Physicists at Tel Aviv University and University of Chicago have discovered that quark fusion could be an even more energy-packed reaction than nuclear fusion. Although the scientists were originally concerned about quark fusion’s potential destructive power and had considered keeping the discovery secret, they came to learn that the process, still theoretical, would most likely be safe for civilian use. The newly identified kind of reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, could be the answer to endless clean energy someday.
A fusion reaction, whether nuclear or quark, occurs when two or more atomic nuclei are close enough to each other to form at least one different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. In fusing, the involved reactants and products release an enormous amount of energy, which could theoretically be harvested as nearly-infinite clean energy, the holy grail of renewable technology. A quark reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, involves the fusion of bottom quarks, subsequently resulting in a larger subatomic particle, a spare particle known as a nucleon, and an enormous output of energy. It’s reaction is so potent that it is potentially more powerful than the reaction at the center of an exploding hydrogen bomb.
“I must admit that when I first realized that such a reaction was possible, I was scared,” said Marek Karliner, quark fusion co-researcher at Tel Aviv University, “but, luckily, it is a one-trick pony.” Nuclear explosions in hydrogen bombs gain their destructive power from chain reactions. Quark fusion, it seems, could not possibly be dangerous because bottom quarks disappear only a picosecond (1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second) after they form. There simply is not enough time for these subatomic particles to form a chain reaction. “If I thought for a microsecond that this had any military applications, I would not have published it,” Karliner said, according to Live Science. Although quark fusion remains in the theoretical stage, the researchers state that it could be achieved at the Large Haldron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider located in Switzerland and France.