The inception of this study lies in mankind's need for energy in order to drive commerce, industry and development. Although several sources have been exploited in the production of energy, it is the personal opinion of the author that the most novel of these is atomic energy. It is known that humanity has become quite proficient in using nuclear fission, as is evidenced in the world's nuclear fleet; however the use of fusion for controlled energy production has not yet developed sufficiently for commercial use. It is, however, a popular anecdote that the production of energy from nuclear fusion is only forty years away and always will be. During the literature survey, several forms of fusion producing processes are considered ranging from stellar bodies and magnetic confinement based reactors to percussive wave driven fusion as is used in fission-fusion warheads. This study focusses on the prospect of fusion at room temperature. The aim of this study is to further investigate a specific fusion process in order to determine if this may become a viable source for the production of energy. In the literature survey it is determined that the atoms in certain molecules such as Li-6 H-2 and H2O can spontaneously overcome the Coulomb barrier and fuse to form new elements; releasing energy in the process. The mechanism for these two atoms are perceived to be similar, and the Li-6 H-2 reaction was selected based on the ease of observability, of the two α-particles that would form , should a fusion reaction take place. Furthermore, it is theorised in the literature survey that the reaction rate of the Li-6 with H-2 can be increased by exciting the molecules with X-ray radiation. In this study, an experiment is devised and conducted in order to determine if the reaction rate can indeed be accelerated as proposed. The results are compared to studies where the molecules were not excited in this manner as a baseline, and an additional determination lies in the practicality of energy production for commercial use in this manner. In the experiment, an X-ray source is used to bombard several samples of L-6 H-2 with wide spectrum Bremsstrahlung for several hours. Mathematical approximations, as well as simulations, are used in order to determine the energy deposition of the X-rays into the samples. This is done in order to determine if the process has viability as an energy production source, and in an attempt to determine if there is a specific wavelength that the process is partial to. In order to record possible fusion reactions; the samples are layered with several plastic detectors. These detectors are chemically etched and studied using microscopy, the appendix deals with experiments aimed at calibrating the process used to study these detectors. It is successfully shown that the reaction rate is increased by introducing X-rays to the Li-6 H-2 powder, however, the magnitude is far lower than was hoped for. Additionally, due to the low number of fusion reactions that took place, enough data is not available to determine an electromagnetic wavelength that is of particular interest. Finally, it is thus shown that the configuration used in this study is not a viable assembly for the production of power.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2017.