This is a subpage of Widom-Larsen theory
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.
Part of the hoax involves confusion over “heavy electrons.” The term refers to renormalization of mass, based on the behavior of electrons user some conditions which can be conceived “as if” they are heavier. There is no gain in rest mass, apparently. That “heavy electrons” can exist, in some sense or other, is not controversial. The question is “how heavy”? We will look at that. In explanations of this, proponents of W-L theory point to evidence of intense electric fields under some conditions, one figure given was 1011 volts per meter. That certainly sounds like a lot, but … that field strength exists over what distance? To transfer the energy to an electron, it would be accelerated by the field over a distance, and that would give it a “mass” of 1011 electron volts per meter, but the fields described exist only for very short distances. The lattice constant with palladium is under 4 Angstroms or 4 x 10-10 meter. So a field of 1011 volts/meter would give mass (energy) of under 40 electron volts per lattice constant.
Generally , this problem is denied by claiming that there is some collective effect where many electrons give up some of their energy to a single electron. This kind of energy collection is a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, applying to large systems. The reverse, large energy carried by one electron being distributed to many electrons, is normal.
The energy needed to create a neutron is the same as the energy released in neutron decay, i.e., 781 Kev, which is far more than the energy needed to “overcome the Coulomb barrier.” If that energy could be collected in a single particle, then ordinary fusion would be easy to come by. However, this is not happening.
2. Creation of ULM Neutrons
An electron and a proton combine, through inverse beta decay, into an ultra-low-momentum (ULM) neutron and a neutrino.
Neutrons have a short half-life, and undergo beta decay, as mentioned below, so they are calling this “inverse beta decay,” though the more common term is “electron capture.” What is described is a form of electron capture, of the electron by a proton. By terming the electron “heavy,” they perhaps imagine it could have an orbit closer to the nucleus, I think, and thus more susceptible to capture. But the heavy electrons are “heavy” because of their momentum, which will cause many other effects that are not observed. They are not “heavy” as muons are heavy, i.e., higher rest mass. High mass will be associated with high momentum, hence high velocity, not at all allowing electron capture.
The energy released from neutron decay is 781 KeV. So the “heavy electron” would need to collect energy across a field that large, i.e., over about 20,000 lattice constants, roughly 8 microns. Now, if you have any experience with high voltage: what would you expect would happen long before that total field would be reached? Yes. ZAAP!
Remember, these are surface phenomena being described, on the surface of a good conductor, and possibly immersed in an electrolyte, also a decent conductor. High field strength can exist, perhaps, very locally. In studies cited by Larsen, he refers to biological catalysis, which is a very, very local phenomenon where high field strength can exist for a very short distance, on the molecular scale, somewhat similar to the lattice constant for Pd, but a bit larger.
Why and how “ultra low momentum”? Because he says so? Momentum must be conserved, so what happens to the momentum of that “heavy electron?” These are questions I have that I will keep in mind as I look at explanations. In most of the explanations, such as those on New Energy Times, statements are made that avoid giving quantities, they are statements that can seem plausible, if we neglect the problems of magnitude or rate. It is with magnitude and rate that conflicts arise with “standard physics” and cold fusion. After all, even d-d fusion is not “impossible,” but is rate-limited. That is, there is an ordinary fusion rate at room temperature, but it’s very, very . . . very low — unless there are collective effects and it was the aim of Pons and Fleischmann, beginning their research, to see the effect of the condensed matter state on the Born–Oppenheimer approximation. (There are possible collective effects that do not violate the laws of thermodynamics.)
3. Capture of ULM Neutrons
That ULM neutron is captured by a nearby nucleus, producing, through a chain of nuclear reactions, either a new, stable isotope or an isotope unstable to beta decay.
A free neutron outside of an atomic nucleus is unstable to beta decay; it has a half-life of approximately 13 minutes and decays into a proton, an electron and a neutrino.
If slow neutrons are created, expecially “ultra-slow,” they will be indeed captured, neutrons are absorbed freely by nuclei, some more easily than others. If the momentum is too high, they bounce. With very slow neutrons (“ultra low momentum”) the capture cross-section becomes very high for many elements, and many such reactions will occur (essentially, in a condensed matter environment, all the neutrons generated will be absorbed. The general result is an isotope with the same atomic number as the target (same number of protons, thus the same positive charge on the nucleus), but one atomic mass unit heavier, because of the neutron. While some of these will be stable, many will not, and they would be expected to decay, with a characteristic half-lives.
Neutron capture on protons would be expected to generate a characteristic prompt gamma photon at 2.223 MeV. Otherwise the deuterium formed is stable. That such photons are not detected is explained by an ad hoc side-theory, that the heavy electron patches are highly absorbent of the photons. Other elements may produce delayed radiation, in particular gammas and electrons.
How these delayed emissions are absorbed, I have never seen W-L theorists explain.
From the Wikipedia article on Neutron activation analysis:
[An excited state is generated by the absorption of a neutron.] This excited state is unfavourable and the compound nucleus will almost instantaneously de-excite (transmutate) into a more stable configuration through the emission of a prompt particle and one or more characteristic prompt gamma photons. In most cases, this more stable configuration yields a radioactive nucleus. The newly formed radioactive nucleus now decays by the emission of both particles and one or more characteristic delayed gamma photons. This decay process is at a much slower rate than the initial de-excitation and is dependent on the unique half-life of the radioactive nucleus. These unique half-lives are dependent upon the particular radioactive species and can range from fractions of a second to several years. Once irradiated, the sample is left for a specific decay period, then placed into a detector, which will measure the nuclear decay according to either the emitted particles, or more commonly, the emitted gamma rays.
