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My name is Sarvesh Sadana. I built a working fusion reactor in my garage. I also conduct research at Berkeley and run a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. AMA!

Nov 12th 2017 by DrSadana • 10 Questions • 86 Points

Hiya Reddit! I'm a longtime lurker, but some friends convinced me to do an AMA.

My name is Sarvesh Sadana. I'm currently a senior (17) in high school.

For the past year and a half, I've been building an Inertial Electrostatic Confinement fusion reactor (fusor) in my garage. It utilizes an extremely powerful electric gradient in a high vacuum to accelerate positively charged ions toward a negative central grid. The charged ions have such high velocity (30 million Kelvin) that they collide with one another and fuse. Half of those fusions produces a neutron, which is then measured using a He-3 proportional counter and a digital oscilloscope. It took hundreds of hours, but as of September 16, 2017 I achieved fusion.

The project I'm currently working on is a liquid helium generator. It consists of a high-psi air compressor, high-pressure stainless steel tubing, a reservoir, a regulator, tanks of nitrogen, neon, helium, and more. It utilizes the Joule Thomson effect to cool the gases down to near absolute zero (helium liquefies at 4 Kelvin, and has a JT inversion temperature of 45 Kelvin). The generated liquid helium will be used to cool a superconducting electromagnet, which will reach extremely high levels of magnetic flux.

I've also been conducting research at UC Berkeley for the last 6 months. I create composite 3D printing filament with superior mechanical and thermal properties. I'm currently working with Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers, and their potential applications in 3D printing. It's super exciting stuff!

Lastly, I'm also the co-founder and CEO of a nonprofit called Shoecyclist. We hold shoe donation drives where we donate new and used shoes to the homeless. We also have several local chapters across California.

Feel free to ask me any questions about anything! I have opinions on everything from Star Trek to scientific publishers.

https://imgur.com/BQILCbl (My fusor)

https://imgur.com/EgtqYVo (Pic of fusion plasma)

https://imgur.com/4dVSeUe (Liquid helium generator - in progress)

Neutron club application: http://www.fusor.net/board/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=11729

sadanaresearch.com

shoecyclist.org

If you want any more proof, please feel free to ask.

Sarvesh

Q:

Your fusion reactor -- how large is it, and how much power (both can be roughly) does it put out?

A:

The SS chamber where the reactions actually happen isn't very large -- only about 6 inches in diameter. If you're including the vacuum system, the pumps, the power supply, etc., then it's much larger (mostly because I want to operate it from a distance for safety). If I had a space limitation, I could probably fit everything within 15 sq feet.

As for power- it produces almost nothing. The reason we have billion dollar fusion facilities such as ITER is because achieving more power than we put in is very, very hard. I put in about 1.5 kilowatts into the fusor (instruments, vacuum pumps, power supply), and get out probably less than a microwatt. Most of the power goes to accelerating the ions, heating up the chamber, and maintaining the vacuum.

Sarvesh


Q:

What is your thought on Star Trek’s transporters? Are you still the same person after being transported or are you just a copy?

A:

The logical part of me says that, because the transporter precisely replicates you down to the quantum level, you are the same person. The logical side of me would also say that sense of self isn't a meaningful construct, so it doesn't matter anyhow.

But then, I wouldn't exactly volunteer for transport. I suppose my faith in science only goes so far. Also, the thought of being beamed into space, molecule by molecule, is rather off-putting.

Sarvesh


Q:

Hey Sarvesh, Super interesting shit you have going on. My question has to do with how faculty members at the universities you have conducted research in react/interact with you--do they tend to give you respect? Assistance? Treat you lesser than or with some tinge of jealousy?

A:

Great question!

Everyone I've spoken to and interacted with at Berkeley has treated me with nothing but respect and courtesy. They're all incredibly smart and nice people. (Though, I suppose I don't know what they say when I'm not there)

I was recently helping to train some Master students in the use of a certain machine. I also helped them with their research. They were exceptionally courteous and didn't even mention my age. I think they think that (somewhat undeservedly, to be honest) I'm some sort of wunderkind.

Although, because I'm under 18 and not actually enrolled in the university, I have little autonomy. I'm not supposed to operate any machine unsupervised, nor am I qualified to work in an experimental lab. It does restrict my research, as I'm not able to use any hazardous materials (nanoparticles, toxic solvents), but I try to make the best of it.

