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411) Messages from the CMNS list (December 2012)

Ludwik Kowalski; 12/17/2012

Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, USA

Some of you might be interested in the following messages from the private discussion list for CMNS researchers. They were posted in the first week of December 2012.

 

1) Posted by X1:

 

... X2 Ludwik Kowalski suggests that some of our distinguished CMNS scientists are in a way accomplices of Rossi's scam. ...  [I am certainly not one of them; my critical comments on Rossi's claims can be seen at:]

 

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/408rossi.pdf

 

2) Posted by X3:

I have not yet received a response from X2.  Regarding my wager, I am confident that commercial hot fusion energy will not happen in my lifetime despite hearing this promise of abundant energy for as long as I can remember.

 

3) X6 :

I also do not expect to live long enough to see commercial applications. But should I expect to see the first reproducible-on-demand demonstration of an undeniably nuclear effect resulting from a chemical process, such as electrolysis? This would be a giant step toward practical applications.

 

4) Posted by X5 (And ul-Rahman Lomax)

It exists. Unfortunately, it's a fairly expensive experiment. It's the X6’s experiment. Use the state of the art to run a substantial series of F&P type cells to see excess heat. Run the cells in such a way as to allow the secure collection of helium and measure it. Compare excess heat and the amount of helium produced. The helium will be proportional to the heat, and if you end up capturing all the helium, which may take some special techniques, the ratio will be as expected for deuterium conversion to helium. The individual cells will vary in heat, but the ratio will be constant.

 

That is a reproducible experiment, it's been reproduced many times. There are approaches which have shown excess heat in most cells, such as the Energetics Technologies replications at SRI and ENEA.

 

It's much less expensive to do this without the helium collection, but then all you have is heat, which is not an undeniably nuclear effect.

 

The problem, Ludwik, is that the F&P Heat Effect produces essentially no "nuclear products" other than helium, which is not unmistakably "nuclear" by itself, unless you take the levels above ambient, and still the skeptics will carp, because they did. However, heat correlated with helium at the fusion ratio is strong enough evidence for anyone who is reasonable.

 

It's possible that this could be done with tritium, but I don't see that the *reliable production* of tritium has been studied. The rumor is that tritium is not correlated with heat, but I've never seen published values that would show this, and it's a suspicious claim.

 

5) Posted by X6:

Yes indeed. Production of 4He from 2H, even without generation of excess heat, is an undeniable nuclear event, like other reported transmutations. But the correlation with excess heat, at the rate of about 24 MeV per atom of He (even if it were 24 +/- 10 MeV), would be very significant.

 

How much would it cost to reconstruct a setup, and to perform ten experiments? Who would be able to perform such experiments, if money becomes available?

 

6) Posted by X7

 

Evidently X2 has not done his research!  None of the persons criticized in his blog are ISCMNS leaders!  And his conclusions regarding the ISCMNS position do not seem to be based on any relevant facts.

 

I went on record, during the ISCMNS Annual General Meeting at ICCF16 (February 2011) warning the community of the brewing storm.  Allow me to quote some key points from my presentation:-

 

"Recently a demonstration was made of a prototype energy “Catalyzer”

If it works as described, it may be a blessing to humanity and vindicate 21 years of patient work by this community. If it fails spectacularly, it will create bad publicity for everyone working in the field.

 

Some advice to inventors

Get your invention independently validated.

Demonstrations which hide technical details create unease.

Non disclosure agreements can protect secrets.

 

Advice to Users

If you acquire any technology, whether secret or not, do not accept any clauses which require you to keep quiet if it doesn't work.

We need whistle blowers.

 

Advice to Evaluators

It's probably not appropriate to make a public statement in support of a demo miracle device, if you have not examined it yourself.

If you do make a statement, at least make sure that you can correct any eventual errors.

Take care if you get on film, as film will be edited."

 

This is of course a personal perspective, but it was discussed by the ISCMNS members present at the meeting.

 

If X2 has any evidence of fraud, I suggest he contacts the appropriate authorities.

 

7) Posted by X5:

 

First of all, it's been done. As I recall, Miles performed about six experiments, taking a total of 33 samples for analysis. ... This is the kind of work that can be done in many ways. The exact protocol is not important, but I do caution against going outside the basic PdH approach. Other approaches *might* involve different mechanisms.

