Heavy, Heavy Fuel

This water is heavy, but that doesn’t make it heavy water!

Subscriber Chris sent us an email earlier this week inquiring about heavy water.  We thought it was a topic that might interest a lot of water folks, so here it is in today’s blog.  As it is used in nuclear energy, the Dire Straits tune “Heavy Fuel” came to mind.

We all know that the chemical formula for water is H2O.  That tells us that the water molecule is composed of two Hydrogen atoms each attached to a central Oxygen atom.  We think of each atom of an element as being identical, and this is generally true: each Hydrogen atom has a single proton in its nucleus, making it the simplest of all known substances.  Oxygen has eight such protons.

A proton has a positive electrical charge, but atoms have no such charge.  To accomplish this, there has to be one negative charge — an electron — for each positively charged proton in an atom.  So every atom has the same number of protons and electrons, and every atom of a single element has a unique number of these.  This is known as the Atomic Number, and it is 1 for Hydrogen and 8 for Oxygen.

Protons outweigh electrons by a factor of about 2000, so the electron’s contribution to the mass or weight of an atom is pretty small.  But there is a third component to the atom that weighs almost exactly the same as a proton: the neutron.  And, as the name implies, the neutron has no electrical charge.  That means that an atom can have any number of neutrons and still remain neutral in electrical charge.

Atoms of a single element MUST have the same number of protons, but they MAY possess varying numbers of neutrons.  This changes the mass or weight of each atom.  These atomic “cousins” are called isotopes — atoms of the same element that possess different masses.

The most common isotope of Hydrogen has no neutrons, and is called Protium.  “Heavy” Hydrogen has one neutron as well, doubling the atom’s mass.  This isotope is called Deuterium.  There is another isotope of Hydrogen called Tritium, which has two neutrons.  However, the heavy water is formed when at least one of the two Hydrogen atoms is the Deuterium isotope.

Deuterium has been used in nuclear power and weaponry since the early 1930’s, and was one of the main reasons that Nazi Germany invaded Norway: the Norwegians were producing heavy water.

We are true believers in a future on Earth with cheap, clean, and limitless energy.  And we’re not talking about windmills or solar panels.  Our energy future lies in nuclear fusion.  And one of the most promising fuels for this form of energy is Deuterium.  It is estimated that the Deuterium in a cubic mile of seawater — and Planet Earth has many, many cubic miles of seawater! — would produce as much energy as all the known petroleum on the planet.

So heavy water is potentially heavy, heavy fuel!

One Response to Heavy, Heavy Fuel

  1. avatar Shelly says:

    Hi Peter,You keep asking how you can make make a nrouetn from a deuteron? In my article, Widom-Larsen Theory Simplified, I explain how the nrouetn is made, according to Widom and Larsen’s theory. Let me copy the relevant text for you from that page:Step 1. Creation of Heavy Electrons: Electromagnetic radiation in LENR cells, along with collective effects, creates a heavy surface plasmon polariton (SPP) electron from a sea of SPP electrons.Step 2. Creation of ULM Neutrons: An electron and a proton combine, through inverse beta decay, into an ultra-low-momentum (ULM) nrouetn and a neutrino. If you want a more detailed answer, you could read the Widom-Larsen papers. You write that A much simpler explanation for the lack of gammas is that the isotope analysis is in error and that there is no nrouetn capture! You can certainly imagine a variety of error scenarios. But that is not a valid approach to scientific skepticism. Valid scientific skepticism requires you to be explicit and precise; it is not valid to make vague, shoot-from-the-hip speculations.I sat with Dick Garwin at his kitchen table and had a similar conversation about the isotopic shifts. He too, was unable to suggest how the nrouetn activation analyses performed at the University of Texas might have been in error.You write: Let me first make clear that nobody would be happier than I if LENR really worked and that all our energy problems would be solved. Considering your stated enthusiasm for LENRs, it seems odd that you have been unwilling to seriously study the literature and that the tone of all of your comments about it seem to be rather hostile.The scientific method is a topic that interests me greatly and I am always eager to learn more about it. First, for a point of fact, unless you have an additional designation besides the Physics Department at Lund University, I don’t think it is correct for you to assert that you speak for the scientific community. But of course, you have an important voice within the scientific community.I see that you raise, perhaps inadvertently, an interesting philosophical question: At what point does a scientist, after seeking alternative hypotheses to the best of their ability, decide that they have completed that part of the scientific method and move on? When does the scientist put their idea forward to the scientific community? And who is to make such a decision? I assert that that is not a decision to be made by you or me, but for the scientist. In the case of Larsen’s idea, he has performed due diligence to the level of his own satisfaction. But this is not necessarily to your satisfaction. And this is the nexus of the scientific process: everyone has different perspectives and requirements. As I see it, science progress (or not) at junctures exactly like the topic at hand.I don’t see how any scientist should feel obligated, though they may choose, to respond to the demands of their peers; in this case, Larsen responding to your demand for a specific test. In general, I think it is prudent that a scientist responds to the reasonable requests of his peers. I do not think a scientist, however, should feel responsible, however, to respond to demands of their peers; this is just arrogance and harassment.I can imagine, in fact I have seen just such a scenario where a scientist did take every demand that was presented to her by skeptics, however ludicrous and insensible they were, and spent her time and money to disprove the alternative hypothesis. The exchange contributed little to science, and in the end the people making the demands were never satisfied. It’s an old, sadly typical story.On the other hand, it is entirely within your right, and even duty I would argue, to reject the hypothesis of LENR or the Widom-Larsen theory if that is truly how you see it. As you say, it is not your responsibility to disprove the Widom-Larsen theory. But it is also not their responsibility to satisfy you. How you respond to, and accept or reject the hypotheses, is entirely your decision. Are we in agreement?Best regards,SBK

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