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Low Energy Nuclear Reactions:
What Is The Current Status?

by W.S. Briggs
wsbriggs@mindspring.com

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Summary

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) exist, the demonstration experiments are replicable, and there is a firm theoretical base for their existence. An unknown amount of engineering will be necessary to make commercial use of the phenomena, but the promise of lower cost of ownership for LENR reactors driving steam turbine power plants, with continuous operation, no need for spent fuel recycling, and with inexpensive fuel, LENR has every needed characteristic for making lower cost energy available to the world.

 

History

Thirty years ago, in a classic case of PR overreach, the University of Utah announced that three scientists, M. Fleischmann, S. Pons, and M. Hawkins, had discovered “Cold Fusion”i. The scientists, Physical Chemists by trade, created an an electro-chemical experiment in which heat energy out appeared to be significantly greater than the input electrical energy, and greater than that which might be accounted for by a chemical reaction. The press had a field day, nonsense was the stream of the day—sound familiar? Frequently the charge of no existing theory to explain the effect was made. That charge ignored the fact that nature doesn’t care whether man comprehends what’s going on, it just does what comes naturally—think of lightning sprites, sun spots, plate tectonics, solar wind, or Schumann waves. More importantly, numerous “Big Physics” locations failed to replicate the experiment properly and their subsequent failures to replicate results brought the immediate claim was that it was fraudulent and poor physics. Interestingly enough, a large number of smaller programs simply tried to replicate the experimental setup exactly and were successfulii. Then, these successes were ignored. Today, with thousands of successful experiments demonstrating the existence of excess heat, LENR can no longer be ignored, so a closer look is warranted.

For the impatient among you: If you want the papers from the last ICCF conference go to LENR-CANR.org, select the library with papers sorted by date entered. The full conference proceedings, ICCF 2019, are available in pdf form for download for free.

LENR Today

Rather than Cold Fusion, the area is now referred to as Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) or Chemically Assisted Nuclear Reactions (CANR), or even Condensed Matter Nuclear Reactions (CMNR) to differentiate it from high temperature fusion. Both fusion and fission reactions have been observed and are predictable as will be seen in the section on current LENR theory.

After thirty years of painstaking research, with not a few dead-end paths, and periodic overhype, LENR has seen a number of simple replicable experiments capable of generating excess energy. Recently, one in particular generated 1.25 to 10 times the input energy for weeks at a time. The researchers, T. Mizuno, and J. Rothwell, have presented several papers on the original experimental setup and subsequent improvementsiii. Their recipe has been published on the web and the experiment has been successfully replicated at least two times; once in China, and again in another location within the United States of America. Other replication attempts are ongoing.

Mizuno has developed a reactor which delivers on the order of 3 KW of output power from a 300 W input. The reactor was used to heat his living room the past winter. Apart from that practical application, discovery of the effect of higher temperatures on reactions has resulted in marked increases in the excess power produced. It also eliminated much of the argumentation on the quality of the calorimetry.

Additional success with a LENR reaction was in Italy by F. Celani et al.,iv. The interesting thing about this experiment is the discovery that a control wire can modulate the LENR reaction by placing a bias charge in the center of the reactor. The constantan wire used in the reactor proved to be an efficient generator of heating when doped with deuterium.

 
D. Letts and D. Cravensv have also demonstrated consistent excess energy using a sophisticated experimental configuration capable of measuring the excess energy using two different physical processes.

M. Stakervi has painstakingly constructed an emended and more complete phase diagram of the Pd-D system using a precision calorimeter with digital data acquisition. The process of constructing the phase diagram also demonstrated the excess heat phenomenon, a.k.a. LENR. The phase diagram shows which of a number of identified solid state structures/compositions predominate at various temperatures and deuterium/palladium ratios. LENR active phase compositions over the temperature range were identified, with two regions of special interest. Staker discusses Super Available Vacancies (SAV) as the probable location for reactions in the Pd-D system.

