July 30, 2010
Issue #35


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9. Who's Afraid of LENR Transmutations?

By Steven B. Krivit

Was LENR transmutation suppressed by U.S. LENR researchers who were enamored of D+D "cold fusion" because transmutation disproved their hypothesis? Or was it judiciously omitted for other, perhaps more prudent, reasons?

In 2007, Mahadeva Srinivasan, former associate director of the physics group at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in India, invited SRI International electrochemist Michael McKubre and me to come to India on a two-week lecture tour. Our trip was partially sponsored by the Indian government.

On our first stop, at the International Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics in Hyderabad, organized by Ethirajan Rajan, McKubre, Srinivasan and I gave lectures on LENR.

McKubre was first. His talk, as requested and advertised, was to be a broad review of the LENR field. After his talk, Srinivasan was the first to ask a question.

"Mike, thank you for the great presentation," Srinivasan said, "but why didn't you say anything about transmutations?"

"My friends in the cold fusion community chastise me very severely, but I'll say it again since we're all friends," McKubre said. "I know what to do with heat; I know how to use heat. In the transmutation business, I don't know what to do with the ability to turn expensive elements into cheap ones. I don't have a use for that.

“Now, in turns of a demonstration of a nuclear effect, I think it's useful, and other people have done that. But my interest is a little bit beyond demonstrating that there is a new nuclear effect here. I know that there's a new nuclear effect here. What I'm interested in is, What is it good for?"

Turn the clock back to 2004. The place: Marseilles, France. The event: the 11th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. As is traditional, several researchers summarized their thoughts about the conference. Talbot Chubb, a D+D "cold fusion" theorist, was among these.

"Well, I agree that the heat production is a primary concern," Chubb said, "and I think that the transmutation and the observations of flakes, or whatever, producing energetic particles are part of the picture, but the real core is the heat. The other things are teaching, are experiments that teach us something about what the process is going on. But I think the heat observations are really going to make the difference." (Audio)

Can Engineering Precede Understanding?

McKubre's and Chubb's statements have a common theme: Obtaining practical levels of LENR excess heat should be the most important focus of the field.

This is a dubious strategy for two reasons. First, LENR researchers, in general, neither understand the logical mechanism responsible for the excess heat nor have precise physical control of excess-heat generating experiments. All they know are the minimum conditions required to create excess heat.

Second, unless they get lucky enough to gain full control of the heat-generating process, any incremental progress they make with excess heat will do exactly what excess heat has done politically and technologically for the field throughout the last 21 years: almost nothing.

Chubb's comment is profound. He comes very close to recognizing the significance of transmutations – that is, how they might enable LENR researchers to learn what makes LENR tick.

It is remotely possible that a trial-and-error experimental approach may lead to practical LENR excess heat before the logical mechanism is understood. But for 21 years, it hasn't.

The fact that discoverers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons had better success in 1989 than perhaps the most well-funded group since then – the consortium of SRI International, ENEA Frascati, MIT and NRL – reveals the harsh reality of the approach taken by this consortium. Ironically, the federal group group—U.S. Navy SPAWAR Pacific—which has not been a key part of this consortium has made some of the most dramatic progress in LENR research.

The SPAWAR group has been expanding the LENR knowledge base consistently with leading-edge research and publishing in peer-reviewed journals for two decades. The group has only received limited amounts of internal funding.

How many papers reporting new LENR research have SRI International and NRL published in the last decade? To our knowledge, none. The only thing the SPAWAR and NRL groups have in common is that they are both part of the U.S. Navy. They are worlds apart in their culture, politics, financial streams and, at least as far as LENR, their effectiveness.

Fleischmann Reluctantly Accepts Transmutations

At the 2004 ICCF-11 conference, Fleischmann, sometimes referred to as the grandfather of the field, indicated what may be his first public acceptance of the reality of LENR transmutations.

"This conference is notable for the results of transmutation experiments which have been presented, and I would agree with Francesco [Celani] that these are now much more solid," Fleischmann said. "This is an aspect of the field which I viewed with intense skepticism originally. We, ourselves, had seen some transmutations, but we realized that to produce a publishable result from that was something which we just didn't have the resources for.

“As far as the theory is concerned, we have to recognize that people will circle 'round their patch of knowledge. This doesn't mean it's true, but they will circle around their center of expertise, and we have to just wait for another few years and see which of these approaches will survive. The key point is that the transmutation experiments now seem quite believable." (Audio)

An Artificial Distinction

As the reality of LENR transmutations began to sink in among the LENR researchers, some of them glimpsed the potential significance of the transmutation observations. That is, they realized that the transmutation results could not be explained by the D+D "cold fusion" hypothesis. What could this mean? That LENR excess heat and helium-4 were not the result of D+D "cold fusion"? Or instead, that LENR transmutations were the result of a completely different process? 

An artificial distinction evolved to fit "excess heat and helium-4" into the D+D "cold fusion” category and "transmutations" into another category.

