Steven Krivit's note: General Electric Corp. had contracted with the University of Utah to collaborate with Fleischmann and Pons after their "fusion" announcement. After the bad publicity developed, General Electric, in a research group managed by R.H. Wilson, tried to prove that Fleischmann and Pons' excess heat results were invalid. The GE team failed. The excerpts below were written by author Charles Beaudette, in his book Excess Heat: Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed,
2nd edition, 2002.
Excerpt from "Chapter 9: Critics II" (pages 117-118)
A more aggressive and most revealing critique emerged from a group led by
R. H. Wilson at General Electric Co., Schenectady, New York.* They submitted
a paper criticizing the calorimetry work in the original article by Fleischmann
and Pons.13 The Wilson paper was published in July 1992 and was followed
directly by Fleischmann and Pons’s response.14
These papers were prepared in the proper manner that included peer review
before the publisher accepted them. They got to the heart of the excess
power question. Whether cold fusion was a science or not hinged on precisely
what was in these three papers: is there, or is there not, an anomalous source
of energy which appears as an excess of heat in the Fleischmann and Pons experiment? These papers were the proper battleground. The passage of three
years had allowed for the critics to find themselves and their weapons, so that
the two sides engaged each other properly fitted out with the necessary information.
An overview of the Wilson critique shows it to be quite limited. The authors
found it necessary to qualify their comments with, “appear,” or “possible,”
or “probable,” or “potential,” which reduces the value of the criticism. It
is interesting that they stated, “. . . inadequate mixing within the cell does not
appear to be a problem,” without further discussion.†
The Wilson team summarized their paper in the following words.
We evaluate the data and methods of Pons, Fleischmann and coworkers
and, where sufficient data are available, conclude that they
overestimate significantly the excess heat . . . While our analysis
shows their claims of continuous heat generation to be over stated
significantly, we cannot prove that no excess heat has been generated
in any experiment.15
In their response, Fleischmann and Pons pointed out that the Wilson calculations
still showed excess heat after taking into account their corrections, in one
case at the 50% level, far above the uncertainty floor. The Wilson report was
not negative. It was supportive in that there was still excess heat after all the
criticism Wilson could muster.
The argument between Fleischmann and Pons and the Wilson group was
over the manner of computing excess heat energy flow. Regarding the burst of
excess energy shown in the original paper (see Figure 4.2), Wilson said, “the
‘burst’ data [Fleischmann and Pons] present is not greatly reduced by the corrections
that we describe.” They also state that, “. . . the possible recombination
of oxygen and deuterium within the cell is apparently eliminated...” So
in three crucial areas, that of the recorded burst of energy, the uniformity of
temperature within the cell, and the possible recombination of gasses, the
Wilson critique supported the Utah chemists’ techniques and claims.16
Wilson’s report also supported the claim of the existence of anomalous
power. The authors allowed that several of the cells still showed significant
power even after their values were recalculated. In one cell, after Wilson’s recalculation,
the power amounted to four watts per cubic cm. of palladium and
the total amount for the run amounted to four megaJoules of energy. These
quantities were beyond what chemical reactions can provide. That the Wilson
team at GE did not follow up the Fleischmann and Pons defense with further
analysis is a pity.
* It should be noted that GE had a financial incentive to reach a negative conclusion. They
wanted to back out of a research contract.
† A précis of the report is included in the appendix.
14. Fleischmann, M., and S. Pons, "Some Comments on the Paper Analysis of Experiments on
Calorimetry of LiOD/D2O Electrochemical Cells, R. H. Wilson, et al.," (Journal of
Electroanalytical Chemistry, vol. 332, 1992), pp. 33-53.
15. Wilson, R. H., et al., "Analysis of Experiments on the Calorimetry of LiOD-D2O Electrochemical
Cells," (Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, vol. 332, 1992), p. 1.
