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low energy nuclear reactions July 10, 2006 -- Issue #17
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In the six years I have been investigating cold fusion, I cannot remember seeing such heated discussions as occurred after we published our investigation of D2Fusion Inc. and the cold fusion-related activities of Mr. Russ George in issue #16.
While few people outside the cold fusion research community commented on this investigation, 126 messages were logged in the condensed matter nuclear science forum in response to it.
Two of the people involved in the company pleaded for the article to be removed.
The call to remove the article was met with an equally heated response: "The removal of a posted article is the digital equivalent of book burning; not something I expected ever to hear in this forum."
One person who called for the removal of the article later reversed his position after reconsidering the full picture.
"I want to thank you for raising important issues," he said. "Sometimes things have to break a little for them to get better: I was wrong to say your article should be removed. It has caused harm. But I do think that despite the initial harm that has taken place, in the long run, your comments have indeed done a service to the community."
Another researcher wrote, "Good job on the article. It tells the story and sets the stage without appearing mean spirited."
In the two months since then, not a single factual or procedural error relative to this investigation has been brought to our attention.
"So what is the problem? And why are people so worked up about it?," asked one cold fusion researcher. "The very core of concern is the issue of correct attribution or misappropriation of scientific credit ... which has been effectively obscured behind a wall of 'presentation,’ self advertisement and web 'publication,'” he said.
"We worry about who gets credit for what," a cold fusion journalist commented. "This is so that what we write will be correct -- not a small matter. To get things correct we have to know whom to ask about some important detail -- where is the authority?"
"I sincerely hope Russ George/D2Fusion achieve success in their quest to commercialize cold fusion," another journalist and cold fusion blogger wrote. "I would be dancing on the table if his company actually produced a 1KW cold fusion device and started marketing it by the end of 2006 ... Unfortunately, I just have too many life experiences that tell me that rarely do these sort of boastful claims ever come to market. More often than not, the claims are made, are never proven, and then in the long run it appears that there was a lot of snake oil and other shenanigans going on at the companies making these claims. I hope D2Fusion is different. One thing about this issue is that it was D2Fusion making this 1KW claim, and thus creating the controversy. They have set their own deadline of the end of 2006 to achieve the 1 KW cold fusion (solid-state fusion) working prototype. Nobody forced them to make such claim or deadline. So, it is their credibility that they have put on the line."
The bottom line of the defense of D2Fusion and George, as expressed by many critics of our investigation, is that cold fusion researchers should be granted added leeway in how they present their research or marketing claims.
The logic presented in their arguments is that, since cold fusion researchers have been treated so pathologically by mainstream science, they should be permitted to play by their own rules and, in some cases, to exaggerate and to cut corners.
Part of the reason for this, one researcher wrote, "is that there has not been sufficient funding."
"There is a second problem," he said, "which admittedly is difficult to overcome: Because of the lack of reporting, individuals have taken a degree of latitude with respect to the truth. As more news organizations begin reporting the facts, safeguards will fall into place to avoid this."
While New Energy Times has been perhaps the most supportive media outlet for the field of cold fusion, we do not agree that cutting corners to gain attention and respectability is appropriate, or even necessary. From our view, what is necessary is clarity, nerve and resolve: the clarity to distinguish between what the experiments show and the straw man arguments presented by the critics, the nerve to stand strong in the face of others who may not be so clear and impartial in their thinking, and the resolve to strive for impeccable results in the face of overwhelmingly unfavorable circumstances.
Steven B. Krivit
Editor, New Energy Times
Executive Director, New Energy Institute Inc.
2. To the Editor (Letters may be sent to "letters" at the New Energy Times domain name. Please include your name, city, and state or province.)
To the editor:
With recent widespread acceptance that climate change is a serious threat, we are seeing renewed calls for the renaissance of conventional nuclear energy even though they have still not satisfactorily solved the long-term problems of the storage of dangerous nuclear waste and the reliability of the engineering. However, it is essential that climate change is averted soon. Although the environmental movement calls for renewable energy, conservation and reduction measures, and believes that these will be more effective at achieving a sustainable civilisation, I feel that the more-benign "cold fusion" energy, which appears to be devoid of waste and harmful radiation, is an important possibility at a time when doing nothing is not an option. If we are serious about protecting our climate from dangerous instability we need all the help we can get...
Coordinator and Energy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, (1991-1998)
Jersey, United Kingdom
Due to the enduring ban on “cold fusion,” also known as condensed matter nuclear science, not a single group from Great Britain or the Netherlands is engaged in what probably will turn out to be the single most revolutionary endeavour in the history of Western science. All articles and proposals I wrote on the subject on the continent were so far met with the usual “deafening silence.”
But look at it this way: In the years 1900-30 during the discovery of the structure of the atom by the Curies, Rutherford, Bohr, and later Schrodinger, Dirac, etc., only a select elite understood what was going on. The development of fission in Los Alamos, Chicago, Berlin, Lawrence Livermore, USSR, was an ultra-secret affair. People “heard” about it first on Aug. 8, 1945, based on the news from Hiroshima, Japan.
Compare this to the present situation: After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of underground Internet communication in the rebellious “cold fusion” community, I can get up in the morning and get fully disclosed new facts and articles on fusion, transmutation, resonant tunnelling models, comments, etc., from Japan, the USA, the former USSR, France, China, Italy, India, etc. I am able virtually to visit the labs! I can watch experiments in progress on video! I have never met any of these people in person, but from conference photos I even know what they look like! And then consider their noble target: to supply the entire planet with infinite clean energy independent from fossil fuels and uranium, while the barbarians are still waging wars on all that stuff!
I am a Ph.D. chemist (1974.) In my nomadic career, I have been affiliated with Nobel laureates in chemistry three times.
I stood in the doorway one particular morning in April 1989 when Elsevier Publishing in Amsterdam had a pile of Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry copies (Fleischmann-Pons) to be given away free!
It's now 17 years later. I have just finished reading a paper by Miley, Li et al. on transmutations on Pd-surfaces showing nucleosynthesis with more precision than one of the original competing theories in response to Jensen-Goeppert Mayer's magic number theory. And no radioactivity, the “artifact” of hot fusion exists. What a masterpiece!
