Electron Screening In Molecular Fusion Reactions

Recent laboratory experiments have measured fusion cross sections at center-of-mass energies low enough for the effects of atomic and molecular electrons to be important. To extract the cross section for bare nuclei from these data (as required for astrophysical applications), it is necessary to tmder:,tand these screening effects. We study electron screening effects in the lowenergy collisions of Z = 1 nuclei with hydrogen molecules. Our model is based on a dynamical evolution of the electron wave functions within the TDHF scheme, while the motion of the nuclei is treated classically. We find that at the currently accessible energies the screening effects depend strongly on the molecular orientation. The screening is found to be larger for molecular targets than for atomic targets, due to the reflection symmetry in the latter. The results agree fairly well with data measured l~)r deuteron collisions on molecular deuterium and tritium targets.