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Douglas R.O. Morrison's Cold Fusion News
No. 11—31 March-1 April 1989

Back to Morrison Index

(Source: New Energy Times)
Dear E632 and WA84 Colleagues,

PHYSICS NEWS - COLD FUSION?

There have been many reports in the newspapers that Prof. Fleischmann of Southampton and Dr. Pons of Utah have evidence for cold fusion of deuterium by electrochemistry. This afternoon Prof. Fleischmann gave a seminar in CERN. Because of the many media reports, the auditorium was crowded and although I arrived 20 minutes early, I had to sit on the steps. As I have given several lectures on Wrong Results in Physics, I went to this and also to the press conference afterwards - especially as the news reports had been very hard to understand scientifically, but if true, this could have a major impact on the world economy.

Martin Fleischmann had a reputation as a major expert in his subject. As his talk developed, it became clear that he was a first class scientist and it seems to me that he has made a major breakthrough, though what the fundamentals processes are is not yet fully understood.

Let me try and explain what I think I learnt (I talked to him for a while afterwards, so it may not be too bad).

Basically the catalyst used, palladium Pd, is a face-centred crystal. It can absorb a certain amount of hydrogen. If an electrical potential is applied, then over a period of time it can absorb a great deal. For F & P, they reached 0.6 atoms of deuterium per atom of Palladium after three months.

They made tests with four rods each of 10 cm length and of diameters 0.1, 0.2, 0.4 and 0.8 cm. They only have good measurements for the first three as one morning when they came in they found that the fourth and largest rod had melted and the fume cupboard was starting to smoulder! They made calorimetric measurements and found that they were getting more heat out than they had put in and this effect increased with the diameter of the rod. It seems to be a volume effect and not a surface effect. The excess heat is about 5 megajoules per cm3 which is about 100 times greater than any known chemical process.

A second measurement was by putting a NaI crystal close when they recorded gammas. The energy spectrum of the gammas was sharply peaked between 2000 and 2400 which is characteristic of the (n,gamma) reaction on hydrogen. This could be explained as the neutrons interacting in the water bath round the experiment.

Thirdly they observed tritium production and measured and found a "characteristic" spectrum (I did not understand this fully, partly as he had an incomplete scale on the graph, but see later).

Fourthly they looked for neutrons using a polythene sphere filled with BF3. The count was three times background. In 50 hours they counted 40,000 neutrons. However there is a point that is a stumbling block for particle physicists - if you take the rate of release of heat, then there should be 10 E 13 or 14 neutrons - a huge discrepancy. He does not have the equipment to measure the neutron spectrum - the neutrons have to pass through the surrounding water bath which tends to thermalise them.

A conclusion that can be drawn from Fleischmann's talk is that the heating is not due to the reactions

2D + 2D ---> 3He + n (1) or
2D + 3T ---> 4He + n (2)

which are the ones that spring to mind.

He gave a table of the excess enthalpy in the Pd rod cathodes expressed as a percentage of breakeven values;

0.1 mm 81%
0.2 189%
0.4 839%

>From this it can be judged that it was not too surprising that the 0.8 cm rod melted!

He opened his talk with a basic discussion of electrochemistry.

D2O + e- <---> D(absorber) + OD-
D(absorber) <---> D(lattice)
D(absorber) + D2O + e- <---> D2 + OD-

With the applied field the D can go over the potential barrier by applying a Potl. Difference at the interface. The result is that inside the Pd there can be many collisions without repulsion. Effectively there is a PD of 0.8 eV which can translate into a compression of 10 E 27 atmos. i.e. it would require this enormous pressure to achieve the same PD. Thus electrochemistry is high energy chemistry! The D is in a sea of high electron density. The structural or coherent strength of the Pd is 4000 atm. Thus it is a very strange kind of Quantum Mechanics (his phrase).

I have to go to collect my daughter at the airport, but will try and continue later.

1 April 1989.
(despite the date, it is serious!)

Re-reading what I wrote yesterday. I realise that I have been trying to explain simply. The actual talk contained some more details and two tables of results that I had only time to copy down partially. There was a fuller discussion of electrochemistry.

