Researchers at Purdue University have new evidence supporting earlier findings by other scientists who designed an inexpensive “tabletop” device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions.

The technology, in theory, could lead to a new source of clean energy and a host of portable detectors and other applications.

The new findings were detailed in a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the May issue of the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design. The paper was written by Yiban Xu, a post-doctoral research associate in the School of Nuclear Engineering, and Adam Butt, a graduate research assistant in both nuclear engineering and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

A key component of the experiment was a glass test chamber about the size of two coffee mugs filled with a liquid called deuterated acetone, which contains a form of hydrogen known as deuterium, or heavy hydrogen. The researchers exposed the test chamber to subatomic particles called neutrons and then bombarded the liquid with a specific frequency of ultrasound, which caused cavities to form into tiny bubbles. The bubbles then expanded to a much larger size before imploding, apparently with enough force to cause thermonuclear fusion reactions.

Fusion reactions emit neutrons that fall within a specific energy range of 2.5 mega-electron volts, which was the level of energy seen in neutrons produced in the experiment. The experiments also yielded a radioactive material called tritium, which is another product of fusion, Xu and Butt said.

The Purdue research began two years ago, and the findings represent the first confirmation of findings reported earlier by Rusi Taleyarkhan. Now at Purdue, Taleyarkhan, the Arden L. Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering, discovered the fusion phenomenon while he was a scientist working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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