Mystery of material science: a freshly made crystal of lithium niobate has an electric field of 15 MegaVolts/cm!
What are the limits that quantum physics imposes on the electromagnet fields that spontaneously originate in crystals?
Shown at the left is a phosphor screen that glows blue when struck by high energy ions. The device used to produce high energy ions relies on a pyroelectric crystal of lithium tantalate, which produces a strong electric field when heated to room temperature from freezing. This field is focused until it is powerful enough to accelerate a beam of deuterium ions (proton-neutron pairs) to about 1% of the speed of light. The next generation of ferroelectric crystals will make mm sized, switchable neutron/x-ray sources available. Will such devices find medical uses?
Crystallic fusion was mentioned in ‘Toy Story.’
Apparatus to generate and detect nuclear fusion
A crystal that is only 10 cc in volume can be used to produce nuclear fusion on command. Lithium tantalate is a pyroelectric crystal which produces more than 100,000 Volts when heated to warm room temperature from freezing! This field is focused by a tungsten tip mounted on the crystal so that it dissociates, ionizes, and then accelerates a beam of deuterium ions (proton-neutron pairs) to about 1% of the speed of light. When 2 deuterium nuclei collide at this speed, they can generate nuclear fusion and release a neutron with an energy that is about ten times greater than the kinetic energy of the colliding particles.
When a lithium niobate crystal is heated by 10’s of degrees it accelerates electrons to energies in excess of 40 keV. The fast electrons strike a zinc sulfide target which turns their kinetic energy into scintillations to make the patterns that you see in the movie. Movie taken by William Wright, and J.D. Brownridge was a big help to us.