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Fri Feb 22, 2013, 09:49 PM

Fusion Through Weak Force Interactions

I was just reading this:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022415935

and remembered an article from earlier today that talks about fusions reactions that use the weak force rather than the strong force. This is what became of "cold fusion" from the late 1980s, but is better understood now. In that case, it appeared that something was happening that released heat and the authors, Pons and Fleishman, claimed that the materials were undergoing fusion, but the experiment was very difficult to reproduce. Energy did appear to be generated. at least sometimes, but the apparatus didn't seem to be producing neutrons as a fusion reaction would (if I remember correctly).

Here is the article:

http://www.gizmag.com/nasa-lenr-nuclear-reactor/26309/

Hydrogen ions are injected into the lattice of nickel and made to oscillate until their electrons are driven into the protons, changing those into neutrons which are absorbed by the nickel atoms. Those become unstable, split into a proton, electron, and a neutrino, turning the nickel into copper.

If this is proven, and the reaction can be made to reliably release energy, reactors could fit into houses or be used in flying cvars and spacecraft.

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Fusion Through Weak Force Interactions (Original post)
mindwalker_i Feb 2013 OP
Warpy Feb 2013 #1
longship Feb 2013 #2
mindwalker_i Feb 2013 #4
longship Feb 2013 #5
mindwalker_i Feb 2013 #7
longship Feb 2013 #8
Warren DeMontague Feb 2013 #3
drm604 Feb 2013 #6
Occulus Feb 2013 #10
The Polywell Guy Aug 2013 #17
DhhD Feb 2013 #9
DetlefK Feb 2013 #11
mindwalker_i Feb 2013 #13
DetlefK Feb 2013 #15
Lionel Mandrake Feb 2013 #12
mindwalker_i Feb 2013 #14
Lionel Mandrake Feb 2013 #16

Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 09:56 PM

1. "Mr. Fusion!"

I knew in looking for fusion, they'd stumble across something completely different eventually.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:38 PM

2. I am skeptical.

We will have to see how this pans out. But the weak force isn't really strong enough to overcome the strong force. That's why it's called the weak nuclear force and the other is called the strong nuclear force.

As for cold fusion... That is probably a dead end, since fusion requires energies far above those available at room temperatures and pressures, or even those achievable through normal thermal processes.

If these people have anything going on, which I doubt, it should be replicated soon, and we'll know about it.

But it sounds just like more cold fusion quackery to me.

We'll see soon enough, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Response to longship (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:55 PM

4. The point is, it doesn't have to overcome the strong force

Actually, In normal fusion the protons have to overcome their mutual electrical repulsion to the point where the strong force takes over, and the protons stick together. Electrical repulsion is very strong though, hence this being hard to do.

In this case, the claim is that weak interaction are the only ones in play, changing protons into neutrons for hydrogen, then back again after the neutron is sucked into the nickel atoms. Neutrons, being electrically neutral, don't have to overcome electrical repulsion in order to become part of the nickel nucleus. Then, because nickel is unstable at the new isotope, the neutron decays into a proton and electron. So it kind of sidesteps the whole electrical repulsion thing.

I've heard stuff over the years about people finding that cold fusion was doing something, but they weren't sure what. Some people said it was just a chemical reaction. The article I linked to says that there were cases where things blew up or melted (not in the sense of a nuclear meltdown), but the results were kind of unpredictable.

So yeah, there needs to be a lot more proof of the theory. It's an interesting way to get around the problems of fusion if it turns out to be accurate.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 12:19 AM

5. Well, there is no theoretical basis, at least not yet.

The standard model expresses the nuclear forces and QED quite precisely. I know it's very difficult to pull things out of those equations, but fusion has been known quite precisely since the 40's -- thank you Hans Bethe, and the rest of the standard model came along directly.

So, if something is going on here, there had better damned be a theoretical framework to back it up. From the article it sounds like they are just trying things in an ad hoc manner. They get a little extra energy for which they cannot account and they call it whatever they're calling it.

