Effects of Superconductor Electron Screening on Fusion Reaction Rates

Open Access
Fazel, Kamron C
Graduate Program:
Nuclear Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Kostadin Nikolov Ivanov, Thesis Advisor
  • hydride
  • palladium
  • experiment
  • electron
  • ion
  • screening
  • energy
  • fusion
  • superconductor
  • deuteride
  • magnesium diboride
This research explores fusion cross section enhancements from electron screening within superconductors and the feasibility of engineering a system to extract the energy from a superconductor fusion system. There have been claims that superconductors will exhibit "superscreening", which could largely increase fusion cross sections. However, there is currently no widely accepted theory to explain superconductor electron screening. With the possibility of significantly enhanced fusion cross sections in superconductors, this research analyzed the possibility of a net energy gain system. To determine the contribution of electron screening from superconductor electron pairs, the first portion of this research proposes and analyzes an experiment. The proposed experiment would utilize the bombardment of deuterons (20 keV) on a PdD target in two separate stages, above and below the superconducting transition temperature (i.e., metallic and superconducting PdD states, respectively). The protons from the resulting fusion reactions would be detected to infer the electron screening differences between metallic and superconducting states of PdD. The pre-experimental analysis shows that the experiment would be able to determine the total screening from a superconductor with a 38% error of the screening energy with 95% confidence. The second portion of the research investigated the possibility of net energy gain from fusion reactions within a superconductor. In order to do so, a simple direct energy conversion model was developed. The model accounted for energy losses due to fusion product energy deposition, energy conversion, and cooling requirements. With the model, a sample calculation of energy gain was performed on superconducting PdD. Using the Carnot efficiency of cooling and the PdD sample thickness equal to the coherence length (10^-8 m), the calculation indicated that with the widely accepted 11 K transition temperature there would be no net energy gain. However, net energy gain may be possible if a superconductor were developed with a superconductor transition temperature above 100 K. Even if net energy gain was achievable, the reaction rates from lattice induced vibrations in superconducting PdD would result in an extremely low power density, thus rendering the device impractical.