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infinite energy

Cold Fusion: From Reasons to Doubt to Reasons to Believe
by Dr. Edmund Storms
Los Alamos National Laborartory (Retired)
Six years have passed since the modern era of cold fusion was started by Professors Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, both then at the University of Utah. During this time, criticisms made by skeptics have been taken seriously, errors have been reduced or eliminated, and a wide variety of studies have been done using very modern equipment in many countries. The early problem of reproducing the effect has been largely eliminated, the nuclear ash has been found, and theoretical explanations abound. The problem now is more psychological than scientific. In spite of all this new and improved information, general skepticism about the effect continues within the scientific community, and general rejection by the U.S. and many other governments remains unchanged.

I will not try to change this skepticism. To do so would take too much time and give many readers a bad case of boredom. Instead I will show those of you who have an active curiosity where the field now stands. If I succeed in arousing your interest, many sources of good information are now available to deepen your knowledge.

What is "cold fusion"?
The term now describes a general ability to produce a variety of nuclear reactions in addition to fusion. These reactions occur within solid matter near room temperature using a variety of methods . A better name might now be "Chemically Assisted Nuclear Reactions (CARN)." Use of super-high temperatures, powerful accelerators, or nuclear reactors are no longer the only methods needed to modify the nucleus or to extract energy. The original--now classic--electrolytic method used by Pons and Fleischmann is said to produce the "Pons-Fleischmann Effect." At least nine other methods have been found to be successful.

I should point out as an interesting aside, that part of this effect was claimed over 1700 years ago by what we call the alchemists. This group flourished in many countries for over 1300 years by impressing kings with their ability to create wealth, so we are told. The ideas proposed by this group were rejected when the modern scientific method was adopted and became successful. One wonders what else has been rejected from the past that should be reexamined?

Why should we care if this unexplainable and sometimes difficult to initiate phenomenon is real? We should care because this discovery has the potential to change the basic economic, social, and scientific fabric of our time. This wake-up claim is possible because energy can be created using an abundant natural resource without producing pollution, carbon dioxide, or radioactivity, and without the need for huge plants that require large capital investment. Granted, these claims seem too good to be true. Nevertheless, the potential importance should give you an incentive to hear the arguments.

Why is the effect impossible?
Nuclear interaction is restricted by the presence of a barrier created by the positive charge residing in the proton, a major constituent of all nuclei. This is the so-called Coulomb barrier. In order to move two nuclei close enough to interact, considerable energy must be invested. Many calculations using conventional theory have shown that, although a little fusion might take place under low-energy conditions, the amount required to produce the claimed heat or even the claimed tritium is impossible. Even if these calculations were wrong and the heat or tritium were caused by fusion, certain final products would be expected. These products include neutrons and tritium in large and equal amounts, the emission of gamma- rays from neutron interaction with the environment, and x-rays from excited electrons. All of these features are observed, but the quantities are too small and in the wrong proportion. In addition, tritium resulting from a fusion reaction normally has sufficient energy after formation to fuse with any deuteron it encounters. This reaction produces 14 MeV neutrons, yet no neutrons with this energy are observed. These arguments have been the basis for rejecting the claims and, on some occasions, they have blinded people to other possibilities.

What is the evidence for this unusual effect?
Tritium, neutrons, gamma rays, and excess energy have been seen under conditions that should not produce these reaction products.

Rejection of tritium as a nuclear product assumes that the palladium, cell material, or environment were contaminated before or during the experiment. Thus, the presence of tritium is acknowledged, but it is proposed to come into the cell by conventional means. This idea is no longer valid. Studies have now been done using sealed cells constructed from materials demonstrated to be tritium-free. A variety of methods have produced this isotope, and a variety of methods have been used to demonstrate that tritium is not initially present.

Neutron emission has been rejected because it is produced in bursts much like electrical noise or neutrons created by cosmic rays, and is close to background levels. New detectors and techniques have demonstrated repeatedly that neutron emission is real and, on several occasions, have measured an energy near 2.45 MeV . This is the energy expected from a fusion reaction. Additional neutrons at higher energy suggest an additional, complex reaction. Clearly, more than conventional fusion can occur. However, neutrons are never emitted at rates necessary to originate from heat or tritium-producing reactions.

Gamma-ray detection has demonstrated the presence of radioactive byproducts resulting from several nuclear reactions other than fusion. These strange nuclear reactions have been seen occasionally after electrolysis as well as after using gas discharge techniques. It is very hard to explain away easily detected and short-lived radioactive decay in a metal that, previous to the treatment, was not radioactive.

