Discovered: A (Theoretical) Fusion Technique 8 Times Stronger Than One In H-Bomb

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 3, 2017 2:11 pm
CERN, which houses the Large Hadron Collider.(Credit: Dominionart/Shutterstock)

CERN, which houses the Large Hadron Collider. (Credit: Dominionart/Shutterstock)

When hydrogen atoms fuse together, they release a vast amount of energy. That’s the principle that makes hydrogen bombs so frighteningly powerful, and it’s part of what powers our sun as well. Now, researchers from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) say they’ve uncovered a kind of theoretical particle fusion that’s almost eight times more energetic than the fusion of two hydrogen atoms.

The discovery, reported in Nature this week, came during the course of an experiment aimed at making a doubly charmed baryon. That’s some heady physics-speak, but baryons are just a class of sub-atomic particle — both protons and neutrons are baryons — and the “charmed” moniker simply refers to the kind of quarks — the tiny particles that comprise larger ones like protons and neutrons — it’s made out of. So, a doubly-charmed baryon is a particle made from two charm quarks and one up quark. Got it?

Zoom, Crash

Researchers are continuously running experiments with the LHC to see what kinds of particles they can create by smashing atoms into one another. When the atoms go fast enough, they’re broken apart by the collision, and sometimes the energy involved is enough to force particles together into new configurations. These new particles let the researchers test assumptions about their grand theory of physics, called the “Standard Model,” which describes how every particle in the universe interacts with each other.

When observing their new, doubly-charmed baryon, researchers from the University of Chicago and Tel Aviv University found that it took a lot of energy to force the two charm quarks together, about 130 megaelectronvolts (MeV). There’s a payoff for that effort though, because the process of fusion ends up producing even more energy, for a net release of 12 MeV for the two charm quarks. That’s only about two-thirds of what we get from normal hydrogen fusion, but when the researchers extrapolated that reaction to another kind of quark, the much heavier bottom quark, those numbers went way up.

Theoretically, fusing two bottom quarks takes about 230 MeV, but the net energy payoff is exponentially larger, around 138 MeV. That’s almost eight times as much as hydrogen fusion, making the explosive result that much bigger.

That’s a Lot!

The largest hydrogen fusion bomb ever tested was the Russian Tsar Bomba, which gave off about 50 megatons (or 50 million tons) of TNT worth of energy. The Nagasaki-leveling “Fat Man” nuclear bomb only produced around 20 kilotons of energy, or 2,500 times less. Multiplying those numbers by eight is an insanely scary exercise.

Here’s where we tell you not to worry though. First of all, this kind of bottom quark fusion is totally theoretical, it’s never been seen before. And, most importantly, we couldn’t make a bomb out of bottom quarks. That’s because they only exist for roughly one picosecond, or one-trillionth of a second. That’s barely enough time to record their existence, much less do anything with them. Hydrogen bombs are based on a principle of chain reactions, where one pair of fusing hydrogen atoms sets off the next, and so on. Bottom quarks could never do this because they don’t exist for long enough to set each other off.

“If I thought for a microsecond that this had any military applications, I would not have published it,” says co-author Marek Karliner of Tel Aviv University in Israel, speaking to Live Science.

The fusion of a single pair of bottom quarks might be possible, the researchers say, but that’s it. After that, they disappear, decaying into far lighter quarks that are nowhere near as dangerous.

So, planet-ending bottom quark bombs are nothing to worry about. The threat of thermonuclear war on the other hand…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: physics
  • stan t

    This article is the dumbest thing that can be. Thermonuclear bombs produce big scary yeilds because their fuel is on abundant supply and can easily be pushed past the state where fusion occurs. That will NEVER happen with this ‘alternate fuel’. If you are going to even suggest the possibility you might as well just use antimatter. You get two THOUSAND MeV per joining of two particles (assuming proton or neutron and their antimatter pairs) and there is no energetic hump to cross, no heating needed. It’s far more practical to accumulate strategically significant amounts of antimatter than it is to collect exotic matter such as what is described here…

    • Uncle Al

      Half the energy yield of matter-antimatter annihilation is in neutrinos. The Enterprise got half the OEM-claimed parsecs/gram. Government – the worst most expensive way to need more studies.

      • StanChaz

        Glad you want to live in a state of anarchy.
        Count the rest of us same mortals out.

  • Sorano

    Don’t tell the Pentagon but a recent paper has proposed that a new force several times stronger than hydrogen fusion is being seen in supernovae Ia

  • Uncle Al

    That’s the principle that makes hydrogen bombs so frighteningly powerful” Mass of literal two hydrogens, 2.016 amu. Mass of U-235 plus a neutron, 236.046 amu. Given the same mass of each at 100% conversion and equal energy yield, fusion is already ahead by a factor of 117 (deuterium, factor of 58.6). Fusion warheads infinitely scale (the sun), including their fission jackets. The 50+ MT Tsar Bomba would have been 100+ MT if the Soviets had not cared about jacket fission fallout and onsite personnel goodwill.