My thoughts are: Tokamak? That's your “Voodoo science!” That's your “Fiasco of the Century,” costing $40 billion!
I suspect that Fleischmann-Pons will never get the Nobel Prize for chemistry as long as the hard-liners and mainstreamers refuse to admit to what Einstein maybe would have called “the biggest blunder in their lives.”
Alas, we will never know the verdict of charismatic geniuses like Enrico Fermi or Richard Feynman on these matters. The average age of workers in this field is 50. Plus, there are few “Knabenphysiker” (Pauli’s term, “youngster physicists”) as it takes a nonspecialist background in chemistry, materials science, nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, etc.
Compare the predicament of the heroic cold fusioneers with the fate of the workers involved with an equally different possible form of science: biological transmutations. Ever since Vauquelin in 1799 suggested that chickens produce more calcium then they ingest, the transmutations have been completely ignored for more than two centuries because of to the Lavoisier paradigm.
From the cold fusion endeavour, we can get an idea about a possible mechanism: if a piezo or piezoelectric effect, now in the mainstream via Putterman, Danon, can set off a 100 kev deuteron beam, it does seem plausible that this can happen in enzymes and proteins (the Mg-ATP helical nanocyclotron proposal, Goldfein 1978) with ease and far greater precision. And nature does not have to create a vacuum on the nanolevel. It’s there for free.
Considering the impact of the ideas of, in particular Fleischmann and Pons on the thinking of a multitude of excellent scientists who found enormous passion and excitement in their daily work – money or not, bootlegging and the politico-global spontaneous ultimately democratic self-organization of this historical effort -- the men deserve at least a Nobel Prize, for peace!
The 14th Russian Conference on Cold Nuclear Transmutation of Chemical Elements and Ball-Lightning has been postponed until October 2006. Contact Yuri Bazhutov for more information: email@example.com.
On June 15, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles was host to the National Energy Symposium, the first in a series of daylong events bringing together a wide variety of experts in the field of energy.
The program is the brainchild of John E. Cox Jr., president of The Communications Institute in Pasadena, Calif., and is tentatively slated to go to New York in mid-October and Washington, D.C., in early December. Schedules for other cities are forthcoming.
John E. Cox Jr. Photo: Amy Tierney
I asked two questions of Cox about the symposium series. First, I wanted to know his motivation for developing the program.
"I was the chief of staff to a United States congressman in the mid 1970s during the energy crisis. Policymakers and media simply didn’t understand the crisis then and responded in totally inappropriate ways, like trying to ration gasoline or blame the shortage on some industry conspiracy.
"The challenges today are even more complex. They cry for greater knowledge in economics and engineering to approach these issues rationally and intelligently. What we don’t need is more partisanship! What we need are the unvarnished facts that can direct public and private decision making, and that is what this program will provide."
I also wanted to know what Cox was hoping to achieve.
"We want to provide, particularly to policymakers, media and private/public sector leaders, a better understanding of how our nation can best tackle the energy challenges we have now and in the future.
"This requires, in part, an understanding of the viability of the sources we now have and those that may be on the horizon for the future. What technologies offer the best possibility to improve the environment and are technologically and economically viable right now?"
My experience of the event was that it was well-run and helpful, although not necessarily helpful in providing any kind of solution. The bottom line, as I see it, is that there are no silver-bullet solutions. However, the clear realization of this fact is essential, to recognize both where we are and where we need to go.
I appreciated how forthright many of the speakers were, including Assemblyman Joseph Canciamilla and former Assemblyman Roderick Wright. After hearing other politicians in the last few years promote the idea of a "hydrogen economy," apparently unaware that hydrogen is not a source of energy, I was glad to hear discussion that cut through the rhetoric and hype. For this reason, the symposium was particularly worthwhile.
Of course, if an economical method of extracting hydrogen is discovered, then there may be a true hydrogen economy, but until then, people selling a "hydrogen economy" may just as well be selling perpetual motion. Building enough nuclear fission plants to extract hydrogen does not appear to be an economical option, at least at this time.
Not surprisingly, most speakers talked about what needs to happen, but none had any clear suggestions for how to make those things happen.
Even the clearest option at the moment, nuclear fission, would require the unprecedented construction of one nuclear fission power plant per day for the next 50 years to have an impact on global warming.
Henry Lee, director of the environment and natural resources program at Harvard University, provided several insights into the larger picture of energy, in particular as they relate to energy economics.
"There is only one world oil market," Lee said, "and thus, complete [oil] independence is an unattainable goal. Even if the United States only imported 20 percent of its oil, rather than 65 percent, if there was a disruption in the world oil market, our prices would still go up. You cannot isolate yourself from the world oil market. It's just impossible, despite all the rhetoric about energy independence."
"Historically, it takes about 50 years to significantly change energy systems, but this time around, the task is more complicated: there are more people in the world, there are more economies competing for energy sources, and the value of the existing investment in infrastructure is now going to be much larger than it has been historically. This transformation will occur in a world in which the availability of options will be constrained by the threat of climate change."
Lee noted that the extreme volatility in energy prices is counterproductive to typical investments and is discouraging widespread, large-scale investment in new energy research and technologies.
John Sheehan, senior strategic analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, helped to dispel some of the myths about ethanol after moderator Conan Nolan, correspondent with NBC4 News, asked the question, "How much is hype, and how much is reality?"
"The hype unfortunately is on both sides of the fence," Sheehan said. "Corn ethanol is not going to replace all of our demand for gasoline and diesel fuel. It's simply not possible. My estimates are [that it will provide] somewhere around 10 to 20 billion gallons, which is still only a few percent of our demand for gasoline.
"It's not an answer, but what it is, is a start of an industry that would shift to technology that we refer to as "cellulosic ethanol" where the resource base is much larger. ... But we have work to do; we have research that has to get done.
"One of the things that drives me crazy is this whole net energy balance argument. ... Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Jimmy Carter started our laboratory and started promoting gasohol, the energy balance was clearly negative. This was technology that took more fossil energy in than you could get out as useful energy.
