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I’ve tried and test comments don’t work (I dunno if people even look at this stuff anymore I’m just came here from #AdamMunch
  2 replies 1 dayd ago
Seriously, ignore me!
  1 reply 1 yeary ago
I can't believe it has been 8 years since the last announcement! This project had been on the back burner for far too long, but now after several months of laser focused programming effort it is finally ready for some use.
I invite you all to play around, let me know what you think, and report any bugs you find :-)
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I recently did an analysis on the cost of batteries, with surprising results. As it turns out, lithium batteries are now cheaper than lead acid ones!
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An exceptional organization is forward thinking. It consistently asks,
  • What will the world be like in five, ten, twenty years?
  • What will be available then, which is not now?
  • Where will we be able to provide value in this new world?
An exceptional organization isn’t afraid of new territory. It sees the benefit in,
  • Empowering people to be experimental in trying new things.
  • Entering markets which are unfamiliar if, and only if, it can understand how to provide better service.
An exceptional organization understands there is more power in collaboration than competition. In a collaborative environment,
  • Work which would otherwise be done twice-over by multiple organizations is done once and standardized.
  • There is less customer risk in adopting products which are well-supported and trusted.
  • New ideas will reliably form at the boundaries of information and discipline.
An exceptional organization seeks to provide true value. It understands that,
  • Customers favor durability, reliability and compatibility over parlor tricks.
  • Public investors favor reliability rather than showmanship.
  • Value is found in making the customer’s life easier, not harder.
An exceptional organization is inclusive. It does not favor,
  • People from a specific race, country or nationality.
  • People from a specific set of schools or pedigrees.
  • It does favor instead, exceptional people who produce excellent results.
An exceptional organization is not oppressive. It understands that,
  • Its success is strongly dependent on its internal and external network of trust and alliances.
  • Trusting relationships with former members will encourage collaborative futures with those members.
  • Burying exploitative terms deep within contracts may result in short term gain but to the long-term detriment of the organization’s reputation.
  • Continued exploitation can eventually result in an us-versus-them divide among strata of the organization where productivity, trust and happiness become second thoughts to political games.
An exceptional organization recognizes their lasting success is not in maximizing short-term numbers, but in their ability to reliably and continually produce exceptional results. It understands that exceptional results come from a culture where,
  • Happiness and health are prioritized over quotas and metrics.
  • People feel empowered to speak freely rather than “fall in line”.
  • People are encouraged to understand why and how decisions are made.
  • Management seriously considers the input of all people rather than operating on preconceived patterns and beliefs.
  • Decision-making is not deferred to procedures and guidelines, but instead logic and reasoning about the situations at hand.
An exceptional organization believes in the inherent quality of its products, and isn’t afraid to let free markets be an unbiased judge. It understands that,
  • Friction free sales are of utmost importance in gaining new customers and market share.
  • Sales tactics that require closed-door meetings and calling representatives can strongly limit product adoption.
  • Sales tactics that aggressively attempt to up-sell customers will result in a breakdown of customer trust.
An exceptional organization stands by its products, their continued availability, and function. It strives to,
  • Rapidly correct any manufacturing malfunction of its goods.
  • Make spare parts available for customers to repair its products in-situ.
  • Make available information about how to correctly repair its products.
  • Provide a long production life for products it introduces.
An exceptional organization recognizes it has a responsibility as a steward of its community. It understands,
  • The need for life cycle analysis of products to ensure long-term externalities and impacts are net positive.
  • That products which produce toxic pollution will result in regulation of the organization’s industry.
  • Officials should not be corrupted to further the organization’s interest to the detriment of the public good.
An exceptional organization is not penny-wise, pound-foolish. It will,
  • Be cognizant and pragmatic about its operating costs, yet not seek to be miserly in spending.
  • Understand that short-cuts in design and production can and often do result in significant deferred costs.
  • Seek to understand how people spend their time in the organization and invest in tools which assist in execution of their tasks.
An exceptional organization is honest in its communications, and understands that,
  • Double-speak will inevitably result in the organization losing credibility on the public stage.