Heat production implies a nuclear reaction at least 1,000 times faster than the best tritium production rate so far observed. Yet anomalous heat produces very little radiation and does not appear to require the production of tritium. Rejection of excess energy was, therefore, based on the absence of expected nuclear "ash" and radiation. Many early heat measurements were done using so-called open cells, i.e. ones that allowed the evolving D2 and O2 to leave the cell. Such cells can easily produce significant error. In addition, records were frequently not kept before excess energy production started. These deficiencies allowed skeptics to create possible explanations for the claimed excess involving unexpected recombination of the gases or unrecorded energy storage and release processes. Gradually heat measuring techniques were improved. Closed, sealed cells that allow nothing to enter or leave the cell are now studied. Some cells have produced a power equivalent greater than 3 kW /cm3 of palladium and total energy greater than 200 MJ. This energy is greater than that released from a cell filled with exploding TNT. Of course this enormous energy and power were produced over several weeks of observation using small electrodes, thus avoiding the inevitable mess from an explosive release. Furthermore, no indication of unusual chemical reaction products has ever been found. In other words, the chemical "ash," required of a chemical explanation, is missing. If this energy is not produced by a nuclear reaction and is not generated by a chemical reaction, what is left? This alone should generate much interest. Recently, some very difficult studies have borne fruit and the nuclear ash has been identified.

What is the nuclear ash?
The high temperature fusion reaction of deuterium nuclei is known to produce normal helium on rare occasions. When this reaction occurs in a high temperature gas (technically, a plasma), a gamma-ray must be emitted to carry away some momentum of the colliding deuterons as well as some released nuclear energy. The absence of such gamma-rays provided skeptics reason to reject this reaction. However, if we assume the entire crystal lattice can take away the energy, gamma emission should not be required. To test this idea, the presence of helium has been sought. Unfortunately, this measurement is very difficult because the amount of helium produced is similar to the amount found in air as an impurity. Skeptics can claim the observed helium resulted from air getting into the system. Over the years observations have been reported that shows the presence of helium only when heat was produced, and these observations have become increasingly accurate. Two reports stand outs, one by workers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake in California and the other at the University La Sapienza and the Laboratory of Physics in Rome. These studies have shown a close, although not perfect relationship between the amount of heat produced and the amount of helium detected. The latter work even shows all expected time delay between heat production and helium release. In addition, charged particle detectors located near palladium saturated with deuterium have, on occasion, detected the emission of high-energy alpha particles (4He). Various methods have shown these particles are not the result of impurities in the palladium and are only produced when deuterium is present. Thus, the original, high-energy reaction product has been seen as well as the accumulated helium after it has lost its initial energy.

Errors in both heat and helium measurements do not yet permit a conclusion that helium is the only source of heat. Nevertheless, helium is clearly present and a major source of anomalous energy.

What other strange behaviors have been seen?
The initial studies by Pons and Fleischmann revealed only the tip of an iceberg. At least seven methods and seven different chemical environments have been found to produce the effect when combined in various ways. Some combinations of environment and method produce nuclear reactions other than fusion. For example, when nickel is electrolyzed in a solution containing potassium carbonate (K2CO3) dissolved in normal water, excess energy is produced. This observation has been reproduced by at least nine different laboratories. Evidence from several of these laboratories shows that the potassium is being converted to calcium by taking a proton (hydrogen) into the nucleus. A similar reaction is found to convert rubidium to strontium. Potassium has a Coulomb barrier 19 times greater than that of deuterium and rubidium's is 37 times greater. This experience implies that the mechanism causing penetration of the Coulomb barrier can be very effective, indeed.

A gas discharge technique developed in Russia has given evidence that palladium will fission (will split into smaller nuclei) when bombarded with deuterons of the correct low energy. This reaction, combined with the now expected fusion reaction produces significant excess energy, gamma radiation emitted by several newly-formed radioactive isotopes, and changes in the isotopic ratio of newly produced nonradioactive elements. Efforts to replicate this work at several major laboratories are ongoing and have been partially successful.

Certain complex oxides (SrCeO3 for example) loaded with deuterium become electrical conductors at high temperatures because the D+ ions can move within the material. When a small current is applied, significant excess energy is produced.

A technique using high-intensity ultrasonic frequencies has been used by E-Quest Sciences in California to load deuterium into palladium from heavy water. Large levels of excess heat production are claimed and this heat is accompanied by easily detected helium production. This method is important and is being examined by several laboratories.

