DerStandard: "Heiße" Fusion bei Zimmertemperatur gelungen

  • Google translation:


    "Hot" fusion succeeded at room temperature

    NASA researchers fused deuterium nuclei in the laboratory. The method is reminiscent of "cold fusion" and could one day drive spaceships

    In April 1989, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann of the University of Utah presented the world with an experiment that they claimed could pave the way for a new form of energy generation: The two US chemists wanted to have found a way of how to do it Electrochemical nuclear fusion at room temperature. The experimental setup presented looked incredibly simple: heavy water (based on deuterium) heated to 27 degrees Celsius, an added electrolyte, an anode and a cathode made of palladium.

    When they applied electricity to the liquid, the hydrogen isotopes protium, deuterium and tritium fused during electrolysis on the surface of the palladium, the researchers wrote in the "Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry". According to Pons and Fleischmann, the fact that energy can actually be obtained from this is proven by registered excess heat production.


    Euphoria and disillusionment

    The professional world was of course in an uproar, the press was already writing about the practically inexhaustible energy source of the future. But only a few weeks later there was general disenchantment: Although many physicists and chemists were busy working, no independent laboratory was able to reproduce the Fleischmann-Pons results. As early as May 1989, Caltech researchers found serious errors in the experiments. Pons and Fleischmann themselves were also unable to repeat their results in front of witnesses.

    In November 1989, a commission from the US Department of Energy (DOE) decided that "the current evidence of the discovery of a new nuclear process called 'cold fusion' is not convincing" - and the term became the hot potato in the professional world, That very few serious scientists wanted to burn their fingers. When one later began to deal with this topic again here and there, from then on this was done under the non-discredited designation "low-energy nuclear reactions" or LENR for short.


    Fusion energy as a material battle

    It would have been too nice, too: in order to bring about a nuclear fusion, you normally need extremely high densities and temperatures - something like those that prevail inside stars, the natural fusion power plants of the cosmos. Only when the nuclei of elements such as hydrogen and helium can be forced to overcome their strong mutual repulsion can energy be drawn from their fusion. Fusion is considered cleaner and more efficient than atomic fission, but it is associated with significantly more technical effort, which is why, despite decades of efforts, there is still no fusion reactor (keyword Iter) that is suitable for generating electricity. So if you want fusion current, is there no way around this enormous material battle?

    A team of NASA scientists from the renowned Glenn Research Center (GRC) near Cleveland, Ohio, now wants to have realized a fusion method that works without plasma and strong magnetic fields. The GRC laboratories have been researching new technologies for the aerospace industry for almost 70 years. Among other things, the ion drive was developed here, which is now standard in many commercial communication satellites. The new fusion experiments presented by the researchers working with Bruce Steinetz and Theresa Benyo only need a little metal, a little hydrogen and an electron accelerator.


    "Hot fusion" in the metal mesh

    The process, presented in two articles in the journal Physical Review C, is reminiscent of the cold fusion of the 1980s in many ways, but scientists refuse to use this term: "What we did was not a cold fusion," says Forsley, co-author and lead physicist for the project. In truth, it is a special form of "hot fusion", the so-called "lattice confinement fusion" (translates as lattice boundary fusion) - even if the effort is much less than with the experimental reactors already available today.

    In the process, samples of erbium and titanium are first "loaded" under high pressure with deuterium gas, an isotope of hydrogen with a proton and a neutron. "During the 'charging' process, the metal grid begins to break apart to hold the deuterium gas," explains Benyo. "The result is like a powder." In order to overcome the mutual electrostatic repulsion between the positively charged deuterium nuclei (deuterons), the so-called Coulomb barrier, in this material, the researchers bombarded tungsten with electrons. These collisions produced high-energy gamma radiation that was focused on the deuterium-laden erbium or titanium sample. If a photon hit a deuteron, it split into a high-energy proton and a neutron. The neutron in turn collided with another deuteron and accelerated it.


    Helpful screen made of electrons

    At the end of this process of collisions and interactions there is a deuteron that moves with sufficient energy to overcome the Coulomb barrier and thereby merge with another deuteron in the lattice. The key to this process is an effect known as electron screening. Even if very energetic deuterons shoot around, the Coulomb barrier can still be enough to prevent fusion. Help comes from the metal grid: "The electrons in the grid form a screen around the stationary deuteron," says Benyo. "The negative charge of the electrons protects the energetic deuteron from the repulsive effects of the positive charge of the target deuteron until the nuclei come close enough to one another."


    A new element is created

    Apart from the deuteron-deuteron fusion, the NASA researchers also found evidence of so-called Oppenheimer-Phillips stripping reactions. Instead of fusing with another deuteron, the energetic deuteron sometimes collided with one of the metal atoms of the lattice, either creating an isotope or transforming the atom into a new element. The team found that both fusion and stripping reactions generated usable energy.

    "This fusion method starts at low temperatures and pressures," says Benyo. "But where the actual Deuteron-Deuteron fusion takes place, it gets very hot." When she touched the samples after an experiment, they were very warm. This heat came partly from the fusion, but partly from the high-energy photons that initiate the process.


    Energy source for future spacecraft

    The NASA researchers hope that at the end of their experiments there will be a source of energy for space vehicles that operate, for example, in places where solar panels cannot be used. Since power, space requirements and weight play important roles for the drives of space probes, this fusion method offers itself as a potentially reliable source of energy, says Benyo. To do this, however, the process would have to become significantly more efficient, the scientists admit. You already have some ideas for this. If the upscaling succeeds, then of course something that works in space could also provide energy on earth. (Thomas Bergmayr, October 31, 2020)

  • The german widely read newspaper "DerStandard" published a very good article covering the history of Fleischmann Pons

    Good find! I have read the article today as well, published in one of the few "quality" newspapers in Austria. Unbiased articles like that can promote our endevour for LENR in German speaking countries. Unfortunatly there is not much going on, or I am not aware of. Maybe I contact the author and bring the two EU supported LENR research projects to his attention.

  • Surprising to me this story has not attracted more attention from the science press. With the NASA name behind it, and a large team of mainstream scientists behind the project, it should be big news everywhere. Surprisingly, except for a few members like Ahlfors, and Gobles, we here have not devoted much discussion to it either.

  • I know it from my personal experience.. .... Most scientific institutions don't want to get affiliated with "fringe" science, unfortunatley especially not in german speaking countries. "Cold fusion" still carries this image....

    This is why I am surprised about this article in a german speaking newspaper.