Why 50 years of nuclear fusion research has been wasted

[ECP1: Explosive Concept Package #1]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

Nuclear Fusion researchers have it wrong
Ever since it has been possible for Man to create nuclear fusion, in the hydrogen bomb, researchers have sought processes for controlled fusion. They have made a wrong basic assumption.

What is controlled nuclear fusion?
In nuclear fusion, the nuclei of two elements are fused together to make a single, heavier atom. This process releases energy.

It was first demonstrated that we could bring about this process when the hydrogen bomb was created in the 1950s [1]. In a hydrogen bomb, atoms of hydrogen (or its isotopes deuterium or tritium) are fused together to make atoms of helium. The resulting atoms have a slightly smaller mass than that of the atoms fused together in the process, and this mass difference is released as energy.

The energy released is given by the well-known Einstein equation, E=mc2. In a sense, matter is only highly concentrated energy, and a hydrogen bomb gives out an enormous of energy in a very short time, as an explosion.

In controlled nuclear fusion, the aim is to fuse atoms together in a controlled way, so that energy can be drawn off slowly and continuously. The equipment then acts as a generator of power, which can then be used locally or fed into the grid as electricity.

Conventional nuclear power stations produce electricity from nuclear processes, but do this by fission, rather than fusion. The fission core (once called an "atomic pile") at the heart of an nuclear power station contains atoms of uranium (or some other heavy element) which gives out energy as the atoms split into lighter elements.

It is a feature of the elements of the periodic table that the heaviest elements will split apart naturally (they are "radioactive") with the release of energy, while the lightest elements will give out energy if they are fused together. There is an explanation of why this is so in [2]. Basically, both very light and very heavy elements have high "nuclear binding energy", some of which be released if they are changed closer to iron atoms.

Nuclear binding energy. From [2].

How the Sun makes energy
The Sun's energy comes from nuclear fusion. Hydrogen atoms are fused together to make helium and other elements, and this releases energy.

In controlled nuclear fusion, we want to do the same as the Sun does, but on Earth. Over the years, immense amounts of effort and money have been spent on researching such a process, but so far without a positive result. It is possible to fuse atoms together in a cyclotron, but to create a commercial energy source there must be more energy produced than is put in.

In a nuclear fusion reactor. From [3].

Actual machines, some called tokomaks, others stellators, have been built. Enormous amounts of money have been spent. One program was funded by the US federal government in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Of the four machines built, one alone cost 372 million dollars [4]. Over various countries and times, the total spent must amount to some billions of dollars -- all wasted.

The principle behind all these machines has been the same. Take one or more of the isotopes of hydrogen, and heat them up to very high temperatures, or inject energy with massive laser beams or via a particle accelerator, with the aim to fuse the hydrogen nuclei together.

Why do this? The idea has been to reproduce conditions in the Sun's core, or in a hydrogen bomb, both known to produce nuclear fusion. But, unfortunately, the wrong end of the stick was grasped in doing this.

Temperatures at the Sun's core are very high, millions of degrees, and the same is true at the heart of a hydrogen bomb explosion. High temperatures imply high energy contents, and fusion machines up to now have focussed on this.

A simple error in assumption has made all this work worthless. The nuclear fusion process is what's called exothermic -- it releases heat or another form of energy. It's a basic in chemical physics that if you supply energy to an exothermic reaction, the energy will only push the reaction in reverse.

So, modern attempts to obtain nuclear fusion have not only been unsuccessful, they cannot be successful. How has this basic error in assumption happened?

Why the prevailing view is wrong
In attempting to reproduce conditions in the Sun, the important condition has been missed. The Sun is hot because nuclear fusion produces heat. But, nuclear fusion is not brought about by the heat energy (just the opposite), instead by the extremely high pressures at the Sun's core.

In the same way, in a hydrogen bomb, fusion is obtained by subjecting hydrogen to enormous pressures -- this is arranged by setting off a normal fission explosion (using uranium or plutonium) around it.

How to arrange controlled nuclear fusion
The way to get controlled fusion of hydrogen is to subject it to very high pressures. High temperatures are not needed, in fact would be a disadvantage. Devices which produce very high pressures are already developed -- they are used in the manufacture of diamonds, and in research on the their effects on rocks.

Controlled nuclear fusion can be obtained by application of very high pressures at ordinary room temperatures.
Proposition ECP1.

This result is in fundamental contradiction to conventional thinking. Its justification, in scientific terms, is given above. But there is another ground for abandoning convention here.

The conventional approach has been pursued for more than 50 years. It has been totally without success. That in itself implies it contains a basic error.

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References and Links

[1] Thermonuclear weapon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon .
[2] How is it that both fission and fusion produce power? https://www.euro-fusion.org/faq/how-is-it-that-both-fission-and-fusion-produce-power-if-splitting-a-large-atom-into-two-smaller-atoms-releases-energy-it-seems-that-combining-two-smaller-atoms-into-one-larger-atom-would-require-ene/ .
[3] Nicolas Guerin. One step closer to controlling nuclear fusion. http://phys.org/news/2012-01-closer-nuclear-fusion.html .
[4] Fusion power. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power .

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First version 1.0 on Web, 2015 Dec 12.