It’s Back Again – Cold Fusion Demonstration Shows Output

| June 2, 2008


In March of 1989, a pair of chemists showed a device that they claimed was able to fuse hydrogen into helium at room temperature using what appeared to be chemical processes. At first this rocked the world of high energy physics, who have been chasing the dream of producing controlled fusion for decades. Workable fusion power promises to create vast amounts of electrical energy out of common elements that can be extracted from nearly any water source. Fusion is less toxic than the current Fission reactors, and have the potential to one day be able to produce quantities of nearly any element through the same processes that they are produced in stars.

Back in 1989, after an initial period of frenzied interest and skepticism (what are chemists doing saying they have produced fusion anyhow?), methodical examination of the apparatus and the processes for making it happen did not always produce results. In the world of real science (as opposed to global warming) any experiment that cannot be reproduced by following the documented procedure is not proven to be real.

However, the book was not closed. Some scientists were able to produce results. While the majority of the physics orthodoxy went back to seeking funding for their multi-billion dollar hot fusion projects, a handful of curious souls kept plugging at what came be known has “Cold Fusion”.

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Although I couldn’t attend the demonstration (it was in Japanese, anyway), I know that it was based on reports published here and here. Essentially Arata, together with his co-researcher Yue-Chang Zhang, uses pressure to force deuterium (D) gas into an evacuated cell containing a sample of palladium dispersed in zirconium oxide (ZrO2–Pd). He claims the deuterium is absorbed by the sample in large amounts — producing what he calls dense or “pynco” deuterium — so that the deuterium nuclei become close enough together to fuse.

So, did this method work yesterday? Here’s an email I received from Akito Takahashi, a colleague of Arata’s, this morning:

“Arata’s demonstration…was successfully done. There came about 60 people from universities and companies in Japan and few foreign people. Six major newspapers and two TV [stations] (Asahi, Nikkei, Mainichi, NHK, et al.) were there…Demonstrated live data looked just similar to the data they reported in [the] papers…This showed the method highly reproducible. Arata’s lecture and Q&A were also attractive and active.”

I also received a detailed account from Jed Rothwell, who is editor of the US site LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions) and who has long thought that cold-fusion research shows promise. He said that, after Arata had started the injection of gas, the temperature rose to about 70 °C, which according to Arata was due to both chemical and nuclear reactions. When the gas was shut off, the temperature in the centre of the cell remained significantly warmer than the cell wall for 50 hours. This, according to Arata, was due solely to nuclear fusion.

So again someone shows that the basic Fleischmann and Pons approach can produce things that are a bit tough to explain. Heat is one thing, but Helium? Normally that is a fusion byproduct unless we had some stray Helium from somewhere prior that contaminated the sample.

In all likelihood research will continue. Organizations such as the Navy’s SPAWAR and DARPA are funding experiments with this approach at somewhat modest rates, and have been for at least 10 years. It is possible that something interesting is going on here that could be very useful, such as the structure of some forms of the Palladium alloy creating Hydrogen “capture” areas that place the protons very close to each other chemically. So close that they are able to easily fuse into Helium with a small electric charge. It would be fascinating if the structure of the material is able to naturally achieve Hydrogen density that would normally require huge temperature and massive pressure.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no massive cover up on Cold Fusion results. No one is going to take it seriously (nor should they) until the experiments are easily re-producable, and there are some workable theories as to why it would work.

I for one look forward to the day they explain this stuff.

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Category: Main, Science

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

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