  • Differing narratives between investors, the public, and members of the organization will cause tensions and broken relationships that can lead to demise and dissolution of the organization.
  • Cryptic communication and omission of details can result in the same end effects as willful fabrication and falsification.
An exceptional organization understands that exceptional integrity is requisite for attracting exceptional people. ∎
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There has been a notable increase in business behavior lately known as regulatory capture, where in principle, government agencies are intentionally and carefully corrupted to further private interests. More recently this has evolved into something perhaps best described as “Crony Capital”.
The behavior is as such:
1. Company raises immense amounts of money to serve as a war chest.
2. Company knowingly violates laws in the markets it wishes to enter, to the surprise of regulators.
3. Company then “welcomes” and “works with” regulators to implement laws that are favorable to the company.
Often these laws are written such that a large amount of capital is needed for new entrants in the market (in example, high permit fees or large insurance requirements). This naturally cements the offending company’s market position using the local, federal or state regulatory bodies as moats to hinder further entrants.
Often the government bodies are amenable to the new regulations, as they can include permit fees or tax revenue from the companies to sweeten the deal. Uber is perhaps the best known example of a company that operates this way, though, the recent scooter-rental companies seem to be following suit.
It’s important for communities to recognize when they are being had by such games, otherwise the unintended externalities may be quite profound.
Whether it be increased evictions for new short term rental units, increased traffic from ride share companies, or in my case, a poorly-manufactured scooter frame which cost a broken arm and wrist –the effects of sweeping change can be difficult to keep balanced if not considered carefully.
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A personal challenge of mine is to elevate the human condition through improving institutional methodologies. Along these lines, it has been my experience that sharing can be more efficient, and more economical than hoarding.
It’s no surprise that large organizations tend to fail at innovation –employees of such firms tend to have little incentive to go above and beyond the status quo, as for their work they are rewarded with wages and sometimes stock options that often don’t reflect the effort they put in. It’s a contributing cause of why people choose to lead startups; when they do so their business feels tangible, as the labor they put in helps it visibly grow.
Part of the reason why capitalism has been so successful in creating wealth, is that in a healthy society, incentive is aligned with production. As this is not always the case for employees in an organization, sometimes the organization as a whole loses its spirit to innovate.
Incubators are a step in the correct direction, but there is much room for improvement with their models. As currently implemented, venture capital can be wasteful as there is often little guidance on how money should be spent, leaving cash squandered on services that don’t help teams succeed. Moreover, traditional models tend to scare away innovators, as short term growth targets often encourage startups to optimize for fast equity inflation rather than true value creation. Such myopia leads to lost productivity, a distrust of the businesses by prospective employees and customers, and disturbingly, loss of passion from the company founders.
In 2013, I co-founded a university student innovation lab, “The construct @ RIT”, with the goal of creating freedom through reducing social barriers to accessing capital equipment. Although the university was well equipped with multi-million dollar tools, they were sitting unused a majority of the time, simply due to politics restricting access to them.
By giving students free access to tools and mentorship, amazing gadgets were prototyped by self-motivated individuals, all without million dollar budgets. Some of them were even useful enough to be turned into viable products, though, establishing channels to do so at the time was beyond the scope of the planned project.
I’ve been exploring ways to do this at a more impactful scale; to create an organization that allows people access to three things;
  • A welcoming community that helps break down the psychological barriers to taking risk, and is open and willing to share experience and wealth among innovative leaders.
  • Tools and prototyping resources, and guidance to make effective use of them.
  • A pipeline to help folks bring their project from concept to manufacture and distribution.
People who utilize shared resources to their economic benefit, could pay a portion of their gains back into the organization. It’s a simple philosophy of putting capitalism to good work to benefit those with the drive to make their ideas succeed. Through this framework less time may be spent reinventing the wheel, and more resources can be rapidly dedicated to building good products, trust among customers, and establishing effective channels for wealth creation.
