POSTED: 22 JANUARY 2006 - 8:30pm HST

We've been waiting 40 years for this

an example of a claim of desktop cold fusion in a glass beaker

Editor's Note: In the 1960's some scientists thought that "hot" fusion reactions could be controlled by magnetism and that before the 1990 we'd be creating as much energy as we wanted from plain sea water by simply fusing small amounts of hydrogen into helium. Turns out it was much more difficult than originally thought.

But in march of 1989 Dr. B. Stanley Pons, professor of chemistry at the University of Utah, and his colleague, Dr. Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England, touched off a furor by asserting that they had achieved nuclear fusion in a jar of water at room temperature -an alternative they called "cold" fusion.

It was an exciting spring and summer for physicists who hoped to reproduce a safe desktop nuclear fusion reaction that created more energy than it consumed... only problem was no one could conclusively reproduce what Fleischmann and Pons claimed.

Now, it appears, cold fusion is back and maybe this time for real.


Thermonuclear Squeeze:
Altered method extends bubble-fusion claim

by Peter Weiss on 21 January 2006 in Science News

A technique that some scientists claim generates thermonuclear fusion in a benchtop apparatus works even without its controversial neutron trigger. So say the researchers who, since 2002, have reported that nuclear-fusion reactions can occur in a vat of chilled solvent agitated by ultrasound (SN: 3/6/04, p. 149: Available to subscribers by clicking here).

If this method of sparking fusion proves to be valid—a big if, critics insist—it could lead to a remarkably simple, cheap, inexhaustible power source.

Fusion reactions take place in the vat because clusters of bubbles form and then violently collapse, explains nuclear engineer and team leader Rusi P. Taleyarkhan of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. A neutron or another energetic particle triggers a bubble to form in a low-pressure trough of the ultrasound waves, he says. Then, high pressure from the wave crushes the orb to an enormous density and temperature that fuse some atomic nuclei of the bubble's gas.

Taleyarkhan and his colleagues have measured neutron emissions as a sign of fusion reactions. Because the group had used neutron pulses to trigger the process, other researchers have been skeptical of its neutron readings.
In an upcoming Physical Review Letters, Taleyarkhan's team presents evidence of fusion in bubbles initiated by a uranium-based trigger that emits alpha particles instead of neutrons. "We got away from the idea of using neutrons to produce neutrons," Taleyarkhan notes.

Nonetheless, the findings still face intense skepticism. Criticisms range from doubts about experimental procedures to quarrels with interpretations of the data. "I simply do not find the results significant and/or believable," comments physicist Dan Shapira of Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory.

Critics note that Taleyarkhan's team admits in its report that its experimental outcomes vary greatly, many of them producing no evidence of fusion. Yet to D. Felipe Gaitan of Impulse Devices in Grass Valley, Calif., the uneven outcomes are encouraging. They "could explain our inability, and that of other researchers so far, to replicate [Taleyarkhan's] results consistently," says Gaitan. Impulse Devices plans to commercialize bubble fusion.

Lawrence A. Crum of the University of Washington in Seattle says that the new work "increases the credibility" of bubble fusion. But "unless it's reproduced in someone else's lab, I'm not going to believe it," he adds.

Taleyarkhan claims that his team's findings were independently verified last year by other Purdue researchers, whom he guided. Other physicists are unconvinced.

A welcome consequence of the latest results, Crum adds, is that other researchers should find the uranium-based triggering method easier to reproduce than the neutron one. So, he says, the new work "is an important step toward determining if the results of Rusi's experiments are true."

Evidence Bubbles Over To Support
Tabletop Nuclear Fusion Device

source Purdue University 3 March 2004 reported in

Researchers are reporting new evidence supporting their earlier discovery of an inexpensive "tabletop" device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions.

The researchers believe the new evidence shows that "sonofusion" generates nuclear reactions by creating tiny bubbles that implode with tremendous force. Nuclear fusion reactors have historically required large, multibillion-dollar machines, but sonofusion devices might be built for a fraction of that cost.

