Direct Electrical Production from LENR
by David J. Nagel
[Presented herein are the Abstract and Introduction from David J. Nagel’s paper, “Direct Electrical Production from LENR,” from Issue 163 of Infinite Energy. Purchase the full article. Purchase the full Issue 163 in print or digital format.]
Abstract — This paper reviews various approaches to the direct production of electrical power by using excitations from Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR). Some of the methods only provide low voltages, currents and powers. Efforts are underway to understand and improve the outputs of those techniques. One recent report by Egely describes a device that magnifies electrical energy by as much as a factor of 10. That technology requires both independent testing and commercialization.
Chemical energy available from foods is necessary for life. Optical and acoustic energy enable our senses of sight and hearing. Electricity is arguably the next most useful form of energy available to humans. Many energy sources cannot produce electricity directly in one step. Fossil fuels are a prime example. They must be burned to first produce thermal energy, which then can be used to generate electricity. Similarly, the potential energy of water is used to induce mechanical motion in turbines, which power generators. And, wind energy likewise produces motions that power generators. However, some other sources of energy do permit direct, that is, one-step production of electricity. The use of sunlight and solar cells is an important example. Using thermoelectric materials to turn any heat, especially heat that would otherwise be wasted, into electricity is another useful technology.
There has long been an interest in direct production of electricity from plasmas. It is possible to separate the positive (ion) and negative (electron) charges in a plasma to produce a voltage. That can be done by passing the plasma through a static magnetic field. The Lorentz force will act in different directions on the positive and negative charges in the plasma, leading to charge separation and voltage development. Since a plasma is a conductive medium, moving a plasma through a magnetic field will generate a voltage along the length of the plasma. The situation is like the motion of a wire conductor in a magnetic field within an electrical generator. Similarly, producing a moving magnetic field in the presence of a plasma will lead to electrical generation. However they are used to produce electricity, a plasma system is commonly called a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generator.
MHD plays a central role in the confinement and control of hot plasmas in fusion research systems. Most hot fusion plasmas are used to produce thermal energy. However, in some cases, hot fusion is being developed to directly generate electricity. The company Helion is seeking to use aneutronic fusion of deuterons and He-3 to generate electrical pulses. Information on Helion and its funding is available.
Most of the attention to energy generation with LENR has been devoted to production of heat. If the temperatures are high enough, greater than 300 to 400°C, then it is possible to generate electricity, albeit with the normal inefficiencies due to thermal losses and Carnot limitations. However, for several years, there has been some attention to direct electrical production with LENR. That approach does not require the inefficient intermediate step of producing heat, and then converting some of the thermal energy to electrical energy. A few approaches to direct conversion of LENR energy to voltages have appeared in the literature. In one, the charge separation needed to generate a voltage is achieved using semiconductors with junctions that provide charge separation to the two electrodes. In another, there are other materials between the electrodes. Two types of direct conversion LENR devices, which have gaps without materials between them, have been demonstrated. In one, there is gas in the gap and in the other an intermediate plasma is produced.
If direct conversion of LENR energy to electrical energy can be made a reliable and efficient process, it might be less complex and cheaper than the production of heat and the use of generators. Interest in direct electron production from LENR has grown rapidly in recent years, and is reviewed in this paper. We first survey some old papers that are relevant to the topic. Then, we review systems using solid semiconductors and other materials between the output electrodes. Next, we summarize the systems with gaps without solids connecting the electrodes. There are different gases or plasmas at various pressures in the gaps.
The techniques reviewed in the rest of this paper involve different types of stimuli to produce output voltages, possibly or certainly due to nuclear reactions. In some cases, there is no input, so that the output voltages are spontaneous. In other cases, there is electrical input, so that the device acts as an electrical power amplifier. For one of the cases, the input electrical power is first converted to another type of energy (a plasma), which in turn stimulates an electrical output.
A central issue in all cases is how to produce the charge separations needed to generate voltages. Separating charges is equivalent to giving them energy because of the work that must be done against the electrostatic attraction. Recall that voltages have units of energy per charge. The mechanisms that produce charge separation, which are operable in the various devices, need to be understood. Another common issue with many of the devices is whether the measured voltages are indeed due to nuclear reactions, or can they be explained by chemical reactions. If the output voltages are due to nuclear reactions, what is their relationship to what might be termed “conventional” LENR? And, can the devices reviewed in this paper be used to increase our understanding of any of the diverse LENR experiments, regardless of whether or not they can be made into practical generators?