Infinite Energy Device Update
New Energy Research Laboratory
Device and Process Testing Update
Published in IE Volume 5, Issue
#29 January, 2000. By Ed Wall.
Portland State University Visit
What can a person like myself, with limited knowledge,
do to know with a high degree of certainty whether cold fusion is
a figment of collective imagination, a scientific curiosity of questionable
validity, a remarkable anomaly with unexplored application, or something
an engineer would find useful?
It was with this certainty of uncertainty that I decided
to undertake the task of proving to myself that cold fusion excess
power exists. If I did not succeed and gave up, I would be no worse
off in satisfying my desire to know. Reviewing the literature that
shows positive results impressed me deeply, but such information
is necessarily second-hand, even when highly credible, and did not
seem to be adequate to convince crucial skeptics.
I recently visited Professor John Dash's lab at Portland
State University in Oregon. He and his group have been experimenting
for many years on electrolytic cold fusion cells with titanium cathodes
and platinum anodes. I went in mid-December, at a time of year when
his typical group of college, graduate, and high school students
were not congregating in the lab and I was able to have the attention
of doctoral student Jon Warner. Warner has mentored five high school
students over the past two years in performing experiments designed
to find evidence for cold fusion. His Master's dissertation was
based on cold fusion research.
Dr. Dash impressed me as a quiet and careful researcher,
quite friendly and thoughtful, but stern, not allowing his students
to wander, insisting on clear-minded effort to build consistent
evidence. He is a physics professor and metallurgist, specializing
in the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) which has an
energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS). Besides the typical sorts
of pictures we know from SEM's, the EDS allows for precise element
identification in a very specific area of the cathode target, easily
controlled by the operator.
Up until 1999, this group has done isoperibolic calorimetry.
This isoperibolic calorimeter involved seven identical cells wired
electrically in series, so that electrical current was always the
same through each of the cells. Cell power was controlled by varying
voltage across the electrodes by changing the area of an electrode
exposed to electrolyte. This is a less than ideal approach, requiring
a lot of monitoring, but by maintaining the electrode voltage of
the test cell below the voltage into the control cells, a useful
comparison results. The test cells usually showed higher temperatures
than the control cells, even with consistently lower power consumption.
The experiment incorporated a reproducibility test, having two cells
each with titanium cathodes with a particular degree of lattice
disorder, which is induced by means of cold rolling. This seems
like an excellent experiment to do on a tight budget (provided you
know someone who can provide the cell materials).
Warner is a very energetic and focused investigator.
He is very glad to be working with a system they have had in use
for a short series of experiments that are built around a Seebeck
Envelope Calorimeter (SEC or Calvet calorimeter, see Photo 1 in
IE #29). This device is widely regarded as the highest quality
means of determining heat data from a reaction under test, in this
case, an electrolytic cell with titanium cathode and platinum anode.
The calorimeter is a product of Thermonetics, Inc. (See Photo 1 in IE #29.) It has won high praise from cold
fusion scientist Ben Bush, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin.
The device is capable of precisely measuring a very wide range of
heat values. Judging from Warner's calibration data, the instrument
does not drift much. Warner does perform many calibrations, at many
different power levels. He calibrates with three methods: a resistance
heater provided by the manufacturer; a resistance heater suspended
in water in a beaker to get an approximate equivalent heat capacity
as a test cell; and an electrolytic cell, with two platinum electrodes.
All three methods produce nearly identical slope and offset constants.
Unlike a flow calorimeter, the SEC is a solid-state device that
does not depend on pumps, the temperature sensing of fluids, or
the measurement of the flow rate of fluids. It is more precise,
accurate, reliable, and sensitive than a flow calorimeter.
When I arrived, their usual test cell with a titanium
cathode, platinum anode, and acidic electrolyte (H2SO4)
was running. It showed an excess heat of ~0.2 W. This was with an
error margin of +/- 0.022 W. There are redundant methods of voltage
and current measurement. The unit used for acquiring data is a Keithley
SEC Calibration and Theory of Operation
The way the SEC works is by a long, long series
circuit of thermocouples. Each thermocouple produces a small voltage
that is a function of its temperature. The thermocouples are assembled
in a zig-zag between the inside container and the constant temperature
reference, which is fixed temperature flowing water bath. Every
other thermocouple is touching the inner surface and the rest of
them are at the reference temperature, maintained by flowing water.
