Timeline of nuclear fusion
* 1929 - Atkinson and Houtermans used the measured masses of light
elements and applied Einstein's discovery that E=mc2 to predict that
large amounts of energy could be released by fusing small nuclei
* 1939 - Hans Bethe won the Nobel Prize in physics (awarded 1968) for
quantitative theory explaining fusion
* shortly after World War II and the success of the Manhattan Project the
hydrogen bomb was built, which released large amounts of fusion energy
from a reaction ignited by a fission trigger
* 1951 - Argentina publicly claimed that they had harnessed controlled
nuclear fusion (these claims were false), sparking a responsive
research effort in the U.S.
o Lyman Spitzer started the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (or
PPPL) which was originally codenamed Project Matterhorn - most
early work was done on a type of magnetic confinement device
called a stellarator.
o James Tuck, an English physicist, began research at Los Alamos
National Laboratory (LANL) under the codename of project Sherwood,
working on pinch magnetic confinement devices. (Some people
claimed that the project was named Sherwood based on Friar Tuck)
o 1952 Edward Teller expanded hydrogen bomb research at Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and began studying inertial
confinement using high powered lasers.
* 1952 - Cousins and Ware build a small toroidal pinch device in England,
and demonstrate that instabilities in the plasma make pinch devices
* 1953 - pinch devices in the US and USSR attempt to take the reactions
to fusion levels without worrying about stability. Both report
detections of neutrons, which are later explained as non-fusion in
* 1954 - ZETA stabilized toroidal pinch device starts operation in
* 1958 - American, English and Soviet scientists began to share
previously classified fusion research, as their countries declassified
controlled fusion work as part of the Atoms for Peace conference in
Geneva (an amazing development considering the Cold War political
climate of the time)
* 1958 - ZETA experiments end. Several firings produce neutron spikes
that the researchers initially attribute to fusion, but later realize
are due to other effects. Last few firings show an odd "quiet period"
of long stability in a system that otherwise appeared to prove itself
unstable. Research on pinch machines generally dies off as ZETA appears
to be the best that can be done.
* 1967 - Demonstration of Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor appears to generate
neutrons in a nuclear reaction.
* 1968 - Results from the T-3 Soviet magnetic confinment device, called a
tokamak, which Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm and Andrei Sakharov had been
working on - showed the temperatures in their machine to be over an
order of magnitude higher than what was expected by the rest of the
community. The western scientists visited the experiment and varified
the high temperatures and confinement, sparking a wave of optimism for
the prospects of the tokamak as well as construction of new
experiments. which is still the dominant magnetic confinement device
* 1974 - Taylor re-visits ZETA results of 1958 and explains that the
quiet-period is in fact very interesting. This leads to the development
of "reversed field pinch", now generalized as "self-organizing
plasmas", an ongoing line of research.
* 1978 - The European Community (with Sweden and Switzerland) launched
the JET (tokamak) project in the UK
* 1988 - The Japanese tokamak, JT-60 came online
* March 1989 - some scientists announced that they achieved cold fusion -
causing fusion to occur at room temperatures. However, they made their
announcements before any peer review of their work was performed, and
no subsequent experiments by other researchers revealed any evidence of
* 1993 - The TFTR tokamak at Princeton (PPPL) does experiments with 50%
deuterium, 50% tritium, which eventually produces as much as 10
megawatts of power from a controlled fusion reaction.
* 1997 - The JET tokamak in the UK produces 16 MW of fusion power. This
is roughly their break even point — producing as much fusion
power as they were using to heat the plasma and sustain the reaction.
* 1997 - combining a field-reversed pinch with an imploding magnetic
cylinder results in the new Magnetized Target Fusion concept. In this
system a "normal" lower density plasma device is explosively squeezed
using techniques developed for high-speed gun research.
* 2002 - Claims and counter-claims are published regarding bubble fusion,
in which a table-top apparatus is reported as producing small-scale
fusion in a liquid undergoing acoustic cavitation.