Thinking about small-scale fusion and came up with a couple questions, for which I do not know where to look for answers.

  1. Send a stream of accelerated protons into a pool of water, what is the rate of fusion?
  2. If the pool of water is at the center of an electrolysis setup, do the injected ions change the rate of electrolysis?

I suspect these may be questions that no one has studied, empirically.

I understand that the rate of proton-proton fusion in a plasma is extremely low. The plasmas humans create are very near to a vacuum. The electrostatic forces between two protons are huge compared to their mass. Easy to understand why fusion in a plasma is quite unlikely.

If a stream of protons is fired at a pool of water, the density of hydrogen atoms is much higher, and there are no net electrostatic forces until the protons are very close. Seems the rate of fusion should be many orders of magnitude higher … but has anyone measured?

The apparatus I have in mind is an evacuated chamber with a needle at a very high positive voltage above a grounded pool of cold water. The pressure in the chamber would be only water vapor. High voltage should be enough to ionize hydrogen from the vapor, and send an accelerated stream of protons into the pool of water. Given a high enough voltage, some of those protons will fuse with the protons in bound hydrogen atoms.

My Physics classes were a very long time ago. (I have a B.S. in Physics.)

What is the mean-free path of ions in water vapor? What voltage is needed to accelerate protons to energies where fusion is possible? What is the optimal combination of voltage and distance to get the most high-energy ions injected into water?

The second of the questions at the top is about capturing energy. Electrolysis is endothermic at low voltages. If a trickle of high-energy ions is injected into the center of an electrolysis setup, I suspect the energy from the ions might be captured, and the rate of electrolysis increased. Energy released from extremely low rates of fusion (compared to the bulk of the water) might be captured in a similar manner. If this works, we might have a very efficient way to capture energy released by fusion.

My impression is that most of the attention in research on electrolysis is centered on higher temperatures, pressures, and voltages. I would not surprised if there was no more than a single researcher exploring this domain … or no one.

In similar fashion, empirical studies of fusion seem to almost entirely focus on hot plasmas. There may be no more than a single researcher exploring fusion rates with non-plasmas … or no one.

The above questions bug me. If the ratios work out, we could build relatively simple / practical small-scale fusion power generators. If any of the ratios implicit in the above are sufficiently unfavorable, then the notion will not work. I could build an experiment, but … given my lack of relevant knowledge, a negative result would not prove anything. I do not have enough money to do the experiment well, or to make many attempts. On the other hand, if the core notions in the above work … it would be rather a big deal.

Is it possible to build a workable small scale thermonuclear power generator, using entirely conventional Physics?