If there is no heat produced within the device, there is no heat
flow through the insulated calorimeter walls, so no temperature
difference exists between the reference bath and the calorimeter
inner wall. The sum of all the thermocouple voltages nulls (ideally)
under these conditions because every thermocouple has an opposite
polarity from its neighbors. So, for an even number of thermocouples,
all with the same voltage, the series sum is zero. No matter where
heat is developed in the calorimeter, it must exit through the wall,
where it will contribute to a temperature gradient across the wall.
The thermocouples integrate those many contributions in a very predictable
fashion, and the cell calibration can apply at a range of power
levels, as Jon Warner's calibration checking shows. His slope and
offset are very close to those provided by the manufacturer. There
will be some variation from manufacturer's specified calibration
constants because the wires that provide power for cell electrolysis
and for sensing cell temperature can conduct a small amount of heat
in a way that varies with ambient temperature; this sneaks around
the intended heat detection. This heat can be taken into account
by calibration once the calorimeter is operating.
Warner has made a cement sleeve to encase thermocouples
for maintaining the positions of several thermocouples against the
cell outer wall. This gives them a means to monitor cell performance
and determine if the recombiner is functioning. The sleeve is visible
in Photo 2 in IE #29.
Intended Null Run Produces Heat
An unexpected event occurred during an overnight
calibration run. We saw a control platinum-platinum cell seem to
develop around 0.2 W of excess heat on an overnight run. The cathode
had been used extensively and surprisingly began developing the
excess heat.1 Dash refers to those phenomena in a published
paper of earlier research, consistent with the work of Ohmori and
Enyo.2 The latter researchers detected excess heat using
gold cathodes, another noble metal which does not absorb hydrogen.
So most people assume they cannot produce the cold fusion effect
with such cathodes. When we replaced this "active" calibration cell
with one we made that was essentially identical, except for a new,
unelectrolyzed platinum electrode, the excess heat disappeared.
Dr. Edmund Storms has also recently expressed similar indications
that he is currently studying in his experiments, in which excess
heat is found with a platinum cathode. He writes that it seems to
be dependent on some unknown contamination, making it hard to reproduce.3
Titanium May Make a Good Demonstration
These cells seem well-behaved for demonstration
purposes. They typically begin producing excess heat as soon as
steady state conditions are reached (about two hours). They will
then run for as long as eight days (so far). Calibration and test
cells are weighed before and after a run. Typical water loss is
around 1 ml/day. A little water, which is apparently from the cell,
appears on the insides of the calorimeter (see Photos 2 and 3 in
IE #29). The unit is sealed.
Warner gave me a chance to use their SEM/EDS. We examined
the platinum cathode that was producing excess heat and something
was found that might be due to a small melting event. The entire
metal surface that was observed had sharp edged features, but one
pit had rounded edges that would not sharpen with focusing, so it
had apparently melted.
Dr. Dash and Jon Warner have agreed to help us in
our efforts to replicate this experiment. We have placed an order
for a new Calvet calorimeter, which will take around two months
to fulfill. In the meantime, we are preparing to do some related
Case Cell Results
A sample of the cell gas was taken with a specially
designed sampling canister and sent to Drs. McKubre and Tanzella
at SRI. They agreed to evaluate it for helium content. In the last
issue of Infinite Energy, the initial deuterium gas sample
evaluation results (from before the cell was run) from SRI were
described as having very low helium concentration. The final gas
sample also revealed essentially no helium. This was disappointing,
but something of a relief, because the flow calorimeter did not
show perceptible excess heat. It seems that the steadily rising
catalyst temperature that was found did not cause helium production,
that these two phenomena may be separate. At this point, further
work with the Case Cell is likely, but is delayed due to moving
it from the old laboratory to our new facility. It will have to
be reassembled, tested, and calibrated before another run is started.
1. 1996. "Progress in New Hydrogen Energy," Proceedings
of ICCF-6, 2, p. 477.
2. Mizuno, T. 1998. Nuclear Transmutation: The
Reality of Cold Fusion, Infinite Energy Press.
3. Private Communication.