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Electron influence on nuclear fusion in stars.

  1. Dec 6, 2012 #1

    Edi

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    My latest thoughts about the life, universe and everything has brought me to this scenario: [in a stars core, but a perfect thought situation, for the sake of illustration] there is a proton, electron and proton on one line in this particular sequence.
    I think, that the electron, witch has the same strength, but opposite charge as proton (I believe. If not, then we can use different proportions of particles in this scenario) should effectively cancel out the repulsive forces between the two protons and allow them to come within the range of each others week nuclear force..
    A star is a very hot plasma, full with semi-free-floating electrons and protons, so this scenario should happen every once and then.
    If my reasoning is correct, then there are two questions from me:
    1. Is this effect taken in to calculations of nuclear fusion and processed in a star?
    2. Could this effect be what we think is quantum tunneling? The reason why stars can shine with and temperature that would not otherwise allow nuclear fusion to occur.
    If my reasoning is wrong, then.... then there is a void inside me, witch needs to be filled and enlightened.
     
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  3. Dec 6, 2012 #2

    K^2

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    Electron is too light to have any dramatic effect on fusion rates. If you happen to have a muon, on the other hand, it can speed things up quite a bit. Muon-catalyzed fusion is possible at near-room temperatures, and has been tested experimentally.
     
  4. Dec 6, 2012 #3

    Edi

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    Hmm, in muon catalyzed fusion they actually create exotic atoms, where the electron is replaced by a muon. But that is, as you say yourself, at near room temperatures. I am talking, on the other hand, about pushing a electron in between the protons at very high energies (A stars core!). The electron would not need to bond to a proton... or cant it get closer to a proton without bonding? Whou, this is new stuff to think about!
    Logically, higher energy electron would take a higher energy level aka "orbit" and thus it would not be able to get close enough.. closer than usual. Hmm, this brings up more questions.
    Fascinating.
     
  5. Dec 6, 2012 #4

    K^2

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    Temperature doesn't matter, really. I mean it does to fusion rates, obviously, but not to the effect leptons have on it. To get the two protons to fuse, you need to get them to within a few fm of each other. I don't recall exact number, but you can probably find it easily enough. For an electron to be located between the two, it needs to be localized to within a few fm. Because electron's mass is so small, the energy required to localize it so well would be enormous. Far greater than thermal energies even in the stellar core.

    Muon, on the other hand, is 200 times heavier. That means it will localize well enough at sufficiently lower energies. That significantly improves the odds of a muon being "between" two protons long enough to bring them close together. If it works via forming exotic atoms at room temperature, I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't work even better in plasma.
     
  6. Dec 6, 2012 #5

    mfb

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    Proton+electron+proton can lead to the pep reaction - it is rare, as three particles have to be at the same place at the same time.
     
  7. Dec 8, 2012 #6
    I'm a little confused, does that process violate lepton number? or is a free electron just left out of the right hand of the equation?
     
  8. Dec 8, 2012 #7

    mfb

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    Electron -> electronneutrino
    Lepton number is conserved.
     
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