Tucked away in the back corner of an old mattress warehouse in this Vancouver suburb sits a silver sphere not much larger than a human head. Like some mad inventor’s futuristic Chia pet, it sprouts numerous wires that lead to banks of capacitors, batteries capable of delivering their charge at lightning speed.
It could easily pass for a school science project from some overly keen teen — complete with its very own home-made flourishes, like a particle detector hidden inside a stovepipe and held together with black electrical tape.
But if this is a science project — and in many ways that is what it is for Michel Laberge, the 40-something PhD who has spent five years building and perfecting it — it is among the most ambitious ever conceived. This modest assemblage of wires and dreams is in fact a home-brew nuclear-fusion reactor — if reactor is the right word to describe a device that has in the past few years achieved a micro-second’s worth of miniscule energy output just seven times.
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