It’s ironic that venture tends to fail at lasting innovation, but it may not be inherent to the fact that it’s risky by nature. It may just be that the industry misunderstands what successful cooperation really looks like, and with an improved, responsible incentive philosophy, it may become a pathway to success that’s reliable for everyone.
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Here are some virtual pictures of an image of a slumbering cat that I found in Beijing. The pictures were generated with the single pixel lensless camera simulation I programmed.
Here’s the original image, scaled and converted to greyscale:
First, 5000 random observations of the original 128 pixel x 128 pixel image.
Now, 10000 observations of the original image:
Now, 15000 observations:
16384 observations (same as the number of pixels in the original image)
And lastly, a totally-overkill 20000 observations
It’s cool to see how the image quality increases with increased sampling.
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So, a while back I stumbled across this article. To summarize it, Bell Labs built a single pixel camera that needs no lenses to operate… pretty cool concept right? I immediately wanted to build one.
After doing some research, I realized the concept was pretty simple: place an array of selectively-blackable windows in front of a light sensor like a photodiode, send random patterns to the windows, record the light level at the photodiode, repeat a few thousand times, and all of a sudden you’re left with a giant system of linear equations, the solution to which is the image the camera “sees”.
The problem arises when you try to solve this system. The system is HUGE, so there’s no way you could solve it through gaussian elimination, so instead we solve the system through minimizing the system’s l1 norm, and a least-squares method.
As I’m in Princeton for my summer job at PPPL, I’m lacking my workshop and tools, so I couldn’t actually build a single pixel camera. Instead I did the next best thing. I programmed a simulation of one in Matlab.
I used this awesome l1-minimization system solving library called l1_ls from Stanford, and after writing some Matlab code, I was able to “take a picture” of a  256×256 pixel image.
Below is the reconstructed image, taken from 10,000 “exposures” of the virtual single pixel camera,
...and the original image:
It’s not much, but it’s something. It’s a start.
The next step on the-programming side is to use Hadamard matricies rather than pseudorandom matricies to generate the sampling patterns. Other groups have done this, and I’m hoping it will help “distribute the sparsity” of the sampling matricies, resulting in a better final image. The step after this is to build one… and maybe one that works in the IR, UV, microwave, or x-ray spectrum.
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I’ve got a job. My first job. And it is freaking awesome. Well, it’s kind of a job. Technically it’s a paid internship, but I guess there’s really not that much of a difference. Anyway, I’m being paid to research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. I’m working on developing technology that will allow tokamak reactors to have liquid lithium flow over the inside wall of the reactor without the reactor breaking. (For the physics nerds, the lithium chemically captures low energy hydrogen that has escaped confinement and pumps it out of the system. This prevent the low energy hydrogen from re-enetering the high energy plasma and lowering it’s temperature.)
It’s not quite the plasma physics I was hoping to do when I came here, more of mechanical engineering and materials science, but hey, I’m still as happy as can be, curious, and excited.
How cool is that?
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Here’s a video of the talk I gave in Berlin about the fusion reactors I’ve built:
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I have been pretty down recently because rather than building awesome things, I’ve been writing tons of college and scholarship applications. But, that all paid off just a few days ago when I found out that I had been accepted to MIT!
I have been feeling pretty down recently because rather than building awesome things, I’ve been writing tons of college and scholarship applications. But, that all paid off just a few days ago when I found out that I had been accepted to MIT! About a week after this I received a shiny cylinder in the mail: the hallowed MIT acceptance letter bearing tube. I opened it up, and found this inside.
First of all, isn’t that poster awesome? Along with this poster was a relevant invitation: MIT apparently wants all accepted students to hack (hack as in make something cool out of, not maliciously break into a computer system) their tubes in whatever way they can, and submit the hacks to Anyway, the gears in my head have been turning, and I think I’m going to turn this tube into an autonomous robot that can navigate its environment using data from a sharp IR rangefinder. I’ll keep the website updated with how exactly I’m going to do this in the days to come.
In other news, I am still working on cleaning reactor MK. IV’s vacuum chamber, and I hope to have plasma in the chamber soon.
