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15. Development of the Widom-Larsen Theory of LENRs
By Steven B. Krivit
With this article, New Energy Times reveals the history of the Widom-Larsen theory of low-energy nuclear reactions.
Both Allan Widom, a condensed matter physicist with Northeastern University, and Lewis Larsen, president and chief executive officer of Lattice Energy LLC, have been reluctant in the past to speak with the media about the development of their theory.
Widom has declined repeated phone and e-mail requests from New Energy Times, but Larsen has agreed to speak with us.
He has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in business from the University of Chicago. As an undergraduate, he audited courses in astrophysics under Nobel Prize-winning physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
Larsen enrolled in a doctoral program in theoretical biophysics at the University of Miami until a block grant from the Atomic Energy Commission was terminated. He had finished his coursework and was working on his dissertation. Later on, he worked as a financial and securities analyst and was cited by Barron's as a "futurist" with a "dead-on prediction" about a "coming technology revolution."
He told New Energy Times about his early involvement in LENR.
"In 1997, I was running a technology consulting company," Larsen said, "and one of our clients asked, 'Are there any wild cards in energy?' We were working in energy and information management and control systems.
"I remembered the cold fusion controversy from 1989, so I went looking for a scientist who was with a major university, had a decent reputation in thermonuclear fusion research and who was working in LENR. Through the early Internet search engines, I found George Miley at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"When I saw the 1996 Miley transmutation research I remembered an elemental abundances chart I had seen 30 years earlier when I was studying astrophysics," Larsen said. "I recognized similar peaks and abundances, and began to suspect that LENRs were neutron-catalyzed reactions, just like similar processes in stars."
Despite his fascination, he approached the work cautiously, and in 1998, he sought the independent opinions of two top nuclear physicists in the U.S. He asked them whether Miley's data were accurate and appeared to reflect a genuine nuclear process. Both said yes.
Around 1998, Larsen saw a very similar five-peak elemental spectrum from Japanese LENR researcher Tadahiko Mizuno (see "Who's Afraid of LENR Transmutations?" in this special report).
"Miley's transmutation experiments and Mizuno's showed different relative sizes of the peaks in different parts of the mass spectrum due to different seed elements initially present in the electrolyte," Larsen said. "However, the most amazing thing was that Mizuno's experiments were with heavy water and Miley's were with light water.
"At that point, I knew the coincidence could not be just accidental. I knew then that the heavy-water and light-water results were part of the same phenomenon.
"I also knew that neutrons were the key; I had a conceptual understanding of the theory worked out by then but not the precise details of how the neutrons were formed."
Larsen started Lattice Energy LLC in 2000 and conceived the idea of ultra-low-momentum neutrons.
"I realized they had to be ultra-low-momentum neutrons," Larsen said, "because researchers saw the results of transmutations but they never saw the neutrons, aside from, possibly, spallation neutrons. I also knew there had to be some kind of gamma conversion mechanism. Somehow, the electrons were suppressing the gamma radiation."
In May 2001, he received his first seed funding, and during Thanksgiving week that year, he had his first telephone meeting with government scientists. This was the first step in his outreach to several national laboratories.
Larsen said that he and Widom have participated in numerous private federal government meetings and briefings. He said that federal agencies have been interested in the theory for a variety of reasons. However, he has not received federal funding.
"They sucked all kinds of information out of us, but they never gave us a dime and never proposed any significant funding," Larsen said.
The next insight for Larsen came in 2002. In June, Japanese LENR researcher Yasuhiro Iwamura, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, published new research showing LENR transmutations.
Several years earlier, Iwamura had filed a U.S. patent and hypothesized how a neutron-based mechanism might be responsible for the LENR transmutations, but Iwamura did not have a specific mechanism to account for the formation of the neutrons.
Larsen also learned that Mizuno had recognized the potential viability of weak interactions, as Mizuno published in his 1997 book.
"Sometime around July 2002," Larsen said, "Miley had just returned from the ICCF-9 conference in China, and he showed me a copy of the Iwamura paper. He asked me if I believed it and if I thought the data was correct. I responded, 'Yes, I'm very confident,' without explaining to Miley why I was so confident.
"By that time, I had already performed my independent due diligence on Miley's transmutation data. He thought his five-peak transmutation spectrum was the result of a fission process."
In the summer of 2003, before the ICCF-10 conference, Larsen learned about the successful laser triggering and gold surface treatment reported by U.S. LENR researchers Dennis Cravens and Dennis Letts. He also heard claims that the Letts-Cravens effect had been replicated by LENR researchers Edmund Storms and Michael McKubre.
"I then knew LENR had to be primarily a surface effect and not a bulk reaction. I knew that electron capture (electron + proton) played a key role in producing neutrons and neutrinos," Larsen said. "I knew that surface plasmons were key because gold loves to form surface plasmons. This helped me to identify which electrons were participating with the protons/deuterons to make neutrons via a collective weak interaction.
"I had all the concepts put together, but I needed an academic collaborator who was well-published and who had the physics and calculation skills necessary to help me complete the development of the theory. I hadn't done calculations like this for many years."
"Around March or April 2004," he said, "I began to look for a theoretical physicist with strong experience in many-body collective effects, quantum electrodynamics and condensed-matter physics. I knew that these were the required disciplines, but they are a rare combination. Eventually – it took me a while – I found Widom. Coincidentally, he was also a close personal friend of Giuliano Preparata, a well-known LENR theorist.
"Widom had had no involvement or interest in LENR at the time. He was skeptical but was willing to look at the experimental evidence and consider my theoretical concepts. Together, we reviewed hundreds of papers dating back many decades, all the way back to 1922; it took us about six months.
"We found that the important work had happened outside the U.S. The researchers overseas had much more open minds. Together, we worked out the remaining details of the physical and mathematical mechanisms."
At the same time, Larsen learned that someone else also seemed to be closing in on the idea.
"In October 2004, I was sitting in the audience at the ICCF-11 conference in Marseille, France, and all of a sudden I heard Vittorio Violante [ENEA Frascati] start talking about surface plasmons," Larsen said. "I nearly had a heart attack. I thought Violante was going to publish the details of the mechanism before we did."
On May 2, 2005, Larsen and Widom placed their concept in the public domain by uploading the pre-print of their first paper to the arXive server. They decided that Widom would be the senior author. The first paper published on March 9, 2006, in European Physical Journal C – Particles and Fields.
The pair submitted several other papers for publication. They later brought in Yogendra N. Srivastava for his expertise in collective magnetic phenomena and Standard Model high-energy particle physics.
They placed their "primer" paper on the arXive server in 2008. It was peer-reviewed, accepted and published by the American Chemical Society in 2009. An expanded version of the paper has been accepted for publication in 2010 by Pramana Journal of Physics, a refereed publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences.
Larsen, Widom and Srivastava ceased active collaboration in October 2008. Larsen then developed and extended the theory to carbon fullerenes and aromatic rings.
"Ironically," Larsen said, "many reviewers take a quick look at our work and think we are proposing 'cold fusion.' Of course, nothing could be further from the truth."
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