Theory of LENR Today

V. Vysotskii and S. Adamenkovii have published a paper (paywalled, but well worth it) showing how the Einstein-Robertson inequality may be used to calculate the tunneling probability for a superposition of mutually synchronized states or correlated states. The method was fully explored and ultimately substantiated in 1930, but as the authors state:

The main problem in the implementation of this technique is associated with the choice of the optimal method of formation of such states in real physical systems. In spite of profound analysis of many fundamental questions in the theory of correlated states, this problem remained unsolved also.

For those of a theoretical bent, but in need of refreshment of some of the concepts, a quick read of Chapter 12 of Baymviii on Time Dependent Perturbation Theory will bring insight.

Vysotskii and Adamenko use the Schrödinger-Robertson Uncertainty Relation and develop equations which lead to solutions in which the dispersion values are very large. Time dependent perturbations of a parabolic potential well result in the fluctuations of the position of a loosely trapped particle, or correspondingly in the momentum of a loosely trapped particle. With multiple particles, the perturbations lead to a coherent behavior, as well as correlated behavior of the particles. In turn, this behavior results in massive increases in the probability that the particles can tunnel through the coulomb barrier, resulting in nuclear reactions.

This theoretical approach gives a single unifying theory to a number of observed reactions within LENR-CANR-CMNR. Expected values are calculable and experimental results are covered. LENR can occur in cavitation, electrolytic reactions, solid state reactions, biological transmutations and even high voltage (10-50 KV) discharges producing neutrons. The reactions are predicted and/or explained by this theory. No longer are specialized theories covering only a single experimental setup necessary, and the frequently un-physical assumptions and explanations offered to explain previous experimental results are eliminated through the use of long—verified quantum mechanics formulas and ideas.

The pointer to www.lenr-canr.org in the introduction provides a number of papers of interest for anyone wanting to come up to speed on what’s been done lately, or for that matter, many of the papers published since 1989.

Contrary to what might be supposed, there is no one LENR reaction, there are multiple reaction paths all of which depend on E. Storms’ Nuclear Active Environment (NAE)ix. The NAE may be in a crystal lattice, in a fluid, or in a biological cell. The extent of the NAEs is breathtaking. In some NAEs there are reactions which produce detectable low level radiation, in others there is no detectable radiation. Some reactions produce Helium, others produce transmuted metals. Part of the problem of developing replicable experiments is the difficulty of creating the necessary potential well with the accompanying constraints to the behavior of the active particles.

Establishing this environment is not easy, nor always straight forward. The parabolic potential well could be the result of positioning of atoms or molecules within a fluid, the result of a magnetic field in free space with ionically charged atoms, or the slow transit of a crystal lattice by a proton forced via an external agent.

As an example, calculations for experimental results in an air environment show that the following reactions may occur:

1.   d + d ⇒ T + p + 4.03 MeV   (MeV = million electron volts)
2.   d + d ⇒ 3He + n + 3.27 MeV
3.   12C + n ⇒ 3 4He + n
4.   13C + p ⇒ 14N + photon + 7.60 MeV
5.   12C + d ⇒ 14N
6.   15N + p ⇒ 16O
7.   14N + d ⇒ 16O
8.   18O + p ⇒ 16F

The first two reactions have been reported repeatedly. Supporting reaction #3, 4He reaction product (as a result of the fission of 12C) was detected in a specific experiment published in J. Condensed Mat. Nucl. Sci. 29 (2019) 348—357. Reaction #8 would be interesting vis-a-vis reactions in the ozone layer. These reactions are for a mixed component gas, e.g. air.

Other reaction chains have been observed for biological environments, for example with the long lived isotope 137Cs x. This discovery offers a future clean of radioactive waste. And, still other reactions have been observed for solutions containing deuterium and working against Pd or Ti.

Applying LENR

For many commercial purposes the end product of a LENR reaction will be electrical power. The generation of electrical power involves either production of a high temperature working fluid to drive turbo-generators, or a direct conversion of the temperature to a DC voltage, via the Peltier Effect, followed by a DC-AC conversion. Those cooling towers used to chill the working fluid will still be necessary as the LENR reaction efficiency improves with high temperature. Whether with turbine driven generators, or with high efficiency Peltier diode cascades, the energy generated is a function of the cold vs hot temperature difference.

