Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ron Maimon's theory of Auger deuterons

There are plenty of theories available to explain some or most cold fusion experimental results, but none of them has gained general approval among cold fusion researchers. The rudiments of a less-known but interesting theory have been proposed by Ron Maimon, who up until the end of 2012 was an active participant on  The theory goes well beyond my knowledge of nuclear physics, but I was able to get ahold of some details about it that make it more recognizable to a hobbyist like myself, which are mentioned in this Stack Exchange chat transcript.  Prior to the chat with Ron I participated in an interesting discussion with Robin van Spaandonk, on the Vortex list, about some of the details of the theory as set out in the reply to the physics.SE question linked to above.  Robin is knowledgeable about nuclear physics, and the discussion helped me to know what to ask later when I was talking to Ron.

The basic mechanism occurs when a K-shell electron is kicked out of its orbit around a heavy palladium atom in the metal lattice.  That in turn creates a hole which can decay in various ways; normally it will decay either through an electron from another orbital filling the hole with a subsequent x-ray photon emission or, alternatively, through the ejection of an Auger electron.  The energy involved in the decay of such a K-shell hole is on the order of 20 keV, an amount sufficient to cause two deuterium nuclei to fuse a significant portion of the time in a beam of deuterons.

Ron posits that when a deuteron is in the immediate vicinity of a palladium atom from which a K-shell electron has been ejected by action of an x-ray or a traveling alpha particle, the deuteron will preferentially receive the energy of the K-shell hole decay via electrostatic repulsion, thereby gaining 20 keV of energy.  This makes the deuteron in a sense an "Auger deuteron." Should it fuse with another deuteron, the Q value of the reaction will be a very large 24 MeV, which will be shared with the daughter alpha particle and the spectator palladium atom.  If I have understood Ron's account, there will be no gamma photon, as the reaction will have occurred close enough to the palladium atom for it to share in the momentum of the daughter alpha.  The fusion cross section will be enhanced in the case where two energetic deuterons approach a palladium atom simultaneously; at the "classical turning point," i.e., the point at which the electrostatic repulsion of the positively charged palladium nucleus will start to push the approaching deuterons away, they will be in close enough to one another, as Ron alludes to and Robin clarifies, for their de Broglie waves to overlap enough to possibly result in a fusion.

Occasionally a fast daughter alpha particle will interact with a spectator palladium atom, causing it to gain or lose some number of nucleons and resulting in a transmutation to another element.  This is understood to be a side channel and not the main source of heat. The reaction is sustained as a result of the energetic daughter alpha racing through the lattice, ionizing palladium atoms as it travels, triggering in turn the mechanism described above.  According to this theory, the things to look for during and after anomalous heat are x-rays, helium and transmutations certain numbers above and below the mass of palladium.

An issue that Robin had with Ron's theory is that he thought that the ionization caused by the traveling alpha particles would be too inefficient to result in enough K-shell holes.  But he also pointed out that, if something like this were happening, you might see a similar effect in the nickel/hydrogen system. In that case it would be the fraction of deuterium in light water interacting with energetic protons, rather than p+p fusion, that would be taking place.  If I have understood Robin, an attractive detail of Ron's Pd/D-focused theory is that it potentially provides a way to keep the energy needed for D-D fusion around long enough to sustain a continuous reaction.


  1. Dear Mr. Walker,

    Your last post about the Ron Maimon’s theory is very interesting.

    Unfortunaltely, the true name of the effect is not “Augur”, but “Auger” (From the French physicist Pierre Auger who discover it.)

    It is a very good idea to apply this idea to deuterons: it is what we call “ballistic deuterons”

    You can find below the proceeding of two meetings of the Russian Academy of Science in which I wrote an article about this hypothesis:

    You also can find a paper I wrote about Reifenschweiler effect on this link:

    Most of the papers of these proceedings are in Russian, but our papers on page 129 and 136 are in English.

    I will be very happy to know some links to Mr. Maimon’s theory.

    I wish you an Happy New Year.

    Fabrice David

  2. Hi Fabrice -- thanks for the correction for the embarrassing spelling mistake (fixed). Also, I'll plan to check out those links you provided.

  3. I am annoyed that the Russian folks don't cite me. Is it considered appropriate to take someone's publically available work because it isn't published in a journal? My work and the posting to stackexchange predates their stuff, and the Auger-deuteron hypothesis was just not around in any form before I proposed it (although I was working on it for a few years, off and on, before the posting). It's good that somebody is doing some experiments. But I worked a bit to make up the theory, and, not to be a douchebag, I need the Nobel prize money.

    Aside from that annoying thing, the post describes the theory correctly, but there are some insignificant inaccuracies:

    An Auger process involves two separate electrons. One which falls down to fill the vacant shell, and another which is kicked electrostatically during the falling down. The process can be thought of as a virtual x-ray transition, but one where the x-ray is absorbed by a nearby electron immediately. Because it is virtual, it is just electrostatic, and you don't need to use virtual photon language.

    The Auger protons/deuterons are not controversial, there is no doubt they will be observed. The density of states just means "how many quantum mechanical states are there near energy E", and for a fixed energy, this scales as the square root of the mass in three dimensions, so there are just a ton of states for deuterons.

    The smoking gun for the theory is not the alpha-particle absorption transmutations, which would occur in any mechanism which produces fast alphas (although there isn't any other remotely plausible one), rather, it is the completely incidental Palladium disintegration events that occur when you transfer order 10 MeV to the spectator nucleus. This leads to characteristic disintegration events that produce large transmutations--- -1 -2 -3 -4 -8 -12 -16 mass number reduction events, which correspond to the ejection of a relatively stable nucleus, or a small one. This is proton ejection, deuteron ejection, triton ejection, alpha ejection, Be8 ejection, C12 ejection, O16 ejection, which are the typical hydrogen isotopes or super-stable small nuclei, composed as they are of an integer number of alphas, that get emitted when you blast 10 or so MeVs into a nucleus. The resulting disintegration should be qualitatively the same as LINAC irradiation at 20MeV, and probably quantitatively similar, if not quite identical.

    The fragments can also get absorbed by another Pd nucleus, since they come out with MeV's of energy, so you can see otherwise completely inexplicable +8,+12 transmutation in some other Pd atom. This is incidental stuff, trace amounts, but seeing even a tiny amount of this type of transmutation is otherwise completely befuddling, and this is the type of thing that you see in Iwamura's data for the large transmutations.

    The large transmutations make me very confident the mechanism is correct. The other theories are not theories, but just so stories to explain the events, and they don't even work as just-so stories.

    1. Hi Ron -- great to see you around. Thanks for the tip on the virtual x-ray photon. That helps to conceptualize things a little.

      Since you haven't had time to write up a formal paper yet, I'm hoping your physics.SE post, this post and the exchanges on Vortex will help to settle any questions of priority for you.

      There are some additional problems with your theory that were brought up on an interesting thread on Vortex. One has to do with the d+d branching ratios. I'll summarize these things in a followup post.