Star Scientific: muon-catalyzed fusion

Point out news stories, on the net or in mainstream media, related to polywell fusion.

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Ivy Matt
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Star Scientific: muon-catalyzed fusion

Postby Ivy Matt » Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:45 am

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the heavy water...

Muon-catalyzed fusion is back!

Or maybe it never went away. Anyway, Star Scientific Ltd, a company based in Sydney, Australia, has been making noise recently, claiming a breakthrough in the economic and consistent production of pions, which decay into muons. They have a nifty 14+ minute video here. (Note: you may wish to skip ahead to 10:30 if you don't want to sit through a long introduction to energy production and conventional fusion.) There's also a two-minute introduction to muon-catalyzed fusion here, and a mock-up of an electrical power station here.

There's not a whole lot of explanation on the website. They do have a FAQ, but it doesn't seem to include anything about a timeline on the development of a demonstration reactor or a commercial reactor. It also avoids any mention of neutron activation. It does mention tritium, saying it doesn't remain because it isn't introduced at the outset of the reaction. I'm not sure I understand that logic. Clearly tritium is produced as a result of the DD reactions. What happens to it? Is it all used up in the production of helium?

Anyway, I thought it was interesting, although it would be nice to know a bit more about the status of their research.
Temperature, density, confinement time: pick any two.

RobL
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Postby RobL » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:22 am

Their info release is very short on substance, no experimental data or theoretical justifications, just a lot of hand wringing about CO2 and a few claims of breakthroughs.

I guess we should all just take their word for it and give them a lot of money. Sadly a lot of people will probably do just that, but they should be demanding to see a lot more detail.
Last edited by RobL on Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

Giorgio
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Postby Giorgio » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:28 am

Don't hold your breath, it looks like another "I claim the possibility to make everything but show nothing" company.

Just check how little (none) scientific data is present on the website.
This guys talks about anything except than at what point they actually are and what they are actually doing.
In addition, they do not have any product till now but they are already financing a foundation that is managed by the wife and daughter of the chairman....
I wonder how much their salaries are and how much this foundation weights on the parent company balance sheets.
Unfortunately no balance sheet can be found anywhere on their (or the foundation) website. Funny.

This looks a lot like the guys at BLP. I could probably give more chances to Rossi of being real than to them to having discovered anything meaningful.

The orange ball surrounded by detectors is pretty funny thought :roll:

JD
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Postby JD » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:33 am

I would be interested in seeing more information of their pion generator. Also the quantities mentioned seem a bit on the low side by a couple orders of magnitude as replacements for the 1~2 percent of muon loss.

Now if they actually have something that's great but I'd be skeptical till more information is presented.

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:22 am

Giorgio wrote:I could probably give more chances to Rossi of being real than to them...

I agree them in the following:
How does muon catalysed fusion differ from “cold fusion”?
Cold fusion is a largely discredited term originally applied to reactions created using electrolysis and palladium metal which produced unexplained, excess heat. The use of the term ‘fusion’ in relation to such experiments is really a misnomer since no gamma or neutrons are produced.

On the rest I agree with you.
Muons as such for creation need energy exceeding their rest mass (as I know at 100MeV order), process is not selective and so much more than 100MeV should be spent per each fusion event.
vs. about 4MeV can be gained from D-D reaction.
If even not considering the efficiency of processes.

In Dubna near Moscow in 60s of last century was built the large accelerators complex called "meson factory".
My father being nuclear physicist then met with one colleague involved in meson project and asked: "How your meson factory? Works?"
And received an answer: "Yes, it works - one meson per one season" :)
This is about extremely non-selectivity of pi-mesons (pions) producing process.

hanelyp
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Postby hanelyp » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:06 am

When I last took a serious look at muon catalyzed fusion, the numbers were marginal, on the side of not being viable. The muons were sticking to a fusion product often enough to be a problem. A breakthrough in muon production could change that. But first the breakthrough needs to be validated.

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:10 am

hanelyp wrote:A breakthrough in muon production could change that. But first the breakthrough needs to be validated.

