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infinite energy

Infinite Energy Device Update
Progress in Les Case's Catalytic Fusion
Published in IE Volume 4, Issue #23
by Gene Mallove July, 1999

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Progress in Catalytic Fusion
Birth of a Revolution in Cold Fusion?
To the delight of many at the Seventh International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF-7) in Vancouver, BC last April, a new approach to cold fusion emerged. Dr. Les Case, an experienced chemical engineer with four degrees from MIT, announced what he is calling "catalytic fusion"— to distinguish it somewhat from the original electrochemical approach. He had concluded that the electrochemical method of Fleischmann and Pons was going to continue to be limited by materials issues— palladium cracking, composition, etc.— and the inherent difficulties of working with electrochemical systems. Furthermore, he wanted to achieve the higher temperatures that are allowed by gas-phase systems.

The story of Dr. Case's discovery of catalytic fusion is exciting, including his travel to Europe and Japan in search of the proper path forward. In the account below, we let Dr. Case tell the Edisonian story of discovery in his own words. It turns out that relatively simple catalysts— off-the-shelf "hydrogenation" catalysts used in the chemical industry— seem to catalyze deuterium (heavy hydrogen) gas to helium-4 in a heat-releasing nuclear reaction that is millions of times more energetic than any conceivable chemical reaction. These catalysts are typically activated carbon that has been doped with precious metals such as palladium. Other catalysts may emerge as a result of this line of investigation, ones that perhaps will not require any precious metals. Unlike high temperature plasma fusion (hot fusion), there is no harmful radiation from the process. Thus, the original promise of cold fusion may now be realized in more robust and repeatable experiments. Ultimately, these could be commercialized in relatively straightforward ways that make use of chemical engineering practice.

At the moment, catalytic fusion studies are proceeding at Dr. Case's own lab in New Hampshire, at SRI International in Menlo Park, California and at the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, (a U.S. Department of Energy lab, under contract with Russ George's Saturna Technologies, Inc.). In our own facility (New Energy Research Lab— NERL) here in Bow, New Hampshire, we saw the positive results of a Case experiment first hand shortly after ICCF-7 (see IE No. 19). We are beginning a second round of work to demonstrate the process with a relatively simple calorimetric dewar set up. We hope that these efforts help catalyze new work by others in an area of immense potential.

We are pleased to present the following progress reports on catalytic fusion, in the words of Dr. Case and Dr. Michael McKubre. In the course of video-taping our forthcoming documentary about cold fusion ("Cold Fusion: Fire from Water"), our video team visited Dr. Les Case this fall in his basement laboratory in New Hampshire. These are some of Dr. Case's recollections about his discovery and his projections about the future of catalytic fusion technology. — EFM


How I Discovered Catalytic Fusion (Les Case)
I was going to be a chemical engineer and then head a large corporation. I went to MIT and I got three degrees in Chemical Engineering through the Sc.D. Also, along the way, I took a side degree in Business Administration. I went to DuPont to their Central Research Station, the Plastics Department, or something of the sort. I worked there and it became clear that they didn't want to do business the same way I wanted to do business, so then I taught school for ten years.

I started my own laboratory, studying improved plastics and polymers and I had, for fifteen or twenty years in Nashua, New Hampshire, my own company and my own building, but it never went commercial. I did a lot of research and development, got a lot of patents, and then my wife got very ill. I spent a fair amount of time concentrating on keeping her well. So the laboratory there went inactive. Then when my wife died in 1987, I had a lot of things to do to get the estate together and so forth. I was then following scientific developments, which were then current. I became quite interested in high temperature superconductivity. In fact, I went to the Beijing Conference on Rare Earths and presented a theoretical paper providing the background, what I thought was the chemical background for the physical phenomenon of high temperature superconductivity. For a while I began to play around with the idea of getting a useful device based on high temperature superconductivity.

At just about that time, the cold fusion hubbub erupted. I followed it with some interest, but I could not see how it would go commercial. The original conception obviously was a scientific curiosity, but it wasn't at any point in the reasonable future heading towards a commercial operation. So I followed that at arms length until I saw some work by Dr. Yamaguchi at NTT in Japan, in which he had obtained an 800°C-plus exotherm [exothermic reaction] with, he thought, big bursts of neutrons. So I went to visit him— actually in Tokyo at his laboratory— and looked at his equipment. Beautiful stuff! Very careful work. Clearly, he had obtained a result which was very, very definite. And, incidentally, at this time, which was about 1993 or so, it was still highly controversial as to whether or not anything related to cold fusion had ever really been seen in a definitive fashion. There was no question that he had seen a very definitive result. He'd obtained 800°C-plus.

Well then, I thought, "OK, this is something that needs to be refined and scaled up." And because he was working with palladium and everybody else was working with palladium and platinum primarily, it became sort of obvious to me that probably some sort of catalytic effect was involved. I am a chemical engineer and chemical engineers use chemical catalysis all the time. Platinum and palladium are the preferred catalytic metals. So I then embarked on trying to follow up Dr. Yamaguchi's work in my own fashion. I was initially concentrating on the neutrons as being something important. I then spent, I think, over a year trying to find a laboratory, equipped to deal with neutrons, which would cooperate with me— in which I could sponsor some work and try to work out my ideas.

