Interview with Dennis Letts by Steven Krivit on October 9, 2003
What is your area of specialty within cold fusion?
It has been all along, triggering. My first triggering methodology was using radio frequencies, nuclear magnetic resonance-type procedures. That stopped abruptly three years ago when I accidentally discovered that a laser will turn on and trigger the cold fusion effect.
Was it much easier to work with lasers than nuclear magnetic resonance?
Yes, a lot easier to show that there was some real effect there, it was much more reproducible than radio frequencies. The radio frequencies tended to interfere with our instrumentation whereas the laser does not.
Tell me a little about the levels of reproducibility you are now seeing.
The power results on an absolute scale are relatively small at this time. Our goal was to figure out how to make this reproducible, and more prove-able, if you will, rather than large power numbers. Specifically, we apply about nine watts of electrical power in and let that get real stable and flat and then we turn on a 30 milliwatt laser, which theoretically should do nothing, have no effect on cell temperature, and yet the cell temperature rockets up by three degrees which represents about 0.5 and 1.0 watts from a 30 milliwatt stimulation (.03) watt.
And you are taking into account the energy of all variables in the environment?
Yes, we've been doing this for a long time, we all have made various kinds of mistakes in the calorimetry as we have learned to do this craft and learn how difficult it truly is. People like Ed Storms, Scott Little and Dennis Cravens have all contributed and helped improve the calorimetry. So we do account for every bit of energy in and ambient conditions are held constant, power is held constant, the only thing that changes is the cell temperature and it goes rocketing up two or three degrees.
A 30 milliwatt laser is small enough that if you shined it on your hand you probably wouldn't even feel anything, right?
Right, not at all.
What type of cold fusion configuration are you using?
Its a typical Fleischmann-Pons cell which means basically a palladium cathode and a platinum anode and the electrolyte is heavy water, deuterium oxide, plus some salts, so we have lithium deuteroxide as the electrolyte.
Can you tell me more about when you first started the laser triggering?
The laser affect was first demonstrated by me and Dennis Cravens well before 2000 on a casual basis. We had seen evidence that a laser diode or a photo diode could trigger some of these events. The actual event, the defining moment, if you will, occurred in September of 2000 and from that time we've made 90 cathodes as of today and run, on the order of 1000 experiments. And of those, if we follow the recipe to make the cathode properly, we generally get half or two-thirds of them to trigger.
Has anyone replicated this effect yet?
Yes, it's been replicated now by three or four different labs.
What are your greatest challenges in the field at this time?
Right now I have two goals. I want to spread this technology to other researchers so they can see how to turn on the effect. After that, I hope to get wider acceptance in the scientific community so this field can get some research funding so that we can go a step further; that is, explain and understand the mechanism and then perhaps scale it up.
Considering the cynicism and rejection this field has received, any ideas where you'll get any new receptivity?
The short answer is, "I don't know." It's very difficult to assess right now. I've been in what I call "prove it" mode for the past year and I haven't been able to think outside of this activity to try to develop a strategy but I've been making a few small steps. I've talked to the fuel-cell people and they are watching this experiment over the internet from time to time and get to see our results. I think non-traditional approaches are going to have to be taken.
What kind of results were you getting five years ago from your experiments?
What has changed is basically the fact that with very little effort, I can transport this to other labs. That's the big difference. It seems to be highly reproducible. The triggering mechanism does not interfere with the instrumentation so the affect is large and much more believable, much more demonstrable than the radio frequency effect.
Can you tell me more about that?
Detector noise is always a problem. With radio frequency you have to filter heavily and it's an art form in itself. Typically, I just chose to surrender to nature and ran at a lower radio frequency power. 30mw, oddly enough, just like the laser power, is what I used to get my three- and four-degree changes in the electrolyte.
What do you think is important for the public to know about this work?
Demand proof when you hear someone criticizing this field for being sloppy science, voodoo science. Come to a meeting or get to know someone doing this in person and look at the lengths to which we all go to counter that. The field was perhaps guilty of that in the beginning, though, I'm not in a position to assess that. I know I've made my share of early mistakes that have now been corrected with experience. We're certainly not making the same mistake over and over again and I would ask the critics to recognize that.