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316) New nuclear processes

Ludwik Kowalski; 11/25/2006
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

This unit is inspired by a set of three messages, from the restricted Internet list for CMNS researchers. I think that they are important. Referring to the second FAQ (see above), Brian Josephson, our only Nobel Laureate (so far? ;-) wrote:

“I wonder if that is the most appropriate answer. The usual objection to 'CF' is that LNER is impossible because of the Coulomb barrier. A2 is literally correct, but I would have thought that some mention should be made of the connection. In fact, A2 is puzzling. However, on doing my own puzzling I see that there is a way in which the results could happen without fusion, which is that in some strange way energy from the fields gets focussed on individual particles and accelerates them sufficiently to make tracks in the plastic. That would be interesting in itself. In any event, Q2 deserves a longer answer than A2. In fact, my suggested mechanism (which would seem to be the only way to get tracks without fusion) would *not* be a nuclear reaction as normally understood. Or am I missing something?”

My reply was: “The only change that can help, at this stage, would be to replace the last word "reaction" by "process." in my opinion it was wise not to say more. We want the discussion to be focused on experimental details assuring replications, not on possible interpretations. This will come naturally, as soon as reproducibility on-demand is recognized. . . . I think that the strategy for keeping low profile (in their first publication and in PR activities) is good. They should say something like this: ‘we do not claim anything but the fact that something extraordinary was discovered. Please check the reproducibility and help us to make sense of experimental facts.’ We do not want to see the repeat of mistakes as those that resulted in the 1989 tragedy.“

In the next message Brian added: “Perhaps the thing to do is to get rid of the first two sentences of A2,so that there is no explicit denial of a connection, and then to go on with "all that the experimenters claim is ... [whatever]" and perhaps, as Ludwik suggests, replace reaction by process.”

Mike McKubre replied:
“Brian makes a good point. First I am uneasy about any general statement about the claims of ALL cf experimenters (‘they’). In 18 years I have heard the most astounding claims: mini black holes, trapped thermal neutrons, electrons clusters at solid densities, polyneutrons, etc. ALL of which would be capable of initiating or catalyzing fusion. NONE of which I can reject from first principles or experimental observation.

Second I (on behalf of my co-workers) do in fact claim evidence of fusion events and fusion products (4He, 3He, tritium, lattice heat at 24 MeV/4He). For years I refused to call the field "cold fusion" (all the while attending ICCF's). It was not until we had evidence well in hand of fusion products that I began openly to use the term cold fusion (without inverted coma's), and using the abbreviation cf.

What we don't claim, what nobody ever has claimed as far as I am aware (but I am sensitive to my first point above) is that the reaction is the same pairwise d-d or d-Li reactions that power the H bomb. It is precisely the relaxing of the 2 body boundary condition that makes what we do possible*. But it is still fusion at one limit of nuclear reaction. Other things seem to be happening as well. *Actually I would add relaxing the particle mindset as well - but I throw that out just to stir up the billiard ball boys.”

How can a retired teacher miss an opportunity to elaborate and comment? Brian refers to “some strange way in which energy from the fields gets focussed on individual particles.” And Mike suggests relaxing "the particle mindset." To elaborate on this let me explain why I prefer to use the phrase "nuclear process" instead of "nuclear reaction." A nuclear reactions is always imagined as a collision of two atomic nuclei. The initial stage, when two particles approach each other, is called input channel. It nearly always involves two nuclei (particles); the probability of a multiple collision is extremely small. The number of reaction products (competing output channels) can be larger than two; it is no longer a matter of probability of being in the same place at the same time; it is a matter of available energy (and other conservation laws).

At low energies (less than ~30 MeV) the following model is in good agreement with a very large set of experimental data. The two atomic nuclei either bounce away from each other (scattering) or fuse, forming a compound nucleus. That system is highly unstable and it brakes into two pieces, usually after a very small fraction of a picosecond. One of these pieces might again break into two pieces, etc., till excitation available energy is exhausted (converted into kinetic energies and excitation energies of products, and subsequently into heat.) Suggesting that we should reject the "particle mindset," Mike was probably saying that the entrance channel might be very different from what is commonly associated with the phrase "nuclear reaction." Why should a different kind of entrance channel, perhaps involving billions of nuclei in a crystal, be excluded. Several people speculated about collective behavior of many nuclei in the exit channel (to explain quasi-absence of neutrons and tritium), but I do not recall seeing similar considerations for the input channel.

I do not have any specific model for the "collective input channel." A very general idea is that a chemical process of some kind, under favorable conditions, leads to occasional nuclear events. Each atom might contribute only a small fraction of its kinetic energy (0.025 eV at room temperature), to the emitted particle. All existing models will be discussed after truly reproducible-on-demand demos become available. The main point is that, unlike the phrase "nuclear reaction," the phrase "nuclear process" will free our minds from the traditional interpretation of the input channel. For that reason, I would prefer labels LENP instead of LENR, and CANP instead of CANR, where P would be for "process or processes."
Replying to my request for permission to quote, Mike added; “I am happy to see your elaboration.  I believe that we are cursed by the apparent simplicity and success of two body, point interaction, scattering / tunneling physics.  It will not work for us.  We need to expand our discussion and our vision.” The comment Brian made was “It is nice having it all together.” If collective behavior makes sense for the output of a process then it should also make sense for the input. But nothing significant will happen till experiments are recognized as truly reproducible.

Appended on 11/27/06
Here is one crazy model. Consider a parallel plates capacitor with a costant difference of potential 10 volts. The medium is vacuum. Suppose that a H+ ion is released near the anode. It travels toward the cathode gaining 10 eV of kinetic energy. The negative cathode gives it an electron and the ion turns into a neutral atom. That atom bounces elastically from the cathode and arrives to the anode. Its kinetic energy is still 10 eV. Here its electron is given to the anode and the atom turns into a positive ions again. It means it is again accelerated and its kinetic energy increases to 20 eV. Suppose the process is repeated one million times. Then the kinetic energy will become 10 MeV. That is more than enough to produce a nuclear reaction.

I have no idea how to turn this idea into a practical device. But I do not think that conservation laws could be used to show that such process is impossible. A cyclotron is an example of a device in which kilovolts are used to accelerate particles 10 MeV and above through a large number of small steps. The idea occurred to me as I was learning about electrochemical double-layers. Each layer is modeled as a capacitor acharge to make several volts. But the distance between the positive and negative sheets is very small, something like 10^-8 cm. Perhaps the secret of NAE is is double-layer acceleration in a double-layer. Yes, I know that this is not even “physics for poets.” One has to learn more about double layers to produce something serious.

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