Pyroelectric Fusion

Michelle Okoniewski, Adam Daskalakis, Yaron Danon

Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Applied

Pyroelectric fusion is D-D fusion at room temperature facilitated by the use of pyroelectric crystals and deuterium gas. This process is accomplished through a two crystal set up, using Lithium Tantalate (LiTaO3) crystals. During pyroelectric fusion, these crystals are heated or cooled in a vacuum environment. This temperature change results in a change in polarization which causes an electric field to be generated due to charge accumulation on the z-face of the crystals. This field will generate an acceleration potential as high as 200 keV, which causes the ionization of the deuterium gas inside the chamber. These deuterium ions are accelerated towards a deuterated target placed on a one of the crystals where they undergo a D-D fusion reaction which creates neutrons. The target crystal has a layer of deuterated polyethylene providing the deuterium in the target for the fusion. The other crystal is the tip crystal that has a very fine tip attached to the surface which enhances the electric field to help ionize the D2 gas. Through advances made by researchers at RPI, reproducible experiments of approximately 1x104 neutrons per thermal cycle have been documented. Although noteworthy, these advances in pyroelectric fusion still have not reached the full theoretical potential neutron yield. Work is currently being undertaken at RPI to optimize the parameters of the pyroelectric fusion system in order to achieve reproducible results closer to the theoretical maxima. This technology can be used to build compact neutron generators that are useful for variety of applications.