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Acoustically Induced Cavitation Fusion

Lawrence A. Crum

Applied Physics bboratoq, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th Street, Seattle, WA 98105, USA

Abstract: In 1982, Hugh F1ynn was issued a patent (No. 4,333,796) for a “Method of generating energy by acoustically induced cavitation fusion and reactor therefor.” Although it was largely ignored at the time, there have been several rceent papers that treat the subjeet of acoustically induced fusion as quite plausible. Such prescience in the area of cavitation research was typical of Hugh’s work. This patent shows an enormous grasp of detail, suggesting that Hugh must have given a great deal of thought and energy to its composition. The author will review some of the interesting aspects of this patent as well as describe some of the most recent activity on this topic.


The patent issued to Hugh was first filed on May 19, 1978 and was not granted until June 8, 1982, a ratier long period and probably indicated that obtaining a patent on cavitation induced fusion was not an easy thing to accomplish. The level of detail provided in this patent is quite unusual--it is 30 columns in length--and provides information that would seem more appropriate to a research paper. The author would like to deseribe some of the remarkable ingenuity that is in this patent and how Hugh’s views of 20 years ago are applicable today.


Hugh envisioned two types of reactors, called Cavitation Fusion Reactor (CFR), Types I and Type II. In Type 1, the fusion was principally generated within the fluid medium itself--an interesting concept in itself, Since he wanti to get as intense cavitation as possible, he decided that if he used molten metals at the host liquid, he could get very high temperatures and pressures within the cavitation bubble. For his Type I reactor, he favod lithium, or a lithiumfieryllium mixture at a temperature of about 1000 K. At this temperature, lithium has just the right combination of physical parameters (viscosity, vapor pressure, surface tension, density, etc.) to be an idd fluid in which to produce intense cavitation. An even more important property of lithium that makes its choice of a host fluid ideal is that it is an excellent moderator of fast neutrons, and has a high cross-section for neutron capture. The

following nuclear reactions occur when a mixture of deuterium and tritium is used as the gas contained within the bubble: ,H’ + ,H~ = ,H~ + ,H1 + 4.03 MeV; ,H2 + ,Hs = ~H4+ “n] + 17.6 MeV; “n’ + ~L6= ,H7 + ,H4 + 4.8 MeV. Thus, one can start with plentiful and inexpensive deuterium, generate fusion and heat, and also ‘%rd’ additional tritium. Note that there is no radioactivity from this reactor, beeause the fast neutrons are rapidly thermalizd and captured by the lithium, releasing more energy and creating additional tritium.

Of course, the most important requirement is to get the fusion in the first place. Again, the choice of lithium helps. Because there are few extraneous cavitation nuclei that can be stabilized in molten lithium, only those “~’ nuclei introduced into the system will be cavitated. Thus, very large acoustic pressure amplitudes can be achieved. An important part of Hugh’s contribution to cavitation researeh was his development of numerical solutions to the Rayleigh-Plesset equation (1). When he first published this analysis, his calculations were the most accurate to date, and are still useful in certain regions of cavitation parameter space. Hugh calculated that if he started with a cavitation nucleus at an initial radius of 0.2 pm (filled with a mixture of deuterium and tritium), then an acoustic field with a negative pressure of 100 bars and a frequency of 2.0 kHz would expand this nucleus to a maximum sim of 2680 ~m; the subsequent positive pressure of 100 bars would cause this bubble to implode to a minimum size of 0.012 pm, for an expansion ratio in radius of 2.2 x 105, and in volume of 1.1 x 101s! With these expansion ratios, and assuming simple adiabatic compression, the final temperature and pressure in the bubble would be 4.22 x 10’ K

and 1.67 x 10]2 bars, respectively.

These temperatures and pressures are large enough in themselves to produce fusion within the collapsed bubble, but

in Hugh’s Type I CFR, fusion occurs principally in the host liquid. As the bubble implodes, there is a shmk wave created in the liquid due its rapid acceleration by the rebounding bubble. Hugh calculated that the temperature in a small shell of liquid surrounding the bubble would be 2.64 x 107 K (only slightly lower than that in the bubble) and the density of the liquid in this shell would be 1.69 x 10s gm/cm3 (a remarkably high number--Hugh doesn’t say


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