Skip to comments.Cold Fusion Back From the Dead
Posted on 08/31/2004 4:48:56 PM PDT by LibWhacker
U.S. Energy Department gives true believers a new hearing
Later this month, the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusionthe supposed generation of thermonuclear energy using tabletop apparatus. It's an extraordinary reversal of fortune: more than a few heads turned earlier this year when James Decker, the deputy director of the DOE's Office of Science, announced that he was initiating the review of cold fusion science. Back in November 1989, it had been the department's own investigation that determined the evidence behind cold fusion was unconvincing. Clearly, something important has changed to grab the department's attention now.
The cold fusion story began at a now infamous press conference in March 1989. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, both electrochemists working at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, announced that they had created fusion using a battery connected to palladium electrodes immersed in a bath of water in which the hydrogen was replaced with its isotope deuteriumso-called heavy water. With this claim came the idea that tabletop fusion could produce more or less unlimited, low-cost, clean energy.
In physicists' traditional view of fusion, forcing two deuterium nuclei close enough together to allow them to fuse usually requires temperatures of tens of millions of degrees Celsius. The claim that it could be done at room temperature with a couple of electrodes connected to a battery stretched credulity [see photo, "Too Good to Be True?"].
But while some scientists reported being able to reproduce the result sporadically, many others reported negative results, and cold fusion soon took on the stigma of junk science.
Today the mainstream view is that champions of cold fusion are little better than purveyors of snake oil and good luck charms. Critics say that the extravagant claims behind cold fusion need to be backed with exceptionally strong evidence, and that such evidence simply has not materialized. "To my knowledge, nothing has changed that makes cold fusion worth a second look," says Steven Koonin, a member of the panel that evaluated cold fusion for the DOE back in 1989, who is now chief scientist at BP, the London-based energy company.
Because of such attitudes, science has all but ignored the phenomenon for 15 years. But a small group of dedicated researchers have continued to investigate it. For them, the DOE's change of heart is a crucial step toward being accepted back into the scientific fold. Behind the scenes, scientists in many countries, but particularly in the United States, Japan, and Italy, have been working quietly for more than a decade to understand the science behind cold fusion. (Today they call it low-energy nuclear reactions, or sometimes chemically assisted nuclear reactions.) For them, the department's change of heart is simply a recognition of what they have said all alongwhatever cold fusion may be, it needs explaining by the proper process of science.
THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. Much of this work was carried out at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, where the idea of generating energy from sea watera good source of heavy watermay have seemed more captivating than at other laboratories.
Many researchers at the center had worked with Fleischmann, a well-respected electrochemist, and found it hard to believe that he was completely mistaken. What's more, the Navy encouraged a culture of risk-taking in research and made available small amounts of funding for researchers to pursue their own interests.
At San Diego and other research centers, scientists built up an impressive body of evidence that something strange happened when a current passed through palladium electrodes placed in heavy water.
And by 2002, a number of Navy scientists believed it was time to throw down the gauntlet. A two-volume report, entitled "Thermal and nuclear aspects of the Pd/D2O system," contained a remarkable plea for proper funding from Frank Gordon, the head of navigation and applied science at the Navy center. "It is time that this phenomenon be investigated so that we can reap whatever benefits accrue from scientific understanding. It is time for government funding agencies to invest in this research," he wrote. The report was noted by the DOE but appeared to have little impact.
Then, last August, in a small hotel near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, some 150 engineers and scientists met for the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion. Conference observers were struck by the careful way in which various early criticisms of the research were being addressed. Over the years, a number of groups around the world have reproduced the original Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding sometimes as much as 250 percent of the energy put in.
To be sure, excess energy by itself is not enough to establish that fusion is taking place. In addition to energy, critics are quick to emphasize, the fusion of deuterium nuclei should produce other byproducts, such as helium and the hydrogen isotope tritium. Evidence of these byproducts has been scant, though Antonella de Ninno and colleagues from the Italian National Agency for New Technologies Energy and the Environment, in Rome, have found strong evidence of helium generation when the palladium cells are producing excess heat but not otherwise.
Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percentone deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat.
