Cold fusion, 11 Years Later: What's New?
(This is an update to "Cold fusion, 1994: What's it all about?" which appears below this article.
Eleven years have passed since Eugene Mallove and Jed Rothwell wrote "A Cold Fusion Primer." It's now 2005. What's new? What's not? This article provides a brief summary to answer these questions.
Sadly, one of the greatest changes is the loss of Eugene Mallove, brutally murdered in early 2004. At the time of this writing, the mystery is unsolved and no suspects are named.
Looking back on the perspective from 1994, it seems as though cold fusion research lost significant momentum in the latter half of the last decade, though a revival now seems possible. In 1994, the research initiatives funded by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the U.S. and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in Japan inspired strong optimism. By the mid-1990's however, these programs folded, for what appeared to be a lack of significant progress.
The Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry and the journal Fusion Technology, which had previously been willing to accept cold fusion papers both had a change in policy and stopped accepting cold fusion papers. Few journals have taken their place. The Japanese Journal of Applied Physics has been a notable exception.
The predictions in Mallove and Rothwell's article seemed realistic at the time, based on the progress they saw. With the solid but slow progress in 1994, they could not have foreseen, or imagined the cessation of funding and the closing doors of more journals. Alas, 2000 has come and gone, without the predicted cold-fusion powered automobile.
The hot fusion prediction was wrong also. As Mallove and Rothwell reported, that industry was predicting to begin operation of the tokamak to end all tokamaks, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) by 2005. Ground has not even broken.
Despite the optimism of cold fusion proponents and despite the cynical pessimism of others, cold fusion research has held its ground, and even gained a bit. The facts of cold fusion science have remained the same. Helium has persistently appeared as the dominant by-product. Neutrons have been observed, but at very low levels. The remaining observations of this nuclear reaction still demonstrate an effect that appears to be environmentally friendly and safe for humans. And yes, it still does sound too good to be true. However, the facts are readily available for sincere skeptics. Several books and reports by Beaudette, Krivit & Winocur and Rothwell have been published in recent years which attest to these facts.
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy decided to take a second look at cold fusion. Unlike the authors of recent books on this subject, the official conclusion of the DoE review stated was that there was nothing new in the field since 1989. In the very same document, it was shown that about a third of the review panel members agreed there are anomalous effects, and half of the reviewers found the evidence for excess power compelling. The conclusion written by the DoE does not match the general perceptions of the reviewers and it remains somewhat of a mystery as to why the DoE even bothered to perform this review in the first place.
Regardless, despite the fact that the DOE has not decided to fund cold fusion research at the moment, reports from qualified sources indicate that the review has brought significant attention from private industry and investors to the field. While no details have been made available, rumors indicate that private industry has decided to take a bet on cold fusion, while the DOE remains on the sidelines.
Recent credibility and recognition in the field likely is due, in part, to the innovative work in Japan. Yasuhiro Iwamura of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries designed a flawless experiment that demonstrated 100% reproducibility. His experiment was replicated with a series of experiments at Osaka University - also achieving 100% reproducibility.
The future of cold fusion is still clearly uncertain and any new predictions would most likely turn out wrong. The only prediction that is reasonable is that the window of opportunity for cold fusion will close within the next decade or two. With rare exceptions, like the relatively youthful Iwamura, the most experienced cold fusion researchers are in the later years of their life.
Many of those who started on cold fusion research in 1989 did so because they had the freedom of retirement, the wisdom of years, and the array of skills that only comes with decades of experience in science.
Their knowledge, so far, has not been widely passed down to younger generations of future scientists. Whatever inevitable circumstances arise, be they time and nature, or acts of man, society will be losing many pioneering scientists in the coming decades. The only question that remains is whether they will have the time and the opportunity to extract the secrets of cold fusion.
Cold fusion, 1994: What's it all about?
But cold fusion is far from dead. It is alive not only in dozens of laboratories in the United States, but in numerous foreign research centers, particularly in Japan.