"What we are doing, in effect, is producing nuclear emissions in a simple desktop apparatus," said Rusi Taleyarkhan, the principal investigator and a professor of nuclear engineer at Purdue University. "That really is the magnitude of the discovery - the ability to use simple mechanical force for the first time in history to initiate conditions comparable to the interior of stars."

The technology might one day result in a new class of low-cost, compact detectors for security applications that use neutrons to probe the contents of suitcases; devices for research that use neutrons to analyze the molecular structures of materials; machines that cheaply manufacture new synthetic materials and efficiently produce tritium, which is used for numerous applications ranging from medical imaging to watch dials; and a new technique to study various phenomena in cosmology, including the workings of neutron stars and black holes.

Taleyarkhan led the research team while he was a full-time scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and he is now the Arden L. Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue.

The new findings are being reported in a paper that will appear this month in the journal Physical Review E, published by the American Physical Society. The paper was written by Taleyarkhan; postdoctoral fellow J.S Cho at Oak Ridge Associated Universities; Colin West, a retired scientist from Oak Ridge; Richard T. Lahey Jr., the Edward E. Hood Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); R.C. Nigmatulin, a visiting scholar at RPI and president of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Bashkortonstan branch; and Robert C. Block, active professor emeritus in the School of Engineering at RPI and director of RPI's Gaerttner Linear Accelerator Laboratory.

The discovery was first reported in March 2002 in the journal Science. Since then the researchers have acquired additional funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, purchased more precise instruments and equipment to collect more accurate data, and successfully reproduced and improved upon the original experiment, Taleyarkhan said.

"A fair amount of very substantial new work was conducted, " Taleyarkhan said. "And also, this time around I made a conscious decision to involve as many individuals as possible - top scientists and physicists from around the world and experts in neutron science - to come to the lab and review our procedures and findings before we even submitted the manuscript to a journal for its own independent peer review."

The device is a clear glass canister about the height of two coffee mugs stacked on top of one another. Inside the canister is a liquid called deuterated acetone. The acetone contains a form of hydrogen called deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, which contains one proton and one neutron in its nucleus. Normal hydrogen contains only one proton in its nucleus.

The researchers expose the clear canister of liquid to pulses of neutrons every five milliseconds, or thousandths of a second, causing tiny cavities to form. At the same time, the liquid is bombarded with a specific frequency of ultrasound, which causes the cavities to form into bubbles that are about 60 nanometers - or billionths of a meter - in diameter. The bubbles then expand to a much larger size, about 6,000 microns, or millionths of a meter - large enough to be seen with the unaided eye.

"The process is analogous to stretching a slingshot from Earth to the nearest star, our sun, thereby building up a huge amount of energy when released," Taleyarkhan said.

Within nanoseconds these large bubbles contract with tremendous force, returning to roughly their original size, and release flashes of light in a well-known phenomenon known as sonoluminescence. Because the bubbles grow to such a relatively large size before they implode, their contraction causes extreme temperatures and pressures comparable to those found in the interiors of stars. Researches estimate that temperatures inside the imploding bubbles reach 10 million degrees Celsius and pressures comparable to 1,000 million earth atmospheres at sea level.

At that point, deuterium atoms fuse together, the same way hydrogen atoms fuse in stars, releasing neutrons and energy in the process. The process also releases a type of radiation called gamma rays and a radioactive material called tritium, all of which have been recorded and measured by the team. In future versions of the experiment, the tritium produced might then be used as a fuel to drive energy-producing reactions in which it fuses with deuterium.

Whereas conventional nuclear fission reactors produce waste products that take thousands of years to decay, the waste products from fusion plants are short-lived, decaying to non-dangerous levels in a decade or two. The desktop experiment is safe because, although the reactions generate extremely high pressures and temperatures, those extreme conditions exist only in small regions of the liquid in the container - within the collapsing bubbles.