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Alright, I need to confess to a terrible habit of mine: I lose pens like it is my job. While I have been making strides in keeping track of my pens it is still a problem, so I figured what might help would be having a pen that I have some sort of personal attachment to, that way I would make a constant conscious effort to not lose it. What better way to form a personal attachment to a pen than by making one? So that’s just what I did.
I also just felt like making a pen, but the pen serves some practical purpose as well.
Here is the finished product:
The pen consists of part of a broken anodized aluminum camera tripod, a strange stainless steel bushing thing I found and machined to fit my needs, and a hex cap bolt that pushes the pen’s tip out when twisted. The pen was designed to take Pilot G2 refills, undoubtedly my favorite. The pen is refillable by heating up its tip and removing the stainless steel bushing, which is held in place by red Loctite adhesive.
The pen writes very well, however it’s a bit top heavy, so I think I’ll cut it down and chance the refill to a pilot G2 mini refill. If there’s enough interest I may start making and selling these pens too!
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I recently was asked to give the keynote speech at the Exceptionally Hard & Soft Meeting exploring the frontiers of DIY and open source technology in Berlin. I will be talking about how my reactors work, how I built them, and what my future plans are. I should have a reactor with me as well! It will be my first time leaving North America, so I am very excited to experience Germany as well. I’ll keep everyone updated.
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A laser with no optical cavity that operates at atmospheric pressure…wait…what?
Yes, you heard me right, this is a laser that uses no mirrors to bounce light back and forth (an optical cavity or resonator), no special gas mixture, and operates at atmospheric pressure. It’s called a TEA laser.
TEA lasers, or transversely excited atmospheric-pressure lasers, consist of two long, parallel electrode rails about 1 mm apart, with each rail connected to a capacitor, and an inductor across the rails. A diagram of this is seen below (credit to for the diagram):
After the capacitors/rails are charged to a high voltage through the inductor, a spark gap is triggered. This causes the voltage of the capacitor and rail closest to the gap to fall very rapidly, as charge flows through the spark gap to ground. Due to the low inductance of the capacitor this flow of charge occurs very quickly. The inductor between the rails keeps the second rail and capacitor from discharging at a similar rate, and the potential difference between the rails results in dielectric breakdown of the air between the rails.This discharge excites nitrogen in the air to a high energy level, which then decays to a lower energy level, lasing and releasing photons at 337.1nm. And hence, a laser pulse is completed.
As it turns out, TEA lasers are really easy to make! I built one using little more than spray adhesive, aluminum foil aluminum angle iron, an overhead projector transparency, and of course my trusty 15kV, 30mA neon sign transformer.
To make the capacitors I glued aluminum foil on either side of a transparency using 3M Super 44 spray adhesive, using a large sheet as a common ground plane, and two individual smaller sheets as the individual electrode plates. I trimmed 1″ aluminum angle iron to the length of the capacitors, smoothed off rough edges to prevent corona losses, and set them up as the laser discharge rails. I built a simple spark gap from two piece of angle iron, a bolt, and an acorn nut. And finally, for a power supply I used a neon sign transformer passed through a simple, two diode full wave rectifier. To control the power output of the transformer I used a variac to control the input voltage to its primary coil.
After a bit of fine tuning of the laser electrode alignment I finally got the laser to lase! Here’s a picture of the laser during a pulse. The UV beam is visible because I placed a piece of paper covered in highlighter ink in its path. The UV beam hits this paper, causing the highlighter ink to fluoresce visibly.
If anyone wants to build a laser like this and needs help or more details, don’t hesitate to email me at
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I’m not going to lie, I totally forgot to update this blog over the summer, but in the future I’m going to try to keep it a bit more current. Anyway, a lot of things have happened since I last posted!
I am working on building a new reactor, IEC fusion reactor MK. IV, which will have not only a negatively biased cathode, but a spherical, positively biased anode around the cathode as well. I hope that this improves plasma confinement, as well as the neutron output of the reactor. The positively biased outer grid should just add to the potential difference across which deuterium ions are accelerate. The reactor MK. IV will also have a cooling jacket!
