Researchers at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Iceland are researching a new type of nuclear fusion process. This produces almost no neutrons but instead fast, heavy electrons (muons), since it is based on nuclear reactions in ultra-dense heavy hydrogen (deuterium). The new fusion process can take place in relatively small laser-fired fusion reactors fueled by heavy hydrogen (deuterium). They have gotten twice the energy from what they put in and believe they can get to 20 times the energy out as put in.
The nuclear fusion method comprises the following steps:
1. bringing hydrogen in a gaseous state into contact with a hydrogen transfer catalyst configured to cause a transition of the hydrogen from the gaseous state to an ultra-dense state;
2. collecting the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state on a carrier configured to substantially confine the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state within a fuel collection portion of the carrier;
3. transporting the carrier to an irradiation location; and subjecting, at the irradiation location, the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state to irradiation having sufficient energy to achieve break-even in energy generation by nuclear fusion.
Computational studies of the laser pulse energy required for break-even exist (see S.A. Slutz and R.A. Vesey, “Fast ignition hot spot break-even scaling”. Phys. Plasmas 12 (2005) 062702 ). These studies yield a pulse energy around 1 J at break-even. In their experiments, break-even is indeed observed at 1 J pulse energy. From break-even to an energy gain of 1000, a further factor of at least 4 in laser pulse energy is required. they conclude that the available information agrees that useful power output from nuclear fusion in ultra-dense hydrogen will be found at laser pulse energy of 4 J – 1 kJ. Such a pulse energy is feasible.
By hydrogen in an “ultra-dense state” should, at least in the context of the present application, be understood hydrogen in the form of a quantum material (quantum fluid) in which adjacent nuclei are within one Bohr radius of each other. In other words, the nucleus-nucleus distance in the ultra-dense state is considerably less than 50 picometers. In the following, hydrogen in the ultradense state will be referred to as H(-1) (or D(-1) when deuterium is specifically referred to). The terms “hydrogen in an ultra-dense state” and “ultra-dense hydrogen” are used synomymously throughout this application.
A “hydrogen transfer catalyst” is any catalyst capable of absorbing hydrogen gas molecules (H2) and dissociating these molecules to atomic hydrogen, that is, catalyze the reaction H2 → 2H. The name hydrogen transfer catalyst implies that the so-formed hydrogen atoms on the catalyst surface can rather easily attach to other molecules on the surface and thus be transferred from one molecule to another. The hydrogen transfer catalyst may further be configured to cause a transition of the hydrogen into the ultradense state if the hydrogen atoms are prevented from re-forming covalent bonds. The mechanisms behind the catalytic transition from the gaseous state to the ultra-dense state are quite well understood, and it has been experimentally shown that this transition can be achieved using various hydrogen transfer catalysts, including, for example, commercially available so-called styrene catalysts, as well as (purely) metallic catalysts, such as Iridium and Palladium. It should be noted that the hydrogen transfer catalyst does not necessarily have to transition the hydrogen in the gaseous state to the ultra-dense state directly upon contact with the hydrogen transfer catalyst. Instead, the hydrogen in the gaseous state may first be caused to transition to a dense state H(1), to later spontaneously transition to the ultra-dense state H(-1). Also in this latter case has the hydrogen transfer catalyst caused the hydrogen to transition from the gaseous state to the ultra-dense state.
At a rate of one carrier foil per second carrying 3 µg ultra-dense deuterium giving fusion ignition, the energy output of a power station using this method is approximately 1 MW. This would use 95 g of deuterium per year to produce 9 GWh, or one 5 liter gas bottle at 100 bar standard pressure. By using several lines of target carrier production, several laser lines or a higher repetition rate laser, the output of the power station can be scaled relatively easily.
The catalytic process may employ commercial so called styrene catalysts, i.e. a type of solid catalyst used in the chemical industry for producing styrene (for plastic production) from ethylene benzene. This type of catalyst is made from porous Fe-O material with several different additives, especially potassium (K) as so called promoter. The function of this catalyst has been studied in detail.
The catalyst is designed to split off hydrogen atoms from ethyl benzene so that a carbon-carbon double bond is formed, and then to combine the hydrogen atoms so released to hydrogen molecules which easily desorb thermally from the catalyst surface. This reaction is reversible: if hydrogen molecules are added to the catalyst they are dissociated to hydrogen atoms which are adsorbed on the surface. This is a general process in hydrogen transfer catalysts. We utilize this mechanism to produce ultra-dense hydrogen, which requires that covalent bonds in hydrogen molecules are not allowed to form after the adsorption of hydrogen in the catalyst.
