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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
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
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%
>From this it can be judged that it was not too surprising that the 0.8 cm
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
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.