One key to the process is the large difference between the original size of the bubbles and their expanded size. Going from 60 nanometers to 6,000 microns is about 100,000 times larger, compared to the bubbles usually formed in sonoluminescence, which grow only about 10 times larger before they implode.

"This means you've got about a trillion times more energy potentially available for compression of the bubbles than you do with conventional sonoluminescence," Taleyarkhan said. "When the light flashes are emitted, it's getting extremely hot, and if your liquid has deuterium atoms compared to ordinary hydrogen atoms, the conditions are hot enough to produce nuclear fusion."

The ultrasound switches on and off about 20,000 times a second as the liquid is being bombarded by neutrons.

The researchers compared their results using normal acetone and deuterated acetone, showing no evidence of fusion in the former.

Each five-millisecond pulse of neutrons is followed by a five-millisecond gap, during which time the bubbles implode, release light and emit a surge of about 1 million neutrons per second.

In the first experiments, with the less sophisticated equipment, the team was only able to collect data during a small portion of the five-millisecond intervals between neutron pulses. The new equipment enabled the researchers to see what was happening over the entire course of the experiment.

The data clearly show surges in neutrons emitted in precise timing with the light flashes, meaning the neutron emissions are produced by the collapsing bubbles responsible for the flashes of light, Taleyarkhan said.

"We see neutrons being emitted each time the bubble is imploding with sufficient violence," Taleyarkhan said.

Fusion of deuterium atoms emits neutrons that fall within a specific energy range of 2.5 mega-electron volts or below, which was the level of energy seen in neutrons produced in the experiment. The production of tritium also can only be attributed to fusion, and it was never observed in any of the control experiments in which normal acetone was used, he said.

Whereas data from the previous experiment had roughly a one in 100 chance of being attributed to some phenomena other than nuclear fusion, the new, more precise results represent more like a one in a trillion chance of being wrong, Taleyarkhan said.

"There is only one way to produce tritium - through nuclear processes," he said.

The results also agree with mathematical theory and modeling.
Future work will focus on studying ways to scale up the device, which is needed before it could be used in practical applications, and creating portable devices that operate without the need for the expensive equipment now used to bombard the canister with pulses of neutrons.

"That takes it to the next level because then it's a standalone generator," Taleyarkhan said. "These will be little nuclear reactors by themselves that are producing neutrons and energy."

Such an advance could lead to the development of extremely accurate portable detectors that use neutrons for a wide variety of applications.
"If you have a neutron source you can detect virtually anything because neutrons interact with atomic nuclei in such a way that each material shows a clear-cut signature," Taleyarkhan said.

The technique also might be used to synthesize materials inexpensively.
"For example, carbon is turned into diamond using extreme heat and temperature over many years," Taleyarkhan said. "You wouldn't have to wait years to convert carbon to diamond. In chemistry, most reactions grow exponentially with temperature. Now we might have a way to synthesize certain chemicals that were otherwise difficult to do economically.

"Several applications in the field of medicine also appear feasible, such as tumor treatment."

Before such a system could be used as a new energy source, however, researchers must reach beyond the "break-even" point, in which more energy is released from the reaction than the amount of energy it takes to drive the reaction.

"We are not yet at break-even," Taleyarkhan said. "That would be the ultimate. I don't know if it will ever happen, but we are hopeful that it will and don't see any clear reason why not. In the future we will attempt to scale up this system and see how far we can go."

Researchers Report Bubble Fusion Results Replicated
source Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on 2 March 2004

Physical Review E has announced the publication of an article by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) stating that they have replicated and extended previous experimental results that indicated the occurrence of nuclear fusion using a novel approach for plasma confinement.

This approach, called bubble fusion, and the new experimental results are being published in an extensively peer-reviewed article titled "Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation," which is scheduled to be posted on Physical Review E's Web site and published in its journal this month.

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles. Moving at about the speed of sound, the internal shock waves impacted at the center of the bubbles causing very high compression and accompanying temperatures of about 100 million Kelvin.

