How Michael McKubre Fabricated the "Proof of Cold Fusion"

By Steven B. Krivit



Michael McKubre is an electrochemist who worked at SRI International, in Menlo Park, California, from 1978 to 2016. He is a pioneer in the LENR field.

Starting in the early 1990s, he managed an SRI laboratory called the Energy Research Center and held the title of director. The lab was funded with several million dollars, some of it from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Funding also came from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a nonprofit organization funded by the electric utility industry.

McKubre and his team performed some of the most important experimental research in the field, independently replicating positive results of other researchers in the field. One such experiment was an electrolysis experiment, in which they analyzed for and measured excess heat and helium-4. This experiment was known as "M4."

Thanks to McKubre's research, his affiliation with the prestigious SRI International, and his eloquence, McKubre, more than anyone else, was often asked to speak for and represent the field. This article goes into more detail about why he was regarded as a hero in the field.

Origin of the "Cold Fusion" Hypothesis

Electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons claimed in a March 23, 1989, press conference at the University of Utah that they had accomplished a sustained fusion reaction in a test-tube. In my book Fusion Fiasco, I have written in detail about the circumstances of, motives for, and factors in their premature announcement.

Of all the seemingly incomprehensible parts to that story, one is the most profound. On March 13, 1989, Fleischmann knew that his and Pons' experimental data did not provide convincing evidence of fusion. Fleischmann wrote to his colleague David Williams, at the U.K. Harwell laboratory.

"The intriguing thing," Fleischmann wrote, "is that the rate of tritium generation is much less than corresponds to the heat production. Neutron production is still lower. What on earth is going on? Are we seeing some strange neutron + lithium-7 reaction system?"

What Fleischmann and Pons knew for certain, and what formed the foundation of their work, was that they had measured more heat coming out of their cells than could be explained by any known chemistry process. The neutrons and tritium they saw were evidence of nuclear products, but neither data set could explain the magnitude of heat they observed — if the responsible process was nuclear fusion. But the results didn't fit those expected from nuclear fusion.

But Fleischmann did not follow his instincts. It was too late. Two days before he wrote to Williams, he and Pons had submitted their manuscript to the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, and they reported that they had obtained evidence for deuterium-deuterium thermonuclear fusion at room temperature.


Thermonuclear Fusion

Fusion, as understood and defined by the scientific community, involves specific reactants, products, pairs of reaction products, and associated energies. Depicted below are the three reaction pathways that occur in deuterium-deuterium fusion.

The probability of the first reaction pathway (or branch) occurring in a D-D fusion experiment is slightly less than 50 percent. The probability for the second branch is the same. The probability for the third branch is tiny: about one in a million.

For this reason, when Fleischmann and Pons said that they had demonstrated fusion at room-temperature, they did not suggest the third branch as a possible explanation for their experimental results. They suggested only the first two.


The "Cold Fusion" Reaction Hypothesis

The "cold fusion" hypothesis was that a variation of the third branch, and only the third branch, of deuterium-deuterium thermonuclear fusion was responsible for LENR reactions. This was represented by the equation D+D → 4He + 24 MeV / 4He. It postulates that two deuterium nuclei, which have positive charges, overcome their electrostatic repulsion (Coulomb barrier) at room-temperature, at high rates, and for every 24 MeV of heat produced, one helium-4 atom is produced.

Fleischmann and Pons never proposed the hypothetical equation D+D → 4He + 24 MeV / 4He. Only some of their followers did.

A fundamental component of this hypothesis was the assumption that there were no other energetic reaction products in the experimental systems. Their followers assumed that they would be able to take all the helium-4 produced in a given experiment and compare that to all the heat produced and establish a precise ratio of 24 MeV of excess heat to 1 helium-4 atom. Their assumption contained a fundamental flaw. They assumed that all excess heat produced in the experiments came from the production of helium-4. As a result, they chose to believe that no other energetic reaction products existed in the systems and contributed to the excess heat production.

These scientists also held a second flawed assumption: Because the reactants in the "cold fusion" hypothesis were only deuterium, they concluded that experiments performed by their colleagues with normal hydrogen could not possibly produce positive results. In other words, they prejudicially dismissed results reported by scientists in the field like John Dash, George Miley, Reiko Notoya, Francesco Piantelli and Sergio Focardi.

