April 2013 Dennis M. Bushnell, Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, the Realism and the Outlook
LENR could, by itself, COMPLETELY Revolutionize Space access and utilization. Although there is a quite long history of “anomalous” observations including transmutations the “recent” consideration of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions begins with the Pons/ Fleishman late 80’s observations and assertions regarding what they termed “Cold Fusion”. 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 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 – yes - With effects occurring using diverse materials, methods of energy addition etc.
This is FAR from a “Narrow Band”/episodic set of physical phenomena.
The next consideration is “WHAT IS REAL? WHAT IS Happening? For NASA Langley the epiphany moment on LENR was the publication of the Widom-Larsen weak interaction LENR Theory. This theory is currently under study and experimental verification [ or not] at NASA LaRC. The theory appears to explain nearly all the various and often variegated experimental observations and shifted the LENR Theoretical focus from some way of “fooling” Particle Nuclear Physics/The Strong Force to Condensed Matter Nuclear Physics, Collective Effects, The Weak Force and “Heavy Electrons”.
The Strong Force Particle Physicists have of course 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 load surfaces with hydrogen/protons and add some energy 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 that results in beta decay and heat and transmutations with the heavy electrons converting the gamma from the beta decay 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 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 released/produced. There are some 6 or so groups claiming device outputs in the 100 watt range and 3 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.
The LENR situation and outlook is therefore 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.
We are still FAR from the theoretical limits of the weak interaction physics 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 went, “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.
The “Precautionary Principle” demands that we core down and determine realism for this arena, given the truly massive-to-mind boggling benefits – Solutions to climate, energy and the limitations that restrict the NASA Mission areas, all of them.
The KEY to Space Exploration is Energetics. Some examples of what LENR might/ could enable in a resultant “Energy Rich” Exploration context include:
- Refrigeration for Zero Boiloff cryo storage
- Active Radiation protection
- High Thrust Vasimir/MHD Propulsion
- Energy Beaming
- Separation of propulsive mass and energy/energetics to establish the requisite conductivity for most “harvested” propulsive mass including regolith
- Planetary Terraforming
- Ubiquitous in space and on-planet sensors and robotics
- LEO propulsion - On planet power and energy
- EDL retro via heating of ingested mass
Also, The Key to SST’s and neighbor-friendly personal fly/drive air vehicles is Energetics, as simplex examples of the potential implications of this area of research. There are estimates using just the performance of some of the devices under study that one percent of the nickel mined on the planet each year could produce the world’s energy requirements at the order of 25 percent the cost of coal. No promises but something[s] seriously “strange” are going on, which we may be closer to understanding and if we can optimize/engineer such the world changes. Worldwide, worth far more resources than are currently being devoted to this research arena. Need to core down and determine “Truth”. If useful, need to engineer/apply.
To Possibly Be
Imaginably So……. Responsibly
Hope of Theory
FARING : intransitive verb
1. To get along
2. To go or happen
3. To travel; go.
4. To dine; eat.
Middle English faren, from Old English faran; akin to Old High German faran to go, Latin portare to carry, Greek peran to pass through, poros passage, journey.
First Known Use: before 12th century