I think that, if a young upstart teen were to come into my lab (if I were a 20something PhD student), I might look down on them a little disdain.

Sarvesh


Q:

Are you the one they're talking about online when it says "power companies hate her!"?

A:

I'm a guy, so I sure hope not!


Q:

Is your fusion reactor self-sustaining? That is, once it is running at maximum output, does it require any additional power to maintain the reaction?

A:

I wish. If it were, I'd win the Nobel prize.

Unfortunately, real, feasible fusion power requires much more than the jury-rigged contraption I have in my garage. It requires constant electrical input of around -30kV at 10-30 mA.

Self sustaining fusion reactions are the dream of everyone who works in the field, because that would directly allow for commercial clean fusion power.

Sarvesh


Q:

How did you feel last month after achieving fusion? Were you aware of what happened? I think I’d start running around screaming if something so monumental happened for me! Congratulations, by the way!

A:

Thank you!

While I was operating it, I was actually really worried that I would break something. The last time I tried pushing the voltage to fusion levels, I melted my grid!

It was quite worrysome to see the camera repeatedly fail due to x-rays (so I couldn't directly see what was happening), but I just hoped it was all good.

I did see quite a bit of interference on the oscilloscope, but saw a huge spike when I added the deuterium (the gas I use for fusion), which indicated that I had fusion. I was shaking a bit because, even though I knew I took every safety precaution, it was still extremely scary. 30000 volts is no joke!

It was quite cathartic to see that, after all this time, my results had been validated. I was really happy to see that it actually worked properly, and that I wasn't some crazy kook.

Hope that answers your question,

Sarvesh


Q:

Congratulations on your success at achieving fusion and your other projects, truly incredible feats. I'm curious to know, what your thoughts on Starshot? Namely your thoughts on overcoming some of the challenges regarding mass, focused laser propulsion, etc, but any other thoughts as well! For me, the idea that we could get a glimpse of another star system during my lifetime is mind blowingly exciting.

A:

Thank you for saying that!

It's definitely a very exciting prospect to say the least. I'm just not sure about the utility of it. The 100 million they asked for for R&D is worth it, for sure, but I don't believe it's worth it to actually build at the moment.

Also, one of the major problems I see is atmospheric scattering. Perhaps by making the lasers based in space (or on the moon) we can solve that and cut down on the power needed.

The cost is estimated to be in the billions, but I don't see the return. I think that money would be much better spent for the construction of something like a space fountain.

I love space exploration, but I think we should focus on refining our technology and making colonies in our own solar system before we start exploring the great beyond.

Sarvesh


Q:

Fav colour?

A:

Chrome


Q:

I'm surprised that you can legally build a fusion reactor in your garage. Or are you on a list now?

Also, what are the risks of such technology being used for nefarious purposes? I understand that fusion generates far less radiation, but it still produces some, right?

A:

It's legal, yes. It doesn't have to be registered with the NRC because it's so small.

I'm sure that I'm on a list. I have a foreign sounding name, I'm building crazy nuclear stuff in my garage, I download and use Tor, and I'm a student pilot. I suppose it's a good thing I'm not Muslim. As a matter of fact, a few of the other members on the [forum](fusor.net/forums) were visited by the FBI.

It does produce radiation, yes. The only things that leave the chamber are neutrons (D+D --> 3He + N), x-rays, and the odd gamma ray. It's very hard to use it for nefarious purposes, because unlike fission, there's no risks of an overload or an explosion. I suppose one could use the neutrons to breed tritium with lithium 7, and use that in an improvised nuclear weapon. That would be highly dangerous and illegal though. Also, a fusor wouldn't be ideal for that purpose. Something like a PoBe neutron source would be far more consistent.

Hope that answers your question,

Sarvesh


Q:

Don't you realize most kids your age are smoking pot and just talking about this stuff? Why be the rebel that puts the joint down and actually makes this thing? WTF? BTW...awesome job!

edit: nobody has a sense of frigging humor.

A:

Thank you!

I really love building things. I'm not quite sure why, it's just who I am. You should give us teens a little more credit; we're not all bad!

Sarvesh