Michael McKubre, A LENR Hero Who Crossed the Line

Michael McKubre (2007) working on deuterium gas-based LENR cell used by SRI International


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 their replication of a Fleischmann-Pons-type electrolytic experiment, measuring excess heat and helium-4. This experiment series was known as "M4."

They successfully replicated an experiment developed by Leslie Case, again confirming the production of excess heat and helium-4. They successfully replicated the SPAWAR co-deposition experiment, demonstrating evidence of neutron emissions. McKubre and his team successfully replicated the Arata-Zhang double-structure cell using palladium-black, measuring the production of tritium and helium-3.

His team's success was a result of skills, funding, and access to sophisticated, expensive laboratory equipment. McKubre's approach was unique in the field; he understood how important independent replication was to establishing credibility for the nascent field. To this end, rather than pursue his own novel ideas, he organized and performed replications of other researchers' work at the SRI laboratory. This earned him well-deserved respect and appreciation throughout the international LENR research community.

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.

Seeking Understanding

Making theoretical sense of the experimental LENR results was an enormous challenge for everybody inside and outside the field. There was no reason to expect that any experimentalists to understand the theoretical nuclear physics of LENRs; they did the best they could under the circumstances. Sometimes, they assumed that a room-temperature fusion process was occurring in the experiments. Sometimes, they assumed that a neutron-based process was responsible for the experimental results.

At least through his 1996 appearance on ABC television, McKubre did not appear to ascribe his results to the idea of "cold fusion." He didn't think that experiments with deuterium and palladium were based on fusion, and he said that LENR experiments with the nickel-hydrogen reactant pair certainly were not.

"I think the name is unfortunate," McKubre said. "I think whatever is happening is not likely to be deuterium fusion in the heavy-water cells, and if [James] Patterson is right, which he might be, then he is clearly not observing fusion."




New Perspective

By 1998, as an EPRI report shows, McKubre had begun to change his mind. He began thinking that the research was better explained and identified as fusion. [1] That's when he tried to correlate the production of excess heat with the production of helium-4 in his experiments. This presumed correlation was the basis of the "cold fusion" paradigm, as explained in this article.

In a paper presented at a "cold fusion" conference in 2000, McKubre collaborated with Peter Hagelstein, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [2] Hagelstein had been struggling to develop a viable theory to explain LENRs since March 1989.

A year later, by March 1990, however, Hagelstein had backtracked. After considering the experimental evidence that had been reported in the previous 12 months, he abandoned his fusion idea, instead proposing a neutron-based idea. In October 1996, he switched back to the "cold fusion" idea again.

In their conference paper from 2000, McKubre, Hagelstein and their co-authors made it clear that the purpose of the experiments they were reporting was to evaluate possible evidence for "cold fusion," through a definitive correlation between the production of excess heat and helium-4.

McKubre and his colleagues certainly did find evidence of helium-4 and excess heat. Nothing was wrong with the actual measured experimental data; those empirical results have stood the test of time. But when he tried to interpret the data, McKubre crossed the line. He falsified results from at least two experiments that he and his co-authors used as support for the "cold fusion" idea.

Case Replication

In the 2000 paper, McKubre reported the successful measurement of excess heat and the production of helium-4 in his team's replication of the Case experiment. However, McKubre hid the fact that one of the normal hydrogen control experiments produced helium-4 by not properly labeling his curves. He also falsely stated that "all cells operated with H2 instead of D2 ... show no increase of 4He over long periods of time." But, as I discovered, one of the cells using H2 revealed the production of helum-4 over a long period of time. (Full investigation details)

Fleischmann-Pons Replication (Experiment M4)

In a 2003 presentation, McKubre and his team reported the results of a Fleischmann-Pons-type electrolytic experiment in which they successfully measured excess heat and the production of helium-4. They claimed that the amount of excess heat was consistent with the amount of produced helium-4, if the heat and helium had been produced by the "cold fusion" hypothesis. [3]

But the original data, taken from experiments performed in 1994, were not consistent with the "cold fusion" theory. So McKubre made the data fit. From 2000 to 2007, he made a dozen changes, additions, and deletions to the data. (Full investigation details)

Andrea Rossi Promotion (excerpt from Hacking the Atom)

On Oct. 11, 2011, McKubre gave a lecture at SRI International, in Menlo Park, California, and talked about the activities of Andrea Rossi, a convicted white-collar criminal with a string of failed, and probably fraudulent energy ventures. McKubre downplayed Rossi and described him as "a dodgy character who has had trouble with the law." Despite McKubre's knowledge of Rossi's past, McKubre endorsed Rossi.

"People that I know and trust," McKubre said, "have stood in front of Rossi's reactor and come away convinced that it really is doing, more or less, what Rossi claims. This includes my ex-program manager [Bob Nowak] at DARPA ... [and another] good friend of mine."

In his lecture, McKubre displayed a graph of heat measurements made from Rossi's apparatus. What McKubre didn't disclose was that the graph was created by Horace Heffner, a LENR enthusiast who identifies himself as an "unqualified amateur." Heffner, in turn, got the data from a news story written by journalist Mats Lewan for the Swedish technology newspaper Ny Teknik. Lewan, in turn, obtained the data by measuring it himself, by hand, on behalf of Rossi. I'm not making this up.

Thanks to support from people like McKubre and other LENR participants like David Nagel, Michael Melich, and Edmund Storms, Rossi was able to convince Thomas Darden, through his company Industrial Heat Inc., to agree to pay Rossi $100.5 million for his "technology," contingent on due diligence tests. Darden, in turn, secured $50 million from the Woodford Funds. Darden allowed Rossi to personally manage the first due diligence test. Darden accepted Rossi's assurance that the test worked as Rossi had claimed. Again, I'm not making this up. Industrial Heat paid Rossi $11.5 million, and Rossi went on a real-estate shopping spree in Miami.

Darden made the next due diligence test — with an $89 million pot of gold at the finish line — harder. He didn’t let Rossi control it. The test was designed to run for a year. According to court documents, that test concluded on Feb. 15. 2016. Rossi claimed it had been successful; Darden and associates disagreed. On March 4, 2016, McKubre resigned from SRI International and moved back to New Zealand.

On April 5, 2016, Rossi sued Industrial Heat for non-payment of $89 million and for attempting to steal his "technology." Three days later, Industrial Heat issued a statement that the company “has worked for over three years to substantiate the results claimed by Mr. Rossi from the E-Cat technology — all without success." The full Rossi story is here: "The Pied Piper of Bologna: Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat “Cold Fusion” Fraud."

1. "Development of Energy Production Systems From Heat Produced in Deuterated Metals - Energy Production Processes in Deuterated Metals, Volume 1," TR-107843-V1
2. McKubre, Michael, "The Emergence of a Coherent Explanation for Anomalies Observed in D/Pd and H/Pd Systems; Evidence for 4He and 3He Production," at the ICCF-8 conference.
3. McKubre, Michael, "Review of experimental measurements involving DD reactions (PowerPoint slides)," 2003, at the ICCF-10 conference.