This is only a brief list of a few relatively well documented claims. The list of examples showing totally unexpected nuclear reactions and/or energy generation is growing. Even the imaginations of cold fusion supporters are being overwhelmed by some of the claims.

What about an explanation?
Two aspects must be explained to achieve a useful explanation. These aspects involve the special and rare conditions that must be achieved in order to initiate a nuclear reaction, and the nature of that nuclear reaction.

First of all, the necessary conditions are not easy to achieve and probably involve only small, isolated parts of the bulk material. In addition, the various nuclear reactions are initiated by different conditions within the same material and by different materials. Therefore, a universal characteristic is difficult to identify.

Once the special conditions are created, the Coulomb barrier might be reduced by various processes now being explored. Over 100 theories have addressed this problem with some success. Most have tried to extend conventional theory, while a few have chosen to explore new territory.

Once a nuclear reaction occurs, the absence of significant gamma- and x-radiation suggests that the energy is coupled to the entire crystal lattice rather than to an individual reaction product. Although this energy coupling is outside of conventional explanations, over a dozen new theories have been proposed.

These new insights into nuclear and solid-state behavior, stimulated by the Pons-Fleischmann Effect, are expected to have a profound effect on our view of electron-nucleus interaction. Methods to form novel materials will be suggested regardless of how the models are applied to cold fusion.

What general interest has this evidence created?
Eight international cold fusion conferences have been held and several professional societies have included sessions about cold fusion at their meetings. The literature on the subject has grown to over 1,300 publications, some peer-reviewed. Clearly a lot more is known than many skeptics realize. A journal of the American Nuclear Society, Fusion Technology, has had a cold fusion section since September 1989, a newsletter called Fusion Facts has been published since 1989, a magazine called "Cold Fusion" was started in 1994 and then became a newsletter, a Cold Fusion Times newsletter has emerged, 21st Century Science and Technology has long had regular articles on cold fusion, and a new magazine, Infinite Energy --Cold Fusion and New Energy Technology has just been founded. Occasionally, the general print and television media have acknowledged continuing interest in cold fusion, sometimes with objectivity and sometimes not.

A few governments and a growing number of companies are funding work in the field. Support in Japan is estimated to be at least $30 million per year and is known to involve universities, private, and government laboratories. A Japanese company is presently funding the work of Pons and Fleischmann near Nice, France. Acceptance extends to high government levels. Clearly, Japan is intent on understanding and eventually using this new phenomenon.

Support is growing in Italy, India, China, and, until recently, in Russia. Low level, isolated work is underway in several other countries, generally in industrial laboratories.

The U.S. government has shown little interest in supporting work even though several government laboratories have obtained evidence for the effect. The U.S. patent office will not issue patents that use the term "cold fusion" even though over 250 applications have been received. A few companies are supporting work, the most notable being the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and more recently ENECO. Several companies have been formed to manufacture useful items for the field and to develop unique ideas or techniques. Small, isolated efforts are underway in a few industrial, government, and university laboratories, as well as in a few private homes. The total effort in the U. S. probably does not exceed $3M/year and may be dropping, though this is difficult to assess. Because theory is lacking, training of workers involved in research or commercialization has to be done using shared personal experience. This kind of knowledge is not easily available to a group or country that has not created a basis for obtaining such experience. Furthermore, no more than 100 scientists in the the U.S. have sufficient understanding of the field to make a meaningful contribution. Therefore, experience obtained in Japan and elsewhere will be slow to benefit development efforts in the U.S. or in other countries taking a similar approach.

What are the consequences?
The phenomena of cold fusion have been demonstrated over and over again. The remaining question is, can the effect be amplified to industrial levels? If such amplification is possible-- no show-stoppers have yet been seen-- this energy source will eventually replace most present energy sources, starting in Japan, followed by the Third World. Little imagination is needed to predict what this change would mean to countries that ignore this energy source. Is it wise to take such risk just because a few influential scientists have seen fit to reject a growing body of positive results? Would it not be better to risk a little money in case those skeptics are wrong?

Another implication involves the approach taken by some skeptics. While there have been good reasons to doubt the reality of some claims, the vicious and hostile attacks directed toward many in the field have no place in normal science. No useful contribution is made by deriding efforts to understand a phenomenon by calling it "pathological science" or the like, and characterizing the investigators as incompetent. Which viewpoint do you consider the worse sin: perhaps wasting some time and money understanding a phenomenon that later turns out to be trivial, or preventing the study of a phenomenon that later turns out to be important? A climate emphasizing caution and fear-of-failure does not bode well for our future efforts to discover and develop new gifts of nature.

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