still in there, rock solid, and noise free - no more RFI crap from a disintegrating thing. Seems super hot hydrogen will take apart anything but BN or pure sapphire. At current prices (and machinability), I'll take the BN - The design of the FT deserves it's own post - it's not just a chunk of BN - pyrex is also used *as a conductor* for field shaping but...in terms of apparatus, that was actually the biggest thing, after all the stuff everyone here already has down. I guess I should document that further, it's a pretty big deal.

And as luck would have it - those micro-arc noises were also what provided the signal I had to have to get some important data on the rest...but once I had that, were a serious problem... That stimulus signal - very fast rise time pulses at 10's of kV amplitude, would have been (And later, was) a terribly difficult thing to create any other way, to see the impulse response of the charged particle system.

Further, those micro arc noises, oscillation, and other similar things were what made possible the observation that anything that perturbs the fusor off that nice stable equilibrium mode everyone seems to shoot for - increase the Q! However, things that happen "by accident" are rarely as good as things you can do on purpose, once you know what to do. The accidents just give you the "heads up".

If this pans out, I'll also have to give Richard some serious credit for motivation. Nothing gets me going like some authority telling me I'll never pull it off. Thanks!

Funny old world, eh?
Why guess when you can know? Measure!

Post Reply