In 2006, David Nagel, the chairman of the ICCF-14 conference, depicted this distinction as follows:

Three years earlier, George Miley, a pioneer in light-water LENR research, distinguished the two groups this way:

But some people were aware of data that suggested similarities between the two groups.

For example, during one of McKubre's talks in India, he mentioned (but did not show the following images) the heavy-water work of Japanese LENR researcher Tadahiko Mizuno and the light-water work of Miley. He said there was a relationship between the two.

"Mizuno and Miley – you can overlap [their data] and see the same thing," McKubre said.

Source: George H. Miley, "Possible Evidence of Anomalous Energy Effects in H/D-Loaded Solids-
Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs)," Journal of New Energy, 2, No. 3-4, pp.6-13, (1997).

Source: Tadahiko Mizuno, 2009 ACS, Salt Lake City, Utah

As it turns out, the researchers who focused on deuterium-palladium systems (heavy-water) gave life to the latter philosophy – two different sets of phenomena – though the distinction was artificial. They obtained extensive though not complete compliance from the researchers who focused on either hydrogen-palladium systems (light water) or nickel-hydrogen systems.

A few years ago, I asked Miley whether he was planning to report any new light-water results. He said "no," and he quickly walked away.

One light-water researcher who no longer attends the ICCF conferences told New Energy Times recently, "The heavy-water researchers were livid with us because they were using light-water as their control."

In the last decade and a half, the heavy-water researchers got their way: In many cases, they sufficiently ostracized the light-water researchers from participating in the ICCF conferences. In other cases, they intimidated those who stayed in the game, discouraging them from making any direct claims that might conflict with the party line.

The cold fusion faction's platform was that heavy-water experiments produce heat and helium-4 but not transmutations and light-water experiments produce transmutations but not excess heat and helium-4.

The logical separation between the light-water work and heavy-water work as being two distinct mechanisms, particularly in light of the heavy-element transmutations in heavy water, appears to be incorrect.

Why the Resistance?

What is the reason for the resistance to accepting transmutation at room temperature by the people who easily accept the hypothesis of "fusion" at room temperature? Perhaps it is based on the fear of being associated with medieval alchemy, which was marked as pathological science by modern chemistry. Is this fear based on reality or substance?

Why did the American "cold-fusion" faction omit LENR transmutations when its members were invited to give a comprehensive view of the broad subject of worldwide LENR research to the Department of Energy in 2004? Were they justified in omitting this topic because the Department of Energy looked at LENR transmutation with greater skepticism than it did D+D "cold fusion"?

Based on the fact that DoE had invited Lewis Larsen to speak on LENR as well as on LENR transmutations half a year earlier than the "cold fusion" faction’s presentation to the DoE, the faction's fear, if such was the case, was unjustified. Larsen's DoE presentation reflected his confidence about LENR transmutations.

"You can argue about excess-heat measurements and ponder near-absence of 'normal' nuclear products, but transmutation experiments involving LENRs are irrefutable," Larsen said.

Perhaps the resistance to accepting LENR transmutation by the "cold-fusion" faction is based on their members’ fear that transmutation disproves the hypothesis of "cold fusion."

Look at what the faction tried to do at ICCF-14, under the direction of organizers Nagel, Melich and McKubre. Despite the fact that LENR transmutation was Talbot Chubb's "big news" at ICCF-10 in 2003, accepted as part of the field by the "cold fusion grandfather" at ICCF-11 in 2004, and represented well in ICCF-12 and ICCF-13, it was initially omitted from the conference agenda in 2008 at ICCF-14, thanks to the "cold fusion" faction.

Instead of setting the agenda to include the full breadth of LENR research, the faction promoted the idea that excess heat and helium-4 from heavy-water electrolysis experiments, denoted as the Fleischmann-Pons experiment (FPE), was the primary focus of the field.

When I noticed this omission of transmutation from the ICCF-14 conference agenda, I asked the conference organizers, through the CMNS e-mail list, for an explanation. I received vague and incomplete responses. After seeing the less-than-satisfactory response and interest by organizers, Miley, a LENR researcher who has been a pioneer in LENR transmutation research, addressed Nagel, also through the CMNS e-mail list:

"I feel it is unfortunate that the focus of the meeting on the FPE seems to ignore transmutations which were not envisioned by these great pioneers and are not explained by the traditional D+D fusion theories," Miley wrote. "Is the transmutation effect relevant to the FPE? Or vice-versa? This area was separated earlier from the presentations at the last DoE review, and that, in my opinion, weakened the case there. I hate to see the field break up into separate areas, but events seem to be moving in that direction."

Bob Smith, an assistant to the ICCF-14 organizers, commented next.

"As far as why they want to keep it to the FPE, ... my opinion is that they want to minimize the competing effects of getting excess heat and turning it into power," Smith wrote.  

