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infinite energy


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 2000-20.

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 Cell
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 studies.

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.

References

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.



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