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Q & A: catalysts for fusion

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Most recent answer: 01/30/2013
Q:
Is it theoretically possible for there to exist some sort of "catalyst" for nuclear fusion (or fission, for that matter) which would allow these reactions to happen at a lower temperature and/or pressure? On an unrelated note, why are positive index of refraction materials so much more common than negative index of refraction ones?
- Zachary (age 21)
Lafayette, IN
A:
These definitely are two unrelated questions!

Yes, in principle there could be a fusion catalyst. What would be needed is a heavy negative particle. Say there were such a particle heavier than a deuteron. Then it would form a neutral atom with deuteron in which the deuteron would be the light guy, mostly on the outside of this atom like an electron is mostly on the outside of hydrogen. Get two of these together and there' no electrical force to overcome to get the deuterons in contact, allowing fusion. Unfortunately, no such heavy negative particle is known. Muons can help, since they're heavier than electrons, but they aren't stable and have to be replaced continuously. Thus muon catalyzed fusion is a net energy user.

How about resubmitting the other question separately, since they're unrelated. Also that will give us time to think about it.

Mike W.

(published on 01/30/2013)

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