"After 30 years of technology development, ... that is no longer the case. Is there a huge gain in energy [now]? No. It's a fairly modest improvement in energy gain. ... If you count all the coal, natural gas, and petroleum that goes into making ethanol, you might gain 20 percent to 30 percent in energy."
Sheehan also helped to clarify the point that biofuels, in the same way as hydrogen, are energy carriers and not a source of energy. Biomass technologies, on the other hand, do have the potential to be energy sources.
"The cellulosic technology however, because all of its energy comes from plant matter, uses almost exclusively recycled biomass carbon, which means it really does have big benefits for reducing climate change, for reducing fossil energy demands. But that is also technology that we're not going to snap our fingers and have in the next couple of years. ... I was very interested to hear Dr. Lee mention that it takes 50 years to turn over a new energy paradigm, and that's exactly what I'm seeing."
Energy, as magical and as simple as it may seem when we plug our televisions into the electrical socket in the wall, does not "just exist," as simply as does the air we breathe. This may seem like an obvious point, but the basic concept seems so often to be forgotten.
Energy must come from somewhere, transformed into usable, deliverable forms, and transported to the point of consumption.
The world of science has reached an agreement that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. With chemical energy, fuel interacts with oxygen, and matter is transformed into heat, ash, gas and light.
With nuclear reactions, like condensed matter reactions, nuclei of deuterium, a form of hydrogen, react with each other and yield heat and other elements such as helium-4 and tritium.
The underlying science is only part of the key to energy solutions. The other half is the end-to-end cost, from obtaining the raw material to, in the case of gasoline, fueling the internal combustion engine in your car. In the oil business, they call this the "well-to-wheels" cost.
Some amount of input energy is always required to create the chemical, or nuclear energy-releasing, reactions.
If you are burning firewood, you have to go out and collect and chop the wood, if you are burning gasoline, you have to pump the crude out of the ground, transport it to refineries, process it and transport it to the consumer. All of these steps consume energy. Even with passive solar heating systems, energy is required to build the infrastructure and supply the raw materials.
New Energy Times closely follows all of the various forms of fusion research, and I had the opportunity to speak with Craig Smith, a senior scientist with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on the progress of the National Ignition Facility, the primary U.S. research facility dedicated to conventional inertial confinement fusion.
Attention to this form of fusion research has been overshadowed recently by the rhetoric about the magnetic confinement fusion research program, which now has all its bets placed on ITER, the international thermonuclear experimental reactor to be built in Cadarache, France.
I asked Smith to comment on the progress at Lawrence Livermore and when we might expect any practical applications from that energy research.
Smith explained that the National Ignition Facility "has, at least as part of its mission, the development of fusion energy technology, and this plant consists of 192 separate lasers, any one of which is, by far, the largest laser in the world."
After a brief review of the differences between magnetic confinement fusion and inertial confinement fusion, Smith responded, "My understanding is that, by the year 2010 or so, there will be some experimental applications that will give us important answers concerning the viability of inertial confinement fusion as an energy source."
Despite the less-than-optimistic outlook for inertial confinement fusion as practical application, Smith was clearly enthusiastic about conventional nuclear power.
Craig Smith Photo: Amy Tierney
"Nuclear [fission] is an on-the-shelf technology that's ready to go, and I think that one of the things the nuclear [fission] energy option offers us is that we have this ability to move forward very quickly with well-understood nuclear power plants. Generation IV is the advanced reactor technology, and there are some very interesting innovative concepts that are being looked at, not only in the United States, but also across the world. We should continue that research, but we don't need to wait for it."
When Nathan Lewis, professor of chemistry at Caltech, gave his closing talk, he reviewed in great detail the major variables facing the world energy outlook. Lewis' presentation was sobering. Not only did he show that there were no good answers, except for the possibility of making solar a more cost-effective option, but he also made the clear case that society faces tough choices, and that we must not put our heads in the sand and deny the grim realities of our energy outlook.
Nathan Lewis Photo: Amy Tierney
I was surprised that Lewis failed to mention Generation IV research. This type of experimental fission reactor uses thorium, an element which exists in sufficient quantities, according to one researcher with the French Atomic Energy Commission, to last for 8,000 years, rather than current nuclear fission technology based on uranium, which will last 80 years at best.
I asked Lewis why he failed to mention Generation IV in his overview, and he explained, "I left it out because it's not now a proven technology at commercial scale."
Lewis also failed to discuss fusion, although the word did appear on one of his slides.
"In the U.S., we've talked about fusion. I didn't put it on my list for one reason: time. If you look at the important international thermonuclear experimental reactor, that's a very important thing.
"The fusion scientists have said for the last 50 years that fusion is 35 years away. They still say that. So let's assume that we demonstrate this in 35 years -- and that will last for a week because the neutron fluxes will degrade all the known materials after a week. So the plan is that this one reactor will last for a week. So let's assume that, in 35 years, this one reactor works for a week. Remember, CO2 emissions are cumulative, so the next day you'd have to start building 10,000 of them to catch up. Time is against them."
Lewis was even less enthusiastic about "cold fusion." I asked him about this controversial subject privately after his talk, and he made it clear that he had no interest in the subject.
"I don't talk about that anymore. I focus my time on things that work," he said.
Lewis' work at Caltech focuses primarily on the chemistry of semiconductors for efficient capture of solar energy for use in energy conversion systems. His ideas about solar alternatives have been recognized at high levels in the government.
"I chaired a study for the Department of Energy that led to the president's State of the Union address and the new thrust in solar that's now being dealt with by Congress and will be, hopefully, funded," Lewis said.
Lewis also helped to dispel the myth of the peak oil predictions.
"If you look back in history," Lewis said, "there have been 30 years worth of [peak oil predictions] that have always predicted three or four years out from the time they were made that the peak was there. They haven't been right yet. ... There's no doubt we can make oil, liquid hydrocarbons, out of [natural] gas and coal, of which there are abundant resources."