The question now is what is happening. The observations are of a source of heat, of emision of tritium, gammas and of neutrons, but the number of neutrons are many orders of magnitude less than would be expected if the heat produced came from reactions producing neutrons. Fleischmann talks as if you have to modify quantum mechanics - this I do not believe - we have to apply it differently.

An additional piece of information that he gave at his press conference but not at his seminar, was that the particle emission was not uniform but had fluctuations which were much larger than statistical - this I think is a very important piece of information.

There are a lot of different theories being discussed. The following comments should be considered private, qualitative and not necessarily correct.

[PRIVATE COMMENTS DELETED HERE]...

In answer to a question, Fleischmann said that they had tried to look at 3He and 4He production and ratio, but the experiment is difficult for them and they prefer to leave that for experts who have the equipment - for they have been using their own money for 5 years.

Looking again at my notes, I discover that John Ellis had said in the discussion that there could be little Coulomb repulsion as there could be a classical oscillation of the lattice.

Before the Seminar, things were rather disturbed with the media - lots of TV crews and flashes popping off. The Chairman, Carlo, asked them all to leave explaining this was a scientific meeting and he did not want questions on any other subject, but afterwards there would be a press conference. After some time the media left. At the end of Fleischmann's talk, the TV crews re-entered and had to be requested to leave again before the question period.

On the way to the press conference, Fleischmann was told that there had been a report on the radio that a group (at Columbia?) had confirmed his result. He said he had not heard this and during the Press Conference he continued to emphasise, in a very proper manner, that before leaping to conclusions, there should be further confirming evidence.

Fleischmann had described his other press conference in Utah as awful, but this one went well with Carlo a good Chairman - who was also asked questions. Fleischmann explained that the work was intentional and not an accident. He said that after verification, it might take 10 to 20 years to develop an economically viable system. Carlo was asked his opinion and said that "Dr. Fleischmann has planted a seed - will the seed grow up? I think yes" Fleischmann said that he believed in Karl Popper's philosophy - you cannot prove something right, you can only prove it wrong. "We have spent 5 years trying to prove ourselves wrong, now other people should try".

In explaining why they did it, "it was not to do an ego trip (though all scientists are on an ego trip to some extent), but to try and find a plentiful source of energy. We have a social conscience"

Question - "There was a sceptical atmosphere in the room, did you feel like a chemistry bull in an arena of physics toreadors?"

Answer - "Are people correct to be sceptical?, yes, it is correct to be sceptical. But it was not a bad atmosphere. Our experiment fits partly into accepted ideas but not entirely, therefore either experiment is wrong or we have extended the conceptions of possible fusion mechanisms".

Carlo was asked if he found the meeting strange - "No, I am at home in my own lab".

Question - "Do you think it is correct?". Answer(MF) - "I think it is correct, but others should show it is correct". (Note, this was typical of some of the questions where the journalist asked "for a good quote").

Carlo was asked if CERN should work on fusion. He replied " There are different science cultures. In an orchestra everyone tries to play his own instrument, and does not have other instruments. But we have quantum mechanics in common. We should do what we do best. But there is also cross-fertilisation between chemistry and nuclear physics" He also joked that this was the first time that a chemist had discovered a neutron!

Question - "Any military applications?"

Answer(MF) - "There will always be some military application of anything, but we do not know of any such thing"

Question - " You said you did not have enough money, have you been offered money since your press conference last week"?

Answer - "Up to now have used our own money as we thought it unlikely to work, so there were some restrictions. Since then we have been approached with offers but as our capacity to spend money is limited, we have to plan carefully.

Question - "If it is fusion what will its effect be on other fusion research?"

Answer - " Glad you asked that. It would be a total disaster to cut back on other fusion research. Ours is small scale, theirs is large scale generation of electricity. It would be extremely foolish to cut back".

There was more, but I hope this gives the flavour - both Fleischmann and Carlo aquitted themselves very well and responsibly.