In 2011, Andrea Rossi, a convicted fraudster, convinced McKubre, Edmund Storms, David Nagel, Mahadeva Srinivasan, and many other senior scientists in the LENR field that he had developed a commercial-scale LENR reactor using normal hydrogen as fuel rather than deuterium. Rossi had approached Piantelli but Piantelli chose not to work with him. Instead, Rossi approached Focardi and, in a case of senior abuse, manipulated Focardi to lend his name and reputation to Rossi's scheme. As soon as Rossi developed enthusiasm in the community for his (non-existent) commercial reactor, the scientists who had shunned normal hydrogen results from their peers abandoned their prejudgments and overnight accepted that normal hydrogen could work just fine in LENRs.


Origin of the "Cold Fusion" Reaction Hypothesis

To my knowledge, the first person who suggested the "cold fusion" reaction hypothesis was Douglas Morrison, a high-energy physicist at CERN, the European Center for Particle Research. After listening to a lecture Fleischmann gave at CERN on March 31, 1989, Morrison wrote that "maybe the dominant reaction is fusion, D + D —> helium-4." It was the first and only encouraging thing Morrison said about "cold fusion." However, a month later, when "cold fusion" became unpopular, he became one of the field's harshest critics.

In early April 1989, Peter Hagelstein, an electrical engineer, computer scientist, and associate professor in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, submitted four theory papers to Physical Review Letters based on the D + D —> helium-4 hypothesis.

But the "cold fusion" hypothesis wasn't the only proposed explanation. Other nuclear processes can lead to the production of helium-4, specifically the capture of a neutron by lithium-7, as Fleischmann conjectured in his letter to Williams. A person named Larry A. Hull suggested this in a letter published in Chemical & Engineering News on May 15, 1989. However, no plausible mechanism for the source of neutrons in LENR systems existed until 2005, when Lewis Larsen and Allen Widom published their Ultra-Low-Momentum Neutron-Catalyzed Theory of Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions.


Bush-Miles Replication

Despite the highly publicized and dramatic failures in the early "cold fusion" conflict, there were a few scientists who successfully repeated the Fleischmann-Pons results and produced confirmatory nuclear evidence. In 1991, one of the first groups to do so was that of chemist Benjamin Bush, a professor at the University of Texas, and Melvin Miles, an electrochemist working at the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, California.

Bush and Miles also observed the production of helium-4 in their experiment. Bush and Miles were the first scientists to show the concurrent production of helium-4 and the production of excess heat. This was better than the Fleischmann-Pons' results because they had not obtained publishable helium-4 data.


SRI Experiment M4

In 1994, McKubre's group performed the M-Series group of experiments, which were replications of the Fleischmann-Pons and Bush-Miles experiments. The most significant among the series was experiment M4.

I learned about M4 many years later. Here's why: By 2008, I had spent five years working full-time to report on and analyze the experimental results in the field. In my Aug. 20, 2008, presentation at the American Chemical Society national meeting, I concluded that the body of reported experimental data in the field was inconsistent with the hypothesis of "cold fusion." Instead, I concluded that the experimental results were far more consistent with a neutron-based hypothesis, like the Widom-Larsen theory.

The scientists who believed in "cold fusion" didn't like my new perspective. On June 19, 2008, Edmund Storms, like McKubre, a highly respected scientist in the field, sent me a warning.

"You need to be more careful in how you reveal the truth about the field," Storms wrote. "Eventually, the field will be big enough and so well-accepted that a little plainly spoken truth would not cause you any problem."

A month later, I received a stronger warning. I was at the 14th International Conference on Cold Fusion in Washington, D.C. One of my readers who was there, Leona Neighbor, asked to meet me. She said she had been asked to deliver a message on behalf of some of the American researchers.

"Some important people in the field want you to stop making trouble," Neighbor said. "They want you to keep your opinions to yourself and just report the facts. They want you to know that, if you continue digging, your reputation might be harmed and that they might go to the people who fund you and try to get your funding terminated."

In a later phone call, Neighbor named McKubre and identified Storms as among the researchers who had sent the message.

The problem wasn't simply that my expressing my divergent opinion about "cold fusion" bothered them. The problem was exacerbated because, as a result of my news stories, scientific journal papers, and encyclopedia chapters, I had effectively become a spokesperson for the field.

Researchers in the field tried hard to convince me that LENRs were fundamentally a fusion-based process. Theorist Scott Chubb told me: "The proof is the 24 MeV! McKubre nailed it." Chubb was referring to the M4 experiment. Storms told me the same thing:

Read my book, Steven. That is what it is for. The data show a variety of values that I average to get 25±5 MeV. McKubre says that his more recent work gives a value very near 24 MeV. Given the difficulties of such measurements, this is very good agreement. No other reaction is even close to the amount of heat produced by D+D fusion to give He4.