And what breakthrough?
Can anybody reduce the rest mass of muons, or their predecessors - pions?
The single known for me way for producing pions is bombardment of beryllium target with 500-600MeV protons.
Here are facilities really doing this: http://www.inr.ac.ru/INR/MMF.html

Ivy Matt
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Postby Ivy Matt » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:15 pm

JD wrote:I would be interested in seeing more information of their pion generator.

Indeed.

From the comments to the recent article on Next Big Future I found this article about a hydrogen car that inventor Stephen Horvath (apparently the brains behind Star Scientific) developed in the '70s. It was revealed in a public demonstration that didn't turn out too well. Horvath's side of the story can be found on his website. So far the only English-language version of his patent that I have found is US 3,954,592, and I can't find any mention of "fusion", "nuclear", of "thermonuclear" in a cursory glance of the patent.

The only recent patent I've been able to find from Stephen Horvath/Star Scientific is WO/2005/068044, which is for an "Archimedian Separator". At first I thought it might be a device for separating deuterium from seawater, but it appears designed only to desalinate seawater. So far I have found no patents on any device, not a particle accelerator, that is designed to create pions.
Temperature, density, confinement time: pick any two.

hanelyp
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Postby hanelyp » Thu Jul 28, 2011 2:13 am

Joseph Chikva wrote:Can anybody reduce the rest mass of muons, or their predecessors - pions?

I see the mass of a Pi- listed at 139.57 MeV.
The single known for me way for producing pions is bombardment of beryllium target with 500-600MeV protons.

That's a large margin over the mass of a pion. In addition, there are 3 varieties of pion, only one of which will decay to a Mu-, and a zoo of other particles and loss mechanisms claiming some of the particle beam energy. So a the process you describe is very inefficient. There is a large margin for a breakthrough in muon production. Whether such a claimed breakthrough works out remains to be seen.
[/quote]

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:45 am

Ivy Matt wrote: So far the only English-language version of his patent that I have found is US 3,954,592, and I can't find any mention of "fusion", "nuclear", of "thermonuclear" in a cursory glance of the patent.

And why there should be mentioned words: "fusion", "nuclear". "thermonuclear" if he invented electrolytic cell for dissociation water on hydrogen and oxygen?
Ivy Matt wrote:So far I have found no patents on any device, not a particle accelerator, that is designed to create pions.

Why you do not like my calculation made in Focus Fusion Forum:
They should increase selectivity of process on orders of magnitude.
But in any case the rest mass of pions is 140MeV.
So, it is impossible for their creation to spend less energy than 140MeV.
And even in case of 100% selectivity but if taking into consideration efficiency of accelerators 30-35%, energy have to be spent per each pion from plug-to-pion would not be less than 400-467MeV.
But who believes that 100% selective pion production process is possible?

Then.
If I understand correctly, they declare that quantity of muons 1-2% from occurred fusion events.
So, one muon makes 50-100 fusion events.
If we take lower 400MeV per muon, required energy for their creation cpecified per each fusion event will be equal to 4-8MeV.
They talk about D-D reaction.
And how much energy can be gained from each fusion event?
More than 4MeV?
Effeciency of energy conversion? If 40%, so, 1.6MeV gained from each event.

output 1.6MeV vs. 4-8MeV input
And that if 100% selective process. Which is impossible by definition!

What do you think, would my estimation true in case of any embodiment? Or no?
I am claiming that in case of any embodiment and D-D reaction muon catalyzed reactor will give negative energy balance.

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:03 am

hanelyp wrote:That's a large margin over the mass of a pion. In addition, there are 3 varieties of pion, only one of which will decay to a Mu-, and a zoo of other particles and loss mechanisms claiming some of the particle beam energy. So a the process you describe is very inefficient. There is a large margin for a breakthrough in muon production. Whether such a claimed breakthrough works out remains to be seen.

I have described the single really embodied process. Energy spent per one muon 5000MeV.
Yes, there three types of pions and we need only one. The way for creation of all types is similar: to accelerate particles and then to collide them with target. Because of this I talk about the extremely non-selective process.
And I do not believe that here any breakthrough is possible.
But even in case of 100% selectivity see my calculation of energy balance above this post.
There is calculated minimum 140MeV per pion creation gained from a beam and not 500-600MeV used in Russian Meson Factory.