And scientists are beginning to get a better handle on exactly how the effect occurs. Stanislaw Szpak and colleagues from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command have taken infrared video images of palladium electrodes as they produce excess energy. It turns out that the heat is not produced continuously over the entire electrode but only in hot spots that erupt and then die on the electrode surface. This team also has evidence of curious mini-explosions on the surface.
Fleischmann, who is still involved in cold fusion as an advisor to a number of groups, feels vindicated. He told the conference: "I believe that the work carried out thus far amply illustrates that there is a new and richly varied field of research waiting to be explored." (Pons is no longer involved in the field, having dropped from view after a laboratory he joined in southern France ceased operations.)
For Peter Hagelstein, an electrical engineer at MIT who works on the theory behind cold fusion and who chaired the August 2003 conference, the quality of the papers was hugely significant. "It's obvious that there are effects going on," he says. He and two colleagues believed the results were so strong that they were worth drawing to the attention of the DOE, and late last year they secured a meeting with the department's Decker.
It was a meeting that paid off dramatically. The review will give cold fusion researchers a chanceperhaps their lastto show their mettle. The department has yet to decide just what will be done and by whom. There is no guarantee of funding or of future support. But for a discipline whose name has become a byword for junk science, the DOE's review is a big opportunity.
bttt for later read.
Beware of Zombie technologies.
This thing is like a freakin' zombie--you just can't kill it!
More taxpayer money down the rabbit hole. I'm a BIG supporter of science funding, but you've got to wonder about spending money on this!
If cold fusion can be made into a commercial technology, Saudi Arabia's oil reserves will greatly decrease in value.
Except that it does not work...period.
Is the Department of the Navy here playing the role that Bell Labs used to ?
I'd rather see a few $mil tossed at checking out cold fusion than yet another study of the mating habits of gecko lizards
There do seem to be anomalous phenomena associated with "whatever it is". It may be fusion. It may be something else. It does seem worth finding out what causes the effects
Because of the "discounting effect", the loss in value of oil and gas fields will preceed actual commercialization of low-temperature nuclear power devices. The discounting of oil will begin as soon as there is general agreement that the principle has been validated.
If that ever happens.
I love news like this. It restores my hope that maybe the government finally will pay for the time-machine research I'm conducting in my bathtub.
You are wrong. You have drunk the Kool Aid....
There is something going on with thie phenomenon, and that has been true since the beginning. Why don't you learn to read?
If it had not been for the traditional scientific engaging in the academic equivalent of "mooning" their adversaries, we might be much further along the road to reduced dependence on foreign oil by now.
Thanks, bud, for your valued contribution.
Learn to read?! I've read and read and read all about cold fusion--there is nothing occuring that can be called anything like 'fusion' happening.
End of story.
Hell, you sound like all the reputable scientists that were hoodwinked by Pons and co. back when they made their "discovery" years ago.
Let it go. It's not real and never will be.
Oh, and I have a perpetual motion machine for sale, too, if you're interested...
Geckos need love too.
Many US and labs overseas have reproduced cold fusion.
There was an open demo this Summer attended by FReepers including the late Dr. Mallove.
At that meeting, Mitsubishi and Toyota presented their recent results.
"...California is experiencing rolling blackouts due to power shortages.
Conventional engineering, planned ahead, could have prevented these
blackouts, but it has been politically expedient to ignore the inevitable.
We do not know if Cold Fusion will be the answer to future energy needs,
but we do know the existence of Cold Fusion phenomenon through
repeated observations by scientists throughout the world.
It is time that this phenomenon be investigated
so that we can reap whatever benefits accrue from additional scientific understanding.
It is time for government funding organizations to invest in this research"
Dr. Frank E. Gordon
Head, Navigation and Applied Sciences Department
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego
Hopefully Stanley has been working on something truly useful -- like intelligent design.
We live in an age currently, in which its not really prudent to say comething can't be done.
Some pretty freakin amazing things are happening.
Anyone with a knuckle of knowledge of the new tools developed and being developed across a range of scientific disciplines -- knows there's some pretty amazing stuff too --coming down the pike.
To get an age of some similarity to today -- you'd have to go back to +-1900 when much of the science & technology of the 20th century was first developed.
