Intense Beam Loading and Shock Compression of Deuterium Loaded Palladium for LENR Studies
Every second, the sun releases nearly 400 trillion watts of energy into space. From our faraway blue planet, it looks like that massive amount of energy is coming from combustion — a fiery ball of gasses burning itself up in the night sky.
However, scientists now know that’s not true. While the rapid re-arranging of molecules through combustion in our fireplaces and the the rapid splitting of atoms through nuclear fission in our power plants produce energy, our Sun is actually powered by the combining of atoms — a process called nuclear fusion. Researchers predict that if humans could harness that kind of reaction on Earth, we would have more safe, affordable energy that we’d ever need.
However, nuclear fusion has only been successfully demonstrated under extreme heat conditions, which are not ideal for large-scale energy production. In recent decades, though, scientists have observed sporadic reactions that take place at room temperature, yet create nearly as much as nuclear fusion. However, why this why this occurs and how it can be reliably replicated remain a mystery.
A team of MU researchers and external collaborators is conducting cutting edge experiments to further our knowledge of these types of reactions.
With the help of a Mizzou Advantage seed grant, John Gahl, Shubhra Gangopadhyay and Scott Kovaleski from the College of Engineering are conducting research into “low energy nuclear reactions,” by observing the interaction of energetic beams of deuterium with thin sheets of palladium (a metal) at MU’s state-of-the-art research reactor.
The experiments are still in their early stages, said Gahl, but they’ve already brought much attention to the University. He believes that MU’s work in the field and its collaboration with a network of researchers from institutions including Energetics Technologies and the Stanford Research Institute helped Mizzou net a $5.5 million private donation.
The funds have been used to found the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance, dedicated to expanding knowledge on low-energy fusion.
“We don’t know what the next big thing is because it probably hasn’t been invented yet,” said Rob Duncan, vice chancellor for research at MU. “This gift to MU’s scientists will give us the opportunity to explore new and empirical phenomena in the physical sciences, which may ultimately be transformative and could lead to a new form of alternative energy. Tomorrow’s solutions depend on scientific discoveries that are being made now, and hence, on innovations that have not yet occurred.”