Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Lab to Lead ARPA-E Low Energy Nuclear Reactions Project


Thomas Schenkel operates a pulsed plasma setup that is used to study light ion fusion processes at relatively low energies. (Credit Berkeley Lab/Marilyn Sargent)

By Carl A. Williams, April 19, 2023

Researchers from the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics (ATAP) Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are collaborating with colleagues from the College of Engineering at the University of California, Davis, on low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) research.

The project, titled “Quantifying Nuclear Reactions in Metal Hydrides at Low Energies,” is supported by $1.5 million in funding over two and half years from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). It aims to quantify LENR processes at excitation energies below 500 eV while systematically varying materials and conditions to monitor for fusion event rates.

To achieve this, says Thomas Schenkel, a Senior Scientist who heads ATAP’s Fusion Science & Ion Beam Technology Program and is leading the research, “we will use a relatively low-energy ion beam as an external excitation source for LENR on palladium hydride samples loaded with deuterium—a stable isotope of hydrogen that also contains a neutron—and then quantify any LENR events using a suite of diagnostic tools.”

He added that the work will leverage Berkeley Lab’s expertise in particle accelerator physics and ion beams used for higher-energy fusion experiments, as well as UC Davis’ expertise in metal hydrides and optics.

From left to right: Thomas Schenkel, Senior Scientist and Head of ATAP’s Fusion Science & Ion Beam Technology Program (IBT/FES), Qing Ji, Staff Scientist and Program Deputy, and Arun Persaud, Staff Scientist, IBT/FES (Credit: Berkeley Lab/Marilyn Sargent)

Schenkel’s team includes ATAP Staff Scientists Qing Ji and Arun Persaud and UC Davis ’ Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty members Jeremy Munday and William Putnam.

If successful, the work could provide new insights into the fundamental science of nuclear reactions at relatively low energies and potentially lead to new applications in energy research.


Written by Carl A. Williams or other authors as credited.

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