|Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, the Realism and the Outlook
by Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center
Although there is a quite long history of "anomalous" observations, including transmutations, the "recent" consideration of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) began in the late 80's with the Pons/Fleischmann observations and assertions regarding what they termed "Cold Fusion." However, subsequent difficulties with experimental replication and an utter lack of convincing theoretical explication forced research in this arena "underground" with minimal financial support.
The current situation is that we now have over two decades of hundreds of experiments worldwide indicating heat and transmutations with minimal radiation and low energy input. By any rational measure, this evidence indicates something real is occurring. So, is LENR "Real?" Evidently, from the now long standing and diverse experimental evidence. And, yes - with effects occurring from using diverse materials, methods of energy addition etc. This is far from a "Narrow Band" set of physical phenomena.
|Allan Widom (left) and Lewis Larsen (right)|
|Beta decay results in a significant release of energy|
The Strong Force Particle physicists have evidently been correct all along. "Cold Fusion" is not possible. However, via collective effects/ condensed matter quantum nuclear physics, LENR is allowable without any "miracles." The theory states that once some energy is added to surfaces loaded with hydrogen/protons, if the surface morphology enables high localized voltage gradients, then heavy electrons leading to ultra low energy neutrons will form-- neutrons that never leave the surface. The neutrons set up isotope cascades which result in beta decay, heat and transmutations with the heavy electrons converting the beta decay gamma into heat.
The theory indicates several key issues/circumstances are required to enable-to-optimize LENR and explains the various experimental observations, including the often long initiation times required in some experiments. If the theory is experimentally validated in detail, it provides the understanding to shift LENR research from discovery into engineering development. The theory indicates energy densities, some several million times chemical. The current experiments are in the 10's to hundreds range. However, several labs have blown up studying LENR and windows have melted, indicating when the conditions are "right" prodigious amounts of energy can be produced and released. There are some six or so groups claiming device outputs in the 100 watt range and three others claiming kilowatts. Efforts are ongoing within NASA and other organizations to validate (or not) these claims. It should be noted that these devices are essentially "Edisonian," the result of attempts at experimental "discovery" vice ab initio design from the weak interaction theories per se.
Therefore, the LENR situation and outlook is the following:
- Something real is happening.
- The weak interaction theories suggest what the physics might be.
- There are efforts ongoing to explore the validity of the theories.
- There are continuing Edisonian efforts to produce "devices" mainly for heat or in some cases transmutations.
- There are efforts to "certify" such devices.
- NASA LaRC has begun LENR design studies guided by the Weak Interaction Theory
We are still far from the theoretical limits of the weak interaction physics for LENR performance and are in fact inventing (in real time) the requisite engineering, along with verifying the physics. When we concentrated upon nuclear engineering beginning in the 1940's we "jumped" to the strong force/ particle physics and leapt over the weak force/condensed matter nuclear physics. We are going "back" now to study and hopefully develop this arena.
|Spaceworks/NASA LENR space plane concepts|
There are estimates using just the performance of some of the devices under study that 1% of the nickel mined on the planet each year could produce the world's energy requirements at the order of 25% the cost of coal.
No promises, but some seriously "strange" things are going on, which we may be closer to understanding and if we can optimize/engineer such, the world changes. Worldwide, it is worth far more resources than are currently being devoted to this research arena. There is a need to core down and determine "truth" and if useful, the need to engineer and apply.
Video: NASA LaRC | Abundant Clean/Green Energy by Joseph Zawodny. http://futureinnovation.larc.nasa.gov/view/articles/what/cif.html
Video: NASA's Method for a Clean Nuclear Energy For Your Power Operated Technology. http://technologygateway.nasa.gov/media/CC/lenr/lenr.html