These new data were taken with an upgraded instrumentation system that allowed data acquisition over a much longer time than was possible in the team's previous bubble fusion experiments. According to the new data, the observed neutron emission was several orders of magnitude greater than background and had extremely high statistical accuracy. Tritium, which also is produced during the fusion reactions, was measured and the amount produced was found to be consistent with the observed neutron production rate.

Earlier test data, which were reported in Science (Vol. 295, March 2002), indicated that nuclear fusion had occurred, but these data were questioned because they were taken with less precise instrumentation.

"These extensive new experiments have replicated and extended our earlier results and hopefully answer all of the previous questions surrounding our discovery," said Richard T. Lahey Jr., the Edward E. Hood Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer and the director of the analytical part of the joint research project.

Other fusion techniques, such as those that use strong magnetic fields or lasers to contain the plasma, cannot easily achieve the necessary compression, Lahey said. In the approach to be published in Physical Review E, spherical compression of the plasma was achieved due to the inertia of the liquid surrounding the imploding bubbles.

Professor Lahey also explained that, unlike fission reactors, fusion does not produce a significant amount of radioactive waste products or decay heat. Tritium gas, a radioactive by-product of deuterium-deuterium bubble fusion, is actually a part of the fuel, which can be consumed in deuterium-tritium fusion reactions.
Researchers Rusi Taleyarkhan, Colin West, and Jae-Seon Cho conducted the bubble fusion experiments at ORNL. At Rensselaer and in Russia, Professors Lahey and Robert I. Nigmatulin performed the theoretical analysis of the bubble dynamics and predicted the shock-induced pressures, temperatures, and densities in the imploding vapor bubbles. Robert Block, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Rensselaer, helped to design, set up, and calibrate a state-of-the-art neutron and gamma ray detection system for the new experiments.

Special hydrodynamic shock codes have been developed in both Russia and at Rensselaer to support and interpret the ORNL experiments. These computer codes indicated that the peak gas temperatures and densities in the ORNL experiments were sufficiently high to create fusion reactions. Indeed, the theoretical shock code predictions of deuterium-deuterium (D-D) fusion were consistent with the ORNL data.

The research team leaders are all well known authorities in the fields of multiphase flow and heat transfer technology and nuclear engineering.

Taleyarkhan, a fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and the program's director, held the position of Distinguished Scientist at ORNL, and is currently the Ardent Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue University. Lahey is a fellow of both the ANS and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Nigmatulin is a visiting scholar at Rensselaer, a member of the Russian Duma, and the president of the Bashkortonstan branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). Block is a fellow of the ANS and is the longtime director of the Gaerttner Linear Accelerator (LINAC) Laboratory at Rensselaer. The bubble fusion research program was supported by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Physicists Debunk Claim Of a New Kind of Fusion
by Malcolm Browne on 3 May 1989 inNew York Times this article

Hopes that a new kind of nuclear fusion might give the world an unlimited source of cheap energy appear to have been dealt a devastating blow by scientific evidence presented here.

In two days of meetings lasting until midnight, members of the American Physical Society heard fresh experimental evidence from many researchers that nuclear fusion in a jar of water does not exist.

Physicists seemed generally persuaded as the sessions ended that assertions of "cold fusion" were based on nothing more than experimental errors by scientists in Utah.

Furor on Initial Claim
Dr. B. Stanley Pons, professor of chemistry at the University of Utah, and his colleague, Dr. Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England, touched off a furor by asserting on March 23 in Salt Lake City that they had achieved nuclear fusion in a jar of water at room temperature.

At a news conference today, nine of the leading speakers were asked if they would now rule the Utah claim as dead. Eight said yes, and one, Dr. Johann Rafelski of the University of Arizona, withheld judgment.

Top physicists directed angry attacks at Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann, calling them incompetent, reciting sarcastic verses about their claims and complaining that they had refused to provide details needed for follow-up experiments. A West European expert said "essentially all" West European attempts to duplicate cold fusion had failed.