Here are the basic facts about cold fusion as they stand in early 1994. For continuing monthly coverage of this rapidly expanding field, consider subscribing to this magazine, which every month will provide information unobtainable eslewhere, plus summaries of what is being reported worldwide in the technical journals.
Scientists the world over have spent more than four decades and billions of dollars (an estimated $15 billion in the U.S. alone) to investigate the possibility of mimicking with devices here on Earth the fusion reactions of the stars. These are complex and large machines that rely on high magnetic fields or powerful lasers to compress and heat fusion fuel --- typically the isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium.
The controlled hot fusion program has made enormous strides, but all agree that the earliest possible time when practical hot fusion devices may be available is about three decades away. Hot fusion is a very tough engineering problem. Many engineers --- even those favorable to hot fusion --- suggest that the "tokamak" reactor approach being followed by the U.S. Department of Energy will never result in commercially viable technology.
The U.S. hot fusioneers and their international collaborators now want to build a big, complex test reactor called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which might begin to operate in 2005. A commercial hot fusion power plant would not be on-line until at least 2040. The annual budget for hot fusion research in the U.S. regularly exceeds $500 million, and they now seek increased funding for ITER.
Mind you, the hot fusion program has never produced a single watt of power beyond the electric power that was put into each experiment. Ocassionally, such as in December 1993 at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, "breakthroughs" in hot fusion are announced in which the power of hot fusion reaction reaches a record level, but the level has always been below the electric power put in.
Cold fusion releases enormous quantities of energy in the form of heat, not radiation, as in hot fusion. This heat energy is hundreds to thousands of times what ordinary chemical reactions could possibly yield. If "cold fusion" is a hertofore unknown form of benign nuclear reaction --- as most researchers in the field believe --- there is more potential cold fusion energy in a cubic mile of sea water than in all of the oil reserves on earth. Whatever the explanation --- nuclear reations, exotic "super-chemistry" perhaps requiring some modifications to quantum mechanics --- or something even more bizarre (such as tapping of the zero-point energy of space at the atomic level), cold fusion seemsdestined to become a dominant source of energy.
Cold fusion, in contrast to hot fusion, occurs in relatively simple apparatus, albeit not yet without some difficulties. cold fusion reactions are not at all like the conventional hot fusion reactions. If they were ,cold fusion experimenters would have been killed by massive flows of radiation --- neutrons and gamma rays. The continuing wonder of cold fusion is that it is apparently a very clean reaction that gives very little of the radiation common to fissio nand fusion reactions. In cold fusion experiments, low-level neutrons, tritium, helium-4, and isotope shifts of metal elements have been seen.
Cold fusion researchers have attempted to find theoretical models to explain the observed cold fusion effects --- the large thermal energy releases, the low-level nuclear phenomena, and the absence of massive, harmful radiation, and other conventional nuclear effects. There is yet no single, generally accepted theory that epxlains all these phenomena. There is no doubt, however, that the phenomena exist and will eventually be explained --- most likely in the next few years.
And there is more. Neutrons, tritium, energetic charged particles, and other ionizing radiations have been detected in a variety of cold fusion experiments. In the past few years, there has also emerged a startling body of experimental evidence that elements have been transmuted in cold fusion experiments. Several laboratories have found helium-4, for example, and low levels of radioactive metal atoms. Isotopes of silver and rhodium have appeared in palladium electrodes from cold fusion cells where no such atoms existed before the experiments began. Moverover, many of these experiments differ significantly from one another in their approach and conditions.
So, there is no chance that the various laboratories are all making the same systematic errors in all these experiments. These nuclear effects are clearly the hallmark of nuclear processes of hertofore unknown character. By itself, this nuclear evidence points to an entirely new realm of phenomena of staggering scient6ific importance. The excess energy in some of these epxeriments is virtual proof that something very extraordinary and of enormous potential technological significance has been discovered.
