Have you ever held a heavy piece of iron or lead in your hand? How much could you hold – 10 or 20 kg, maybe? Iron is dense enough to be considered “heavy”. But what if I told you scientists are about to create a material denser than the Sun’s core? The material is called “ultra-dense deuterium“, and a cube with 10 cm sides made of it would weigh no less than one hundred and thirty (130) tons.
Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen, and it is also called “heavy hydrogen“, being present in normal water, at a concentration of more than 1/10,000 hydrogen atoms. It is denoted “2H”, or “D”.
So far, only microscopic amounts of ultra-dense deuterium have been produced, but measurements show that the distance between its atoms is much smaller than in the most heavy of the matter. Ultra-dense deuterium is thought to be present in giant planets, such as Jupiter.
The interesting fact for us is that ultra-dense deuterium can be a source of energy through laser-driven nuclear fusion. Using high power lasers, it’s possible to achieve fusion between deuterium nuclei, and release huge amounts of energy.
Past experiments on frozen deuterium, or “deuterium ice” show that lasers can produce nuclear fusion, but the results have been rather poor until now. Ultra-dense deuterium is a million times more dense than frozen deuterium.
“If we can produce large quantities of ultra-dense deuterium, the fusion process may become the energy source of the future. And it may become available much earlier than we have thought possible”, says Leif Holmlid, Professor in the Department of Chemistry, at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden.
“Further, we believe that we can design the deuterium fusion such that it produces only helium and hydrogen as its products, both of which are completely non-hazardous. It will not be necessary to deal with the highly radioactive tritium that is planned for use in other types of future fusion reactors, and this means that laser-driven nuclear fusion as we envisage it will be both more sustainable and less damaging to the environment than other methods that are being developed.”
It would be interesting to find out how would such a dense material be handled, and how a 10 cm sides, 130 tons cube would be manufactured and transported to its usage location. I guess it would sink into the ground if left sitting on earth. They would need a piramidal construction made of very strong concrete and steel. Well, nobody said anyone would make such a cube, it was rather an example, but this finding could revolutionize the energy industry forever if put into practice. We can’t wait for actual numbers to show up from an eventual nuclear fusion experiment.