Cold Fusion. Sure. Why not? The article said they're getting consistant results. What's more they now know why they were getting inconsistant results before. The next step is to figure out why their getting results at all.
Dollars on federal research are some of the best money the feds spend. Let the bright boys do their stuff.
It may turn out to be nothing and it may turn out to an energy bonanza. You never know. Certainly, the results so far warrent the chump change they're contemplating investing in further research.
That's what most respected scientists said about the Wright Bros. claims to having flown in 1903.
The scientific establishment managed to ignore the Wrights work until 1908, when the Europeans suddenly discovered them and publicized it. The Wrights had flown all over Dayton Ohio by 1905, but because the powers-that-be didn't believe it, then "it didn't happen".
Much better spend a little money on this, rather than lots of money on huge laser monstrosities and giant magnetic coil white elephants.
To my way of thinking, it's a probability problem, pure and simple: Which lines of research are most likely to lead to important advancements? And for that you have to rely on the "scientific establishment" to help you decide. Unfortunately or not, everyone else gets short changed.
Looks as if the US Navy disagrees with you on that. I don't know if it's real or not, but there's now enough evidence that it is real to spend a little money to investigate some more. It's basically been "hobby shop" level of research since the early debunking.
Well...hopefully we'll all be around yet to tell it to the Nobel Committee when Pons and Fleishman get their award......
Al Gore invented Cold Fusion. If you don't believe me you can just cheese off. (also, algore invented the modern hat).
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
[Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872]
One of my favorite movies. Corny but good. "The Saint"
would you mind displaying your creditials as electrophysisist, along with the current research budget you control?
Because I am just wondering how people that have more letters behind their name than Vanna white could feed their family for the last 15 years if there is ABSOLUTELY nothing behind it?
I am certainly interested in understanding your cognitive level of knowledge of the subject that makes you so confident that the work of all these people is trash.
As you explain this "fallacy" please use small words for those of us like me can understand what you are saying.
BTW Isnt it curious that the Navy is doing this research? Do you think it is worth their time and effort to explore if sea water could be used for a catalyst for fuel?
Anyway looking forward to your well thought out detailed response.
Totally agree. There's something there, but it doesdn't go along with current theories in physics.
Some scientists refused to think outside the box.
Einstein thought outside the box and greatly expanded scientific knowledge. I hope some open-minded scientists start researching this field.
I was going to post a picture of Kilmer with the buck teeth and caption it "you don't really believe this cold fusion mumbo-jumbo, do you?" Except for two reasons: I couldn't that picture and Elizabeth Shue makes the thread look so much better.
missed a "find" in that sentence
It is BS until they show me the neutrons!
The movie gets great reviews at Amazon.
So you're saying that since research is being done by everyone from charlatans like Pons' partner up to the Navy, that implies that cold fusion is de facto true? Is that why Pons and co. were run out of town on a rail all those years ago, to linger in the shadows of crank research desperate to prove to the cult that surrounds them, that yes, the truth is out there?
As the gentleman that posted just above very succinctly put it: if it's real, show me the neutrons. As no one has yet to do this, despite what you claim to be fifteen years of rigorous research with nothing to show for it, I'll stand by me reading of the evidence which, regardless of what you may say or think (if you can call it that), has proved fruitless, dead end after deader end.
Till then, I leave you and your cohorts to your flights of fancy, where Big Foot, ET and the perpetual motion machine are all being waylaid by evil sheiks, menacing oil companies and the Illuminati.
Why don't you and ECM demonstrate your proof --- if it exists.
And do not forget, since He4 IS found as product,
write your equations out.
"Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time.
Nobody will use it, ever."
[Thomas Edison, 1889]
"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It
would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." [Albert Einstein, 1932]
"The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who
expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking
moonshine" [Ernst Rutherford, 1933]
If only they knew what was happening in my la-BOR-a-tory. MMMRRRUUUHAHAHAHAHA!
Dr. Randell Mills (Blacklight Power Inc.) doesn't need any stinking neutrons. He has Hydrinos!
Plain old fission is a sure thing. Wouldn't it be better to step it up? And also why do we neglect the research on hot fusion - downsize it in the US and stall it in ITER? Inquiring minds want to know?
