~e; sonoluminescence & fusion

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Wed, 13 Mar 2002 20:58:55 -0600

  [well, if not pop-can fusion in physical sciences, then its genre must be
  of the Sokal hoax in the humanities. in any case, it was predictable how
  this story would pan out, yet, as with many things, uncertainty remains...
  a thing called 'sonoluminescence', something akin, it seems, to that odd
  connection between sound&light. something that a religion once observed
  used in its USA advertising for a bit of millennia emphemra. {{also, if one
  is nearby cryptome.org, there is a piece of the Berkeley Lab herein that
  is mentioned, in relation to the 'big experiments' being waged at both
  Stanford with lasers for fusion and elsewhere. Also, big plumbing problem
  may have occured with the motherlode of nuclear experimental datasets.}}
  in any case, still absolutely puzzled by sound itself. just never understood
  it. while the forces of electromagnetism and strong and weak nuclear are
  somewhat mapped, it seems gravity is the enigma in relation to these, and
  which there are a plethora of theories of electromagnetism and gravitation
  (and space-travel, to boot). likewise, with sound, and soundwaves, as with
  gravity, how they relate to electromagnetism is difficult to comprehend...]

Fusion Experiment Sparks an Academic Brawl

By Shankar Vedantam

A small glass cylinder sits at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Partly filled with a form of acetone, the cylinder is closed at the 
bottom and at the top, with openings for a vacuum pump. A device that 
converts electricity into mechanical energy is stuck to the glass and 
sends sound waves into the acetone.

A neutron generator sits nearby, to fire tiny particles into the 
liquid in time with the sound waves.

The setup is smaller than most coffee makers, but the experiment 
being conducted with it rocked the world of physics last week and set 
off a quarrel among scientists that was the academic equivalent of a 
barroom brawl.

Rusi Pesi Taleyarkhan at Oak Ridge said that the small glass 
structure replicated the nuclear fusion reactions that occur inside 
the sun and the stars, and that those reactions had previously been 
simulated on Earth only with gigantic particle accelerators, highly 
radioactive substances and the hydrogen bomb.

While those systems have relied on powerful energy sources to slam 
atoms of hydrogen together, Taleyarkhan said he achieved the same 
effect by using a small force that was intensely concentrated.

"It's the old karate chop effect," Taleyarkhan said. "If you increase 
the rate of change, it results in a more intense shock. You can use 
the same energy over a short time and crack a brick, when otherwise 
you would just be pushing it."

A report on the experiment conducted by scientists at Oak Ridge, 
Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York and the Russian Academy of 
Sciences was published in the respected journal Science -- against 
the advice of at least three scientists who reviewed the paper for 
the journal:

"I reviewed the paper twice, I rejected it twice," said William Moss, 
a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 

"I told Science you can't publish it because it's not right," said 
Lawrence Crum, a physicist with the Applied Physics Lab of the 
University of Washington at Seattle.

"They say it was subject to stringent peer review, but does that mean 
it passed peer review?" asked Seth Putterman, a physicist with the 
University of California at Los Angeles, who also rejected the 

As the accusations and allegations increased, Taleyarkhan's 
supporters fought back. Russ George, a California scientist who has 
worked for many years on alternative energies, said the three critics 
were Taleyarkhan's competitors.

"They are not happy that they are beaten to the prize," said George, 
formerly a visiting scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory 
and at the Stanford Research Institute. "They have so much to gain by 
having Taleyarkhan fail."

The idea of "tabletop" fusion, using substances that are widely 
available, cheap and safe, has long been a tantalizing dream in 
nuclear physics. By tightly controlling nuclear reactions, energy 
could be generated for ordinary civilian use, instead of for the 
uncontrolled explosions used for war and destruction.

Conventional nuclear reactors do release controlled energy that can 
be used for civilian purposes, but they use highly radioactive 
substances, generate dangerous wastes and carry the risks of meltdown.

The Oak Ridge experiment, by contrast, used substances that are cheap 
and safe and, if Taleyarkhan is correct, managed to produce heat as 
intense as that in the sun's interior in a small area for a few 
trillionths of a second.

Because these "explosions" were invisible to the eye, researchers 
searched for telltale signs -- chiefly for neutrons and tritium, 
another form of hydrogen. Taleyarkhan's group said they found both.

A second group of Oak Ridge scientists looked for the neutrons and 
couldn't find them, whereupon Taleyarkhan examined their data and 
concluded that they had made mistakes in their analysis. Many 
scientists will try to replicate the experiment, and Taleyarkhan said 
he will help them set up their experiments.

While the technique used -- sonoluminescence -- has long been known, 
Taleyarkhan's group developed some novel improvements. When sound 
waves are sent through some liquids, they set up fluctuations in 

Taleyarkhan's neutron generator "seeded" especially large bubbles in 
the liquid.

As the pressure changed from a powerful vacuum -- which caused the 
bubbles to expand -- to a powerful region of high pressure, the 
bubbles imploded with great force, creating the kind of heat that 
Taleyarkhan believes forced atoms of a form of hydrogen together.

Scientists disagreed on almost every aspect of the "bubble fusion" 
experiment. Putterman said the Oak Ridge researchers may have 
detected tritium that was not produced in the experiment. "My concern 
was they've got tritium contamination in their lab," he said.

But Lee Riedinger, deputy director for Science and Technology at Oak 
Ridge and Taleyarkhan's boss, said: "The tritium signal seems 
impressive. I cannot see anything wrong with the tritium signal."

Riedinger himself was worried about the neutron signal. He asked a 
second group at Oak Ridge to look for the particles, and became 
concerned when they could not. "Scientists look at the same results 
and have different opinions," Riedinger concluded ruefully.

He said he plans to get the two groups together and move the 
experiment from the Engineering Science and Technology building to 
the physics building at Oak Ridge, which is better designed for 
experiments involving the detection of sub-atomic particles.

Kenneth Suslick, a professor of chemistry at the University of 
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said he and Putterman would try to 
replicate the experiment using a laser instead of the neutron 
generator to seed the bubbles. In this way, he said, scientists would 
be sure that any neutrons they detected were not produced by the 
neutron generator.

As with everything else, even this could prove controversial. Richard 
Lahey, a professor of engineering at Rensselaer and Taleyarkhan's 
co-author, said that lasers wouldn't work very well.

He said scientists used neutrons to seed the bubbles because the 
neutrons produced at the end of the experiment could themselves seed 
new bubbles, thus setting up a chain reaction, which is essential if 
the technique is ever to produce usable energy.

"I would say there is a 50-50 chance that fusion events did occur," 
said Don Steiner, a former scientist at the Oak Ridge fusion program 
and now director of nuclear engineering and engineering physics at 

"Both experimental setups [at Oak Ridge] were not ideal," he said. 
"Both groups would admit [that] if they had open resources and could 
set up their definitive experiment, it would be different than the 
ones conducted."

He estimated that 20 to 30 labs in the United States could replicate 
the experiment.

Riedinger said he hopes scientists could give the public a verdict in 
six months.

[fair-use for .education of triumphal risks, wagers, & rewards of P2P 

  the electronetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization