Special Relativity


The theory of special relativity, which describes how bodies behave at high velocities, was an outgrowth of Maxwell’s electrodynamics. The basic equations of special relativity were derived by Lorentz, but reinterpreted by Einstein on the basis of his hypothesis that the speed of light, which is basic to Maxwell’s equations, must be the same for any observer.

In our research on Focus Fusion, the theory of relativity is important in two ways. Directly it comes in as a “correction factor” which alters our calculations about the emission of x-rays by electrons, which are moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. Second, Einstein’s famous equation, E= Mc2, reading energy to mass, is basic to our understanding of nuclear physics and the release of energy in the fusion process. By simply measuring the masses of various nuclei of atoms, we can determine how much mass is lost in a given reaction and therefore how much energy is released.

Thus in the reaction we intend to use, H+B-11 -> 3 He, the mass of the hydrogen nucleus (a proton) and the boron nucleus together is just 0.009 atomic mass units larger than the mass of the three helium nuclei. (An atomic mass unit is almost exactly the  mass of a proton). Thus we know that this mass must be converted to energy. By the E= Mc2 formula, we can calculate that 1 kg of hydrogen-boron fuel will release enough energy to keep a 5 MW generator going for a full year, producing enough power for 5,000 homes.