Summing up, Nolan asked the panelists, "Do we have 50 years?" Despite the dismissal of the fear about "peak oil" by a few of the day's speakers, none of the panelists replied positively.
Anupam Madhukar, professor of engineering in the department of chemical engineering and materials at USC, said, "No, not if we wish to keep our standard of living."
Another general comment was the need for a focused, centralized, national effort to develop future energy programs.
"I thought that's what the Department of Energy was for," Nolan responded.
None of the panelists had a clear response to Nolan's quandary.
Later in the day, a member of the audience may have provided the most likely answer, in the form of a question, "Driven by private enterprise, have we reached a point in this country that traditional institutions that we look to are not going to provide the solution?"
There was a touch of humor and sad irony when one member of the audience asked what would it take to make a change, considering that when she walked through the lobby into the meeting room, she noticed a natural-gas-fired fireplace ablaze in 70-degree weather -- and a meeting hall lit up like a Christmas tree with incandescent chandelier lighting.
My guess is that, when gasoline hits $5 per gallon in the United States, novel solutions and more thoughtful energy use will appear, perhaps spontaneously.
8. Only a Fool Would Believe That Cold Fusion Will Not Become an Important Energy Source A conversation with Steven Krivit and Dr. Edmund Storms, (ret.) Los Alamos National Laboratory
Edmund Storms Photo: Steven Krivit
Steven Krivit: What is the likelihood of cold fusion ever being scaled up?
Edmund Storms: That’s sort of like asking the Wright brothers, “Do you think your airplane will ever make it across the Atlantic?” They would probably say, “no,” and they would not be able to conceive of an airplane that could, but that didn’t make it impossible for that to happen.
SK: I guess even with what I know about cold fusion, I have a little trouble envisioning that, based on what we know today, we are guaranteed to see practical power applications. I certainly see the possibility of it, and the basis for hope, but I just don’t see the possibility with the level of confidence that you do.
ES: From my point of view, there’s no “smoking gun”; there’s no basic reason why this couldn’t be scaled up to megawatt levels.
Now, the only issue is one of engineering and economics. It, to a large degree, depends on what kind of lifetime, for example, these nuclear active environments have; at this point, we don’t know that.
SK: I remember Dave Nagel saying in Boston at ICCF-10 that the big question about cold fusion is whether it will be able to be scaled up, and that’s had a lasting impression on me. If I understand you correctly, you see it more as an engineering challenge, rather than a science challenge?
ES: Yes, because at this point, we know that the energy density of the nuclear active environment is enormous and the only reason why cells don’t blow up or melt down is that there’s only a very small amount of the material in the cell, in the nuclear active environment. The nuclear reactions are made in discrete, small regions. It doesn’t happen uniformly throughout the palladium.
SK: This is the “hot spot” concept, as described by the SPAWAR team, right?
ES: Yes. And those “hot spots” -- for lack of a better term -- are made up of some kind of very unusual material that’s only manufactured by nature, sort of by accident. A sample of palladium, or whatever you want to use, becomes a good producer of energy by virtue of having many of these hot spots on it. The lousy samples have a few of these hot spots on them; the good samples have lots of hot spots.
SK: Talking about these hot spots, it seems that there is something there, something unknown that is making these energy releases. But we don’t know what it is yet. We know it’s there, and we know it makes a lot of heat, right?
ES: Exactly. And because it makes a lot of heat, it has a very high efficiency. Therefore, the more of these little hot spots you make, the more energy you get out. And if you could make a whole bunch of them, you’d get a whole bunch of energy, because the hot spots are obviously able to make a high energy density within that small region. It’s only the number of those small regions that determines how much energy you get out of a cell.
Once those small regions have been identified and then manufactured purposely rather than accidentally, you could presumably make tons of the stuff. There would be no reason why you couldn’t make a whole bunch, at which point you have megawatts of power available.
Then it becomes only a matter of economics and engineering in order to keep cooling the surface temperature down to levels that don’t destroy these little hot spots. Obviously, they can’t take too high a temperature. You also have to get the energy out in an efficient way and use it directly for heating applications or convert it into electricity.
If the little hot spots have a lifetime, which they probably do, as these reactions occur, helium builds up, and it’s going to disrupt the nuclear active environment that’s so important for helium production. So these hot spots probably do have a lifetime, and the question is, “Can you manufacture them cheaply and as fast as they are destroyed?”
SK: Can we take a step from engineering for a moment and go back to science? In your life experience, you’ve obviously worked on many science experiments. Is this typical of a significant new technology, that you’d see something so tiny, with such a weak signal? Is this typical of how major new technological developments look in their early stages?
ES: Increasingly, yes. This is how they are seen in the modern world. For example, nanotechnology is just beginning to take off and all kinds of weird things are being seen now in those small, very unusual environments that nanotechnology studies. The integrated circuit industry pioneered the idea of things happening on a small scale.
SK: I guess it’s not as simple and obvious as Newton getting hit on the head with an apple, anymore.
ES: Right, it’s not like that any longer. There are concepts that are based on large interactions of matter, like astronomy and cosmology, but more and more, as people are looking smaller and smaller, into the quantum world, weird things are happening. But they are all happening on a very, very small scale, and they are happening only in very special environments. It’s like DNA.
SK: Aha. This work that’s been done recently with the human genome project couldn’t have happened 50 years ago because the supportive technology wasn’t there yet.
ES: Right, and all the action’s occurring in those little strands of atoms which are really pretty doggone small.
SK: I’m still fascinated with something you said earlier, that there is nothing that indicates that cold fusion can’t be scaled up. That’s novel for me to hear.
ES: Early on, people had some doubt about it when they thought this was happening uniformly throughout the palladium and, therefore, you had to have an awful lot of palladium and there wasn’t enough palladium in the world to do the job. Once it became obvious that the reaction was not occurring in bulk palladium but was occurring in hot spots of very small dimensions, the whole ballgame changed.
SK: There’s still some debate about that within the cold fusion research community, right?
ES: Oh, yeah, there’s debate about absolutely everything. The evidence is just so overwhelmingly clear that that’s what’s happening. I accept it based upon what I’ve seen, what other people have seen and my analysis of it.
