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358) New phenomena or illusions?
Generation of EH during the glow discharge plasma electrolysis was first reported by a team of Japanese scientists, T. Mizuno et al. (10). The phenomenon was then studied by other researchers, both in Japan (11, 12, 13) and in other countries (14, 15, 16). Most reports, but not all, confirmed generation of excess heat, as described by Eugene Mallowe (17). My first experiment of that kind was performed in cooperation with Scott Little. The cell was wrapped with an insulating layer of foam; the thermal energy released was calculated on the basis of the amount of evaporated water. Electrical energy received was calculated on the basis of recorded current and voltage, which fluctuated widely. Nominal potential differences were between 250 and 400 volts. No clear evidence of EH was found.
The same conclusion was reached when a similar experiment was performed in collaboration with Richard Slaughter. These findings, reported at a conference (18), were in conflict with those reported by Pierre Clauzon (19). The topic was discussed at length and Pierre decided to join us in another sequence of experiments. Working under his guidance, R. Slaughter and I were able to obtain nearly the same results as in (19), for example, about 30% more heat than electric energy, at 350 volts. This was accomplished by using Clauzons electrical watt-meter. Two years later (Fall 2008), during another control experiment, Clauzon discovered a systematic error in measuring electric power with this watt-meter. His most recent results, obtained with a much better watt-meter, are consistent with negligible excess heat in high voltage electrolysis. Another team (16) also withdrew their excess heat claim for high voltage electrolysis. In both cases, inexpensive watt-meters were not able to deal with high frequency components of rapidly fluctuating currents.
I hope that new data, collected by Clauzon with a better watt-meter, will be formally presented at the ICCF15 next summer. Will this result in reinvestigation of earlier high voltage electrolysis experiments? This remains to be seen.
3. Emission of nuclear projectiles.
Emission of a large number of alpha particles, due to low voltage electrolysis, was reported by R. Oriani and J. Fisher (20, 21). The particles were discovered by using CR-39 track detectors. Many years ago I used track detectors (mica) to observe fission fragments. The principle of their operation is simple. Strongly ionizing particles create tracks in many solids materials; these tracks become visible under a microscope, after the material is chemically etched. According to (20), as shown in Tables 1 and 2, mean track densities in CR-39 chips inside the electrolytic cell were much higher than in control chips ourside the cell. Tracks in control chips were due to cosmic rays, radon and other possible radioactive contamination.
Impressed by the reported results, I quickly learned how to use CR-39 detectors. A year later Oriani sent me new results and additional details about the experimental method. The cathode in his small cell was a nickel foil, the anode was a platinum wire and the electrolyte was Li 2SO4 dissolved in ordinary water. Subsequently Richard invited me to his laboratory and we worked together for one week. Two experiments were performed (22) and each produced results consistent with Orianis claim. Unfortunately, my attempts to obtain similar results at home, using an exact replica of his cell, were not successful (23).
Several months later, again following Orianis footprints, I started another sequence of experiments. In these experiment, described in (24), the nickel wire cathode was mechanically supported by the CR-39 chip while the platinum anode wire was above it. A thin layer of mylar (6 microns) prevented the cathode from direct contact with the chip. Oriani noticed that results become highly reproducible when the o-ring from a successful experiment is used in subsequent experiments. Richard started sending me his seeded o- rings and I used them in several experiments. Spectacular clusters of tracks, also reported by Oriani, were found on some of my CR-39 chips. One of the clusters is shown in Figure 2. Ten experiments were performed. Seven clusters of tracks were found in two out six electrolysis experiments; three clusters were also found in one of four experiments conducted to study emission of nuclear particles after electrolysis.
During the presentation (24), I said that a cluster with radially oriented tracks, as in Figure 2, could not possibly be due to contamination. But this point of view was challenged by two CMNS researchers. One of them invented the following scenario. A gas bubble sits on top of CR-39 and a grain of alpha-radioactive material sits on top of the bubble. Ranges of alpha particles in the gas bubble are much larger than ranges in the electrolyte. That would produce a cluster whose size is much larger than ranges of alpha particles in the electrolyte, as in Figure 2. The tracks would be circular near the center and radial near peripheries, as in my Figure 2. The scenario invented by another researcher was similar; he was thinking about a small bubble trapped between the mylar film and the detector.