Off to Europe
There was no laboratory in the United States that I could find that would work with me. After all, it was cold fusion, or something related to cold fusion and most scientists wouldn't touch it— even for money. I finally determined that because all Eastern Europe is known to be very low wage scale— low price scale— that there were some Eastern European neutron laboratories that were of possible interest. So I got myself a plane ticket to Berlin and took the train going east to Warsaw.

I went to the Department of Nuclear Science or something of the sort in the Physics Department in the University of Warsaw. I met a nice lady there and there was a possibility of doing some work. We agreed to meet a little later on my trip to Budapest, for dinner and further consultation. Then I looked at the train schedule and considered going to Lotz. It's not very approachable, so I skipped directly to Prague, which was a lucky shot. I went to Prague and I knew about Charles University there, which is a very famous old university, and went downtown to the old town square to the main campus and tried to find the Physics Department. It wasn't easy, because I don't speak Czech and many of the Czechs don't speak English. I finally found somebody there and she told me, "Oh, you want to go the Physics Department. That's on the other campus, across the river."

So I got the directions to go to the other campus. It's a tower building there and the Department of Nuclear Science was on, I think, the tenth floor of this tower building. So I had the taxi driver let me off and I went to the tower building, found the elevator, and went up to the 10th floor. I walked out the door and there was a sign that said "Nuclear Science." I went in and there was a very efficient scientific looking gentleman with white hair, sitting there talking to, I guess, the secretary. It turned out he was the Director of the operation.

I explained to him I wanted to do this kind of research and he said: "We'll do it!" I said "Really, who has to approve it?" and he said: "We'll do it!" So I hooked up with the Department; actually it's the Nuclear Center, Department of Physics and Mathematics at Charles University. For I guess over a year, maybe about two years, I was doing experiments in their nuclear laboratory, which is associated with CERN. It's a serious nuclear laboratory. It is by no means equivalent of CERN...

Shooting in the Dark
It was empirical work and I was trying to find an effect— the idea was to find some sort of temperature [rise]. I was using the temperature gradient for a catalyst— active versus a blank. I had a big vessel, and I had four samples inside the big vessel. One of these four samples was the blank and the other three were potential candidates. I would change the hydrogen or the deuterium gas over the sample, change the nature of the samples, and look for temperature differences. With neutrons or without neutrons. We also had to measure the neutrons I might be making, so it was empirical. I made a whole bunch of runs, — oh, on probably three or four different trips, and with minimal results for maybe the first two trips. One of the times I started with a plated palladium-on-copper tubing, and I thought that might be catalytic, but it wasn't. I tried some titanium tubing, but it wasn't catalytic, and I finally ended up thinking: "If it's catalytic, you better use catalysts." So I ended up scanning through several dozen available samples of catalysts.

Finally, some of these catalysts I was modifying— I actually had some platinum and palladium acetonate, and I was modifying the surfaces— all of a sudden we started seeing temperature differences in one or two of the samples. That is, we were beginning to find active catalysts that would really show a temperature gradient over the inactive catalysts. And I can remember very clearly, one day it was, I think 1.2°C or 2.1°C above the background in a particular catalyst sample. The physicist that was working with me was amazed, because as far as physicists are concerned, 1 or 2°C might as well be a million degrees, because it's clearly an effect and we were measuring it immediately versus an adjacent blank.

He said. "Well, how did you select this material to do this experiment?" And I said: "Because that's the one that works!" This is what happened: I had scanned through with many different experiments through all the various candidates that I had received from three to five different sources of catalyst, until I found a catalyst, a chemical catalyst that was off the shelf, that actually worked to give some sort of effect with deuterium compared to hydrogen and compared to the other blanks. So it was strictly an empirical result, just blindly following my nose. Changing the conditions, changing the pressures, changing the temperatures, and so forth until I finally found a catalyst that gave me a result...

What happened was as follows. I have always been very protective of this. Well, not always, but for the last five years or so— very protective of the results— not disclosing them to anybody. I have a series of U.S. patent applications, about eight or ten of them, a basic one which was totally speculative and wrong. I kept filing continuations and amendments to them. Finally, I began to get these results, and then with all of our three or four patent applications prior to my current ones, I began to get results. I kept improving them.

Finally, I got to a set of results which defined the field, basically. With that patent application, I filed for foreign applications and that was published in November 1996. I expected that there would be a very big response when this was published, but there was no response whatever. Nobody was paying any attention. So finally I decided to take the bull by the horns and I appeared at the Cold Fusion Conference unannounced, in Vancouver in April of this year. At this April Cold Fusion Conference, ICCF-7, I gave a brief talk, saying that I had developed an experimental procedure for reproducibly generating a heat effect with deuterium and that it's catalytic. As I say, I can reproduce it and I can scale it up. It created quite a stir at the conference, because people were looking. A lot of people were looking for this: some sort of basic real approach, not just playing around, but a concept of something that made it work reproducibly. The concept I introduced was contacting a certain limited range of standard chemical catalysts with deuterium under standard conditions, and it would work.

Well, there's a little bit more to it than that, but this was new because nobody previously had ever used a standard chemical catalyst. They were always making their own special material and practically nobody thought of a catalyst. It was their particular equipment, and sometimes it was very elaborate. But I was able to buy, off the shelf, standard chemical catalysts which did work. Gene Mallove and I met at that conference. This is how Gene and I came together at the conference in Vancouver.

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