The transition from Cold Fusion to Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) – Out of the frying pan into

the fire P. Thieberger Here is my take about Widom and Larsen’s Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) interpretation of what used to be called Cold Fusion. The so called LENR theory1) 2) avoids the Coulomb barrier impediment to fusion of two mutually repelling positive nuclei by assuming that one of them (the proton) is first converted into a neutron by combining with an electron through the weak interaction. Then the neutron is captured without a problem because being neutral it isn’t repelled. At first this sounds very ingenious, but there are serious problems. In fact, as I will explain below, the proponents of this theory are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The first reaction they propose is one form of what is called inverse beta decay. It is called that because for normal beta decay, a neutron decays (or splits) into a proton and electron and a neutrino. The shorthand for beta decay is n  p + e- + anti-neutrino + 782 keV This happens spontaneously for free neutrons which are not stable and only stick around for an average of 14 minutes, 42 seconds before they split up in this way. The energetic electrons that come out are called beta-rays because that is what Ernest Rutherford called them back in 1898 before he knew what they were. Hence the name “beta decay”. The 782 keV is the kinetic energy associated with the motions of these particles which come out at high velocities. Where does this energy come from? It comes from the mass difference between the neutron and the proton (remember Einstein’s E=m c2 ?). The neutron happens to have a little larger mass than the masses of the proton and the electron combined (the neutrino has zero or negligible mass). But the LENR folks need the inverse reaction (inverse beta decay) to make the neutrons: p + e- + 782 keV + “some energy”  n + neutrino + “some energy” They need not only to provide the 782 keV but at least a little more. Above we call that addition “some energy”. It is necessary because if we didn’t provide it, the outgoing particles would have no velocity at all, and the probability for that occurring is zero. Now we are ready to discuss the various problems with the LENR scheme: 1) Where is the >782 keV electron energy coming from? The first explanation, given in reference 1), was that so called “heavy electrons” having a larger mass solve the problem because now the mass-energy balance in the equation above doesn’t require any energy input. But “heavy electrons” is just an expression used figuratively to describe in a simplified way some effects in solids such as anomalous heat capacity observed in some materials at low temperatures. There

In addition. That is why huge detectors weighing up to 50. It happens all the time and we know how it works. But no such . so outliers are less likely. That doesn’t make much sense either since the average energy of electrons at room temperature is at most a couple of eV. And it is really very. It turned out that the pulses were electrical noise induced by the discharges. namely that somehow a collective or coherent electron motion called surface plasmon polariton found in some hydride or deuteride surface layers provides such high energies to some of its electrons. The second step in the LENR. or rather of their absence. there is the problem of the gamma rays.000 tons are required to detect a few neutrinos per day when looking at the large neutrino flux from the sun. coherent motion means that these electrons move more in lockstep than normally. even in the most sensitive experiments. Inverse e + p beta decay played an important role in nucleosynthesis during the first second after the big bang. let alone become the backbone of a new energy source. At present it occurs under the extreme conditions found in super nova explosions. That way he explained the “neutron signals” he was seeing on the screen of his oscilloscope. not more likely.isn’t such an object as a real heavy electron that can participate in a nuclear reaction. A more sophisticated explanation came later 3). These so called neutron capture gamma rays are sometimes used as an analytical tool to find what isotopes are present in an unknown sample since their characteristic spectrum varies from isotope to isotope. it is extremely unlikely that this reaction can be observed at all. What would be the probability of that electron to interact with a proton to produce a neutron? The answer is very extremely small. It is also the reason neutrinos traverse the earth without any appreciable attenuation. This is a surprising misunderstanding of the simple concept of “effective mass” used in solid state physics. not the other way around. 2) Suppose that in spite of what we said above. We are talking about the weak interaction here. Neutron capture is common place in reactors and in many experiments. The situation is reminiscent of the early searches for hot fusion in electrical discharges. following the inverse beta decay. which is 300. is supposed to be the capture of the slow neutron by a nearby nucleus. 3) And finally. It gets rid of this energy by emitting one or several high energy gamma rays. somehow a ~1 MeV electron were produced. very weak. After absorbing a neutron the new nucleus has a lot of excess energy. Here on earth. One experimenter back then 4) also exaggerated wildly the particle velocities expected in the tails of the distribution.000 times less than is required.

In that case. Phys. References 1) A. Widom and L.p df or http://www.gamma rays have ever been observed near LENR setups. J.str-el] 10 Sep 3) http://newenergytimes. Widom and Larsen’s “explanation” 2) is that the same miraculous surface plasmon polartitons that allegedly gave us energetic electrons before. in front of the King of Sweden and the assembled members of his Royal Academy of Sciences. The collective absorption 100% of the time. 22. No heavy lead aprons would be needed for dental x-rays. as well as the cessation of collective behavior at the precise instant when it is convenient are both totally beyond any reasonable credibility. Nuclear power plants could store many more used fuel rods in their pools because shielding by the water would no longer be needed. Just thin and light blankets made of the right material would suffice for all these applications! If this works. is easily tested independently of any cold fusion or LENR experiments. 2011 and arXiv:cond-mat/0509269v1 [cond-mat. United States Patent . US 7. the super absorption of gamma rays. I pledge that I will travel to Stockholm and during the prize award ceremony. Larsen and Widom will receive their very well deserved Nobel Prize in physics. But we don’t need to argue about the merits of this new approach. I will eat my hat. If not. come to the rescue again forming an impenetrable shield. Just try to absorb some gamma rays from a radioactive source and show that using the right hydride layer it takes orders of magnitude less mass than with any conventional absorber. If the new results are actually observed then we in fact have a valid theory. (http://arxiv. A micro meter thick sheath of correlated electrons is supposed to do a much better shielding job than a foot of lead! Somehow a multi MeV gamma ray is collectively absorbed by the correlated electrons and the energy is then reemitted by the individual electrons in much smaller chunks. Eur.1140/epjc/s200602479-8 2) Lewis G. Industrial and medical radiography would be simplified and made safer. This new theory which seemed ingenious at first in removing the Coulomb barrier problem introduces other problems which are much worse.414 B2. Heavy gamma ray shields would no longer be required. Feb. Larsen and Allan Widom. C (2006) DOI 10. One prediction of the Larsen and Widom theory. That would be truly wonderful. Any new theory is verified or falsified by predicting new results. slide # 16 .slideshare.893. it is back to the drawing board.

El Secreto Atómico de Huemul.g. in M. Sudamericana/Planeta.ib. Argentina (1985) and in Ronald Richter as reported e. Buenos Aires.html .

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