 

If one can obtain or make an active cathode -- ENEA seems to be able to supply functional cathode material, and seems to have a grip on what sets up the necessary initial conditions -- measuring heat is not the most difficult part of this; one should, of course, use good calorimetry, for the accuracy of the ratio will not exceed the accuracy of the calorimetry.

 

The difficulty, though, is in capturing and measuring all the helium. McKubre followed an approach, in some of his work, that involved rigorously excluding helium from the cell materials and cells. Helium can diffuse through some materials. Seals must be helium tight, and tested to be so. And if the cell needs to be disassembled for any reason -- connections fail, etc., -- then the whole process must be repeated.

 

Storms, in "Status of cold fusion (2010)", working from the results of various studies, comes up with 25 +/- 5 MeV/He-4. That's rather obviously a bit seat-of-the-pants. I'd say, however, that the results show better than 24 +/- 10 MeV (and I'm not saying that Storms' result is incorrect).

 

At this point, the work is solid enough that the default hypothesis as to the ash from the FPHE is that it is helium, with the fuel being deuterium. Transmutations and other products are found at levels far too low to explain the heat, by many orders of magnitude. This does *not* establish mechanism, but it obviously puts some severe constraints on mechanism. If the mechanism involves neutron formation, why the products would so tightly focus on helium would have to be explained -- or other products would need to be identified, which has not happened. One possible mystery product, of course, could be deuterium, since it would not be detectable in heavy water experiments, nor, for that matter, in light water experiments, so plentiful is deuterium in light water.

 

Miles first reported helium somewhere around 1991, and his first extensive correlation report was published in time to be covered in the second revision of Huizenga's book, "Cold fusion, scientific fiasco of the century." Huizenga was highly impressed, in fact, saying that, if confirmed, a major mystery of cold fusion would have been solved, i.e., the ash. He held on to his skepticism by saying that, of course, it was unlikely to be confirmed, because no gamma rays were reported.

 

Huizenga was showing, clearly, how the skeptics thought about cold fusion and why they thought "it" was impossible. "It" was d-d fusion, through "overcoming the Coulomb barrier," in the classic way or something like it. And "it," when it produces helium -- i.e., rarely -- always produces a gamma ray. I consider it likely that they were correct, what they thought of as cold fusion is indeed impossible. They were gloriously and spectacularly incorrect, though, in making the assumption that if there was cold fusion, it would be a new way of making hot fusion.

 

(And all the theories that involve ideas whereby somehow deuterons in condensed matter attain sufficient energy to directly penetrate the barrier are missing the point. That is not happening. Piezoelectric fusion -- used in certain commercial neutron generators -- isn't cold fusion, it's hot fusion, and that's why it serves to generate neutrons. But the apparatus is at room temperature ....)

 

Because a notable author objected to the idea of this "replicable experiment," I'll answer his post separately, as to why what he expects has not appeared. But what I described is indeed replicable, and reliably so, I'll assert -- there is going to be a need for some detailed discussion about this -- and *it has been replicated*, quite enough that under normal conditions, the result would be a generally accepted fact.

 

Sitting here twenty years after a cascade, though, conditions still are not normal.

 

8) Also posted by X5, shortly after the above message:

 

X6 asked “How much would it cost to reconstruct a setup, and to perform ten experiments? Who would be able to perform such experiments, if money become available?”

 

What it would cost is something that could be estimated by those who have done the work in the first place. Notably, as to those who are active, and off the top of my head, this would be Miles -- first and foremost --, McKubre, who did the most accurate work to date, and Violante, who may have done the work at least expense, plus, of course, any of their co-workers and those reported in Storms, 2010.

 

I doubt that it would cost more than $10,000 per cell, though, as a rough guess, particularly if a worker already had good calorimetry in place or easily adaptable. If a lot of cells are run, the cost per cell may go down. Most of this cost, indeed, is labor.

 

As to who, my plan is to write a survey of cold fusion criticism, with a goal toward identifying significant and important unresolved issues. The replication of heat/helium is not significant as far as it is not impeding progress significantly, but because there are lingering doubts about it, it may be politically important. If heat/helium is established, if 24 MeV is confirmed, independently, and with greater accuracy, it confirms cold fusion, very amply, as a side-effect, and it narrows the possibilities for theories as to mechanism.