    1) How do you plan to pulse synthesize a few moles of bottom quarks?
    2( How do you plan to take them somewhere?
    3) Pulse dump muons into lithium-6 deuteride (precompressed for being solid!), DOI:10.1134/S106377961102002X

    The threat of thermonuclear war Desert Storm and burning oil wells – no nuclear winter. Shortage of grief counselors? Youtube v=4QbUSjnhv6M

    • More Human Than Human

      Dude why are you so jaded?

      • Uncle Al

        Social Intent is the triumph of ideas over facts. You may believe anything you like – on your own dime. If it’s my dime, it must real world work to spec.

        You have the Pope, I have a .357 magnum revolver loaded with six 125 grain hollow point semijacked rounds, hammer cocked. 1950 years’ majesty of God’s direct representative on Earth is challenged by eight grams of ballistic lead. I win.

        • Juan Pedro Mariano

          How did that come to this. This is just jaw-droppingly insane. “Threat of burning oil wells-no nuclear winter”: Well first of all burning oil wells in the gulf war were not exploded nuclear bombs and the soot wasn’t high nor massive enough to cause an appreciable gloval cooling though it did cause temperatures in the region to drop by a few degrees. You don’t call nuclear winter “nuclear winter” if it isn’t caused by a nuclear bomb.
          “Social intent is the triumph of ideas over facts” is just a meaningless statement posing as an intellectual one. Come on, facts are ideas with truth value and social intent is what society intends to do, nothing more. The second paragraph is pure delusion, what do you even want to express? Are you on drugs?

          • Uncle Al

            If it isn’t empirical then it isn’t anything. Name one direct representative of God who is distinguishable from any other person. When you value crap, you join it.

          • StanChaz

            You give atheists a bad name.
            Maybe humans as well….

          • StanChaz

            Bro, don’t try to argue with his delusions.
            He’s just a troll sorely seeking attention…

      • StanChaz

        He’s worse than jaded.
        Let him rant & babble on with his conceit & jargon.
        Otherwise he might be dangerous with all those pent-up snarks exploding!
        Glad he’s not MY uncle!

    • Null66

      So you conviently dismissed the failed crops and cooler weather almost half way around the globe! Very odd thing to do.

      • Uncle Al

        Global Warming causes immolation and drought manifested as freezing temperatures and flooding. That is the AlGoreithm. How dare you not believe the manbearpig! 50% man, 50% bear, 50% pig.

        • Null66

          We’re so sorry Uncle Albert.

          But you make no sense.

          You confuse SouthPark’s satire. They were bumming on the morons that believe they can think with the best of them, yet have room temp iq.

          • StanChaz

            Well said.
            The complexity of global weather interactions is not nasty uncle’s forte.
            And it’s all too obviously that Uncle Al is composed of 25% conceit,
            25% ignorance, 25% bullcrap and 25% troll.
            And I see he got his degree in Name-Calling at Trump University.
            He’s best ignored…

  • Lord

    Curious if any of these happen within nuclear explosions, albeit low quantities.

    • More Human Than Human


  • CaptainAmerica

    Forget nukes! We’ve got Quarkz! (Trademark pending) =P

  • Richard Tan

    thats why they got the funding! The potential to blow an entire continent with just 1 bomb, which country does not want?
    Once upon a time, they also say nuclear fission was theoretical… lol

    • Juan Pedro Mariano

      Come on, this is different. You can use the laws of physics but you can’t go violating it at your will. Our ancestors may not have imagined us going to the moon and inventing the internet but no matter what you do, you can’t go lower than zero kelvin or go back in time. As the article mentioned, these quark configurations are too unstable to be of any practical significance at all.

      • bob delehant

        You can effect waters freezing temp by adding salt. You can effect waters boiming temp. by altitude. Just because we haven’t figured it out yet, doesn’t mean it is not possible.

        • Uncle Al

          Pore water freezes at -40 °C. Squeeze together two aligned microscope slides new from their package under degassed distilled water. So?

          Thermodynamics proposes, kinetics disposes. Try breaking Noetherian symmetry-conserved current couples or conjugate variables’ Heisenberg uncertainty. Those are robust versus diddling colligative properties or a definition.

      • nik

        The speed of light is a constant; but it isn’t!
        It can be slowed to a stop, and has been.
        Given time, even the ”impossible” can be achieved.
        So, some time in another future, not ours, anything could be possible, including preserving these ”bottoms” for posterity, or any other reason.

        • Michael Cleveland

          The speed of light is constant in any given medium. Basic physics, and that has not changed. “Stopping” light is a play on words, a semantic trick. In the experiment, the energy, the information contained in the light wave was transferred to atoms in a crystal, then recovered through re-emission. Light was no more “slowed to a stop” than it is in any other photon absorption-emission interaction.

          • nik


  • KlingOn2K

    Let’s all pool in a trillion dollars and build a 1-gigaton Baryon bomb !!
    Complete with worldwide live telecast.

  • Cory Smith

    Could this be applied for space travel?

  • Don Haywood

    It’s easy. We just need enough Dilithium Crystal.

    • Lycanphoenix

      Dilithium didn’t exist in the first few episodes of Star Trek, just Lithium.


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