That is what doomed Pons and Fleischman so many years ago. If you cannot say where the extra energy is coming from, or if you say but it overturns established science, you had better damned well have a theoretical basis on which to hang your putative results. Otherwise, it is just what a physicist would call moonshine.

And secret results are not how normal science is done. You have results? Fine! Publish them! Otherwise, you have nothing.

I would be overjoyed about this if it were true, but I am very suspicious. It just doesn't pass the smell test at this time.

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Response to longship (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 02:34 AM

7. Yuea I agree, P & F really fucked up

I'll have to do some digging when I have time to see if there are many other articles on LENR. It sort of sounds plausible, but the experimenters aren't even very sure about their theory yet.

Nice idea, I hope it pans out.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Reply #7)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 06:29 AM

8. Well, that's my point.

Without a theoretical basis they really don't have anything but an anomaly. It looks from the article that it is a small anomaly, which means that even if there is a theoretical basis, it might not be economical. Both are the same as with Pons and Fleischman. An insignificant effect with no theoretical basis.

If true, that means it does not survive peer review.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:42 PM

3. Big "if"

It would be huge, and great, and game-changing. But first it's gotta be proven and made to work. Jury is still very much out on that one; I remain skeptical.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 02:24 AM

6. I'm much more interested in your first link,

which claims that Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has solved, or nearly solved, magnetic confinement fusion, and that they expect to have an operational unit by 2017.

This at least doesn't fly in the face of current theories and would be a game changer if true.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 06:34 PM

10. Some of the people over at talk-polywell.org believe, based on what they know

about the polywell project, that Lockheed built or is building an IEC device of some sort. Going from Lockheed's own descriptions, and the very rough size and power output estimates they hinted at, it definitely looks like that's what it could be.

If so, I'm willing to state that it's very possible we may have the Real Deal this time. The polywell research is, after all, being funded by the Navy and has been for some time now.

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Response to Occulus (Reply #10)

Wed Aug 21, 2013, 11:16 AM

17. The Polywell Blog, got some traffic from here

Greetings,

I got some traffic from your forum to my site: The Polywell Blog. I thought I would introduce myself to the DU community. I have been writing about the Polywell for five years, under the name: The Polywell Guy. I write about the polywell, nuclear fusion, fusion energy, fusion research and plasma physics. My goal is to explain fusion research in plain English. I have also made several movies explaining the polywell and the history of fusion research.

My other goal is to build interest in Robert Bussard's polywell idea, so we can find out if it could be a viable source of clean, green energy. It may not be. There are still many technical challenges we need to solve.

Lockheed has not given us many details. As I understand it, they use radio waves to heat plasma and it contain it with magnetic fields. There is a trade off there. As the plasma heats up, it will be harder to contain. So you will need to turn up the magnetic field and the microwaves in tandem. They have mentioned devices where the containment strength was about ten times the plasma pressure. I do not know enough about their idea to comment further.

They probably have this worked out. The input energy will need to be less than the energy captured from the fusion. They probably have some rates, they plotted them out, and showed there was conditions where net power happened. Boom. Viable fusion power. But, do not be so sure. NIF was sold to congress and now its abysmal failure, tells us that even the experts can get it wrong.

==

I believe we are at the beginning of a new phase in fusion research: Fusion 2.0. When a 14 year old kid can fuse atoms in his home - it screams revolution. It tells us that a new generation of fusion machines, smaller, simpler and more straightforward are on the way. The old quote that fusion is 20 years away may have applied to giant machines like ITER and NIF. But new ideas, like Tri Alpha Energy, Focus Fusion, Lithium compression, Beam fusion, ect... They represent a new wave of ideas which are much farther along. Sure, most will fail - but if one succeeds it will have a big impact.

I focus mainly on the Polywell. The Polywell is a re-imagined fusor. Over 50 amateurs done nuclear fusion with these machines. These are people like Matthew Honickman, a 17 year old high school senior from upstate new york. The fusor cannot make net power because the metal cages conduct away the plasma. It saps away so much energy, we can never hope to reach break even. The Polywell eliminates the cage, driving down conduction losses.

