This segment of Farnsworth’s fusion story is taken from Pem Farnsworth’s book, Distant Vision. In1962 ITT reorganized the ITT-Farnsworth Research Corporation, which had been left as a holding company for the Farnsworth patents (over two hundred domestic and foreign patents). Phil was named director, president, and director of research of the holding company. To this was added a generous Christmas bonus, plus fifty dollars for every patent filed by him, a seventy-five thousand dollar life insurance policy and an option to purchase 7,500 shares of ITT stock at the going price of thirty-nine dollars a share, exercised in three lots of 2,500 shares each. Admiral Furth arranged for us to go to the Chemical Bank and within a few minutes we obtained a signature loan in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars (one million in today’s money), to buy our first 2,500 shares.
Early in 1961, a power supply was purchased capable of providing up to 100,000 volts (100 kilo volts). Also the AEC issued a license to obtain and store a modest amount of tritium. Runs charged with both deuterium and tritium gave a much higher neutron production.
On Friday June 29th, 1961, a strange casualty occurred during some minor adjustments to the experiment. At a time when the fusor was charged with a mixture of deuterium and tritium, and with no direct current on the anode and about 2,000 volts on the electron collector and 100 volts of radio frequency between dynodes and anode, the device suddenly glowed with a very *intense blue light, which persisted for a few (two or three) seconds. The crew, Phil, Fritz, George and Gene, made a rapid retreat from the room! It was observed that the vacuum inside the tube was lost and that tritium was present in the atmosphere, indicating a hole in the cathode. Also, gamma radiation in the vicinity of the fusion tube was quite high!
Since the annual vacation shut down was to begin at the end of that day, the fusor was hermetically sealed, and the exhaust blower left on during the two-week vacation. What was at first diagnosed as a secondary electron beam striking an internal arc was later thought actually to be a fusion reaction!
ITT wanted Phil to move his lab to the east coast and he was presented with an architectural drawing of a large modern plant designed by the Bechtel Corporation similar to the one they designed for the Dresden nuclear-power plant in the Connecticut River Valley with his name in large letters at its top. We were taken to see the site and were greeted with open arms by the local Chamber of Commerce.
News stories began appearing about the range of Russia’s long-range missiles and the vulnerability of Washington D.C. and New York City. Phil, fearing that his project would be targeted, decided he should pursue his plans of hiding his plant away in a remote area in the West. Fritz Furth suggested California, where he would have access to Stanford, where Dr. Chodorow was doing research on particle acceleration.
However, ITT now decided that the work should be continued where it was (Fort Wayne), until further progress was made. “Further progress,” meant the ability to produce not just a momentary fusion reaction, but also a sustained fusion reaction (where-by the star stays lit after the power-supply is turned off). To be continued…
*Intense blue light and other corona were energies unknown to modern science?
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