16. Ibid., p. 2.
Excerpt from page 188, Chapter 14: Validation
R. H. Wilson et al. at General Electric published a critique of the initial full length paper by Fleischmann and Pons which we discussed in Chapter 9, p. 117. Wilson comes into this court (of validation) as a reluctant witness,
brought to the bar by the bailiff: he and his cohort insist there is no such thing as excess heat.
In 1991 Wilson et al. recalculated the cell performance as presented by Fleischmann and Pons to take into account what they felt were several technical
oversights in the original paper. Wilson still found that one Fleischmann and Pons cell generated approximately 40% anomalous power compared to
the power put into the cell. This amounted to 736 milliwatts. This level of anomalous power was more than ten times larger than the error levels associated
with the data.
Excerpt from pages 357-360:
Appendix: The Wilson Critique
The considerable power levels that Fleischmann and Pons measured in their
seminal article (July 1990) claiming anomalous power generation were reviewed
in Chapter 4. During the following year R. H. Wilson, J. W. Bray, P.
G. Kosky, and H. B. Vakil, of General Electric Co., Schenectady, New York,
and F. G. Will, of the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of
Utah, offered a substantial critique of that article.
The Wilson group was active in cold fusion experimental work from the
beginning. Their paper was submitted for publication in June 1991 and accepted
for publication that December. A copy of their manuscript would then
have been sent to the original paper’s authors for preparation of a response. Fleischmann and Pons responded, and the two papers were published together
in July 1992, in the normal manner of professional publications.
Wilson summarized his critique as follows.
We evaluate the data and methods of Pons, Fleischmann and coworkers
and, where sufficient data are available, conclude that they
overestimate significantly the excess heat. This is in part because in
their calibration they did not include calculation of the change in input
electrochemical power to the cell resulting from the calibration
heater power. An additional significant overestimate of excess energy
occurs when the calibration is made at cell temperatures above 60°C,
owing to the increased evaporation of heavy water during the calibration.*
The Wilson critique had two purposes. It discusses Fleischmann and
Pons’s seminal paper, and it reports on research with its own electrolytic cells,
none of which produced excess heat. The concern here is with that part of the
report that discusses the Fleischmann and Pons paper. (The question of the
significance of failed experiments was evaluated in the Chapter 8, page 107.)
Wilson’s criticism of Fleischmann and Pons’s paper was limited to the following
concern expressed in the paper’s abstract “. . . in their calibration they
did not include calculation of the change in input electrochemical power to
the cell resulting from the calibration heater power.” Their criticism of inadequate
data treatment concerns the consequences of using the calibration pulse
to determine cell performance. The impact is a reduction in the amount of
calculated excess power reported in the original Fleischmann and Pons article. Wilson accordingly recalculates the generated power for the Fleischmann and
The recalculated excess power in one case amounts to minus 0.43 watts.** This result implies that there is a thermodynamic black hole in that cell which
swallows 0.43 watts of power thus causing energy to disappear from existence. This unexplained disappearance is fully as remarkable as the original
Fleischmann and Pons announcement where they claimed the unexplained
appearance of power. The Wilson critique is incomplete on this point.
Fleischmann and Pons respond as follows to these criticisms of their calculations.
The central assumption in the paper by Wilson is that one can assume
the systems to be in a steady state at the point in time at which
they are calibrated . . . and at which the values . . . are to be evaluated.
In point of fact there is no such steady state . . . as can be seen
from . . . the paper by Wilson, . . . The magnitudes of [those] terms
. . . are in fact comparable to those of the corrections . . . introduced
in deriving the heat transfer coefficients . . .†
In other words, a principal assumption of the Wilson paper introduces an error
equal in size to other significant corrections being proposed.
Consequently, Fleischmann and Pons note that the integral form of the
differential equation must be used for computation, as follows,
It is well known in many fields of research that accurate values of the
parameters of the differential equations which model the systems can
only be obtained by comparing the integrated forms of the equations
with the experimental data. (p. 38)
Fleischmann and Pons continue by cautioning on the limitations of this technique. The process of integration will smooth values over time thus reducing
mathematical errors in the computed coefficients.
