David Kidwell (Naval Research Laboratory)
NRL Salvo Attacks Validity of Mitsubishi LENR Research x

May 12, 2016

On May 6, 2016, David Kidwell, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, released his latest attack criticizing the work of Japanese LENR researchers. In an email to an invitation-only but public Google discussion group, Kidwell wrote, using his NRL e-mail account, “eventually, we will get to that the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries data is not real.”

Since 2008, Kidwell has criticized the heavy-element transmutation results reported by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in its long-standing low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR) research program.

Two days earlier, on May 4, 2016, as reported by New Energy Times, a U.S. congressional committee took the unprecedented step of requesting from the Department of Defense a national security briefing on the implications of LENRs.

The Naval Research Laboratory, along with the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and possibly the Department of Energy’s national laboratories likely will be among the participants preparing the DOD briefing for Congress.

Because Kidwell is one of several government researchers working in LENRs, his recent comments raise questions about his objectivity in evaluating the broader range of progress in LENR research, specifically in results indicating isotopic shifts (changes in isotope ratios) and heavy-element transmutations.

New Energy Times sent an e-mail to Kidwell and asked for information on how he reached his conclusion. He responded but did not answer the question.

Two Decades
Since 1993, Mitsubishi researchers have reported isotopic shifts and a half-dozen heavy-element transmutation pairs in their LENR experiments. In such pairs, source elements gradually decrease and, at the same time, target elements gradually increase. In 2002, the Mitsubishi LENR experiments were published in the peer-reviewed Japanese Journal of Applied Physics.

In one group of the Mitsubishi experiments, researchers observed the gradual decrease of cesium and the gradual increase of praseodymium. The results of the LENR experiments suggested to Mitsubishi a potential way to remediate radioactive waste and make it harmless by transmuting it into benign, stable elements. Mitsubishi is a major military contractor, a manufacturer of nuclear fission reactors. A radioactive isotope of cesium is a common byproduct of operating such reactors.

The Mitsubishi experimental results were independently confirmed and replicated in several laboratories in Japan, including at Osaka University in 2003 and later at the Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories. Toyota’s results were also published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics.

Null Results
Between 2002 and 2005, in a collaboration with Mitsubishi, Kidwell and his colleagues at NRL made attempts to independently confirm and replicate the Mitsubishi results, but NRL was unsuccessful each time.

The Mitsubishi experiments were developed and performed by Yasuhiro Iwamura and his colleagues. In 2015, Iwamura accepted a position to lead a new LENR research group at Tohoku University. The NRL replication attempt couldn’t have worked, according to Iwamura.

“NRL didn’t do a precise replication,” Iwamura said. “They didn’t have suitable equipment.”

Kidwell first participated in the LENR community in 2008 when he presented his paper at the 10th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, in Washington, D.C. He did not present successful results of his own but focused on criticizing the work of other LENR researchers, particularly two Japanese research groups.

Kidwell tried to discredit the isotopic shifts previously reported for the Arata-Zhang LENR experiments. Those data were reported in 2003 by Thomas Passell, a former program manager for the Electric Power Research Institute.

“Probably the greatest revelation in this work,” Passell wrote, “is the possibility that trace elements may be significant participants in nuclear reactions in solids such as palladium, [and therefore], focusing entirely on [the idea of] deuterium-deuterium fusion is not necessarily the only path forward in understanding these phenomena.”

In 2008, a nondisclosure agreement between NRL and Mitsubishi was in effect, and Kidwell was legally limited in what he could say publicly. Nevertheless, he laid the groundwork for his upcoming criticisms of the Mitsubishi research. He said at the 2008 conference that researchers who were observing heavy-element transmutations in LENR experiments should be embarrassed about making such claims.

“If you have what you think you’re making all over your room, do you really have it?” Kidwell said. “Or are you just fooling yourself from some random event?”

Lucky Tweezers
In 2009, at the 15th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, in Rome, Italy, Kidwell continued his attempt to discredit the Mitsubishi heavy-element transmutation results. He said that the praseodymium measured in all the Mitsubishi LENR experiments that transmuted cesium to praseodymium was the result of pre-existing contamination of the Mitsubishi research laboratory with praseodymium.

