Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


’Double crystal fusion’ could pave the way for portable device


Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, providing confirmation of an earlier experiment conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), while offering substantial improvements over the original design.

An internal view of the vacuum chamber containing the fusion device, showing two pyroelectric crystals that generate a powerful electric field when heated or cooled. Credit: Rensselaer/Danon

The device, which uses two opposing crystals to generate a powerful electric field, could potentially lead to a portable, battery-operated neutron generator for a variety of applications, from non-destructive testing to detecting explosives and scanning luggage at airports. The new results are described in the Feb. 10 issue of Physical Review Letters.

"Our study shows that ’crystal fusion’ is a mature technology with considerable commercial potential," says Yaron Danon, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer. "This new device is simpler and less expensive than the previous version, and it has the potential to produce even more neutrons."

The device is essentially a tabletop particle accelerator. At its heart are two opposing "pyroelectric" crystals that create a strong electric field when heated or cooled. The device is filled with deuterium gas -- a more massive cousin of hydrogen with an extra neutron in its nucleus. The electric field rips electrons from the gas, creating deuterium ions and accelerating them into a deuterium target on one of the crystals. When the particles smash into the target, neutrons are emitted, which is the telltale sign that nuclear fusion has occurred, according to Danon.

A research team led by Seth Putterman, professor of physics at UCLA, reported on a similar apparatus in 2005, but two important features distinguish the new device: "Our device uses two crystals instead of one, which doubles the acceleration potential," says Jeffrey Geuther, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at Rensselaer and lead author of the paper. "And our setup does not require cooling the crystals to cryogenic temperatures -- an important step that reduces both the complexity and the cost of the equipment."

The new study also verified the fundamental physics behind the original experiment. This suggests that pyroelectric crystals are in fact a viable means of producing nuclear fusion, and that commercial applications may be closer than originally thought, according to Danon.

"Nuclear fusion has been explored as a potential source of power, but we are not looking at this as an energy source right now," Danon says. Rather, the most immediate application may come in the form of a battery-operated, portable neutron generator. Such a device could be used to detect explosives or to scan luggage at airports, and it could also be an important tool for a wide range of laboratory experiments.

The concept could also lead to a portable x-ray generator, according to Danon. "There is already a commercial portable pyroelectric x-ray product available, but it does not produce enough energy to provide the 50,000 electron volts needed for medical imaging," he says. "Our device is capable of producing about 200,000 electron volts, which could meet these requirements and could also be enough to penetrate several millimeters of steel."

In the more distant future, Danon envisions a number of other medical applications of pyroelectric crystals, including a wearable device that could provide safe, continuous cancer treatment.

Jason Gorss | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

nachricht Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch
20.10.2016 | The Optical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>