This article was originally published in Infinite Energy, Issue 61 May/June 2005
Eleven years have passed since Eugene Mallove and Jed Rothwell wrote "A Cold Fusion Primer." It's now 2005. What's new? What's not? This article provides a brief summary to answer these questions.
Sadly, one of the greatest changes is the loss of Eugene Mallove, brutally murdered in early 2004. At the time of this writing, the mystery is unsolved and no suspects have been named.
Looking back on the perspective from 1994, it seems as though cold fusion research lost significant momentum in the latter half of the last decade, though a revival now seems possible. In 1994, the research initiatives funded by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the U.S. and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in Japan inspired strong optimism. By the mid-1990s, however, these programs folded for what appeared to be a lack of significant progress.
The Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry and the journal Fusion Technology both had a change in policy and stopped accepting cold fusion papers. Few journals have taken their place. The Japanese Journal of Applied Physics has been a notable exception.
The predictions in Mallove and Rothwell's article seemed realistic at the time, based on the progress they saw. With the solid but slow progress in 1994, they could not have foreseen the cessation of funding and the closed doors now encountered at an increasing number of journals. Alas, 2000 has come and gone without the predicted cold-fusion-powered automobile.
The hot fusion prediction was wrong also. As Mallove and Rothwell reported, that industry was predicting that the tokamak to end all tokamaks, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), would begin operating by 2005. Ground has not even broken.
Thanks to the optimism of cold fusion proponents and despite the cynical pessimism of others, cold fusion research has held its ground, and even gained a bit. The facts of cold fusion science have remained the same. Helium has persistently appeared as the dominant by-product. Neutrons have been observed, but at very low levels. The observations of this nuclear reaction still demonstrate an effect that appears to be environmentally friendly and safe for humans. And, yes, it still does sound too good to be true. However, the facts are readily available in several books and reports published in recent years by Beaudette, Rothwell, and Krivit and Winocur.
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy decided to take a second look at cold fusion. Unlike the aforementioned books on this subject, the Department of Energy review concluded that there was nothing new in the field since 1989. The very same document showed that about a third of the review panel members agreed there are anomalous effects, and half of the reviewers found the evidence for excess power compelling.
It remains somewhat of a mystery why the conclusion of the Department of Energy stated, "no reviewer recommended a focused federally funded program for low energy nuclear reactions" when this was not even a question reviewers were charged with.
Indeed, why did the Department of Energy even bothered to perform this review in the first place?
Despite the fact that the Department of Energy has decided not to fund cold fusion research at the moment, reports from qualified sources indicate that the review has brought significant attention to the field from private industry and investors. While no details have been made available, rumors indicate that private industry has decided to take a bet on cold fusion, while the Department of Energy remains on the sidelines.
Recent credibility and recognition in the field likely are due, in part, to the innovative work in Japan. Yasuhiro Iwamura of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries designed a flawless experiment that demonstrated 100% repeatability. His experiment was replicated with a series of experiments at Osaka University, also achieving 100% repeatability.
The future of cold fusion is still clearly uncertain and any new predictions would most likely turn out to be wrong. The only prediction that is reasonable is that the window of opportunity for cold fusion will close within the next decade or two.
With rare exceptions, like the relatively youthful Iwamura, most experienced cold fusion researchers are in the later years of their life. Many of those who started on cold fusion research in 1989 did so because they had the freedom of retirement, the wisdom of years and the array of skills that comes only with decades of experience in science.
Their knowledge, so far, has not been widely passed down to younger generations of future scientists. Whatever inevitable circumstances arise for them, be they time and nature, or acts of man, society will be losing many pioneering scientists in the coming decades. The only question that remains is whether they will have the time and opportunity to extract the secrets of cold fusion.
Steven B. Krivit is the coauthor of "The Rebirth of Cold Fusion" and editor of New Energy Times(tm), a Web site and newsletter specializing in cold fusion news and educational information.