So, there will be a characteristic prompt gamma, and then delayed gammas and other particles, such as the electrons (beta particles) mentioned. Notice that if a proton is converted to a neutron by an electron, and then the neutron is absorbed by an element with atomic number of X, and mass M, the result is an increase M of one, and it stays at this mass (approximately) with the emission of the prompt gamma. Then if it beta-decays, the mass stays the same, but the neutron becomes a proton and so the atomic number becomes X + 1. The effect is fusion, as if the reaction were the fusion of X with a proton. So making neutrons is one way to cause elements to fuse, this could be called “electron catalysis.”
Yet it’s very important to Krivit to claim that this is not “fusion.” After all, isn’t fusion impossible at low temperatures? Not with an appropriate catalyst! (Muons are the best known and accepted possibility.)
4. Beta Decay Creation of New Elements and Isotopes
When an unstable nucleus beta-decays, a neutron inside the nucleus decays into a proton, an energetic electron and a neutrino. The energetic electron released in a beta decay exits the nucleus and is detected as a beta particle. Because the number of protons in that nucleus has gone up by one, the atomic number has increased, creating a different element and transmutation product.
That’s correct as to the effect of neutron activation. Sometimes neutrons are considered to be element zero, mass one. So neutron activation is fusion with the element of mass zero. If there is electron capture with deuterium, this would form a di-neutron, which, if ultracold, might survive long enough for direct capture. If the capture is followed by a beta decay, then the result has been deuterium fusion.
In the graphic above, step 2 is listed twice: 2a depicts a normal hydrogen reaction, 2b depicts the same reaction with heavy hydrogen. All steps except the third are weak-interaction processes. Step 3, neutron capture, is a strong interaction but not a nuclear fusion process. (See “Neutron Capture Is Not the New Cold Fusion” in this special report.)
Very important to him, since, with the appearance of W-L theory, Krivit more or less made it his career, trashing all the other theorists and many of the researchers in the field, because of their “fusion theory,” often making “fusion” equivalent to “d-d fusion,” which is probably impossible. But fusion is a much more general term. It basically means the formation of heavier elements from lighter ones, and any process which does this is legitimately a “fusion process,” even if it may also have other names.
Given that the fundamental basis for the Widom-Larsen theory is weak-interaction neutron creation and subsequent neutron-catalyzed nuclear reactions, rather than the fusing of deuterons, the Coulomb barrier problem that exists with fusion is irrelevant in this four-step process.
Now, what is the evidence for weak-interaction neutron creation? What reactions would be predicted and what evidence would be seen, quantitatively? Yes, electron catalysis, which is what this amounts to, is one of a number of ways around the Coulomb barrier. This one involves the electron being captured into an intermediate product. Most electron capture theories have a quite different problem, than the Coulomb barrier problem, that other products would be expected that are not observed, and W-L theory is not an exception.
The most unusual and by far the most significant part of the Widom-Larsen process is step 1, the creation of the heavy electrons. Whereas many researchers in the past two decades have speculated on a generalized concept of an inverse beta decay that would produce either a real or virtual neutron, Widom and Larsen propose a specific mechanism that leads to the production of real ultra-low-momentum neutrons.
It is not the creation of heavy electrons, per se, that is “unusual,” it is that they must have an energy of 781 KeV. Notice that 100 KeV is quite enough to overcome the Coulomb barrier. (I forget the actual height of the barrier, but fusion occurs by tunnelling at much lower approach velocities). This avoidance of mentioning the quantity is typical for explanations of W-L theory.
ULM neutrons would produce very observable effects, and that’s hand-waved away.
The theory also proposes that lethal photon radiation (gamma radiation), normally associated with strong interactions, is internally converted into more-benign infrared (heat) radiation by electromagnetic interactions with heavy electrons. Again, for two decades, researchers have seen little or no gamma emissions from LENR experiments.
As critique of the theory mounted, as people started noticing the obvious, the explanation got even more devious. The claim is that the “heavy electron patches” absorb the gammas, and Lattice Energy (Larsen’s company) has patented this as a “gamma shield,” but then when the easy testability of such a shield, if it could really absorb all those gammas, was mentioned (originally by Richard Garwin), Larsen first claimed that experimental evidence was “proprietary,” and then, later pointed out that they could not be detected because the patches were transient, pointing to the flashing spots in a SPAWAR IR video, which was totally bogus. (Consider imaging gammas, which was the proposal, moving parallel to the surface, close to it. Unless the patches are in wells, below the surface, they would be captured by a patch anywhere along the surface. No, more likely: Larsen was blowing smoke, avoiding a difficult question asked by Garwin. That’s certainly what Garwin thought. Once upon a time, Krivit reported that incident straight (because he was involved in the conversation. Later he reframed it, extracting a comment from Garwin, out of context, to make it look like Garwin approved of W-L theory.
Richard Garwin (Physicist, designer of the first hydrogen bomb) – 2007: “…I didn’t say it was wrong”
The linked page shows the actual conversation. This was far, far from an approval. The “I didn’t say” was literal, and Garwin points out that reading complex papers with understanding is difficult. In the collection of comments, there are many that are based on a quick review, not a detailed critique.
Perhaps the prompt gammas would be absorbed, though I find the idea of a 2 MeV photon being absorbed by a piddly patch, like a truck being stopped by running into a motorcycle, rather weird, and I’d think some would escape around the edges or down into and through the material. But what about the delayed gammas? The patches would be gone if they flash in and out of existence.
However, IANAP. I Am Not A Physicist. I just know a few. When physics gets deep, I am more or less in “If You Say So” territory. What do physicists say? That’s a lot more to the point here than what I say or what Steve Krivit says, or, for that matter, what Lewis Larson says. Widom is the physicist, Larson is the entrepreneur and money guy, if I’m correct. His all-but-degree was in biophysics.