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A Cold Fusion Primer

Cold fusion, 1994: What's it all about?


Copied with permission from the May 1994 issue of "Cold Fusion" magazine and converted to HTML format by Spelling errors and typos are likely the fault of the converter (a result of typing in the document by hand).
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What happened to cold fusion, the "miracle or mistake," announced at the University of Utah by Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons in March 1989? It would not be surprising if you thought that cold fusion were "dead," because, unfortunately, the scientific establishment, the hot fusion community, and many in the news media have ignored or maligned cold fusion research.

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.

Hot fusion versus cold fusion

Hot fusion is the kind of nuclear reaction that powers the Sun and the stars. At temperatures of millions of degrees, the nuclei of hydrogen atoms can overcome their natural tendency to repel one another and join or fuse to form helium nuclei. This releases enormous energy, according to Einstein's famous E=mc^2 formula --- the mass being lost in the reaction being converted to energy. Fusion is the opposite of fission, which is the release of energy by splitting heavy uranium or plutonium nuclei.

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.

You can't pinch it, but it's real

"Cold fusion" is a real but still incompletely explained energy-producing phenomenon, that occurs when ordinary hydrogen and the special ofrm of hydrogen called deuterium are brought together with metals, such as palladium, titanium, and nickel. Usually, some triggering mechanism, such as electricity or acoustic energy, is required to provoke the "cold fusion" effects. Both ordinary hydrogen and deuterim are abundant in ordinary water --- whether fresh water, ocean water, ice, or snow --- so the process will likely end many of the world's energy concerns, if it can be developed commerically. Now, this seems all but certain. (the deuterium form of hydrogen is present naturally as one out of every 7,000 hydrogen atoms and is easy to separate.)

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.

The cold fusion evidence

The most important evidence for cold fusion is the excess heat energy that comes from special electrochemical cells --- much more heat coming out than electrical energy being fed in. Competent and careful researchers have now confirmed that under the proper conditions it is possible to obtain excess power output beyond input power anywhere from 10% beyond input to many thousands of times the input power! In fact, in experiments reported at the Fourth International Conference on Cold fusion (December 1993), one researcher, D. T. Mzuno of Hokkaido University, reported an output/input ratio of 70,000! Sometimes this power comes out in bursts, but it has also appeared continuously in some experiments for hundreds of hours, and in some cases even for many months. When this power is added up to give kilowatt-hours, the inescapable conclusion is that much more energy is being released than any possible chemical reaction (as we ordinarily understand such reactions) could yield.

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.

Major research organizations

Several hundred laboratories aroudn the world have obtained positive cold fusion results. A partial list, which appeared in "Fire from Ice: Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor," in 1991 is already outdated. In the spring of 199, a conference in the former Soviet Union revealed many more positive results; at the Second Annual conference on cold Fusion held in Como, Italy, in July 1991, much more positive evidence for cold fusion emerged. AT the Third International conference on Cold Fusion in October 1992, the evidence became overwhelming. At the Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion (Maui, December 1993), the field blossomed in many new directions: new methods of generating excess power, and new observations --- especially the apparent transmutation of heavy elements at low-energy . Research facilities in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world reporting important cold fusion results include:

Major financial support for cold fusion research comes from these sources:

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.

Recent Significant Developments

Here are some of the most extraordinary news happenings in cold fusion in recent years:

Balanced scientific evaluations and reference material

Several excellent scientific reviews of the cold fusion field are highly recommended. Those who want to learn more about the remarkable progress in this field should examine:

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:

Jed Rothwell
Cold Fusion Research Advocates
2060 Peachtree Industrial Court ---
Suite 313
Chamblee, Georgia 30341
Phone: 404-451-9890; Fax: 404-458-2404

The question of reproducibility

Cold fusion effects have not always been easy to reproduce, but that does not make them any less real. The difficulties with reproducibility, however, are rapidly disappearing as researchers discover the conditions required to provoke the phenomena, such as sufficient deuterium loading of metal lattices, specific metallurgical requirements, and peculiar triggering mechanisms. Some experimenters now report very regular appearances of cold fusion phenomena, suchas tritium production and excess power as exhibited by heating, and even boiling.

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.

Negative results not necessarily negative

It is shocking but true. in the case of three major research groups that had supposedly negative results in the spring and summer of 1989 --- Caltech, the Harwell Laboratory in England, and MIT --- there now appear to be significant questions about their work which the scientific community at-large has not addressed. Three scientists have found simple algebraic errors in the Caltech work, which invalidate the paper's negative conclusions. These scientists wrote many times to Nature magazine, but Nature refused to publish the corrections. A critique, however, was published in Fusion Technology .

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 .

Theories of cold fusion

When conventional (low temperature) superconductivity was discovered accidentally in 1911, there was no physical theory that could explain it, nor was there any such theory for about the next half century. The much discussed high-temperature superconductivity, which appeared in 1986-1987, still has no satisfactory theory to account for it, yet industries and governments are bent on developing and commercializing it.

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.

Notable cold fusion conferences

The Future: Too good to be true?

Cold fusion research is not "Big Science." It does not need massive installations, just relatively small-scale dedicated work at national laboratories, universities, and in private industries, which are already beginning to enter the field in the U.S.

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."

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