Sunday, December 15, 2013

What might be going on in LENR

Here I'm going to schematically lay out what I think might be going on with LENR, on the assumption that it is nuclear in nature.  We will proceed in six steps.

Step 1:  fusion precursors are far away from one another in the context of an environment at the surface of or a few layers into a host metal, and the likelihood of fusion is negligible.  For the sake of illustration, we'll consider hydrogen and deuterium.

The blue gradient represents the electron charge density.  The closer free atoms get to the lattice sites in the host metal, the stronger the charge density and the more the electrons on the atoms are stripped off and the atoms behave like ions.

Step 2:  a transient in the charge density forms somehow; perhaps there has been a spark discharge:

As a result of the transient, the charge density becomes very high; simultaneously, any atomic hydrogen and deuterium nearby are ionized.

Step 3: the negative charge of the transient becomes so high the now-ionized p's and d's are attracted to and cluster around it.

The ions are so strongly drawn in by the transient that they are brought into close vicinity to one another as well.  The stronger the transient, the closer they are drawn; the longer-lasting the transient, the longer they will remain nearby one another.  A z-pinch might also be involved here, in which a confining magnetic field is formed by current.

Step 4: the likelihood of a p and a d tunneling is a function of their proximity to one another and the amount of time that they linger.  Suppose the strength of the transient and its duration are sufficient to allow tunneling of one of the p+d pairs.  The result is a very unstable [pd]* resonance that will quickly decay:

Normally in such an event, the [pd]* that forms would decay into a 3He (an isotope of helium) and a gamma photon, which would be straightforward to detect.  But this description pertains to what we currently know of the p+d fusion branch seen in pressurized plasmas and ion beam experiments.  We are less familiar with what goes on in solid-state system such as a host metal, where the electronic structure is quite different.  When a fusion reaction takes place in an electron-rich environment, there is reason to think that no gamma will be emitted.

Step 5:  instead what might happen is the momentum of the reaction ends up being divided among a large number of electrons in the area, immediately resulting in the emission in every direction of a corresponding number of lower-energy photons:

Step 6:  after the transient has subsided, what is left over is heat from the bath of lower-energy photons together with a slow-moving 3He daughter:

Here no gamma photon has been emitted.  One can imagine a similar process taking place with d+d or even p+Ni precursors, with environmental parameters determining the likelihood of various outcomes.

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