I see only the single way to improve the energy balance.
If they'd find a way by which one muon will catalyze much more than 50-100 fusion events. But if I am not mistaken they claim 1-2% muons have to be spent. Somewhere I heard the same data.

Ivy Matt
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Postby Ivy Matt » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:53 pm

Joseph Chikva wrote:And why there should be mentioned words: "fusion", "nuclear". "thermonuclear" if he invented electrolytic cell for dissociation water on hydrogen and oxygen?

Sorry, I should have been more clear. The Courier-Mail article refers to the demo as a "thermonuclear-powered Ford Fairlane", and even Horvath's website mentions "a car powered through fusion-enhanced hydrogen burn", which I will admit sounds highly unlikely—and why I found it so curious that the patent claims were so ordinary by comparison.

Joseph Chikva wrote:Why you do not like my calculation made in Focus Fusion Forum

I don't disagree with your calculation, but I'm probably not the best person to evaluate it.

Joseph Chikva wrote:The way for creation of all types is similar: to accelerate particles and then to collide them with target. Because of this I talk about the extremely non-selective process.

And there's the issue. Star Scientific is claiming to be "developing" or "perfecting" a method to create numerous pions at a low energy cost, without using conventional particle accelerators. That's the essence of their claim, and either you believe them or you don't (or you prefer to reserve your judgment until you have more information), but if you're going to evaluate their likelihood of success, you might as well evaluate the likelihood of their principal claim.

Note to all: in reviewing the Star Scientific website again, I realize that they frequently make use of the progressive tense, e.g. "developing", "perfecting", and so on. Very rarely do they say they have actually done something. The videos and the chairman's blog are recent, from the past few months, but as I noted in the first post, there is no timeline and no indication of what exactly they have accomplished so far, what they expect to accomplish in the future, and why exactly they are making noise now. The closest they've come is on this blog post from the chairman where he says:

this is a technology which could be operational within years – not decades, not centuries.

"Could", indeed. Back on the back burner this company goes, unless I can obtain some more definite information soon.
Temperature, density, confinement time: pick any two.

dkfenger
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Postby dkfenger » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:06 pm

I think a lower bound on muon production in the 400MeV range seems reasonable.

However, you have to look at the whole Deuterium cycle, not just a single D-D event. See http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hb ... on.html#c4

Basically, D-D produces He3 or Tritium (and a spare n or H) with low energy output, then you get D-He3 or D-T fusion. The cycle produces 43.2MeV and two alphas (plus 2 H and 2 n) from 6 D.

The muon loss is due to 'alpha sticking' - there's around a 1% chance (some references suggest as low as .33%) of the muon being carried off with an alpha particle. At 1% loss, you get 50 x 43.2 MeV = 2160MeV released per muon lost.

So there's some room to maneuver, even with thermal conversion at 40% efficiency. 40% of 2160MeV is 864 MeV. If someone figures out how to produce muons for less than 800 MeV, muon catalyzed fusion would become viable.

Note that the breakeven cost for muon production depends very sensitively on the alpha sticking ratio, which nobody seems to know with certainty. If it's closer to 2%, muon catalyzed fusion is pretty much hopeless. If it's closer to 0.5%, the breakeven energy is more like 1.5GeV per muon.

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:22 pm

Ivy Matt wrote:Star Scientific is claiming to be "developing" or "perfecting" a method to create numerous pions at a low energy cost,

Lower than rest mass?
Pions are short-living particles. Yes? You can not get them from somewhere and use in process. So, they should be created. And their creation is possible only if you spend energy exceeding their rest mass.
Then creation process’s selectivity issue will play role.
Last edited by Joseph Chikva on Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joseph Chikva
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Postby Joseph Chikva » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:23 pm

dkfenger wrote:I think a lower bound on muon production in the 400MeV range seems reasonable.

Reasonable but impossible.
And why I should concider deuterium cycle?
50-100 D-D events produce about 200-400 MeV
Not more.


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