Here’s a picture of the chamber (in the process of being cleaned), and a freshly machined flange:
In other news, I’ve begun to collect parts for an audio modulated dual resonant solid state tesla coil! I plan to base the coil on an IGBT full bridge, which is basically a fancy way of saying I’m going to use four huge freaking transistors to change the direction of the flow of charge through the tesla coil’s primary coil thousands of times a second! Here are two of these transistors:
I hope to get the coil running sometime over the summer.
In other news, I did well at the International Science Fair! I won 2nd in Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering, won 1st from the Navy in Bioengineering, won 2nd from INCOSE, and I won the award given to the best project from Ohio there! I also met up with a few other amateur scientists who I’ve known through the internet, but have never been able to meet in real life. I made tons of new friends, and yet again, ISEF was a truly amazing experience!
Here’s me chilling at my ISEF project booth:
Stay tuned for more updates on new projects, including a TEA laser and a solar powered incinerating device!
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Recently I competed in a series of local and regional science fairs, and I have been selected as a grand prize winner to head to the Intel International Science Fair in Pittsburgh! I will have the reactor there, so if anybody wants to come see it and chat with me just send me an email and I’ll give you directions to find me at the fair. The fair is from May 13 – 18,  with public viewing on May 17th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Some of the worlds brightest minds will be exhibiting their projects there, it is truly breathtaking, and I highly recommend stopping by if you are in the area.
Thanks for reading!
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Hello everyone, I haven’t been writing for my website much as I’ve been crazy busy with school and actually working on the reactor, but I finally have some wtuff writtien up about IEC Reactor MK.III in it’s completed state. You can read everything about it here.
I also have built a DC magnetron ion source, which I’ve written a ton about here.
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Lately I've been putting the finishing touches on this website. Some clever java-script hacks to allow the back button to work with endless scrolling. Another neat javascript thing I implemented was loading images asynchronously as you scroll down a page. This decreased loading times by nearly 3 fold! I did the same with youtube videos.
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Look what I got in the mail today; a pair of 4-1000A tubes! These things can handle 1000W plate dissipation, and hard switched they ought to be able to push a few kilowatts w/o any damage. They also have a working lifetime of 30 years, so I sure won't need to buy more anytime soon.
They sure get hot though. Just the heaters alone burn 150 watts (7.5V * 21A), and the tube becomes hot to the touch with no load. Forced air cooling will be a must when I use these for later projects.
In the pic I'm powering one tube's heater with a homemade filament transformer, m&ms and a mosfet included for size comparison. That dirty work-rug makes one hell of a backdrop don't it?
That thing used to be an x-ray transformer, but it caught fire and died. Finally found a use for that nice core though; 0.45V/turn, 16 or so turns gives me 6.8V under 21A load. A bit low, and it looks like I'll need 12 or 10awg wire since this 14awg is getting toasty.
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I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that my next reactor will be remotely controlled, however I haven’t really gone in depth as to why. Well, it really all comes down to minimizing neutron dose. While the x-rays the reactor emits from the viewport are extremely easily shielded, the neutrons, which are emitted in all directions, are exceedingly hard to stop. Although the reactor currently operates at a measly 30,000 neutrons a second (total isotropic emission), I plan for this next reactor to be able to reach outputs of >= 1,000,000 neutrons/second TIER, and hopefully sustain those outputs for an extended period of time (~30 minutes).
This will allow for a myriad of experiments to be performed. Now, at these levels, the radiation hazard becomes somewhat troublesome. With shielding the neutrons not being a truly viable option, I have no choice but to get away.
By my calculations, operating at 1,000,000 2.45MeV neutrons/sec while standing 2.5′ away would result in a dose rate of 1.71 mrem an hour. While this is not terribly high, it is still wise to keep dose rates as low as reasonably possible. However, at 25 feet away, the neutron dose rate plummets to a minuscule .017 mrem an hour. As a comparison, the average airline flight clocks in at .5 mrem an hour at cruising altitude.