Kidwell also suggested that a former Mitsubishi employee used “lucky tweezers” to spike the experiment with praseodymium. However, Mitsubishi researchers said they never had used praseodymium in that cleanroom laboratory. Mitsubishi found praseodymium in the lab only after Kidwell, who visited the Mitsubishi lab as a guest, performed a surprise environmental survey after the other NRL guests had gone back to the U.S. Funding for this portion of Kidwell’s work came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Kidwell’s 2009 statement about the Mitsubishi researcher who used “lucky tweezers” implied that the Mitsubishi researcher, either by fraud or by incompetence, placed the rare element praseodymium in the multilayer substrate composing the experiment.

In his rebuttal (Slides, Transcript), Iwamura explained that, because of multiple aspects of the experimental protocol, Kidwell’s claimed scenario was virtually impossible as an explanation for the reported transmutation data.

Patent Competition
Iwamura had filed for a U.S. patent on Oct. 19, 2001. A week before the 2009 conference, Kidwell applied for the first of two LENR-based patents. Funding for this part of Kidwell’s work came from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

There were strong similarities between the ideas discussed in the patent applications of Iwamura and Kidwell. Each method for triggering LENRs used nanometer-sized particles placed on a metal-oxide support mechanism, subjected to pressurized deuterium gas.

The biggest difference in experimental data used to support claims in the respective patent applications is that Iwamura analyzed only for transmutation products whereas Kidwell analyzed only for excess heat. Kidwell did not cite Iwamura’s application, which publicly disclosed Iwamura’s earlier ideas.

Iwamura went through an unsuccessful 10-year ordeal with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent examiner handling Iwamura’s patent application cited Kidwell’s claim of contamination in rejecting the application. However, the examiner cited a paper written by Kirk Shanahan, who, in turn, had cited Kidwell’s contamination accusation.

Shanahan is a scientist who works at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory, in South Carolina, and who has been an outspoken opponent of LENRs for many years. Funding for Shanahan’s paper came from the Department of Energy under contract DE-AC09-08SR22470.

The patent examiner cited Shanahan rather than directly citing Kidwell because, although Kidwell gave an oral presentation at the 2009 ICCF-15 conference, it never published as a paper in the proceedings. Kidwell’s NRL colleague, Kenneth Grabowski, also gave an oral presentation on the Mitsubishi-NRL collaboration. That presentation, too, was not published as a paper in the proceedings. The examiner was thus unable to cite either Kidwell or Grabowski directly.

In fact, Iwamura told New Energy Times, to his knowledge, Kidwell has never published a critique of the Mitsubishi cesium-to-praseodymium LENR transmutation results in any peer-reviewed journal, or even distributed a preprint of such a critique.

Iwamura was not awarded a patent in the U.S. He did, however, obtain a LENR patent for Mitsubishi in Japan, 04346838 (P2001-201875), and two related Japanese patents, 0434726 (P2005-142985) and 04347262 (P2005-142986), all on July 24, 2009. He was also awarded a European LENR patent, EP1202290B1, on April 12, 2013.

Both Iwamura’s and Kidwell’s applications used similar methods for triggering LENRs. However, Iwamura filed claims involving nuclear transmutations, and Kidwell filed claims involving only excess heat. Kidwell attacked only LENR transmutations, the basis for Mitsubishi’s claims.

Over the Top
In July 2013, at the 18th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, in Missouri, Kidwell continued battering the Mitsubishi LENR claims. He had been invited by the conference organizers to deliver the keynote presentation. A businessman who attended ICCF-18 sent the following report to New Energy Times.

“Kidwell was over-the-top brutal at ICCF-18 in his keynote speech regarding Mitsubishi,” he wrote. “Kidwell directly attacked Iwamura and, per several ICCF veterans, added nothing new to his contamination argument. Iwamura was very upset and confronted Kidwell during the question-and-answer session. I personally witnessed both Kidwell and his NRL colleague David Knies making attacking arguments during the poster sessions. For someone like me who doesn’t have a dog in the fight, their behavior seemed mission-oriented and goes way beyond an argument about science.”

Iwamura told New Energy Times that, in fact, nobody has published any critical peer-reviewed comment on either his group’s 2002 paper or the Toyota group’s 2013 paper in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics.

After ICCF-18, Kidwell asked Tatsumi Hioki, the lead researcher at the Toyota LENR group, if he could come to Toyota to look at their apparatus. Hioki refused.