The issue of possible artifacts would be worth addressing if experimental results were reproducible. For the time being I am mostly troubled by the fact that four clusters were produced in Experiment I (lasting 5 days) and zero clusters were produced in Experiment II (lasting 21 days). Electrolyte, mylar film, cathode, and o-rings were unchanged between the two experiments. Results which are not reproducible belong to proto-science, not to science, as illustrated in Figure 3. Two other CMNS researchers, John Fisher and Marissa Little, also observed clusters of tracks in CR-39 chips, using seeded o-rings received from Oriani. Suspecting radioactive contamination on the surface of the o-ring, Marissa exposed it to an electronic silicon detector (25). The energy spectrum of particles revealed peaks consistent with presence of Th-228, and its progeny. My attempts to discover alpha radioactivity on the o-ring surfaces, using CR-39 chips, were not successful. The origin of radioactive material on the surface of some seeded o-rings remains unknown. But I am troubled by high track densities on Orianis control chips, reported in (20).
The most recent results of RichardŐs ongoing investigation were presented at ICCF14 (14th International Conference on Cold Fusion, Fall 2008, in Washington DC). The proceedings of that interesting conference should soon be published.
4. An Ongoing Controversy
At the end of 2006, researchers from a US Navy laboratory, SPAWAR, also announced detections of a large number of tracks said to be due to alpha particles emitted from the cathode of a low voltage electrolytic cell. These particles were detected in CR-39 chips that were in contact with cathodes, in the electrolyte (26). Helped by SPAWAR scientists, Steve Krivit, from the New Energy Institute, wrote the protocol for replication of one of the SPAWAR experiments. That protocol was then distributed to those CMNS researchers who wanted to study the effect. All who were able to implement the protocol, including myself, reported seeing the SPAWAR-type tracks.
Some results were published at the ACS winter meeting in Denver, in March 2007. My slides shown at that meeting (27) were nearly identical with those shown by SPAWAR researchers. But our conclusions were very different; they speculated that dominant tracks were due to alpha particles, I speculated that our tracks could not possibly be due to alpha particles. In a subsequent internet discussion, and in a formal publication (28), they wrote that energies of alpha particles are likely to be close to 1 MeV. In my formal publication (29) I made two arguments against this tentative SPAWAR interpretation. Fortunately, the hypothesis of 1 MeV alphas can be tested by performing additional experiments. Alpha particles of approximately 1 MeV can be used and their tracks can be compared with tracks produced during electrolysis.
Suppose that the two kinds of tracks turn out to be very similar. That would reinforce the SPAWAR hypothesis and would justify more sophisticated experiments, for example, with electronic solid state detectors. SPAWAR type results are scientific because they are reproducible. The right diagram in Figure 3 shows how controversies are usually handled by scientists. Emission of nuclear particles of any kind, due to electrolysis, would be convincing evidence that a new kind of nuclear process has been discovered by CMNS scientists.
5. Final comments
The broad field of CMNS, recently reviewed by Ed Storms (9), remains controversial. But this did not stop research; many scientists continue searching for nuclear processes due to chemical reactions. Their progress would be faster if the field was not discriminated against, for example, by editors of scientific papers, and by various government organizations. In my opinion, most CMNS researchers are honest and competent and are motivated by the desire to promote science and technology. Several general observations about the field can be seen in (30). Here is one of them:
. . . What cold fusion really needs is a reliable demonstration experiment. That's what Ludwik Kowalski has been trying to find for several years now. We worked closely with him to see if Mizuno's incandescent W experiment (a la Clauzon et al) would do the trick. It didn't. That's what the Galileo Project was trying to establish. It didn't. ... or hasn't yet. That's what we are still pursuing right now in cooperation with Richard Oriani who continues to see relatively low level positive results from his PACA CR-39 experiments. That's why we continue to maintain our high performance calorimeter, MOAC, in good working condition so that cold fusion researchers can take advantage of our standing offer to test promising cold fusion cells free of charge.
Why go to all this trouble if we've never seen any real signs of cold fusion? Simple. If cold fusion is real, it will be of enormous importance to mankind. Lots of discoveries in science have come only after years of searching. Despite all our null results we still have some hope. But I also think that there is a finite chance that all of the apparently positive results that have been observed in cold fusion experiments are erroneous. ... i.e. the result of various artifacts. I know, it's hard to imagine how so many intelligent researchers could all be making such measurement errors. . . . .
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