Response at Utah University
In a telephone interview, Dr. James Brophy, director of research at the University of Utah, responded, "It is difficult to believe that after five years of experiments Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann could have made some of the errors I've heard have been alleged at the American Physical Society meeting."

The criticism at the regular spring meeting of the society came just before Dr. Pons was scheduled to meet with representatives of President Bush and just after the University of Utah asked Congress to provide $25 million to pursue Dr. Pons's research. A university spokesman said Dr. Pons was in Washington and could not be reached to answer questions.

Cold fusion, Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann said, can be initiated in a cell containing heavy water, in whose molecules the heavy form of hydrogen called deuterium is substituted for ordinary hydrogen. When current is passed through the heavy water from a palladium cathode, the Utah team said, the palladium absorbs deuterium atoms, which are forced to fuse, generating heat and neutrons.
Fusion, which powers the sun and hydrogen bombs, normally occurs only at extremely high temperatures. If a means could be found to harness a form of hydrogen fusion as a commercial source of power, some scientists have said, energy shortages could be forestalled.

Some of the new experiments also sought to reproduce the less contentious findings on cold fusion reported independently by Dr. Steven E. Jones and his colleagues at Brigham Young University in Utah. Dr. Jones, who used a device similar to the one in the Pons-Fleischmann experiment, did not claim that any useful energy was produced. But he did report that slightly more neutrons were detected while the cell was operating than could be expected from normal sources. The result suggests at least the possibility of fusion, he said, although it is not likely to be useful as an energy source.

Physicists who have investigated Dr. Jones's report have been fairly restrained in their criticism, acknowledging that Dr. Jones is a careful scientist. But from the outset they have expressed profound skepticism of claims by Dr. Fleischmann and Dr. Pons.

Attempts to Repeat Experiments
Since March, scores of laboratories in the United States and abroad have sought to repeat the cold fusion experiments, and some completed their investigations just hours before the meeting was convened here Monday.

The most thoroughgoing of the attempts to validate the Pons-Fleischmann experiment was conducted at the California Institute of Technology. According to Dr. Nathan Lewis, leader of the Caltech team, every possible variant of the Pons-Fleischmann experiment was tried without success.

Using equipment far more sensitive than any available to the Utah group, Caltech failed to find any symptoms of fusion. The scientists found no emitted neutrons, gamma rays, tritium or helium, although the Utah group reported all these emissions at high levels. And all the cells consumed energy rather than produced it, the Caltech team said.

The Caltech team intentionally reproduced experimental errors leading to the same erroneous conclusions reached by the Utah group, Dr. Lewis said. By failing to install a stirring device in the test cell, temperature differences in the cell led to false estimates of its overall heat, he said. This may have suggested to the Utah group that its cell was producing fusion energy. Presence of Helium in Test
Noting that Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann had also reported the presence of helium, a fusion product, in the test cell, Dr. Lewis said his group had also found helium. But helium is a trace component of air, and the amount of helium in the cell corresponded to what normally enters from the atmosphere.

"Pons would never answer any of our questions," Dr. Lewis told an audience of 1,800 physicists, "so we asked Los Alamos National Laboratory to put our questions to him instead, since they were in touch with him."

Other scientists said they had tried every possible variation of the Utah experiments.

Dr. Edward F. Redish of the University of Maryland, chairman of the meeting, said that 10 days ago he telephoned Dr. Fleischmann to invite him to participate in the Baltimore sessions and answer criticism.

"He told me that Dr. Pons would try to come," Dr. Redish said. "But just before the meeting Dr. Pons let us know that he would be too busy discussing cold fusion with a Congressional committee to come to Baltimore."

A spokesman for the University of Utah said Dr. Pons was preparing to meet with members of Bush's staff Wednesday.