Smith must have meant "effects that compete with the FPE," because, when the final agenda was published, FPE was given center stage on Monday and Tuesday of the conference. This was significant because the organizers promoted the FPE as the most important aspect of the conference on their Web site and they gave free conference access to the media on Monday and Tuesday.

Had any members of the mainstream media chosen to attend and report on the conference (none did) and had they chosen to attend past Tuesday, they would have had to pay to attend those days on which transmutation was mentioned.

Actions by Melich also helped to keep some Russian transmutation researchers away from the conference. Melich and Nagel blamed the U.S. Department of State for the failure of many of the Russians to obtain American visas. Melich told New Energy Times that the U.S. consulate in Moscow gave Melich one set of instructions that caused the logistical failure, but the information provided to New Energy Times by Christofer Van Bebber, vice consul for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, contradicted the information provided by Melich.

Coming back to Smith's e-mail to the CMNS list, he then quoted McKubre.

"Mike McKubre," Smith wrote, "has said, 'Studies of the FPE keeps the community together and working toward a useful goal of producing a substantial heat source.' I think that Talbot Chubb, Yoshiaki Arata, and others would agree that studying the FPE is very worthwhile, as the baseline technology of interest."

I thought the idea of "keeping the community together" was profound and fodder for another possible essay on groupthink.

People who have never attended an ICCF conference should realize how McKubre is regarded within the field. He is the one asked to emcee ceremonies and speak at the conclusions of conferences. He's good at it; he is eloquent, witty, and knowledgeable and has a delightful English accent. He exudes confidence and authority and commanded the respect of LENR audiences at ICCF-14.

For example, when McKubre said to the audience, "I'd like you all to rise to your feet and give Dave [Nagel] and Mike [Melich] a round of applause," you can bet they stood up.

In this context, if Martin Fleischmann is the "grandfather" of "cold fusion," perhaps McKubre could be called its "king."

When I saw the strong political efforts to keep transmutation from the ICCF-14 conference, I called to chat with George Miley. He spoke about organizing a separate mini-conference either before or after the ICCF-14 conference.
Once word got around of that possibility, Nagel announced to the CMNS list that the "ICCF-14 Web site ... has been modified to make more explicit that transmutations are a subject of interest for the coming conference, as they have been at past conferences."

So was there a transmutation session at ICCF-14? Yes, an hour and a half was dedicated to the transmutation session, the same amount of time dedicated to presenting compilations of country-by-country "cold fusion" history.

However, after the official close of the conference on Friday, about 70 people packed into a separate room for a LENR transmutation workshop that was not officially included or recorded for the scientific record as part of ICCF-14.

The Importance of Transmutations

Readers of this Special Report by now realize the significance of LENR transmutations, how they may help all LENR researchers learn about every type of experiment and effect, be it the Fleischmann-Pons effect, the Iwamura effect, the Letts-Cravens effect, and so on.

Mizuno also provided additional insight into the ability to turn expensive or cheap elements into other elements at the American Chemical Society meeting in Salt Lake City on March 22, 2009.

"If the transmutation mechanism can be understood," Mizuno said, "it may then be possible to control the reaction and perhaps produce macroscopic quantities of rare elements by this method. In the distant future, industrial-scale production of rare elements might become possible, and this would help alleviate material shortages worldwide."[1]

On June 25, 2009, Larsen released an edgy but precise analysis of his perspective.[2]

  • Measurements of transmutation products, so-called “nuclear ash,” if reliably observed at the conclusion of an LENR experiment, are important because they indicate that new chemical elements have somehow been produced and/or isotopic ratios of some elements previously present have been significantly altered.
  • Accurate detection and analysis of whatever types of products may be produced during an LENR experiment can potentially allow one to determine exactly which type(s) of nuclear process(es) occurred and the reaction(s) that created the products.
  • Since 1989, most “cold fusion” researchers have focused primarily on the Holy Grail of creating macroscopic LENR devices that can produce substantial fluxes of calorimetrically measured excess heat.
  • Absent a usable theory of LENRs and a detailed understanding of nanoscale device physics, achieving success with such an approach is at best a random proposition. It is a bit like trying to fabricate modern microprocessor chips with submicron feature sizes on silicon dies using machinists’ T-squares, rulers and scribes rather than using advanced lithography and CMOS process technologies.
  • Even when substantial macroscopic excess heat is achieved in a 1 cm2 device, heat as the sole metric of success provides little or no insight into underlying mechanisms of heat production or what one might do to improve the quantity and duration of heat output in future devices.
  • For example, exhaustive detection/identification of all nuclear reaction products to whatever extent possible is crucial technical information.
  • Unguided, random Edisonian exploration of LENRs’ vast physics and materials parameter space is very likely responsible for the lack of readily reproducible experimental results and limited R&D progress that have characterized the field of LENRs for the past 20 years.



1. Mizuno, T., "Isotopic changes of elements caused by various conditions of electrolysis," presented at American Chemical Society, Salt Lake City, March 22, 2009

2. Larsen, L., June 25, 2009, Technical Overview


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