SK: Maybe this indicates another misunderstanding about cold fusion, that the effect is “not important because the scale is so small right now.”
ES: Yeah, it’s probably just the opposite. And I hadn’t considered that because the debate on whether or not it can be scaled up has never been really important to people accepting its reality or not.
SK: That’s the next step.
ES: That’s true. And actually, if skeptics believe that it couldn’t be scaled up, they would be less threatened.
SK: In fact, I recently was in an online debate with one skeptical astrophysicist who initially alleged that the claims of excess heat were all the result of measurement or experimental error. He, of course, couldn't put his finger on exactly what the error or errors were in all of the dozens of published papers on excess heat. He quickly, conceded his point, and acknowledged that the published literature does suggest the possibility of some sort of small excess heat production occurring.
ES: Somebody made a comparison chart -- I don’t remember who it was -- which showed the various energy densities, going from various sources, and when you come down to cold fusion, the energy density is probably a million watts per cubic centimeter. It’s incredibly high. It’s much higher than a nuclear power plant.
SK: Wow. That is amazing.
ES: You can calculate, for example, the potential size of these little hot spots and the amount of energy that’s being produced, and also you can take into account the fact that people have seen local melting of the palladium.
SK: That’s about 1500 Celsius, right?
SK: Didn't Fleischmann and Pons initially report that part of their cathode had vaporized, and Roger Stringham, also report vaporization of the cathode?
ES: Yes, that's correct, and that would indicate temperatures over 3000 Celsius.
SK: Now how much power does it take to melt palladium from joule heating?
ES: That’s a little hard to calculate because this is in a fluid. What happens is it gets very hot, and then there would be a gas bubble around it which would insulate it, but the heat would still go out into the bulk palladium. The timing of this is very critical. How fast does it go up? And what temperature does it reach? Obviously, it goes up fast enough that it can get to the melting point, and that’s the crucial thing. We’re talking about really large amounts of power locally produced, and it’s not unreasonable to suppose that it’s in the neighborhood, possibly in excess, of a million watts per cubic centimeter.
Of course, you don’t know how much above the melting point , or in some cases, vaporization point it got. All you have is the information that it melted or evaporated.
The point is that it is many orders of magnitude above any other source of conventional power. That being the case, all you have to do is have more of these little hot spots and you can get any amount of power you want.
SK: So, coming back to the myth …
ES: I would have no problem with your saying that it is a myth that there’s not enough palladium in the world for this to be a practical energy source. The fact is that the energy is in these hot spots and requires very little palladium, if any.
SK: I was just looking at your earlier e-mail to me here, where you say, “Only a fool would believe that cold fusion will not become an important energy source.” That’s a pretty strong statement.
ES: Well, once it became clear that the energy density is in these hot spots and one can make as many of them as you want, all of a sudden, the possibilities are endless. That’s all it takes. It’s going to take time to identify what it takes to make these hot spots. That’s the challenge right now. That’s what I’m working on. It’s not easy.
SK: I guess it wouldn’t be easy.
ES: We have no idea what we are looking for, and it’s on such a small scale that you can only see it with a powerful scanning electron microscope, and, in addition to that, it only occurs by random chance. So even if it occurs on a sample, finding that hot spot and then analyzing it is the real challenge.
SK: I guess that’s nature’s way – she doesn’t reveal her secrets easily.
9. Excerpts from "Cold Fusion: In Search of Infinite Energy" By George Heming, Spring 2001
Originally published in the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal
Editor's note: In remarkably few words, Heming demonstrates brilliant insight into the significance of energy to civilization. With the exception of Heming's partly misinformed view of the March 23, 1989 University of Utah press conference, his article eloquently and wisely reminds us that science is supposed to be a continuing, evolving body of knowledge. Full Article (pdf)
In his 1870 novel, "The Mysterious Island," Jules Verne predicted an age of water fuel. Soon after this assertion, black gold was discovered, and it started a new epoch in the advancement of our race, the Industrial Age. This age saw the development of most of our current technologies and was the precursor to our present Information Age; it was an era of inventions. We discovered ways of harnessing energy from our environment and putting it to work for ourselves. Energy gave us the power to dream and to make those dreams come true. The many inventions that came out of this age were soon so intimately woven into our lives that we could barely live without them. Ultimately, our need for energy became supreme to our existence and could only be surpassed by our need for food.
In the spirit of advancing, we sought better ways of generating energy after several eras of using coal and other fossil fuels. Our insights into nature revealed to us the limited capacity of these sources of energy and the harmful effects some of them had on our environment. We came to the realization that we needed not only more efficient ways of generating energy but also new sources of energy that were economically viable and, more important, environmentally friendly. We had to search for newer sources of energy that were cleaner.
In the early 20th century, developments in atomic theory, especially quantum theory, hinted at the possibility of harnessing the power of the atom for energy. But this radical idea, like most others that require a massive change in our view of the world, was met with strong opposition. Ernest Rutherford, one of the greatest minds of his time, is quoted as having said in 1933, “The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” Only a year later, moonshine became reality. In 1934, Enrico Fermi produced the first sustained nuclear fission reaction...
Jules Verne’s Dream
Modern science has forgotten that our current body of knowledge is only a set of partial theories attempting to explain our universe. It is quite unfortunate that a discovery should be debunked as pathological science because we cannot explain it with our current theories, or because people who are not considered experts in a highly technical field made the discovery. Cold fusion, if it turns out to be real, has enormous potential for advancing science and the human race; therefore, we owe it to ourselves to give this phenomenon a thorough scientific evaluation. Only then can we advance toward the water fuel age, predicted by Verne, who is considered by many to be the father of modern science fiction.
10. Questions From a Journalist in Europe
By Steven Krivit
A journalist from Europe recently asked me several excellent questions about "cold fusion." His questions and my answers follow.
Q: It seems the biggest lie/error about cold fusion/condensed matter is to say that there actually is a fusion process. Or more precisely, cold fusion is an electrolytic process that leads to a final fusion process, but we don't know how this transition occurs. Is that right?
