By Lawrence P.G. Forsley
I developed a working relationship with Jim Patterson and his company, Clean Energy Technology Inc., in the mid-1990s, before the development of the company's cold fusion demonstration kit called RIFEX (Reaction In a Film Excited complex).
As I got to know Jim better, I learned of his predilection for fishing and the virtues of tiny plastic microspheres, informally called beads, used for industrial applications. I had become interested in these beads as a substrate for use in low energy nuclear reaction experiments after he and George Miley of the University of Illinois had begun collaborating on an alternative means to make a LENR surface. George had been struggling with thin films, and along came Jim with his sulfated, metal-coated beads.
George and I had both worked in inertial confinement fusion (a.k.a. laser fusion), and I think we both saw the obvious advantages that a symmetrical bead as a substrate had versus a perpetually delaminating planar surface.
I met with Jim and his grandson, Jim Reding, who regrettably died several years ago, in Dallas, Texas, to discuss what we might do together. Eventually, we licensed a specific technology and, with one of my electrochemist colleagues, began doing experiments in my friend's laboratory, at my lab in Annandale, Va., and in Jim Patterson’s “garage laboratory,” in Sarasota, Fla.
I set out a goal for Jim, which he carried out and was even granted the patent on. I chose to not get involved with the patent application, because I didn’t believe his instrumentation reflected what the patent asserted.
His lab in Sarasota was wonderful. It was the size of an oversized garage - or an undersized airplane hanger. It was a marvelous combination of 1950s technology coupled with the best of 19th century physics and chemistry.
A modern day Faraday would have been right at home among the variety of ovens, wires, cables, chemicals, stirrers and more. There was even an office with a recliner that Jim liked to nap on, and a dog or two to keep an eye on things.
I’d say we spent equal amounts of time talking about fishing, chemistry and eating and the rest of our time futzing in his lab. In between, we had many discussions about LENR, its prospects and the future.
On one trip, Jim handed me one of his inventions: a spool of porous fiber for drip-feeding plants. Over dinner another night, I asked him about ketchup. This requires some explanation.
I had learned from another colleague that Jim had made a name for himself while a graduate student many years earlier. Jim, while working for Dow Chemical, had patented the first of his beads as turbidity standards, used to measure the cloudiness of water.
Another friend of mine had Jim's beads and found that the size distribution wasn’t "standard” enough, and as a result, they had an immediate falling out. But, on learning about the ketchup project from his grandson, (I'm getting to this) and realizing that Jim was “Dr. Plastic Bead,” I had a very unsettling thought.
Had he devised a means to thicken ketchup by the addition of turbidity standard beads, I wondered? Had he used the nonstandard beads that failed to meet spec for use in the ketchup that I was eating?
I was sure they were fit for human consumption, but ingesting multimicron-sized plastic beads just was not very appealing. With some trepidation, I asked Jim about this during dinner.
“Jim," I said, "I understand you devised a means for thickening ketchup for one of the major food companies.”
“Yup,” he answered.
“Can you tell me how you did this?” I timidly asked.
“Nope,” he replied.
“Well, did you use polystyrene beads by any chance?” I asked with a low voice after I had just poured ketchup onto my french fries.
“Ah, no,” he said. “I used freeze-dried tomatoes to make it thicker. No one would put polystyrene beads in ketchup. What gave you that idea?”
“Just a thought,” I replied, as I happily consumed my french fries without fear.
Jim and I continued to kibitz for a couple of years. At ICCF-7 in Vancouver, B.C., in 1997, I presented data from my experiments in which I had used Jim's beads. However, before that conference, Jim and I had a meeting in Washington, D.C., coinciding with an American Nuclear Society meeting.
I had concluded, as I would state in my ICCF-7 talk, that I had seen no evidence of LENR-induced isotopic shifts from an analysis of gases, solids or electrolyte using nuclear activation analysis (NAA), high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP/MS) or x-ray fluorescence (XRF).
Jim was quite irate when I said this.
“I didn’t pay you to get those kind of results!” he said.
“Jim, you didn’t pay me," I replied. "I paid you for a research license and for those damn beads!”
Nonetheless, Jim’s passing was a great sadness to me. He was a prolific inventor, and I learned a great deal from him. His company’s decision not to sell its RIFEX intellectual property to Motorola for $10 million was thought at the time to be the height of idiocy. But Jim wanted to keep the ranch, right down to the last chicken.
These thoughts are always with me as I look into my cloudy crystal ball. But at least I can enjoy my french fries and think fondly of Jim when I can’t get the ketchup out of the bottle.
Take care, my friend! I hope the fishing is as good where you are now as it was in Sarasota. Otherwise, move back.