I have laid out a detailed plan for polywell research. First we use computers to simulate plasma inside the machine. We use dimensionless number to explore a wide range of operating conditions. The fusor has 3 modes of operation, the polywell probably has the same. Modes where the machine works well, and modes that suck. We publish these results. Next, we build a small machine and run it in this mode. We attach a direct converter to one end of the machine. These have shown an energy capture rate of 48%. We run the thing constantly and look for break even.

We know from the Lawson Criterion that any hot cloud machine will be subject to the following equation:

Power Out = (Fusion - Radiation - Conduction)*Efficiency

This tells us that finding net power is again a game of rates. We want to lower conduction losses. This can be done by designing a reactor where the B-Field never runs into a metal surface. Tokamaks do this. But curved fields are not perfect. Radiation losses are when energy leaves the cloud as light: UV, IR, Visible and X-Ray. Radiation rises with plasma temperature. Hence, devices where electrons and ions can be different temperatures would allow for optimization. Finally, if direct conversion can get 48% than that will change the efficiency. The goal is to explore what is experimentally possible.

===
I think looking across the energy mix today, there will be interest in these machines. With 7 billion people on planet earth, declining oil supplies and energy hungry emerging economies, someone will eventually come looking for this idea. Will it change the world? We will see...

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 04:26 PM

9. This reminds me of photosynthesis with its electron transfer chains.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 06:14 AM

11. Several counter-arguments

1. Nickel-59 has a half-life period of 76,000 years, which means that the energy-output will be drawn out over at least this time.

2. As I see it, there are two ways to fabricate the Nickel-Hydrogenid-crystal:
a) Shoot protons into a Nickel-sample. This is elaborate and shooting enough hydrogen into it to create a macroscopic crystal of approximately 1cm in size will take (with the typical flux achievable in today's ion-guns) approximately 1 year of non-stop-bombardment, which is outrageous in terms of cost and extremely difficult in terms of technical feasibility.
b) Grow your lattice from scratch by condensing hydrogen and Nickel on an initial Nickel-crystal. This method is in a reasonable price- and time-range, but only for crystals up to millimeter-size.

3. You need a source for Terahertz-radiation to keep the cold fusion going, including a power-source for your Terahertz-source.

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Response to DetlefK (Reply #11)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 08:46 PM

13. I remembered to look at my shower curtain this morning

Which has a periodic table on it. Nickel has an (average) atomic weight of 58.7, so my guess is that most nickel has 59 nucleons. If that's true, then adding another neutron would hake it 60, which is probably not as stable.

Looking at the 76,000 year half-life you have above, that's really weird. Uranium has a half life in the billions of years and there's still a bunch around here. I would think that with a half-life of 76,000 years, there wouldn't be much left on the earth. I'll look that up later.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:54 AM

15. Look at the wikipedia-entry: There are many heavier, stable isotopes.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Original post)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 02:20 AM

12. Yes and no.

The rate-limiting step in some stars is the fusion of two protons, producing a deuteron, a positron, and a neutrino. That reaction is mediated by the weak interaction, which makes it very slow in a star and unobservable in the lab.

However, as a physicist, I can assure you that the following will never happen: "Hydrogen ions are injected into the lattice of nickel and made to oscillate until their electrons are driven into the protons, changing those into neutrons ... ."

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #12)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 08:51 PM

14. Yeah, that's an interesting step, to say the least

Adding energy to an electron doesn't seem like it would collapse it's orbit and join it with the proton, but I don't have any good data on it.

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Response to mindwalker_i (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:55 PM

16. For one thing, the spins don't add up properly.

Electrons and protons both have spin 1/2. Two spin 1/2 particles can have combined angular momentum either 0 or 1. They can't make a neutron, which has spin 1/2.

More generally, two fermions can make only a boson, not another fermion.

What is possible in very special circumstances is reverse beta decay:

proton + electron --> neutron + neutrino.

This is the process by which neutron stars are made. This is a weak process. It is too slow at low energies to be observed when hydrogen ions are injected into a piece of nickel.

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