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The Real Cold Fusion

Skye Benson

12/11/2018

Nuclear fusion has been sought after for years and is a highly
active area of research for a lot of physicists as it could provide
clean abundant energy; imagine having a miniature sun on the
earth that feeds us power, as you can tell there a large number
of issues with ”hot” fusion as a miniature sun is not an easy
thing to achieve. Cold fusion has been the holy grail of physics
since the 1980’s when it was first proposed or so many think
; the idea of cold fusion actually came about in 1956. The
1980’s cold fusion that was, prematurely, proposed by Martin
Fleischmann and Stanley pons caused huge media attention but
alas there experiments were proven to be wrong; however all is
not lost as just a mere 30 years earlier cold fusion was found
and proven. The true cold fusion that was found in the 1950’s
did not involve simple tabletop experiments like Fleischmann’s
cold fusion instead it involved the decaying of another particle
to create muons, or heavy electrons, these muons can then be used in atoms to help catalyse the fusion reaction. Fusion
that uses muons in their atoms are called ”Muon-catalysed Fusion” and can be done at room temperature unlike hot
fusion which needs a specialised chamber with large magnetic fields and high temperatures. The idea of cold fusion has
dominated pop culture for decades and has been claimed to be humans potential way to the stars.
Muon Creation
Muons are unstable subatomic particles that are in the same family of particles as electrons, as they are unstable they
are not found naturally and have an average life of ≈ 2µs [1]. Even though 2µs is an extremely short amount of time
fusion occurs in an even shorter amount of time. Negative Muons , µ− , are created by the decaying of another particle,
the negative pion of which has the symbol of π − . To create π − we collide two hadrons together which allows for the
creation of pions. the most common way to create pions is to collide protons into a target material, this way will create
both π − and π + [2]so the negative pions need to be separated from the positive ones by using a magnet. The negative
pions can then be decayed to create negative muons with this decay equation: π − → µ− + νµ . The average energy per
muon using this method is ≈ 5.3GeV [4].

Figure 1: Diagram of the generation of µ− and µ+ from hadron collisions[3]

Cycle of fusion
The process of muon catalysed fusion, or µCF as it will be referred to in the future, starts by injecting the muons into
a solid or liquid source of deuterium and tritium; this allows for the creation of isotopes of the DT compound to form
DTµ compounds [4]. When a muon is injected into the D-T mixture it ejects an electron and takes its place; as a muon
is approx200 times heavier than an electron the radius of each atom decreases by the same factor making the distance
between the D-T compounds decrease by a factor of 200. In fusion one of the main reasons for high temperatures and
pressure being needed is that the distance, and therefore the EM force, is too great without them for the atoms to
fuse, decreasing the distance allows for the nuclei to get close enough so the forces in said nuclei can overcome the EM
repulsion. The size of the atoms in the muonic atoms allows for fusion at lower than room temp even close to absolute

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0. When the first set of DTµ compounds fuse the muon is then given off allowing for a continuous reaction, until it is
either stopped by the decaying of the muons or the capture of the muons in a helium nucleus[4].

Figure 2: Simplified Cycle of µCF [5]

Problems
There are many issues with µCF that stop it from being used as a practical power source, the two main issues that seem
apparent are the capture of the muon in the helium nucleus and the average lifetime of the muon. The muon has a chance
every iteration to be captured and become stuck inside the helium nucleus stopping any further decays, this chance is
called the effective sticking probability which is ≈ 0.585% which means we can get an average of ≈ 170 cycles before the
muon gets stuck in the helium nucleus [4]. If the µCF uses a DT compound then we get the maximum total fusion time
of 170 cycles to be 1.7×10−4 µs[4] which is much shorter than the average life of a muon; this means that the muon decay-
ing is not an issue for the amount of cycles that are possible. The effective sticking probability is the main issue with µCF .

The next step in power generation?


So even though µCF is fusion at extremely low temperatures it has its issues, the question is do these issues stop µCF
from being a viable power source, the answer to this question is yes. For any fusion reaction there is a maximum possible
energy out for the reaction, for the fusion of DT compounds it turns out to be ≈ 17.6M eV [4] per fusion; with 170 cycles
the maximum amount of energy out is 2992M eV or ≈ 2.99GeV . The 2.99GeV generated by the fusion cycle does not
allow for a break even in energy as 5.3GeV is needed to create the muon, so there is a not loss of 2.31GeV . As there is
not even a break even in the reaction it is unlikely to be used as a commercial power supply in the near future unless we
can allow for more cycles per muon or find away to create muons at a lower cost.

Conclusion
Overall muon catalysed fusion is an extremely interesting topic especially since it was discovered before the proposed cold
fusion of the 1980’s was brought to the public’s eye. However with our current understanding of physics it is unlikely in
the near future going to become a viable commercial power supply.

Reference list
-[1] C. Patrignani et al. (Particle Data Group), Chin. Phys. C, 40, 100001 (2016) and 2017 update redo for numerical
-[2] https://lbnf.fnal.gov/beam.html
-[3] matt hessler thing
-[4] http://0-iopscience.iop.org.wam.leeds.ac.uk/article/10.1088/0954-3899/29/8/398/pdf
-[5] https://0-www-annualreviews-org.wam.leeds.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.ns.39.120189.001523