Turbine generation of power requires working fluid temperatures between 720—800 K (273 Kelvin = 0 ℃ = 32℉) for current practice, and 420—500 K on the cool side for non-condensing turbine operation.

World-wide there are 100 kW to 10 MW co-generation facilities installed in buildings. These installations are frequently connected to a remote central steam generation source and generate power for the structure. These turbines work with condensing working fluid. Thus the output from the turbine is pumped either to a remote chiller, or directly back to the steam generation source. With LENR the chiller is still necessary to establish a stable cold side, but the remote steam generation with its attendant losses is no longer needed.

The illustration from www.nuclear-power.net shows the flows with temperatures and pressures for a 3000 MW power plant. LENR reactors will need to be able to drive the same generating systems.

After the construction cost, the driving costs for power generation are the fuel costs. With LENR that cost would be significantly reduced. LENR reactors are running at over 1400 K so making high temperatures for the working fluids is not a problem. Conceivably LENR reactors could replace the conventional boilers in old coal-fired power plants, making the conversion costs a function of the reactor cost and the cost of removing the old, unneeded infrastructure like chimneys and air filtration equipment. Boilers are well understood, however adapting the current boiler design for use with LENR reactors may require some engineering.

There is also much engineering to be done on the reactors. At present, it is possible to quench the reaction by withdrawing too much energy, much like a boiler with too many water tubes or with too small a burner fails to reach steam temperature. The problem of quenching is not insurmountable and should be quickly solved. The fact that NAEs are so diverse makes a plethora of solutions likely.

Direct conversion of the LENR output to electricity would be an interesting option. Recent developments in half Heusler based Peltier Diodesxi have created thermoelectric units with power factors of up to 22 W/cm2 working at convenient temperatures of up to 868 K on the hot side, and 293 K on the cold side. It may be possible to integrate Peltier Diodes into the boiler for additional energy generation. The Letts-Cravens test facility (see image above with footnote #4) shows how such thermoelectric devices can be coupled to the reactor. The DC output of the diodes must be converted to AC for normal usage, this means that high voltage inverters will need to be developed or repurposed from existing systems being used for photo-voltaic power arrays.

One thing must be stressed, LENR does not produce “FREE ENERGY”! Anyone who thinks that producing power plants of any size has no costs is dreaming. Home reactors are not going to be free or nearly free. High temperature Peltier Diodes use niobium and titanium which are not cheap metals, not to mention the technology is already patented. Yes, the cost of the fuel for Deuterium driven reactors is trivial, but that is a small fraction of the cost of ownership of the plant.

There are a number of websites which have the computations for the leveled cost of power generation, e.g. https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech-lcoe.html. The low cost of energy for LENR, together with 7/24 availability makes it competitive, but it’s definitely not free. So why do we care if it’s not free?

According to the U. S. Energy Information Administration, Operating & Maintenance (O&M) costs for a natural gas power plant (NGPP) are in the range of $1.7-$4.2 per Megawatt hour ( / MWh), while the costs for a conventional nuclear power plant (CNPP) run ~ $11.8 / MWh. The fuel costs for NGPP are $35.1 / MWh and those of a CNPP are $11.8 / MWh. These numbers show that replacing the boiler in an NGPP with a LENR reactor would drop the fuel costs significantly. Unlike the CNPP the LENR power plant has no need for costly radioactive waste management, nor for the extra cooling costs of conventional nuclear power. The O&M costs should be similar to NGPPs, while the fuel costs (deuterium gas) would be less than those of CNPPs.

To see this we look at reaction #2 under the theory section ( d + d => 3He + n + 3.27 MeV). The net result is that a gram of d2 generates 21.75 MWh of energy by this reaction. A power plant generating 500 MW of power for a year (8760 hours) will require 201 kilograms of deuterium. At the current maximum cost of $17,142 per kilogram for large scale deuterium production, fuel cost for such a plant will be no more than $3.452 million per year. This is only $0.788 per MWh, or only 2.2% of the fuel cost for the equivalent Natural Gas Power Plant.