So far I’ve only installed two switches, one to operate the diffusion pump heater, and the other to operate the diffusion pump cooling system. These switches just switch 120v 60hZ AC from to wall, and are mounted on the reactor itself, as they will not need to be operated while the reactor is producing radiation.
The rest of the reactor’s control system will be comprised of a remote control unit attached via a 25′ long 25 conductor cable to the reactor, and 25 conductor cable from the reactor to the 30kV power supply. The control unit will have the following capabilities: displaying reactor voltage, reactor current, power supply on/off, and a momentary DPDT (double pole, double throw) switch to adjust the position of the reactor’s main throttle valve.
The display of current and voltage will be achieved through the use of two analog panel meters, reading the voltage across pins on the power supply. The power supply on/off will be accomplished by a SPST (single pole, single throw) switch across the “common” and “HV enable” pins of the power supply.
The control of the main valve will be slightly trickier. A 120v to 8v transformer, and bridge rectifier will supply a 3 RPM motor with DC power. This motor will connect via a chain drive connecting it to the valve. This assembly will allow the valve to open and close at a rate of around 8 degrees/second. The DPDT switch in the control unit will be wired so that the DC motor can be driven in a forwards or reverse direction.
Additional information that will be available remotely will be the totalized neutron count, pressure in the chamber, and a remote view through the reactor’s viewport, although these still have to have the details worked out.
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I’ve been working on the new frame ever since I posted the CAD renderings, and the new reactor is finally starting to take shape. The 8020 aluminum has made the entire process extremely quick and easy. It’s extremely easy to mount things, try different arrangements of components, and just build quickly with it. It’s a bit pricier than other solutions like welded steel, but I highly recommend it to anyone with similar needs.
Another update I’ve made is a new diffusion pump cooling system. Diffusion pumps are convection based, high vacuum pumps that basically heat oil to the point where it vaporizes, rises at an extremely high speed, and then is directed downwards in a series of jets while simultaneously being cooled and condensing. These oil jets force gas molecules towards the bottom of the pump. The old system used a fan from an air mattress inflator to push air over the pump’s heatsink (in order to allow for condensation of the oil vapor to occur). This fan produced lots of vibration, as well as an extremely loud, high pitched noise. I’ve replaced it with two 115v, 25W computer fans, which will work in tandem to pull and push air over the pump’s condenser section heatsink.
Another prospect I’m looking at is that of a remote control system for the reactor. I’m planning on creating a relatively simple system to control pumps, fans, valves, power supplies, etc. from 10-15 feet away from the reactor. This will merely serve to keep neutron radiation doses as low as reasonably possible as I approach higher levels of operation (hopefully 500,000 – 1,000,000 neutrons/sec total isotropic emmission rate). This goes in accordance with the old proverb: “Nothing beats getting the hell away from a source of radiation.” -Unknown
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The past few days I've been designing a new frame for reactor MK. III. The frame was designed with ease of use, adaptability, and good geometry for experimentation in mind. The frame will house all the reactor's components minus the neutron detection system, roughing pump, and high voltage power supply. The material I will build it from is 1in 80/20 modular aluminum framing.
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Recently I've been working on a new reactor, IEC Fusion Reactor MK III. Unlike its predecessor, MK III is based in a small, 1.5 in diameter, cross shaped chamber. Small reactor designs have shown promise of high efficiency and high neutron rates, and I would like to personally investigate these claims. Additionally, I intend to use this reactor to begin investigation into the neutron activation of elements, an area of research that will require long run times and high neutron fluxes. Finally, the reactor will serve as an experimental test bed for new ideas that come to my mind. I've constructed the reactor partially; the new chamber is currently mounted on reactor MK II's old frame. I've also tested the reactor to a small extent, with a max neutron rate of 21800 n/s TIER, however it's been held back from its full potential due to grid arcing, pressure control issues, and minor amounts of outgassing.
Some updates (coming soon!) are a new throttle valve, and a new t-slotted aluminum frame. I will also be setting up a gamma spectrometry system soon, and will begin activation experiments.
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