A: Not so fast. There is strong evidence to support the hypothesis of fusion; however, it certainly can be, and is, argued that this claim is speculative. However, nearly all researchers in the field agree that something anomalous is happening: something novel, unexplained, and supported by significant experimental evidence.
Some researchers have observed excess heat. Some have observed 4He, 3He, tritium, gamma rays, neutrons, heavy-element transmutation and x-rays. There is a consensus within the field in support of the excess heat phenomenon with palladium-deuterium reactions. It is my opinion that some researchers in the field are reluctant to accept this hypothesis. I recommend the text by Charles Beaudette on "Fear Within the Institution" from his book Excess Heat for a deeper look.
As I listen to the experts, the reaction is probably a fusion process, but it may not be, and it really doesn't matter to me. What matters is that it produces excess heat and helium, an ideal combination for a new energy source.
Q: I've learned that nobody exactly knows what really happens during a "cold fusion process." Is that right? Would it be possible for you to explain to me what cold fusion today is/seems to be?
A: I agree with your first sentence. Now, if you ask any number of cold fusion researchers, they may tell you quite convincingly that they know what is going on and how to explain the mechanism. Perhaps they do. Yet if you speak to all of the researchers, you'll find that there are numerous disagreements within the field. As an observer, this leaves me with no option except to conclude that some of the explanations will eventually be correlated with experiments and some will not. There is no way for me to know at this time which will succeed.
Can I explain what cold fusion is/seems to be? From a theoretical perspective, no. From an empirical view, yes; please refer to question #1 in our FAQ.
Q: Are there many ways to achieve a cold fusion process?
A: I first need to work with you on your question. There is no "one process" for cold fusion; there are many. There are two main branches: one which favors heat, and one which favors the transmutation of heavy elements. Figure 1 in this paper offers a perspective, as does Table 1 in this paper.
Q: What is (what are) the problem to achieve 100 percent reproducibility of a cold
fusion process consisting of?
A: Very few issues remain. Please refer to question #3 in our FAQ.
Q: One of the scientists working on cold fusion told me that companies have already developed applications based on the cold fusion process. Do you know these firms? Do you know how developed these applications are?
A: Do I know the firms involved? Well, yes, I believe I know them all. Do I know how developed they are? I could be wrong, but I'm quite sure they are still learning the underlying science and they are not ready to perform application engineering yet.
From my perspective, nobody understands this science well enough, using any of the various modalities, to be approaching such a technology readiness level.
However, I don't think it will be long before this transition occurs.
Q: Can we say that big successes (theoretical or experimental ones) have been
made in the last 15 years of cold fusion study? Which ones? Or are there no significant successes since then?
A: Absolutely. The odd thing about your question is that, since most mainstream science and media abandoned their interest in the subject in 1989, a mountain of work has developed which has been largely unreported to the general public and general science community. One of the unfortunate consequences of this is that it may be overwhelming for some people to start learning about the subject matter. Not only is "cold fusion" a new set of effects, in my opinion it represents an entirely new, broad and complex field of science.
I, and Nadine Winocur, wrote a book which I would highly recommend, The Rebirth of Cold Fusion: Real Science, Real Hope, Real Energy, which reviews some of these. To simply and directly answer your question is difficult because there are so many significant developments. Part 3 in our book, "Discoveries And Mysteries," covers this angle well, at least up to 2003. Beyond 2003, you can read the New Energy Times magazines for further developments.
Q: Do you know how much money is invested in cold fusion study worldwide per
year? Are there economic/political reports about this topic?
A: Off the top of my head, my guess is that the following groups are each funded on the order of a few million per year: Energetics, ENEA, Lattice, Yang et al., and Mitsubishi. Other groups having limited funding -- probably under a million (based on what I know of their staffing and the research they are reporting) -- are SRI, NRL, Mizuno et al., and a few commercial/industrial companies in Italy. Many, many other researchers are privately funded at very minimal levels or using discretional funds or their personal funds for research.
Q: New Energy Times magazine gives a link that says:
"GELLERMAN: Dr. Pamela Boss works at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. She and Dr. Stanislaw Szpak have produced some of the most definitive evidence of the cold fusion phenomenon. They fund the research mostly out of their own pocket, and, even though he's retired, Dr. Szpak still comes in almost every day to conduct cold fusion experiments, perfecting a method that he says speeds up the reaction. Now, instead of waiting weeks for cold fusion to begin, it happens instantaneously.
SZPAK: Now we have 100 percent reproducible results. In other words, we always get to that last step. We are doing that within seconds."
My questions are, Who did it? When? Where? Does it mean there is no more secret about cold fusion: we know how does it work? Or is cold fusion only experimentally reproducible but we have no idea of the theoretical background?
A: Stan Szpak and Pamela Boss at the Navy's SPAWAR laboratory in San Diego and a few others have been working on the co-deposition method for 17 years. The September 10 issue of New Energy Times will be featuring an in-depth report of their work. For the record, I now distinguish between the words "repeatable" and "reproducible." The Szpak et al. experiment is highly repeatable and controllable by those researchers (turn on, turn off, trigger.) As I understand, it is still a very difficult experiment. It is also my understanding that it has recently been partially reproduced at the University of California in San Diego but not published yet.
There is only one secret about cold fusion: It was never disproved! The experiments performed by Caltech, MIT and Harwell were all performed without a clear understanding of the required parameters and thresholds, and consequently are of little significance.
Your use of the word "only" diminishes the significance of the empirical work. If you talk with Stan Szpak, you'll hear him say one of his favorites, "Theory guides, but experiments decide." His point is theory can and will help but it is not required. In defense of theory, however, it is inaccurate to suggest that there are "no ideas." From what I can tell, there are half a dozen theorists who appear to have a very strong idea of what might be going on. There are, no doubt, several races for Nobel prizes afoot, even if mainstream science does not yet recognize it.
Q: What is precisely the difference between "repeatable" and "reproducible"?
A: REPEATABLE: Researcher A can obtain the expected result from his or her experiment every time he or she makes an attempt.
REPRODUCIBLE: Researcher B can obtain the same result from his or her replication of researcher A's experiment.