After identifying the various methods used to calculate results from the
cell data as methods one through six, Fleischmann and Pons offer the following
assessments of Wilson’s work.
Wilson does not deal with any of these evaluations: they regard
Method 2, which was outlined . . . as “very complicated and very difficult to follow in detail.” However, this method, together with low
pass filtering, . . . is the standard method of modern data processing. (p. 40)
The filters which have been used . . . take full account of the
evaporation of the [electrolyte] . . . the assertion that we did not take
this into account can be seen to be incorrect . . . We observe that the
results of the independent investigation using filtering were presented
to the group at GE during 1991; their omission of reference
to this work shows that they also reject this method of data processing
in addition to Method 2. (p. 40)
Clearly, the Wilson team had not achieved a review of calorimetric data reduction;
they were not evaluating each of the possible ways to get the optimum
information out of the cell data reading. It was up to Fleischmann and Pons to
explain to the Wilson team what needed to be done.
Fleischmann and Pons provided a tour of the six computational methods
and then got down to the nitty-gritty.
We are therefore reduced to examining the claim that the method
put forward by Wilson, Method 5, provides an accurate means of
evaluating [excess power]. The authors imply that as the results obtained
by their Method 5 differ from those obtained by our own approximate
method, Method 1, it is our method which must be
judged to be incorrect. (p. 40)
Fleischmann and Pons’s conclusion is reached after several pages of equations
We conclude that [the two methods] are comparable but that they
give the [heat] balance at different [times of the cell’s operating cycle].
After rejecting the possibility of maintaining the electrolyte level perfectly
constant, they promptly continue to a way of dealing with this intrinsic
The answer lies in making the [equation’s] term . . . part of the evaluation
[calculation] and this in itself dictates the strategy that the
whole [period of the variables] be fitted to the integrated forms of
the . . . equations which model the calorimeters, i.e. it dictates the
use of methods such as Methods 2 and 4. It is not surprising that
such methods can give precise results as a matter of routine. (p. 47)
Fleischmann and Pons touch upon two summary items that are of interest
to us. One concerns the general accuracy of calorimetry, and the other concerns
the results of the Wilson heat generation effort.
The information on this issue [of calorimetric accuracy] which was
contained in our original paper and in the related papers has been ignored
by Wilson. They have also ignored the fact that we showed
that it is possible to achieve at least 99% heat accuracy by the methods
we have used . . . ; we have never claimed an accuracy better than
±1% or ±1 milliwatt whichever is the greater. (p. 47)
They gave the following assessment of Wilson’s recalculation regarding their
. . . They also do not discuss the fact that even on the basis of their
own evaluations[,] the excess [power] for a 0.2 cm diameter x 10 cm
length Pd cathode polarized at 128 milliamperes for each square
centimeter of surface area has reached [approximately] 50% of the
[power] input after 15 days of [operation] . . . Presumably they believe
that the errors have now reached 50% to explain away these effects?
It should be noted the these [power] outputs are of the order 4
watts/cubic cm . . . and that over the duration of the experiment
shown[,] the total [energy] released is of the order of 4 MegaJoules
per cubic cm . . . which hardly lies in the province of chemistry.
Wilson does not mention their own recognition from their own calculations
of the existence of excess energy as presented in the Fleischmann and Pons
original paper. They are also unwilling to face up to the implication that the
amount greatly exceeds what can be explained by measurement inaccuracies.
* Wilson, R. H., et al., “Analysis of Experiments on the Calorimetry of LiOD-D2O Electrochemical
Cells,” (Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, vol. 332, 1992).
** Wilson, R. H., et al., “Analysis of Experiments on the Calorimetry of LiOD-D2O Electrochemical
Cells,” (Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, vol. 332, 1992), p. 10.
† Fleischmann, M., and S. Pons, “Some Comments on the Paper Analysis of Experiments on
Calorimetry of LiOD/D2O Electrochemical Cells, R. H. Wilson, et al.,” (Journal of Electroanalytical
Chemistry, vol. 332, 1992), p. 38.