Cold Fusion is Warming Up – Again

For about 50 years science has been trying to reproduce the process that powers the sun and use it as an energy supply on earth. In eight years the international fusion reactor ITER is supposed to get operative and initiate the age of Hot Fusion – a scientific dream and a billion Euro project. Currently a conference is taking place in Washington DC, right at the doorstep of US Congress. It’s motto: “Exciting New Science and Potential Clean Energy.” But it’s not about Hot Fusion. The following is a translation of a report on Cold Fusion that aired on Deutschlandfunk today. It was followed by a conference report by the science correspondent.

In 1989 the chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann rattled science. They claimed to have achieved nuclear fusion of evolving hydrogen when electrically splitting up water – a real sensation, if true. Because many and especially prestigious scientists could not reproduce the Pons/Fleischmann Effect, Cold Fusion at room temperature was soon dismissed. But some scientists were able to reproduce the effect. One of them is Edmund Storms, back then employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the home of the atom bomb. Cold Fusion today belongs to the field of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science.

The Pons/Fleischmann electrolytic method is still being explored and getting much more reproducible. That’s the one about which the greatest amount of information is available. However, gas loading is becoming increasingly popular as a subject because it has the potential for being something that can actually be developed into a useful product. Heat’s apparently produced by helium production but simultaneously with that, transmutations can occur. A transmutation is a nuclear process that causes heavy elements to be converted into other heavy elements. Transmutation does not produce any significant amount of heat but it is a diagnostic of the reality of the Cold Fusion process.

After his retirement from Los Alamos in 1991 Storms set up a laboratory in his house where he is systematically studying Cold Fusion since. In Condensed Matter Nuclear Science he is regarded as one of the most experienced experimentalists. It is same behaviour of different experiments that has caused him to not question the reality of Cold Fusion anymore. In his 2007 book he lists 157 experiments that produced more energy in terms of heat than was fed into the system.

People should care about Cold Fusion because it’s the ideal source of energy. As the need for energy goes up, not just the absolute need but also the need for energy that doesn’t do harm to the environment, the availability of a source of energy that doesn’t have those bad consequences becomes increasingly important. You could have a source of energy within a home that would run day and night and would provide all the energy you needed to operate the home and transportation. There aren’t very many sources of energy that can do that. People burn gas in homes and heaters and provide that same kind of energy, but that makes CO2. You can use uranium in a nuclear plant some place, but that makes radioactive products. Cold Fusion, on the other hand, makes neither radioactive products nor CO2. And the other beauty is that the material that is used to make this energy is in essentially infinite quantity in the ocean. The only drawback right now is it’s a very complex reaction that’s required to make this process work. But once we understand that reaction, which is what we are trying to do, then it should become fairly easy.

Despite 157 independent confirmations of the Pons/Fleischmann Effect a lack of reproducibility is the main problem in Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. It is also one of the reasons for the rejection by the larger scientific community. To improve the situation researchers like Storms study the parameters that, once controlled, are supposed to lead the way to full reproducibility. To report results the International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science has become an institution. Since Monday the 14th conference is taking place in the capital of lobbying, Washington DC. It has been organized by affiliates of the US Naval Research Laboratory which is currently actively engaged in the research. Storms’ estimate:

All the conferences are run very professionally. There are not a bunch of amateurs who are getting together to talk about some crazy idea. Each one has its own characteristic that reflects the people who are running it and the country in which it’s taking place. This one was designed to be more educational, in order to educate, hopefully, government decision makers in Washington.

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