His proof of concept reactor has a metal cage in the shape of a truncated icosahedron, a couple inches wide. In this shape, Max suspends particles in a cage of other particles. This shouldn’t be possible, based on Earnshaw’s Theorem, which in layman's terms, means that it’s really hard to keep the particle in the middle from squirting out the sides. But Max’s shape, along with a constantly changing voltage, suspends things in a Goldilocks-type way. He calls this “stably unstable”.
His first proof of concept worked. Now he’s on his second. He says he’s almost ready to do a major fusion test, where he’ll drag his 300 pound reactor out to rural Maine, bury it in the ground and stand a safe distance away (to avoid the neutron radiation). And if it works, he’ll be on to solving the next problem, which is how to actually harvest the power it generates.
Max doesn’t think the solution is a single step away. There are still many hurdles to overcome before fusion replaces the dirty and inefficient power we use today. And maybe those hurdles are too many, maybe it’s a fool’s errand. But he’s hopeful that fusion can save at least part of the world.
A couple more links for you:
Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot, Serocell, Lucky Dragons
Correction: In the episode, we misstate the natural abundance of Deuterium. The correct abundance is .015%. We regret the error.