In the early days of cold fusion research, when scientists were struggling and learning how to replicate the effect, there were many poorly done experiments, and many mistakes. In the weeks following the 1989 announcement by Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah, large numbers of scientists tried to replicate the phenomenon, and failed --- or thought they had failed. They actuallymight have obtained positive results, but for various reasons falsely interpreted and improperly reported their data.
The experiment is considerably more complicated and difficult to perform than originally reported in some scientific and popular news journals. Many scientists became disillusioned with the filed after the initial "boom and bust," but a smaller number of determined scientists dug in and continued to work on the problem. some of them continued, day in and day out, and finally achieved success. Soon after the discovery was announced, in the National University system of Japan, a low-key, long-term program was established, involving over 100 scientists in 40 institutions. The program was coordinated by Dr. Hideo Ikegami of the National Institute of Fusion SCience in Nagoya.
Another long-term, well-financed program was sponsored by the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute (described below). These programs have gradually yielded a solid body of carefully replicated experimental evidence. Many of the experiments performed during the last five years produced so much heat, and used such accurate and sensitive instruments, that the results from them are certain. It is revealing that hte only people saying that these experiments must all be inerror either have never done cold fusion experiments themselves or have left the field of cold fusion experimentation, following their early and hastily-drawn conculsion that "cold fusion" was impossible.
The Ministry of Education, Government of Japan. Research is coordinated through Japan's National Institute for Fusion Science, in Nagoya, and conducted in National University Laboratories. The Ministry of Education annually spends $15 to $20 million on cold fusion. In the Autumn of 1991, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry organized a research consortium of 10 major Japanese corporations to advance research in cold fusion. Prior to this, only the Ministry of Education was involved in this research. This consortium is called "The New Hydrogen Energy Panel" (NHEP). In the spring of 1992, as the activities of the Panel became widely known, Japanese newspapers reported that five other major Japanese corporations asked to be included.
In mid-1992, MITI announced a four-year, three billion yen ($24million) program to advance cold fusion research. This money was to be spent on special expenses within the national laboratories, such as travel and extra equipment purchases beyond the usual discretionary levels. That sum didnot include the money, salaries and overhead, which come out of separate budgets, and it did not count any research in the private sector, which we know to be substantial. In fact, the corporate members were expected to contribute at least $4 million more to the fund, for a total of $28 million. Both MITIand NHEP members emphasized that his fund is flexible, and could be explanded. The estimated present annual expenditure in Japan on cold fusion probably approaches $100 million.
The electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, CA., (the $500 million/year research arm of the U.s. electric utility industry) had spent as of the end of 1991 $6 million on cold fusion, and had budgeted as of January, 1992 $12 million. The EPRI program continues to spend several million dollars per year. EPRI's sponsorship of the Fourth Internation Conference on Cold Fusion (December 1993) means that this powerful research organization is in the field to stay.
The public announcement in December 1993 that ENECO, a Salt Lake City-based corporation, had acquired worldwide licensing rights to the University of Utah's cold fusion patents is further indication of the increasing corporate interest in cold fusion R&D.
"Hydrocatlysis Power Corporation (HPC) has an extensive theoretical and experimental research program of producing energy from light-water electrolytic cells. HPC and Thermacore, Inc., Lancaster, PA are cooperating in developing a commercial product. (Thermacore is a well-respected defense contractor and its expertise is in the field of heat transfer.) Presently, all of the demonstration cells of HPC and Thermacore produce excess power immediately and continuously. Cells producing 50 watts of excess power and greater have been in operation for more than one year. Some cells can produce 10 times more heat power than the total electrical power input to the cell.
"A steam-producing prototype cell has been successfully tested ... The [original] experiment has been scaled up by a factor of one thousand, and the scaled-up heat cell results have been independently confirmed by Thermacore, Inc. Patents covering the compositions of matter, structures, and methods of the HydroCatlysis process have been filed by HPC worldwide with a priority date of April 21, 1989. HPC and Thermacore are presently fabricating a steam-producing demonstration cell."