Friedrich Dydak had told me he had two papers confirming the F & P work and I could copy them. Later when I was returning them, Fleischmann came in for another TV interview and we talked while he was waiting for the lighting to be set up. He had not seen the papers, so I gave him copies. The main author was Stephen Jones who is at the BYU in Utah beside Dr. Pons. We looked quickly at the papers - he was particularly interested in the dates on the papers. I explained I was interested particularly for two reasons. Firstly as I was possibly the first to observe fusion in Europe - in the early sixties I was scanning bubble chamber film of deuterium and normally when there is the decay chain,

pion ---> muon ---> electron

the muon always has the same short range (if the pion is at rest). But one day I observed an extra long range for the muon. I spent some time measuring the curvature and angles of the tracks, but could not explain it. However someone told me that the Berkeley bubble chamber group had found it and it had been explained as the muon replacing an electron and causing fusion. At this Luis insisted that this should be treated as a secret, but quickly it was calculated that it had no military or economical value. So I left it and went on to new things(incidently the Scientific American article of July 1987 by Rafelski and Jones on Cold Nuclear Fusion says that this muon -induced fusion was first suggested by Frank and Sakharov in the late 1940's).

Secondly I said I had given several serious lectures on Wrong Results in Physics and found that they exhibited certain characteristics so that they could be recognised before they had been proved wrong - after the press reports I wondered if this was a case in point, but after I had heard his conference, I was inclined to believe that his results were correct. He did not seem to appreciate this too much, not unnaturally, but we continued talking and he told me some remarkable things. I mentioned that after the press conference, Dr. Wind was looking for him as he used to work in Utrecht on electrochemistry and had been able to insert 1000 hydrogen ions per atom of palladium catalyst. Dr. Fleischmann (who had attained 0.6 ions after 3 months) said he did not believe this number of 1000. However talking with Per-Olaf Hulth this morning, he had checked this subject last night and read that 850 ions of hydrogen had been inserted - this could be used as hydrogen storage cells for cars driven by hydrogen - air mixtures. If I remember rightly, Fleischmann had replied that they had not prepared the surface of their palladium rod, and this could make a big difference. If it were possible to insert so many deuterium ions into palladium, then the rate of fusion would be greatly increased (or the charging time would be less than 3 months).

The two papers are;

1. "Observation of Cold Nuclear Fusion in Condensed Matter" by S.E. Jones and others of Brigham Young Univ. and J. Rafelski of Univ. of Arizona.

2. "Limits on Cold Fusion in Condensed Matter; a Parametric study" by J. Rafelski and others of Arizona and S.E. Jones of BYU.

The main point of the first paper is that they claim to have observed neutrons when there was low voltage electrolytic fusion of deuterons into metallic titanium or palladium. They believe this is from the reaction;

d + d ---> 3He(0.82 MeV) + n(2.45 MeV) (1)

The distribution of counts in different channels give a broad enhancement which the authors say corresponds to neutrons of 2.45 MeV. This looks convincing - just; it would be good to repeat this.

They say they have not yet (?!advertising?) obtained results regarding the parallel reaction;

d + d ---> p(3.02 MeV) + t(1.01 MeV) (3)

The electrolyte contains various minmeral salts and they say that their evidence indicates the importance of co-deposition of deuterons and metal ions at the negative electrode. "hydrogen bubbles were observed to form on the Pd foils only after several minutes of electrolysis, suggesting the rapid absorbtion of deuterons into the foil; oxygen bubbles formed at the anode immediately". The palladium pieces were 0.025cm thick and had the surfaces roughened or were mossy. They do not say that it took 3 months to get started by charging the deuterons into the palladium...

[PRIVATE COMMENT DELETED HERE]

The experimental part of their paper gives an impression of haste, but there are a lot of other interesting things in their paper; In a deuterium molecule the separation between the deuterons is 0.74 A and the d-d fusion rate is very slow about 10 E -70 per D2 molecule per sec ( calculated in an interesting paper by Van Siclen, C.D. and Jones, S.E., Journal of Physics G Nucl. Phys. 12 (1986) 213 - here they state that the fusion rates for reactions (1) and (3) are nearly equal over the range 10 to 30 KeV. They also discuss whether piezonuclear fusion - i.e. by pressure - within the liquid metallic hydrogen core of Jupiter could account for the fact that the planet radiates 1.5 times as much heat as it receives from the sun. However they concluded that this process was many orders of magnitude too small to be a significant energy source - this is where the idea of Fleischmann and Pons of using electrolytic catalysis is so important). However in muon-induced catalysis the internuclear separation is reduced by about the ratio of the muon to the electron masses (200) resulting in the fusion rate increasing by an enormous factor, 80 orders of magnitude!