Storms had elected to ignore reaction #27 in the first Widom-Larsen paper; it yields 26.9 MeV. [1] Fleischmann and Pons' followers had developed a stronger belief system about the "cold fusion" hypothesis than did Fleischmann and Pons.


Many Paths to Helium-4

Aside from the fact that there are other energetic reaction products in LENR systems, there is one more reason why observations of helium-4 do not prove fusion. As Larsen explained in the slide below, helium-4 can be produced by a wide variety of nuclear reactions and decays.


McKubre's M4 as Reported in 1998

Because other reaction products in LENR experiments besides helium-4 are associated with the production of excess heat, the equation D+D → 4He + 24 MeV / 4He is irrelevant. However, knowledge of other reaction products may not have been as clear in 1994, when experiment M4 was performed at SRI international.

In experiment M4, only four helium-4 samples were taken. The complete original report for experiment M4 appears in the 379-page report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) titled "Development of Energy Production Systems From Heat Produced in Deuterated Metals, Volume 1, TR-107843-V1." [2] Here are the images that identify those four helium measurements.


Only three heat episodes (bursts) were calorimetrically observed. I produced the graph below based on the data in the EPRI report.

Graph produced by Steven B. Krivit from data in EPRI Report #TR-107843-V1

Helium samples were measured from the collected gases that evolved from the experiment. The first sample measured 1.556 parts per million. From this concentration, the researchers were able to calculate the quantity of helium-4 atoms produced. When they compared the measured ratio of heat to helium-4 to the hypothetical ratio (24 MeV per helium-4 atom), the authors determined that, "in Sample 1, only 41 percent of this amount was found." (See the image below.)

For the second helium sample, the ratio was too high, as the authors wrote: "Sample 2 contained 1.66 ppm, 0.53 ppm more than expected." Sample 2 was 147 percent of the hypothetical ratio of 24 MeV heat per helium-4 atom.

Excerpt from page 3-223 of EPRI Report #TR-107843-V1

The third sample, 0.340 ppm, was taken after the cell was purged and was effectively a baseline measurement value. From this, the experimenters concluded that "the gas in the cell was adequately purged [and that] the sampling effectively excludes room air."

The fourth sample, measured at 2.077 ppm, was a valid helium-4 measurement indicative of helium-4 produced in the cell. However, issues with the calorimetry prevented the researchers from determining a valid heat measurement during that time. As a result, the researchers — in the 1998 report — could not and did not attempt to determine a ratio between the heat and that helium-4 measurement.

To make it easy for anyone to verify the information I am presenting here, I have extracted the 13 pages from the EPRI report that contain this information and placed that excerpt online here: "Report 107843 Excerpts 4 with Markup - Discussion and Conclusions." If anyone has difficulty locating the full report, they may contact me directly.

In sum, the researchers had only two valid heat/helium-4 ratios: from Sample 1 and Sample 2.

In the 1998 EPRI report, McKubre and his team did not depict these ratios graphically; they described them only as shown in the 13-page excerpt. I'm going to present a running log, as a table, of the reported ratios listed sequentially based on time during the experiment, as they changed from year to year.

In the 1998 report, Sample 1 (41%) was measured at 669 hours, Sample 2 (147%) was measured at 810 hours, Sample 3 (a baseline value) was measured at 1,172 hours, and Sample 4 (uncorrelated to heat; no ratio available) was measured at 1,407 hours.

Next, we will look at a paper McKubre presented at the biennial "cold fusion" conference in 2000. [3]. In this paper, he provided a ratio for Sample 1, but instead of listing it at 41%, he listed it as 62%. Instead of displaying the Sample 2 value (147%), which was too high, he simply omitted it. For Sample 3, which was just a baseline helium-4 value, not a ratio, he provided an accurate explanation. For Sample 4, he provided a heat-to-helium-4 ratio of 104%, despite the fact that he had no valid heat measurement for that portion of the experiment.