Dr. Mills and his colleagues believe that the energy source in their ordinary water expermients is technologically extremely potent, but they have adopted a very radical theory to explain the excess heat. These ordinary water experiments were first reported in May 1991, and have since been widely reproduced --- in Japan, India, and in the U.S. Dr. Wills says that the source of excess energy is released in a catlytic process whereby the electron of the hydrogen atom is induced to undergo a transition to a lower electronic energy level than the "ground state," as defined by the usual quantum-mechanical model of the atom. Thus, stored energy in the atom is catalytically released. Mills view many of the neuclear effects in "cold fusion" to be real effects, which he thinks can be explained by his theory.
Dr. Edmund Storms (Los Alamos National Laboratory), "Review of Experimental Observations About the Cold Fusion Effect," Fusion Technology , 1991, Vol. 20, December 1991, pp. 433-477.
Dr. M. Srinivasan (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay, India), "Nuclear Fusion in an Atomic Lattice: Update on the International Status of Cold Fusion Research," Current Science , April 25 1991.
"A Review of the Investigations of the Fleischmann-Pons Phenomena," John O'M. Bockris, Guang H. Lin, and Nigel J.C. Packham, Fusion Technology , Vol. 18, August 1990, pp. 11-31.
BARC Studies in Cold Fusion (April-September 1989), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, BARC - 1500, December 1989, P.K. Iyengar and M. Srinivasan; aslo in Fusion Technology Vol. 18, August 1990, pp. 32-94.
First Annual Conference on Cold Fusion (March 28-31, 1990): Conference Proceedings , by the National Cold Fusion Institute, Salt Lake City.
Anamalous Nuclear Effects in Deuterium/Solid Systems , American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings 228, 1991, Steven E. Jones, Francesco Scaramuzzi, and David Worledge (editors), Proceedings of an International progress Review on Anomalous Nuclear Effects in Deuterium/Solid Systems, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, October 22-24, 1990 (approx. 1000 pages).
Investigation of Cold Fusion Phenomena in Deuterated Metals (four volumes), by the National Cold Fusion Institute (Salt Lake City), June 1991, now available from NTIS.
The Science of Cold Fusion: Proceedings of the II Annual ConferenceoOn Cold Fusion , June 29-July 4, 1991, Como, Italy, published by the Italian Physical Soceity, Bologna, Italy, 1991, edited by T. Bressani, E. Del Giudice, and G. Preparata (528 pages).
Frontiers of Cold Fusion, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Cold Fusion (Nagoya, Japan 21-25 October 1992), edited by Dr. Hideo Ikegami, National Institute for Fusion Science, Nagoya 464-01, Japan.
"Summary of the Third International Conference on Cold Fusion in Nagoya," by Professor Peter L. Hagelstein, MIT (available from Cold Fusion Research Advocates).
"The Third International Conference on Cold fusion: Scrutiny, Invenctive, and Progress," By Drs. Victor Rehn and Iqbal Ahmad for the U.S. Office of Naval Research, Japan (available from Cold Fusion research Advocate).
"Anomalous Nulcear Reactions in Condensed Matter: A Report on the Third International Meeting on Cold Fusion" by Dr. Iqbal Ahmad for the U.S. Army Research Office (AMC) - Far East (available from Cold Fusion Research Advocates).
The technical journal published by the American Nuclear Society, Fusion Technology formerly was exclusively devoted to hot fusion. Since September 1989, under the editorship of Professor George Miley, this journal has regularly had an extensive section devoted to cold fusion. Other journals that have continued to carry cold fusion articles are the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, Physics Letters A , and The Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry , where the first cold fusion paper appeared.