Failure to Elicit Information
Many speakers at the meeting reported failure in their efforts to elicit information or comments from Dr. Pons. Dr. J. K. Dickens of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee said that to duplicate the cell used by the Utah group, his laboratory had been forced to estimate its size.

"One published photograph of the Utah cell showed Pons's hand, and that gave us the scale," he said. Dr. Lewis said his group had also used the photograph showing Dr. Pons's hand as a measure of the cell's size. But Oak Ridge Laboratory, like Caltech, failed to find any evidence of cold fusion after it had built and tested the cell.

Physicists asked Dr. Lewis if he could account for the burst of heat that Dr. Pons reported as having destroyed one of the Utah cells.

"My understanding," Dr. Lewis said, "is that Pons's son was there at the time, not Pons himself. I understand that someone turned the current off for a while. When that happens hydrogen naturally bubbles out of the palladium cathode, and creates a hazard of fire or explosion. It is a simple chemical reaction that has nothing to do with fusion."

Other Reports of Failures
Among other major research groups that gave details today of experiments failing to validate the Pons-Fleischmann results were representatives of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California and the University of Rochester. Before the meeting, a joint research group of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Yale University also reported failure to find evidence of the existence of cold fusion.

Dr. Douglas R. O. Morrison, a physicist representing CERN, the European scientific consortium for nuclear research, reported that "essentially all" West European attempts to duplicate the Pons-Fleischmann experiment had failed. The entire episode, he said, was an example of "pathological science," in which an erroneous experiment initally gained some support, then prompted skepticism and finally led to denunciation.

Most of the initial support has eroded. The Georgia Institute of Technology withdrew an early report that it had partly confirmed the Pons-Fleischmann experiment.

At Stanford University, Prof. Robert A. Huggins repeated the Pons-Fleischmann experiment several weeks ago, and obtained results that seemed to suggest fusion. But Dr. Walter E. Meyerhof, professor of physics at Stanford, told scientists Monday night that he had carefully studied his colleague's apparatus and found that the experiment was flawed because of the system used to measure heat. Nevertheless, Dr. Huggins, a materials scientist, said in a telephone interview that he is "more confident than ever" in his results.
While most critics of the Utah work limited themselves to discussion of experimental results, some directed their ire at Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann themselves.

'Incompetence and Delusion'
Dr. Steven E. Koonin of Caltech called the Utah report a result of "the incompetence and delusion of Pons and Fleischmann." The audience of scientists sat in stunned silence for a mement before bursting into applause.
Referring to a possible error in temperature measurements by the Utah group, Dr. Walter E. Meyerhof of Stanford University offered this contribution:
Tens of millions of dollars at stake, Dear Brother, Because some scientist put a thermometer At one place and not another.

Dr. Brophy of the University of Utah said the Utah team, like all other scientific groups, welcomed criticism by other scientists.

"Any scientist can be proved to be slightly in error or greatly in error," he said. "If Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleischmann have made errors they will acknowledge them. But so far none of their critics have published their criticisms, and they are conducting science by press conference, as we have been accused of doing."

Dr. Brophy said his group was not disturbed by the vote by eight of nine physicists calling the Utah experiment dead. "Pons and Fleischmann will be speaking themselves next Monday at a meeting of the Electrochemical Society in Los Angeles, and the vote there would be likely to be different," he said.

Dr. Jones himself spoke at the meeting, and although participants questioned him sharply about his experiment, questioning was generally friendly.

He drew cheers and laughter when he concluded his talk by saying, "Is this a shortcut to fusion energy? Read my lips: No!" He defended his own experiment, describing his results as a "fragile flower" that would never grow into a "tree" producing useful energy, but could nevertheless "beautify" science.

Some critics, however, continued to insist that Dr. Jones's results also stem from experimental error rather than fusion.

Dr. Dickens of Oak Ridge noted that Dr. Jones had used relatively crude neutron-detecting equipment, and had measured only a very small excess of neutrons over what could be expected from natural sources without any fusion.

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