At the biennial "cold fusion" conference in 2003, McKubre displayed the ratios graphically for the first time. [4] In the graph below, McKubre visually depicted and labeled Sample 1 as 62%, Sample 2 as 69%, and Sample 4 as 104%. He visually depicted Sample 3 at its measured ppm value of 0.34 and at a ratio value of 69%. McKubre's 2003 graph is almost identical to the graph that he and Peter Hagelstein presented during the 2004 Department of Energy Review of LENRs. [5]

McKubre's version of the 1994 measurements, as he displayed them at the 2003 ICCF-10 conference


Three years later, at the 2007 American Physical Society conference, McKubre had made lots of changes to the graph. New, unlabeled data points appear at 500 hours, 525 hours, and 1,500 hours. No helium measurements had been taken in 1994 at those times. Hence, no ratios were possible at those times. Based on the ppm measurement of 0.34, the value displayed at 525 hours appears to be the Sample 3 helium measurement that was actually measured at 1,172 hours.

McKubre's version of the 1994 measurements, as he displayed them at the 2007 American Physical Society conference



There are other discrepancies between the 1998 report and McKubre's later presentations of experiment M4, but the ones I've shown above are the easiest to follow.


Seeking Understanding

Before I published anything about my findings in this investigation, I arranged to meet with Francis Tanzella, an electrochemist at SRI International who worked directly on the experiment. In a 2 ½-hour meeting with him, I reviewed my understanding of the experiment. Tanzella was cordial, fully cooperative, and open with me. He concurred with my analysis of every page of the M4 data in the EPRI report. I also identified two minor errors in the published EPRI report, and again, he concurred with me.

A key assertion McKubre had made in his 2000 paper was that, during the electrolysis experiment, helium-4 dissolved into and desorbed out of palladium. This is how McKubre explained the low level of helium-4 they had measured in some of the samples. It would not explain the too-high level measured in S2. During my meeting with him, Tanzella told me that helium did not dissolve into metal. I had already researched the behavior of helium in metals and knew that Tanzella was correct. When we got toward the end of my questions, I asked Tanzella to look at the pages of the 1998 EPRI report that discussed the helium measurements. I pointed out the discrepancies between the 1998 report of the helium measurements and the 2000 and 2003 publications of the same helium measurements. He read the relevant pages in front of me, and he could not explain the discrepancies; he was perplexed. Like me, he was at a loss for a scientific explanation of the changes. He seemed unaware of the changes that were made and said that I would have to ask McKubre because he had written the papers. He also told me that McKubre's collaborator, MIT professor Peter Hagelstein, had recently asked to see the raw data. I don't believe that Hagelstein knew what McKubre had done up until that point.

On Jan. 22, 2010, I e-mailed McKubre, as well as Ellie Javadi and Lindsay Sheppard at the SRI public affairs office, seeking an explanation for the discrepancies. None of them responded.

On March 21, 2010, I had the opportunity to ask McKubre about experiment M4 face to face. The American Chemical Society meeting was taking place in San Francisco, California. The ACS had organized a "cold fusion" press conference. When I asked McKubre about M4, he said that sometime after 1998 he had found "an error" (just one) in the original 1998 report and that he had sent notice of that error to EPRI, the sponsor of the research. When I later checked, neither of the two EPRI program managers involved in that project was aware of any correction or errata.

But by the day after I questioned McKubre during the press conference, experiment M4 had been expunged. McKubre had mentioned experiment M4 in possibly every conference presentation since 2000. For the first time in a decade, without any notice, let alone formal retraction, McKubre had failed to mention his D + D —> Helium-4 + 23.8 MeV heat claim, let alone say that experiment M4 provided its proof. M4 had disappeared silently at 4:29 p.m. on March 22, 2010, when McKubre concluded his conference presentation. As did the "proof of cold fusion."

As neutron-based weak-interactions began to make more sense, thanks in large part to the Widom-Larsen theory, the older scientists in the field persisted in flying the "cold fusion" flag. After I revealed that the "proof of cold fusion" was fabricated, these scientists didn't give up. Instead, they tried to redefine the meaning of fusion. Then McKubre and some of his associates paid this guy to represent them online and in discussion groups.