 

Matters are still at the point where Larsen can suggest that 24 MeV is only approximate and he can attempt to shoehorn his neutron transmutation ideas into it. Note that in spite of what Krivit has implied, Larsen has *confirmed* at least some of McKubre's work, as to his personal opinion.

This work must be divorced from theory. The goal of any confirmation should be, not to confirm or reject any theory as to mechanism, but simply to measure the ratio of helium to heat. The experiments might as well look for other things that can be done without compromising the heat/helium goal.

 

An important approach may be to define a protocol to be followed, and the broader the consensus on the protocol, the more likely that multiple workers will attempt it. Because few have access to mass spectrometers that are helium-qualified (He-4 must be resolvable from D2), the protocol will need to include a sampling protocol, which will require cooperation between experimenters and labs ready to do the measurements. If a single and simple protocol for submitting samples is followed, actual helium measurement should be relatively cheap per sample.

 

If every researcher does their own fabrication, that's expensive. If a common protocol is agreed upon, with identical cell design, there is *no harm in cooperation in fabrication.* What would be important would be that the cell materials would all be accessible for thorough testing. I.e., someone could analyze them to make sure that someone didn't sneak helium into the palladium, in particular. Ideally, there would be an independent supplier of materials and cells, with traceability. All that a researcher, then, in a report, need state, is that they used XYZ company's model NNN cell assembly.

 

XYZ company, then, is highly motivated to facilitate consensus among its potential customers as to desirable cell design. The Galileo project would have seen much wider participation if there had been such a common fabrication supplier. Indeed, I began working as a supplier of kit materials because, I saw, it should be possible to supply a Galileo-type cell, ready to hook up to a power supply and run, for about $100 per cell *and make a (modest) profit doing it.*

 

(But that design only looks for radiation evidence, from small palladium-plated cathodes in heavy water, and is utterly inadequate, as such, for heat/helium work.)

 

9) Posted by X6:

Thank you for interesting posts, X5. You are probably assuming that a high resolution mass spectrometer (able to distinguish the D-2 peak from the He-4 peak) would be available at no cost. Such instruments are not disposable.

 

10) Another post by X5

Other reported transmutations would be nuclear, but they occur at levels far, far below those of helium in F&P type experiments. Helium itself is problematic because helium is present in ambient air at levels that are generally higher than those expected from the heat. However, that has been addressed in several ways:

 

1. If enough heat is accumulated, and helium is accumulated, the helium levels can be expected to -- and do -- rise above ambient, without slowing, indicating a source of helium other than leakage from ambient.

 

2. Controls do not show helium.

 

3. If an experiment shows reasonably robust heat, and the cell environment is small, helium as an elevation above ambient can be observed. That this is what Violante did escaped Steven Krivit, who criticized Violante without understanding what he'd done.

 

The big problem with heat/helium work is that helium has very low mobility in palladium, yet it appears that the reaction does implant helium at some (small) depth in the palladium, so as much as roughly half of the helium can be trapped in the palladium. McKubre attempted to flush the helium by repeated deuterium loading/unloading, which appears to have worked, but this is an unconfirmed technique, and it would be useful if more definitive methods could be used. For example, earlier work looking for nuclear products in Arata/Zhang DS cathodes (hollow palladium with palladium black in the interior) not only looked in the interior gas phase, but also sectioned the cathodes and heated the pieces; helium becomes mobile at high temperatures. I've also thought that dissolving the cathodes electrolytically might work and might be simpler, if a researcher doesn't have direct access to helium measurement and must send off samples to a lab.

 

(With those Arata/Zhang cathodes, helium was not found above ambient, and the signs are that the cathode interior volume was breached, the helium leaking out. What was found, though, was He-3, at very significant levels, apparently as a decay product from tritium. The He-3 was found trapped in the palladium, at variable distance from the interior, indicating that it was the product of tritium that had decayed to He-3, becoming immobile, as the tritium diffused through the palladium. But this is unconfirmed work; like much cold fusion work, it's crying out to be replicated.)

 

11) Also by X5:

 

There are those on this list with substantial experience with this, perhaps they will help us understand the issue.

 

However, Miles did not have such a spectrometer. It is not necessary, obviously, for the researcher running the cells to have a mass spectrometer.

