Alexander Karabut: A Russian Scientist’s
Tenacity and Contribution
by Marianne Macy
Photo courtesy of Nataliya Famina
Dr. Alexander Borisovich Karabut died on March 15, 2015. His friend and colleague Dr. Yuri Bazhutov reported that Karabut passed away in the hospital after suffering a stroke.
Dr. Karabut got his Ph.D. from State Technical University, Moscow in 1987. A prolific and inventive nuclear engineer, inventor and experimenter, Karabut worked at the Scientific Research Institute and Scientific Industrial Association in Podolsk, commonly known as LUCH. He was a senior researcher at LUCH at the time of his death.
Nataliya Famina, friend and colleague of Karabut, reported that a seminar in memory of Dr. Karabut was held on March 24. She, Irina Savvatimova and Alexey Roussetski spoke about Karabut’s life and work. Famina reported, “Irina and Alexander published their first paper on cold fusion shortly after Fleischmann and Pons. Irina said that they had observed the effect of excess heat long before F&P, they hadn’t paid attention, they had been more interested in transmutation.”
Dr. Bazhutov noted that Karabut is “our veteran and one of the leading researchers in Russia on cold nuclear transmutation.” Karabut was a member of the Coordinating Council on the Problem of Cold Nuclear Transmutation and member of the editorial board of the Russian Conference on Cold Nuclear Transmutation and Ball Lightning.
Dr. Karabut was awarded the Preparata Medal in 2007, honoring his work with glow discharge experiments and collimated X-rays. That same year, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Karabut for the New Energy Foundation/University of Utah oral history project; he discussed his early scientific career and introduction into cold fusion.
In the 1980s, LUCH was developing rocket engines for the mission to go to Mars. Nuclear rocket engines were Alexander Karabut’s specialty. Karabut worked with preliminary reactor tests. He recalled, “They were developing ceramic uranium fuel. I was occupied in developing low temperature hydrogen plasmas. We simulated the conditions for the operation of a real nuclear rocket engine.”
During perestroika, how science research was funded changed. Before, Karabut’s presentations were supported by Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But he and his colleagues lost the support of the new political establishment and his salary dropped very sharply. Looking for a new research area, Karabut became aware of the Fleischmann and Pons announcement, and their achievements. Fleischmann and Pons were occupied with electrolysis. Karabut believed experiments with plasmas would be much more efficient. He was transferred to the Department of Materials Technology at LUCH, where he and his fellow scientists received negligible salaries. But he was given freedom to decide what subject matter he would pursue. Everything depended on his own initiative. Karabut became an enthusiast of cold nuclear fusion. He could freely use all the equipment that was available at the time. He set to work.
Karabut and his colleagues at LUCH started to develop glow discharge plasma experiments to study excess heat. It was difficult, Karabut related, to change one’s own psychology and conventional education and to think in terms of a low energy nuclear reaction after his life’s training specified that a nuclear reaction would not proceed at low energies. “There is no conventional way to understand,” he said. “It was extremely difficult to overcome this. Many physicists could not accept the idea that the old rules did not work anymore. My experience in laser physics and non-equilibrium plasmas helped a lot because I knew about many processes that were going on.” His initial work led him to an appreciation of the difficulty of the experiments. He related how for five years he believed he was seeing neutrons, only to finally discover it was a mistake in measurements.
When cold fusion research support diminished in the 1990s, Russian researchers pursued smaller grants and garnered the support of an international corporation. That paid for the equipment, and enough for survival, although Karabut’s wages dropped from $700 a month to $150. Karabut and his Russian colleagues courageously persevered in these egregious conditions.
Karabut related that he “made a discovery without any intention of making this. It happened out of the blue, so to speak. It may have been a form of diffusion emission in the form of extra bursts, monoenergetic extra bursts with small angular divergence.” He believed it to be an X-ray laser in a solid-state medium.
When Karabut first observed emissions, there were several factors which puzzled him. “First, the emission occurs as a generation of X-ray beams. The voltage is changed. For example, at 1500 volts, there is no decrease at this voltage. At 550 volts, very small, the generation starts or is available as a plasma. At five millimeters of mercury, there is no generation at 5 torr. If (one) reduces the generation to 2 or 3 torr the generation starts. Just like this.” He now could control the reaction due to knowledge accrued from different experiments. He noted, “It was different for different cathode materials.”
Karabut found that palladium led to very good results. Tantalum and tungsten produced powerful generation. Titanium experiments showed smaller effects. Aluminum at first would give good production, then it stopped quickly. The effect was largely independent of the discharge gas used.
Karabut described how he studied the works of international organizations on X-ray lasers. The shortest wavelength he discovered in these works was 3.80 nanometers. His experiments showed 0.8 up to 1.2 nanometers. “It is soft X-ray emission,” he explained. “I register a secondary emission. Induced in a lead screen in a secondary X-ray emission. By all laws of physics they made no X-ray emissions at such lengths, they can’t penetrate this lead screen. This is an absolutely new field of physics. Many people oppose everything. The situation is as follows: I asked a doctor from Ioffe (Institute in Russia) to make some diagnostics for me. He is a good specialist who worked at the installation of a Nobel Laureate there. He received results, and I asked him about them. He said, ‘I did everything and I register the effect. But this thing has no mention in any of our official books so please don’t mention my name in your work as I don’t want to be discredited.’ That is what happened. Even though he saw the effect. People are afraid or maybe don’t believe it.”
Dr. Karabut would proceed to do years of experiments pursuing his X-ray effects. He published dozens of publications and continued his work, influencing researchers around the world. Dr. David Nagel, who spent a quarter century working with X-rays at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and as a professor at George Washington University, stated, “Karabut’s X-ray effects were interesting. They are the fastest recorded evidence from LENR experiments of any kind. I’ve included graphs from his work in one of my papers. The X-ray and collimated effects are important.”
Karabut found X-rays from his source were like a laser, directional. The scientific advantage to this, David Nagel notes, “would be they could tell us about emission from nuclear action at ordinary temperature. It will tell us interesting physics about simulating nuclear levels at low energy.”
MIT Prof. Peter Hagelstein and SRI’s Dr. Fran Tanzella have worked on an experiment to study the possible up-conversion of vibrational energy in order to understand Karabut’s X-ray effects, not with glow discharge but with a vibrating copper foil. Tanzella and Hagelstein presented on their work at the MIT Colloquium in 2014 and will present it at ICCF19 in Padua, Italy.
“Karabut’s work has provided the foundation of most of the major issues I’ve been working on since 2011,” declared Peter Hagelstein. “If you say the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is the Number 1 experiment in this field in terms of importance, I’m of the opinion Karabut’s collimated X-rays is in the top five.” Besides its significance for understanding the physics of low energy nuclear reactions, Hagelstein added, Karabut’s collimated X-rays would be “ridiculously useful, the cat’s meow for lithography for semiconductors.”
Marianne Macy and Infinite Energy will be providing a longer report for the next issue, with further coverage of the history and continuance of the work of Alexander Karabut in Russia, and the Hagelstein and Tanzella experiments.