The potassium promoter in the catalyst provides for a more efficient formation of ultra-dense hydrogen. Potassium (and for example other alkali metals) easily forms so called circular Rydberg atoms K*. In such atoms, the valence electron is in a nearly circular orbit around the ion core, in an orbit very similar to a Bohr orbit. At a few hundred °C not only Rydberg states are formed at the surface, but also small clusters of Rydberg states K N *, in a form called Rydberg Matter (RM). This type of cluster is probably the active form of the potassium promoter in normal industrial use of the catalyst.
The clusters K N * transfer part of their excitation energy to the hydrogen atoms at the catalyst surface. This process takes place during thermal collisions in the surface phase. This gives formation of clusters H N * (where H indicates proton, deuteron, or triton) in the ordinary process also giving the K N * formation, namely cluster assembly during the desorption process. If the hydrogen atoms could form covalent bonds, molecules H2 would instead leave the catalyst surface and no ultra-dense material could be formed. In the RM material, the electrons are not in s orbitals since they always have an orbital angular momentum greater than zero. This implies that covalent bonds cannot be formed since the electrons on the atoms must be in s orbitals to form the normal covalent sigma (σ) bonds in H2. The lowest energy level for hydrogen in the form of RM is metallic (dense) hydrogen called H(1), with a bond length of 150 picometer (pm). The hydrogen material falls down to this level by emission of infrared radiation. Dense hydrogen is then spontaneously converted to ultra-dense hydrogen called H(-1) with a bond distance of 2-4 pm depending on which particles (protons, deuterons, tritons) are bound. This material is a quantum material (quantum fluid) which probably involves both electron pairs (Cooper pairs) and nuclear pairs (proton, deuteron or triton pairs, or mixed pairs). These materials are probably both superfluid and superconductive at room temperature, as predicted for ultra-dense deuterium and confirmed in recent experiments.
A novel source which simplifies the study of ultradense deuterium D(-1) is now described. This means one step further toward deuterium fusion energy production. The source uses internal gas feed and D(-1) can now be studied without time-of-flight spectral overlap from the related dense phase D(1). The main aim here is to understand the material production parameters, and thus a relatively weak laser with focused intensity less than a trillion watts per square centimeter is employed for analyzing the D(-1) material. The properties of the D(-1) material at the source are studied as a function of laser focus position outside the emitter, deuterium gas feed, laser pulse repetition frequency and laser power, and temperature of the source. These parameters influence the D(-1) cluster size, the ionization mode, and the laser fragmentation patterns
An attempt is made to explain the recently reported occurrence of ultradense deuterium as an isothermal transition of Rydberg matter into a high density phase by quantum mechanical exchange forces. It is conjectured that the transition is made possible by the formation of vortices in a Cooper pair electron fluid, separating the electrons from the deuterons, with the deuterons undergoing Bose–Einstein condensation in the core of the vortices. If such a state of deuterium should exist at the reported density of about 130,000 g/cm3, it would greatly facility the ignition of a thermonuclear detonation wave in pure deuterium, by placing the deuterium in a thin disc, to be ignited by a pulsed ultrafast laser or particle beam of modest energy.
An attempt is made to explain the recently reported occurrence of 14 MeV neutron induced nuclear reactions in deuterium metal hydrides as the manifestation of a slightly radioactive ultra-dense form of deuterium, with a density of 130,000 g/cm3 observed by a Swedish research group through the collapse of deuterium Rydberg matter. In accordance with this observation it is proposed that a large number of deuterons form a “linear-atom” supermolecule. By the Madelung transformation of the Schrödinger equation, the linear deuterium supermolecule can be described by a quantized line vortex. A vortex lattice made up of many such supermolecules is possible only with deuterium, because deuterons are bosons, and the same is true for the electrons, which by the electron–phonon interaction in a vortex lattice form Cooper pairs. It is conjectured that the latent heat released by the collapse into the ultra-dense state has been misinterpreted as cold fusion. Hot fusion though, is here possible through the fast ignition of a thermonuclear detonation wave from a hot spot made with a 1 kJ 10 petawatt laser in a thin slice of the ultra-dense deuterium.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.