You are here:

Physics/Disintegration of Lithium


Hi Dr. Nelson, with great respect I truly appreciate this dialogue we are having. In Max Born’s Book Atomic Physics p 73 he references and discussed Quantum tunneling but also addresses another mechanism in which he states “… the disintegration effect in lithium is demonstrable down to less than 30,000 eV (Rausch von Traubenberg and Dopel, 1933), in which case the proton is still far outside the nucleus. The explanation of this fact will be given later (p. 311).” On page 311 he goes on to state with the subject being wave mechanics that “the proton wave penetrates the interior of the Li nucleus, and determines a small probability for the presence of a proton inside the nucleus, which become unstable and breaks into two alpha particles. … “But now I understand you to say that this is false. I am I correct in that assessment? Putting that mechanism aside, I understand that combustion has far too little heat to initiate the reaction at hand, but if we artificially accelerated particles on the order of what Cockroft and Walton did (which seems very doable with today’s technology via high voltage electric arcs, pulses, even a proton beam), into the previously described violent and turbulent combustion environment saturated with a lithium vapor, would not there be the tiny potential of a lithium nucleus disintegration?  I mean to say that if Cockroft and Walton did it targeting lithium on plates, why cannot we do it targeting lithium in a turbulent combustion zone? This link you sent me I assume reflecting the math of nuclear reactions seem to be quite fascinating if only I could understand it:
Is there any narrative that might allow a lay person to identify the probability and quantity of the reaction we are talking about? I assume somewhere on the immense piece there is a specific part of it that would reflect this statistical probability. Again I really appreciate this discussion. You are not going to send me a bill for this – are you? :-)

Max Born has been dead for 43 years and that book was first published in 1935!  As much as I respect his contributions to the field, you REALLY need to stop referencing work that hasn't been done in the last 75 years as primary sources.  

The "effect" is demonstrable down to 30 keV because of quantum tunneling.  That's what "the proton wave penetrating the interior of the Li nucleus" actually means, THAT is quantum's what I've been trying to tell you all along.  Add it up, two alpha particles means 4 protons and 4 neutrons.  7Li has 3 protons and 4 neutrons.  That means that the part of the wavefunction which penetrated experienced the strong nuclear force and was joined onto part of the residual nucleus...leaving two alpha particles.  Otherwise, you'd have a tritium and an alpha.  I'm saying you've misinterpreted the phenomenon to mean that no fusion happened via quantum tunneling, whereas they're saying that's *exactly* what happened.  

As far as achieving this, I already explained why accelerator beams won't make you enough energy back to make beam-induced fusion happen.  That's just a given.  You need a furnace of high-energy plasma, where the particles can exchange energy in a confined space.  The lithium nucleus does not just "disintegrate."  It absorbs the proton and then splits (disintegrates) into two alpha particles.

The link I sent you was just to show you the energy levels of the reactions involved.  No math aside from addition and subtraction.  I am done with this discussion, however, if you need further information then you need a full college course on nuclear physics.  This is a forum for quick answers and not for an undergraduate degree in physics.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

©2017 All rights reserved.