Monday, September 19, 2005

Who says "Cold Fusion" is Dead?

In this month's edition of Advanced Materials and Processes (I'd link to it but ASM International hasn't posted it in thier website yet) there is an article about research going on at Purdue University by Professor Rusi Taleyarkhan. The research involves the use of acoustic cavitation combined with neutron bombardment of deuterated acetone, which is acetone in which most or all of the hydrogen atoms have been replaced with deuterium atoms. In a glass vessel about the size of two coffee mugs, the acetone was bombarded with neutrons as well as ultrasound of a frequency to cause cavitation in the fluid. This reportedly formed cavitation bubbles larger than possible without the neutron bombardment. Additionally, tritium, a third isotope of hydrogen which is unstable and radioactive, was reportedly formed. Neutrons of an energy specific to hydrogen fusion were reportedly observed as well. This experiment is follow-on research which the professor first started at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It is unclear whether the energy released exceeded the energy injected into the reaction. Additionally, this experiment has yet to be replicated elsewhere, so a hefty dose of skepticism is warranted. But this is intriguing to say the least. This is the second form of "cold fusion" that has been reported in the scientific community in recent months. The first was deuterium that was fused on very small scales within the crystal lattice of a piezoelectric crystal. While not exceeding the energy input, it does lend itself to use as a compact neutron generator for such things as oil well logging, etc. Fleischman and Pons might have been hucksters (or merely deluded), but it would appear that this is at least possible at temperatures and pressures that are relatively easily obtainable, if only on a small scale.


Blogger Kathy Herrmann said...

What are your thoughts on cold fusion versus pebble bed nuclear reactors?

September 20, 2005 10:02 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

One makes more power than is put into the reaction, one so far does not. That makes the choice pretty simple, at least in the short term. That said, even if cold fusion never breaks even on the energy balance equation, there is something to be learned there, so it is worthwhile to study it, it may lead somewhere else that IS useful. One cold fusion process has already found a commercial niche, but not in power generation. At this juncture, there is no either/or. One is proven to work, but the other might lead to a much cleaner process. So in reality the answer is BOTH.

September 20, 2005 11:45 AM  

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