Besides "Cold Fusion" Magazine , published monthly, which is the world's first magazine devoted exclusively to cold fusion R&D and investment, there are several nesletters, newspapers, and popular magazines now covering cold fusion regularly, or from time-to-time, including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Cold Fusion Times newsletter, Fusion Facts newsletter, 21st Century Science and Technolgoy .
Information is also available from "Cold Fusion" magazine Contributing Editor, Jed Rothwell, who co-founded Cold Fusion Research Advocates:
Cold Fusion Research Advocates
2060 Peachtree Industrial Court ---
Chamblee, Georgia 30341
Phone: 404-451-9890; Fax: 404-458-2404
Critics of cold fusion research have regularly dismissed positive results simply because the effects have not always been repeatable. Of course, there are many natural phenomena that are highly erratic, not respeatable, and definitely not predictable, such as meteorite falls, lightning strikes, earthquakes, and the elusive "ball lightning." There are also a host of modern technical devices that will not function if subtle, sometimes poorly understood composition parameters are askew; semiconductor electronic devices are good examples of this. It is not so surprising that the exotic cold fusion phenomena are subject to smilar difficulties.
In the MIT Plasma Fusion Center case, serious questions have arisen about the methods used to evaluate excess heat results. The unpublished data appear to show indications of excess heat, but the published version does not show these indications. Furthermore, analysis of the methodology employed by this group revealed fatal flaws --- even if the data had been properly handled. (A technical discussion of the 1989 MIT Plasma Fusion Center cold fusion calorimetry appeared in Fusion Facts m August, 1992.)
In each ase of the widely-touted and supposedly completely "negative" Harwell Laboratory (U.K.) calormetry results, independent analysis of that laboratory's raw data show evidence of excess heat production. Details of the Harwell Laboratory problems have been published in both the THird and Fourth International Conference on Cold fusion Proceedings .
The same should be true for cold fusion. However, because cold fusion seems to be an even more radical departure from conventional physics wisdom than high temperature superconductivity, and because of the past reproducibility problems of cold fusion, the latter has not been accepted as readily as high-temperature superconductivity.
Cold fusion does not operate like hot fusion. That has been clear from the start. It must have some other explanation.
Happily, several scientists have proposed theories to explain cold fusion. Each of these theories might explain all or aspects of this astounding new physical phenomenon. Cold fusion theorists include physics Nobel laureate Julian Schwinger, Peter Hagelstein of MIT, Robert Bush of California Polytechnic Institute (Pomona), Scott and Talbott Chubb of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Akito Takahashi of Osaka National University, Giuliano Preparata of the University of Milano hot fusion expert Frederick Mayer, Randell Mills of Hydrocatalysis power Corporation (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), and many others.
Cold fusion does, however, required the talents of top scientists and engineers, combined with sophisticated analytical instrumentation. Federal laboratories, floudnering in search of a new misison, are well-equipped to support cold fusion research. Cold fusion research could well become a major mission for scientists at these laboratories. Cold fusion energy development, however, will domnantly be the territory for private industry. There is no need for massive government invetsment. But government must smooth the path for private efforts.
Is it really possible that a revolutionary energy technology has been inappropriately cast aside in the U.S.? That is exactly what has happened, as scientific and egnieering developments will show. This need not be true any longer. For the economic and enivironmental well-being of the nation and the world, every citizen must become aware of the facts about cold fusion, and help encourage funding for American research.
Probably the most difficult hurdle in trying to come to terms with cold fusion is that is seems too fantastic scientifically, and "too good to be true" economically and socially. But the same could have been and was said about many other technological revolutions as they began to happen.
Cold fusion will likely revolutionaize the world in ways we can barely begin to imagine. We believe that before the year 2000 there will be cold fusion powered autmobiles, home heating systems, small compact electrical generating units, and aerospace applications. These technologies will revolutionaize the world as they speed the end of the Fossil Fuel Age.
The stakes have never been higher. We should remember the sentiment of the famous scientist, Michael Faraday, in the last century, to whom we owe our revolutionary electrically pwoered civilization. He wrote, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true."