In the second paper this variation of fusion rate as a function of the distance is quantified. This made me think of the observation by Fleischmann that they had observed large fluctuations in the signals - for the number of deuterons in a space in the lattice of Palladium is discrete and given by Poisson statistics hence the distance between the deuterons will vary appreciably - this and other factors(roughness of surface) could cause there to be local spots hot in space and time, since the fusion rate varies so violently with distance. In addition to the reactions (1) and (3), there can occur the reaction on tritium that will exist to some varable extent,

2D + 3T ---> 4He + n (2)

Although there is less tritium than deuterium, this reaction has a much higher cross section - so that this reaction (2) could also help fluctuations (but these comments on fluctations are my own, so treat them with appropriate caution).

Paper (1) also has an interesting chapter on Geophysical considerations (or the Hawaii effect). Sea water contains about one part in 7000 of deuterium. By subduction water is carried down to the earth's mantle where it might undergo fusion via the reaction;

p + d ---> 3He + gamma(5.4 MeV) (4)

under the extreme pressure and temperature there. Calculations are done which indicate that a substantial contribution to the heat flux through the crust could come from cold fusion. This heat could also help to explain the localised heat of volcanism at subduction zones. They quote that the 3He to 4He ratio is high in rocks, liquids and gases from volcanoes. Further they then predict that tritium will be produced from d + d fusion and since tritium is relatively short-lived(12 years half-life), observation of tritium would suggest a geologically recent process. On the Mauna Loa mountain on Hawaii, tritium was monitored from 1971 to 1977 and a correlation is shown in the paper between the tritium level and volcanic activity. This is very striking for the 1972 Mauna Ulu eruption but later eruption signals were partly confused by atomic bomb tests. They estimate that in the Mauna Ulu eruption 100 curies of tritium was released per day for 30 days!

In paper (1), it is also reported that after diamonds are sliced with a laser, the concentration of 4He and 3He has been measured - it is reported that the 4He is distributed uniformly while the 3He is concentrated in spots suggesting cold fusion reactions. Similar anomalies have been reported in metal foils.

The authors also calculate that the excess heat from Jupiter could be accounted for from cold fusion in the core consisting of metallic hydrogen plus iron silicate.

The second paper calculates the cold fusion rate of d-d as a function of 1 - relative energy, 2 - separation of two hydrogen nuclei in a sphere, 3 - the effective electron mass, 4 - the effective electron charge. They do not consider the effects of the lattice of a catalyst as do Fleischmann and Pons.

It is probable that some readers will be thinking that this letter has wandered off strict physics news. They are right. It is intentional as I feel this subject will become so important to society that we must consider the broader implications as well as the scientific ones. Looking into a cloudy crystal ball, it is not impossible to foresee the situation that the experiments are so easy that schools will be doing them, that many new companies will start up, most(not all) will fail and the present big power companies will be running down their oil and coal power stations while they are building deuterium separation plants and new power plants based on cold fusion. No new nuclear power stations will be built except for military needs. There will be very little if any research on high temperature(plasma) fusion. Petrol will probably still be used for cars. Overall pollution will start to be less. Ecologists will be talking about the contamination from radioactive tritium and asking about the effect of this tritium on the ozone layer.

CONCLUSIONS

It is known(from muon cataysis) that if two nuclei of deuterium or tritium are held close together, then they can fuse releasing energy. Fleischmann and Pons thought of achieving this by using electrolysis to insert deuterium nuclei inside a palladium catalyst. They observed production of more heat than they put in. They also observed tritium production, gammas of an energy consistent with neutrons interacting with the surrounding water bath, and neutrons directly. They thus conclude they have observed fusion of heavy hydrogen producing energy, i.e. cold fusion. A paper by Jones et al. reports on the operation of similar electrolytic cells with observation of neutrons with an energy spectrum consistent with that expected from deuterium fusion. They also describe interesting though rather anecdotal evidence for fusion in volcanoes, Jupiter, diamonds and metal foils. The theory, while not fully developed, suggests that the deuterium nuclei inside the lattice of the catalyst, are held so closely together that the probability of fusion(the tunneling effect) is dramatically increased by many orders of magnitude. it may be expected that this will cause major changes in the energy industry and major social, economic and hence political changes.

Douglas R. O. Morrison.