 

SRI has the necessary device, so does Dr. Storms, in his home lab. They are quite expensive, but not impossibly expensive, and, in any case, it is probably a better idea to create a sampling protocol such that a lab or labs can provide analytical services, efficiently.

 

If one were to run 10 cells, that could only be 10 samples to analyze, plus a few controls. It's kind of crazy to buy a mass spec to make ten measurements, eh?

 

It does appear, from what I've heard, that modern mass spectrometers are both cheaper and more accurate than the services that were available to Miles.

 

Yes, for deeper investigational work, in-line, continuous measurement of cell gas could make the investment in a dedicated mass spec worthwhile. But, note: serious exploration of the parameter space leads to a concept of running many cells simultaneously. That can be done through a sampling protocol.

 

Maybe an advanced cold fusion lab would indeed have a mass spectrometer that could be used for in-line, real-time analysis, and then used for analysis of samples that are stored up for later study.

 

It looks like a helium mass spectrometer might be rentable for on the order of $2K - $3K per month. These are used as leak detectors. Used mass spectrometers seem to be going for $10K - $40K.

 

A Varian 979 Helium Mass Spectrometer Leak Detector is on offer on eBay, for quite some time, at $15,000.

 

I think it likely that someone with access to an adequate helium mass spectrometer would be willing to provide services at a reasonable cost. It's not impossible that such services could be donated. The cost of equipment does not seem to be so high that, if a analysis services are not available, a provider could be set up for that purpose. The real cost of heat/helium measurements, as to the labor of preparing the equipment, running the experiments, and collection of samples, is quite likely much higher than the cost of helium analysis.

 

P.S.

I cited some figures for helium leak detectors. I don't know how capable these are of separating out the D2 peak. I do know that low-mass mass spectrometers are readily available that can easily resolve the peaks. As I mentioned, Storms has one. D2 can also be eliminated from the gas stream, but that introduces a possible source of error.

 

It's pretty much a non-issue, really, because it is not necessary for the researchers to own a mass spectrometer. The key will be a sampling and testing protocol, especially one that allows storage of samples for extended periods if necessary. That could be difficult enough! But it is doable. And blinding the tests so that the helium testers don't know anything about the sample origins can cover a host of contingencies, assuming that control samples are included, some as ambient air, perhaps, some as coming from dead cells, etc.

 

12) Posted by X7:

 

Here is a typical university in-house rental fee for a mass spectrometer:

 

Students who have a demonstrated need for the unique capabilities of this instrument can be trained to run their own samples.  The training is billed at a rate of $100 per hour, with the usual training session taking 4 hours.  Up to four students can attend the same training session to divide the cost.

 

Non-routine samples submitted to us to be run on the Q-TOF are billed at $100 per hour.

Student use of the instrument is billed at $50 per hour.

 

13) Posted by X8:

 

X5, a leak detector is useless for separating He from D2. These instruments focus on mass 4 but they are not designed to separate D2 from He. After all, no D2 is expected to be present in the apparatus being tested for leaks by applying He.

 

The only error is just how much He is present.  Several methods can be used to reduce this error by calibration.

 

14) Posted by X9:

 

X8, Can your spectrometer distinguish D2 from He-4?  Most cannot do this.

 

15) Posted by X8:

 

The spectrometer is made by MKS and has a range of mass 1 to 6. He and D2 are cleanly separated. 

 

16) Posted by X10:

 

Folks, a brand new MKS MicroVision II for measuring deuterium versus helium cost about $12,000 according to the company rep. It operates at a pressure of 1E-5 torr(?). It has a ten week lead time to order.

 

17) Posted by X6:

 

The costs reported in this thread are clearly negligible, in comparison with how much the DOE has been spending yearly to support hot fusion research. Failure to perform replication of 4He experiments, during the second DOE investigation, was certainly not due to prohibitively high costs. [That investigation was described in my article at]:

 

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/409social.pdf

 

In philosophically-oriented article (to be published  in 2013?) I wrote that "the DOE experts were not asked to perform correlation experiments; they were asked to read the report submitted by five CF scientists (21), and to vote on whether or not the evidence for the claim was conclusive. Such a way of dealing with a controversy was not consistent with the scientific method of validation or refutation of physical science claims."

 

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