Feeds

UCLA demonstrates desktop nuclear fusion

But don't get too excited...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.