1. Widom, Allan and Larsen, Lewis (March 9, 2006) "Ultra Low Momentum Neutron Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metallic Hydride Surfaces," European Physical Journal C - Particles and Fields, 46(1), p.107-110
2. Development of Energy Production Systems From Heat Produced in Deuterated Metals - Energy Production Processes in Deuterated Metals, Volume 1, TR-107843-V1, Thomas Passell (Project Manager), Michael McKubre, Steven Crouch-Baker, A. Huaser, N. Jevtic, S.I. Smedley, Francis Tanzella, M. Williams, S. Wing (Principal Investigators), B. Bush, F. McMohon, M. Srinivasan, A. Wark, D. Warren (Non-SRI Contributors), (June 1998)
3. Michael McKubre, Francis Tanzella, Paolo Tripodi and Peter Hagelstein, "The Emergence of a Coherent Explanation for Anomalies Observed in D/Pd and H/Pd Systems; Evidence for 4He and 3He Production" 8th International Conference on Cold Fusion. Lerici (La Spezia), Italy: Italian Physical Society, Bologna, Italy, (2000)
4. Michael McKubre, "Review of Experimental Measurements Involving DD Reactions (PowerPoint Slides)," in Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion, Cambridge, MA (Aug. 2003)
5. Peter Hagelstein, Michael McKubre, David Nagel, Talbot Chubb, Randy Hekman, "New Physical Effects in Metal Deuterides," Submitted to the 2004 U.S. Department of Energy LENR Review, (2004)

Primary Documents
Unexplained Changes By Michael Mckubre To "M4"
Letter from Greg in Tennessee Regarding M4 (Insight from a reader)
When Nuclear Is Not Enough: A Tangled Tale of Two Experiments (Second news article)
EPRI and Passell Contradict McKubre's Explanation (McKubre's "correction" defense doesn't hold)
Helium in Metals Analysis (McKubre's helium hypothesis doesn't hold)
Emergence of Incoherent Explanation for D-D "Cold Fusion (First news article)

LENR electrolytic experiments are not simple! This graph, created by Steven Krivit, based on data extracted from EPRI report TR-107843-V1, illustrates all measured parameters and events of experiment M4 for the duration of the experiment. (See the first news article for an explanation of this graph.)

Forensic Audit Materials for this Investigation
2004 Paper M4 References, Text Excerpts
2000 Paper M4 References, Text Excerpts
1998 EPRI Report 107843 - Text Excerpts
Krivit Compilation of All Data from SRI Experiment M4: Individual and Merged Layers
Errors in the EPRI report found by Krivit and reported to Francis Tanzella on Jan. 20, 2010:
Page 3-176: The label "Purge & refill after Sample 3" should be "Purge & refill during Sample 3" because the D2 flow started at 1154 and the helium sample was taken at 1174.
Page 3-176: The pointer for Sample 4 is not correctly located, it should be at 1407h because this is what the tabular data show.
Report 107843 Excerpts 4 with Markup - Discussion and Conclusions
Report 107843 Excerpts 3 with Markup - Experiment M4 Hour-by-Hour
Report 107843 Excerpts 2 with Markup - Experiment M4 Step-by-Step
Report 107843 Excerpts 1 with Markup - Title Pages and Change Summaries
Schultheis, D., "Permeation Barrier for Lightweight Liquid Hydrogen Tanks," Ph. D. thesis, University of Augsburg, Germany, (2007) 
Peter Hagelstein, Michael McKubre, David Nagel, Talbot Chubb, Randy Hekman, "New Physical Effects In Metal Deuterides," Submitted to the 2004 U.S. Department of Energy LENR Review, (2004)
Michael McKubre, Francis Tanzella, Paolo Tripodi and Peter Hagelstein, "The Emergence of a Coherent Explanation for Anomalies Observed in D/Pd and H/Pd Systems; Evidence for 4He and 3He Production" 8th International Conference on Cold Fusion. Lerici (La Spezia), Italy: Italian Physical Society, Bologna, Italy, (2000)
Development of Energy Production Systems from Heat Produced in Deuterated Metals - Energy Production Processes in Deuterated Metals, Volume 1, TR-107843-V1, Thomas Passell (Project Manager,) Michael McKubre, Steven Crouch-Baker, A. Huaser, N. Jevtic, S.I. Smedley, Francis Tanzella, M. Williams, S. Wing (Principal Investigators,) B. Bush, F. McMohon, M. Srinivasan, A. Wark, D. Warren (Non-SRI Contributors,) (June 1998)
Gozzi, D., et al., "X-Ray, Heat Excess and 4He in the D:Pd System," Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Vol. 452, p. 253, (1998) and Erratum, 452, 251–271, (1998)
Hagelstein, P.L., Summary of ICCF3 in Nagoya, (Feb. 16, 1993)
Ramsay, W.; Travers, M.W. "An Attempt to Cause Helium or Argon to Pass through Red-Hot Palladium, Platinum, or Iron." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1854-1905). 61 (-1), p. 266-267, doi:10.1098/rspl.1897.0034, (Jan. 1897)