Overnight capital costs are a measure of the current cost to construct a power plant. While the numbers change with the cost of money, the relative costs stay the same. NGPPs are by far the cheapest power plants to construct. A 620 MW NGPP would cost about $625,000,000 including land costs (although the cost of land may vary widely). This should remain the same for the LENR power plant as there is no need for nuclear shielding, nor for the massive cooling towers. Simple cooling towers suffice for the LENR power plant.

Critical for making this new technology available for power generation will be the demonstration that under no circumstances do harmful radioactive materials accumulate, nor are any harmful radiations generated outside the reactor itself. The difficulty that researchers have had demonstrating that nuclear reactions were occurring makes such demonstrations trivial.

All in all, the field is wide open for innovators wanting to apply LENR-CANR. With the tens of thousands of low and medium sized steam turbine—generators which are sitting in junk yards, refurbishing 1-25 MW steam turbines may be a viable business in itself and the installation and maintenance of same will be a good business. Like any “good business” there are costs including labor and materials which must be covered.

Summary

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions exist, the demonstration experiments are replicable, and there is a firm theoretical base for their existence. An unknown amount of engineering will be necessary to make commercial use of the phenomena, but the promise of lower cost of ownership for LENR reactors driving steam turbine power plants, with the 7/24 operation, no need for spent fuel recycling, and with inexpensive fuel, LENR has every needed characteristic for making lower cost energy available to the world. Furthermore, not only do the reactions exist, but they offer pathways for remediation of radioactive contamination, recycling of spent reactor fuels, and long lived space power plants.

 

Bibliography:

i   Fleischmann, M., S. Pons, and M. Hawkins, Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium. J. Electroanal. Chem., 1989. 261: p. 301 and errata in Vol. 263.

ii   Iyengar, P.K. Cold Fusion Results in BARC Experiments. in Fifth International Conf. on Emerging Nucl. Energy Ststems. 1989. Karlsruhe, Germany.

iii   Mizuno, T. and J. Rothwell. Increased Excess Heat from Palladium Deposited on Nickel (Preprint). in The 22nd International Conference for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science ICCF-22. 2019. Assisi, Italy. June 20, 2019 version

iv   F. Celani et al., 2019 LANR/CF Colloquium at MIT, March 23-24, 2019.

v   Dennis G. Letts and Dennis J. Cravens, J., “Building and Testing a High Temperature Seebeck Calorimeter”, J. Condensed Matter Nucl. Sci. 29 (2019) 334-34

vi   Staker, M.R., Coupled Calorimetry and Resistivity Measurements, in Conjunction with an Emended and More Complete Phase Diagram of the Palladium-Isotopic Hydrogen System. J. Condensed Matter Nucl. Sci., 2019. 29: p. 129-168.

vii   V. I. Vysotkii and S. Adamenko, “Correlated States of Interacting Particles and Problems of the Coulomb Barrier Transparency at Low Energies in Non-stationary Systems”, Technical Physics (2010), Vol. 55. No. 5, pp 613-621.

viii   Gordon Baym, “Time Dependent Perturbation Theory”, Lectures on Quantum Mechanics W. A. Benjamin, Inc. 1969, pp. 246-260

ix   Storms, Edmund “Science Of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, The: A Comprehensive Compilation Of Evidence And Explanations About Cold Fusion”, Wspc (July 9, 2007) ASIN: B00OM2SRKC

x   Influence of Effective Microorganisms on the Activity of 137Cs in the Soil Contaminated due to the Accident on the Chernobyl NPP A.N. Nikitin, G.Z. Gutzeva, G.A. Leferd, I.A. Cheshyk, S. Okumoto, M. Shintani and T. Higa, J. Condensed Matter Nucl. Sci. 29 (2019) pp 230-237
Note: NPP is short for Nuclear Power Plant.

xi   Ran He, et al. Achieving high power factor and output power density in p-type half-Heuslers Nb 1-xTixFeSb, 13576—13581 | PNAS | November 29, 2016 | vol. 113 | no. 48

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