Info

B + H

< 0.1

or, using a different notation, iH+ll B = 3a. (1.26)

This triple alpha reaction may be able to sustain itself in a colliding beam fusion reactor (see Rostoker, Binderbauer, and Monkhorst, 1997) but this has not yet been demonstrated. If it does work, we would have a clean fusion reactor using abundantly available fuel and capable of operating in units of moderate size, in contrast with the T + D reaction in a Tokamak, which must be 10 GW or more if it can be made to work at all.

It should be noted that i0B will also yield a triple alpha reaction when combined with a deuteron:

Both isotopes of boron are abundant, stable, and nonradioactive. Natural boron consists essentially of 20% 10B and 80% 11B.

The triple alpha reaction may also be an important player in the cold fusion process, if such a process can be made to work. (See the next subsection.)

Table 1.11 lists the percentage of the energy of a reaction that is carried away by neutrons.

Although fusion reactors have not yet been demonstrated, ^ there is a possibility that they will become the main source of energy some 50 years from now. If so, they may provide the bulk of the energy needed by humanity, and the energy crunch will be over.

1.11.3 ColdFusion

At the beginning of the millennium, when this subsection was being rewritten, the cold fusion question remained unresolved. So far, no one has been able to reproduce the claims of Fleishmann and Pons (1989) but, on the

^Fusion research dates back to at least 1938 when Eastman N.Jacobs and Arthur Kantrowitz built the first magnetic confinement fusion reactor at NACA's (now NASA) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

other hand, no one has been able to disprove the existence of cold fusion. As a matter of fact, cold fusion can and has been demonstrated. Let us review what we know for sure of this topic.

As indicated in Subsection 1.11.2, a deuteron will react spontaneously with a deuteron in one of these two reactions:

These reactions have about the same probability of occurrence and produce a substantial amount of energy. The problem is that the probability of occurrence (under normal conditions) is extremely small, being of the order of one fusion per galaxy per century according to a good-humored scientist.

It is easy to understand the reluctance of the 2D atoms to join: they carry positive charges and therefore repel one another. This problem can be overcome by imparting sufficient kinetic energy to the atoms, by, for instance, heating them to extreme temperatures as in thermonuclear fusion.

Luis W.Alvarez (late professor of the University of California at Berkeley and Nobel Prize winner) suggested a neat trick that increases by 85 orders of magnitude the reaction cross section (read probability). Replacing the orbital electron of the deuterium by a muon, which is 2°7 times heavier, collapses the orbital by a large factor.

Muon-mediated fusion can be observed in the laboratory as Steven Earl Jones (1989; Brigham Young University) demonstrated. The catch is that it takes more energy to create the muon than what one gets from the fusion.

Muonic Atoms

The radius of a normal deuteron is 37,°°° fm. A muon can be regarded as a heavy electron: it has a charge of —1, a mass of 2°7 electrons, and a lifetime of 2.2 microseconds.

In the ground state of an atom, the angular momentum of the orbiting particle must be equal to Planck's constant divided by 2^:

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