Feeds

UCLA demonstrates desktop nuclear fusion

But don't get too excited...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Scientists at the University of California in Los Angeles have demonstrated desktop nuclear fusion by simply heating a lithium tantalate crystal soaked in deuterium gas. However, the technique produces far too few neutrons to be practical for commercial use, so it's sadly not a matter of free-power-for-everyone next week, New Scientist reports.

Seth Putterman's UCLA team used previous research by James Brownridge at the State University of New York - which produced X-rays from lithium tantalate by heating the crystals in a dilute gas - as the basis for its experiment. When Brownridge turned up the heat on the lithium tantalate, the pyroelectric properties of the crystal created an electric field provoked by the migration of positive and negative charges to opposite ends of the crystal. As NS explains, the electric field "strips electrons from the gas molecules and accelerates them to huge energies. The electrons then collide with stationary nuclei in the crystal and generate X-rays."

Putterman realised that the electric fields generated were sufficiently strong to spark nuclear fusion in deuterium - a "mind-boggling" 107 electronvolts as the excited boffin put it.

The recipe for UCLA nuclear fusion is as follows: Bathe lithium tantalate in deuterium gas. Cool to -33°C. Heat to 7°C over three-and-a-half minutes. Wait for electric field to "accelerate deuterium nuclei over a distance of 1 centimetre to energies in excess of 100 kiloelectronvolts". Watch as nuclei then collide and fuse with deuterium nuclei that had "permeated the surface of the crystal lattice".

And, if you get your recipe right, you should cook up "400 times more neutrons than found in background measurements".

Sounds good, but this represents a few hundred neutrons per second - way short of the millions of neutrons a second you'd need for a commercial neutron generator. Accordingly, hopes for the technique are at present modest. Putterman says it might one day power microthrusters for miniature spacecraft, while Nigel Hawkes, a nuclear physicist at the UK's National Physical Laboratory, cautioned: “It’s too early to say where this might lead.”

In the meantime, Putterman hopes to up the neutron yield by "operating at lower temperatures and by using an array of crystals". ®

Related stories

Scientists scan for nukes with space rays
The truth about tritium
419ers crack cold fusion

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.