Few people know what to make of Randell Mills and his "Grand Unified Theory of Classical Quantum Mechanics." But it takes only a few eager investors to drum up $50 million for new energy research. Mills' business success has not gone unnoticed by the American physics conformity police, who think his novel mechanism to tap hydrogen is voodoo science.
Mills' alleged paradigm-breaking process yields 100 times more energy than would be expected from hydrogen in a combustion reaction.
In two posts a few months apart, journalist and blogger John Coviello succinctly captures several astute perspectives on BlackLight Power.
"You have to wonder if BlackLight Power really has anything behind all the hype. I mean, they've been working on their hydrino technology for well over a decade now. Is there really any evidence that it is a new and revolutionary energy source? What exactly is holding them up from revealing their technology to the world? Seems like typical alternative-energy foot-dragging that ends with nothing of substance.
"I'm still skeptical of BlackLight Power, but there is reason to start viewing them a little less so. Perhaps Randy Mills just has the unusual ability to avoid the blatant hype and actually develop a product up to a point where it is ready for the market?
"That is a highly unusual human attribute, to keep something real under one's hat for so long, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt with $50 million pouring in. That's a lot more than anybody in cold fusion has been attract."
12. Cold Fusion: A Wicked Problem To Solve By Peter Gluck
Peter Gluck Photo: Melanie Biberian
Last year, Steve Krivit and I performed a survey to assess the current understanding, among experts, and the greatest challenges of the condensed matter nuclear science field.
My conclusions regarding this survey follow:
- The entire CMNS community does not understand what "cold fusion" actually is. It has no complete theory, and many of us have only fragments of a greater unknown truth.
- The field has made great progress and improvements experimentally. However, the phenomena still cannot be controlled and reproduced as necessary for scale-up and for developing cold fusion as a viable energy source.
During the first 6238 days of the cold fusion history (03.23.89 - 04.20.06), there were:
- Fewer than 10 LIVE cathodes -- heat excess over 1,000 percent, heat after death, that is, thermal runaway of the cell. These have technological significance.
- A few thousand SICK cathodes -- heat excess less than 30 percent. These have scientific significance.
- Many thousands of DEAD cathodes -- heat excess not measurable. These have forensic significance. What killed the cold fusion reaction?
Therefore, cold fusion is a much more complex and difficult problem than originally thought. Actually, it is a "wicked problem" (Please search Google for a definition. It is very instructive for understanding why we have no solution to the genuine cold fusion problem).
From the understanding/theoretical point of view, it seems to be a fatal error to attempt to explain a multiphase, multistep, multilevel aggregate of phenomena by a single theory -- without considering adequately where they take place, how and what they are, etc. I refer the reader to the basic ideas in my 1992 paper "Understanding Reproducibility: Topology Is the Key."
Further on the fallacy of the single hypothesis, see the recent paper: http://www.the-scientist.com/2005/11/7/10/1. Therefore, the theorists have to cooperate to solve the dilemma. One of the sources of the extreme difficulty of the problem is "our limited knowledge of the interactions at the nanoscale," as stated by Edmund Storms.
In the near future, the cold fusion community has to gain new forces, funding, young members and novel, creative ideas. And it has to make some choices: focus on enhancement or on measurement, on dry or on wet systems, on the existing myths or on heretic concepts, on the problem or on the solutions, on the core issues (understanding and reproducibility) or on the myriad experimental details.
More private organizations also are doing cold fusion research these days. I am an optimist, because if the cold fusion and/or the BlackLight Power process will not be converted to real energy sources soon, my grandchildren will have great and very wicked problems to solve.
"Physics in America is at a crossroads and in crisis, just as humanity stands on the verge of great discoveries about the nature of matter and the universe, a panel from the National Academy of Sciences said yesterday.
The United States should be prepared to spend up to half a billion dollars in the next five years to ensure that a giant particle accelerator now being designed by a worldwide consortium of scientists can be built on American soil, the panel said. If that does not happen, particle physics, the quest for the fundamental forces and constituents of nature, will wither in this country, it said. ...
The blow to American physics would erode the base of science and technology that has fueled innovation, provided intellectual and cultural inspiration and bolstered national security over the last century."
"[An argument exists which states] that it is impossible to separate questions about the existence or non-existence of a novel phenomenon from questions about the validity of the experiments designed to detect it: 'When the normal criterion - successful outcome - is not available, scientists disagree about which experiments are competently done. Where there is disagreement about what counts as a competently performed experiment, the ensuing debate is coextensive with the debate about the proper outcome of the experiment.'
Clearly this may be applied to cold fusion ... any negative finding can always be (and has been) challenged as incorrectly performed, such as claims that the wrong kind of electrode was used, etc."
Energy Secretary Sees Fusion as Part of Solution May 21, 2006
"Energy Secretary Says Coal, Oil Will Power U.S. for Decades, Samuel Bodman Makes The Remarks in Speech to South Texas College of Law Graduates
Oil and coal will continue to power the U.S. economy for many years, even as more emphasis is put on developing alternative sources of energy, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said Saturday in Houston.
'Fossil fuels will continue to dominate ... for several decades at least,' Bodman said during a commencement address to about 350 members of the South Texas College of Law 2006 graduating class at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Bodman, who was sworn in as energy secretary in February 2005, said alternative forms of energy such as wind and ethanol fuel made from corn would contribute to the country's energy future.
But one of the most important sources of energy will be nuclear power, along with the means of safely operating the plants and disposing of nuclear waste, he said.
President Bush's administration goal is to replace 75 percent of the United States' Middle East oil imports with alternative fuels by 2025.
Bodman has told Congress that part of the solution will come from increased research on hydrogen, solar and biological fuels, and fusion, a nuclear reaction that produces no radioactive waste [emphasis added]."
"While Oak Ridge National Laboratory has contributed a great deal to the world of science over the past year, including developments in the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source, lab director Jeff Wadsworth reports there are still plenty of challenges ahead. ...
The lab is now managing ITER, an international fusion experiment that could lead to an abundant, environmentally-benign, and economical energy source. The project was transferred to the lab from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in February."