"Professor Goddard ... does not know the relation of action to reaction ... he only
seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in our high schools"
[New York Times, January 13, 1920]
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
[Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895]
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
[Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre]
There are TWO problems with your probative analysis.
First, the HUP is (when ignoring the delta-p delta-x form)
delta E * delta t ~ h/(2*pi)
That is, they are uncertainties of the value and not absolute value.
Please note that you switch the two in your 1st through 3rd equations.
Second, in cold fusion there are substantial fugacities
attained using locally large electric field intensities
and the impact of the loaded lattice
which your equations 4 (and others) ignore.
On the other hand, the negativists have
much company in being unable to perceive humanities' creativity.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
[Ken Olson, Chairman and founder Digital Equipment Corp., 1977]
"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
[Bill Gates, 1981]
Yippeee!!!! And about time.
WOW that is some response. Let's go back to my original question.
Now I again ask where was your PHD work done in Chemical Physics?
You sound like the collegues of Watson, Crick and Franklin in the late 50's when they had discovered something interesting about little protiens.
I would also assume such a learned man as yourself would know that the following statement
" So you're saying that since research is being done by everyone from charlatans like Pons"
Is liable and quite actionable. But I suppose your expertise in the law overshadows your expertise in Chemical physics.
"Is that why Pons and co. were run out of town on a rail all those years ago, to linger in the shadows of crank research desperate to prove to the cult that surrounds them, that yes, the truth is out there?"
Hmm so how does the above statement jibe with ....?
"Over the years, a number of groups around the world have reproduced the original Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding sometimes as much as 250 percent of the energy put in."
So if I may clarify your position.... These number of other Labrotories around the world are doing "crank research" when they are able to replicate and even exceed the original findings of Pons and Fleischer? How does one do that effectively? I mean reproduce Apparently" fake" Chemical Reactions? Looking forward to that insight from you.
I have further questions about the following also...
"As the gentleman that posted just above very succinctly put it: if it's real, show me the neutrons. As no one has yet to do this, despite what you claim to be fifteen years of rigorous research with nothing to show for it, I'll stand by me reading of the evidence which, regardless of what you may say or think (if you can call it that), has proved fruitless, dead end after deader end."
Why do they have to show YOU the neutrons? I didn't know you might be the arbiter of all scientific knowledge, However I don't keep up on such things as I should. So I do apologize for not recognizing your title.
Furthermore, here is a question.... If this is an act of a charlaton, a con man, a ruse, what would drive people to stake their professional reputations, millions of dollars in research to a process that would as you put it be a dead end? I have seen obsesive compulsive disorders that would cause people to do the same thing over and over when they did not work, But how do you explain 150 scientists from all over the world doing the apparently same failed experiment over and over? Wouldnt you think they would have better use of their time?..... Or might there be a spark in there that they find their, time, money and intellect, worth every moment of time trying to figure out what is happening in this process? Just curious.
Oh yeah and this....
"I'll stand by me reading of the evidence which, regardless of what you may say or think (if you can call it that), has proved fruitless, dead end after deader end.
If you were standing on the beach of kittyhawk north carolina at the turn of the last century and saw a couple of brothers carrying the remains of their broken glider.....what would you have said to them? Keep going you will succeed! or Something like this.... Men weren't made to fly! I'll stand by me reading of the evidence which, regardless of what you may say or think (if you can call it that) Orville Wright your experiment , has proved fruitless, dead end after deader end. Silly flights of fancy those bicycle brothers....
Oh yeah and this gem....
"Till then, I leave you and your cohorts to your flights of fancy, where Big Foot, ET and the perpetual motion machine are all being waylaid by evil sheiks, menacing oil companies and the Illuminati.
Me and my cohorts? Hmmm don't remember having any cohorts. All I did was to ask what your credintials were to make such definitive statements of obvious failure.
I Don't know if cold fusion Or what ever they are observing will lead anywhere, however I am willing for them to try.
Let's play the "what if" game? What if they find a way of converting this process into usable electrical energy? How would that change the world? And if it did would you be bitter about it because you were wrong?
Not to be confused with CFML