"While fossil fuels are being depleted rapidly in the modern world, scientists see an opportunity for testing out cleaner and safer power sources in the form of low-energy nuclear reactions. One UC Berkeley researcher is getting to the root of the possibility and also trying to prove the existence of cold fusion."
"The world's biggest ever nuclear fusion reactor is about to begin construction in the hills of Provence. But with persistent doubts over fusion's capacity to generate energy efficiently and a raft of engineering conundrums, is this really money well spent?
They call themselves 'fusion gypsies' -- scientists who have traveled the world, moving from one nuclear reactor to the next, living the dream that some day, somewhere, they can re-create the reactions that take place in the heart of the stars to generate huge amounts of cheap, clean electricity for the world. ...
This summer, the fusion gypsies are reassembling in the wooded hills of Provence in southern France, where a new machine is to be built. Britons, Australians, Russians, Americans, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Czechs and many others are united now in a last stand to prove to the world they were right all along. John How, a bearded, sandaled Brit was the pioneer. He bought himself a farmhouse a couple of years ago in Provence in anticipation of just this moment. Now he can settle down at last, he told me, after a career stretching from Australia to Germany, France and Britain. 'It's now or never for fusion power,' he said."
"WASHINGTON, June 1 -- When the Justice Department and the State of Alaska reached their $900 million court settlement with the Exxon Corporation over the environmental damages caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, they agreed that, if unforeseeable damages occurred later, the two governments had 15 years to ask for $100 million more."
"... a new and cheaper method of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide such a hopeful development:
'Capture begins with a new technology from the New Hampshire company Powerspan. In a large industrial box, Powerspan passes the airy remnants of coal combustion through an ammonium carbonate solution. The carbon dioxide in this flue gas -- roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of it -- bonds with the solution to form ammonium bicarbonate, while the other elements pass through on their way to smokestack release. From a given stream of waste gas, the technology captures 90 percent of the CO2 or about 20 tons a day for every 24 megawatt-hours of electricity produced.'"
"In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast.
Researchers in California, Oregon and Washington noticed specks of sulfur compounds, carbon and other byproducts of coal combustion coating the silvery surfaces of their mountaintop detectors. These microscopic particles can work their way deep into the lungs, contributing to respiratory damage, heart disease and cancer.
Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California 'are the darkest that we've seen' outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis."
[Coal-Based Fuel: Synthetic Hydrocarbon Liquids, Also Known As Synfuel]
"EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — The coal in the ground in Illinois alone has more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia. The technology to turn that coal into fuel for cars, homes and factories is proven. And at current prices, that process could be at the vanguard of a big, new industry. ...
The technology was used during World War II in Germany and then during the 1980's by South Africa when the world shunned the apartheid regime there. ...
But there is a big catch. Producing fuels from coal generates far more carbon dioxide [double], which contributes to global warming, than producing vehicle fuel from oil or using ordinary natural gas. And the projects now moving forward have no incentive to capture carbon dioxide beyond the limited amount that they can sell for industrial use.
'It's a potential disaster for the environment if we move in the direction of trying to create a big synfuel program based on coal to run our transportation fleet,' said Daniel A. Lashof, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 'There's a brown path and a green path to replacing oil, and Fischer-Tropsch fuel is definitely on the brown path.'"
"WASHINGTON, June 3 — The nuclear industry is poised to receive the first new orders for reactors in three decades, but what remains unclear is whether the smartest buyers will be those at the head of the line or a little farther back.
The industry expects orders for a dozen or so new reactors. Since the last completed order was placed in 1973, much has changed. There are new designs, a new licensing system, new federal financial incentives, new costs and new risks, and no one is sure how the changes will play out as orders, or requests to build, are filed."
"WASHINGTON, May 8 — In 1977, the United States and Cuba signed a treaty that evenly divided the Florida Straits to preserve each country's economic rights. They included access to vast underwater oil and gas fields on both sides of the line.
Now, with energy costs soaring, plans are under way to drill this year -- but all on the Cuban side."
"Team Admits a Mix-Up With One of Their Neutron Detectors
A group of researchers making high-profile claims about fusion energy has admitted to accidentally using equipment different from that reported in their most recent paper.
An erratum providing details of the mistake by Rusi Taleyarkhan of Purdue University and colleagues has been published in Physical Review Letters. Critics interpret the admission as a sign that the group's fusion claims are unraveling, because it comes in the wake of serious questions about the original work's validity."
"Many experts say they do believe that making hydrogen nuclei fuse in imploding bubbles is possible in principle — and in this respect the bubble fusion controversy is fundamentally different from the 'cold fusion' debate that embroiled the physics community in 1989. But those experts hasten to add that they are not convinced Taleyarkhan actually achieved it. Their main concern is whether Taleyarkhan's group has ruled out possible sources of errors in the tricky business of detecting the neutrons that are a characteristic fusion signature.
Taleyarkhan and his collaborators addressed this and other criticism and reported continued progress in the March 2004 issue of Physical Review E and in the January 2006 issue of Physical Review Letters, which are among the top journals in their field. ...
Taleyarkhan's collaborator Richard T. Lahey Jr., a professor of engineering and physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., says that a successful bubble fusion experiment depends heavily on the Pyrex glass flask and the ceramic piezoelectric ring that is attached to it to generate the sound waves. 'I have offered to send actual design drawings so that others can build it and use it. Some have taken me up on my offer, but others have not.' He says that Putterman was using a design 'that was doomed to failure' and that he told him so when visiting his laboratory at UCLA last year."
For the Record By Brian Naranjo & Seth Putterman IEEE Spectrum June 30, 2006
"'Bubble Fusion Research Under Scrutiny' [News, May] contains incorrect and misleading criticisms of our work. Contrary to Rusi P. Taleyarkhan's claim that Brian Naranjo, in his analysis of Taleyarkhan's data, 'did not model the right experiment,' Naranjo's calculations do include the various sources of neutron scattering cited by Taleyarkhan. For Naranjo's complete analysis, see http://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0603060."
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