Cold Fusion again?

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by mcollins07, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

  2. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

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  3. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    I wonder how long will that chair belong to Dr. Zavodny, after his interview leaks to his bosses' PC screens...
     
  4. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

    That is a good point. In the US, back in the late 1990's it could be a career ender. If it is now considered a legitimate area (fundable) of research now, then that is a change in the scientific community as to what is considered “politically correct”. Back in 1990 to 1995 there were some rather strange and interesting politics in the scientific community with those involved in electro-chemistry and related areas of research.
     
  5. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I had followed this from the beginning, I even drove down to the U of W (Seattle) to look at their apparatus that duplicated Ponds and Fleshman's original experiment (and it too got excess heat out of it). Those that "poo-pooed" it were either "experts" that did not investigate it or had big government grants to loose if it was viable. The reaction was real and I saw it for myself in person.

    My sister and her husband are both scientists that ran high pressure laboratories at the U of W at the time, both were fascinated with the results but had no explanation for it, I talked with the scientists that actually duplicated the results and they also had no explanation for it. I got copies of their study papers and test results from them to look over (I still have it somewhere in a file).

    The real problem with it, not that it was not real, but that the results could not be reliably duplicated. I think the U of W set up 50 or 60 identical "fusion cells" per Ponds and Fleishman's instructions. Most stayed "cold", one was slightly above energy in/out, and two put out much more heat than was input, and one of them had run away overheat reactions that boiled all the water out in seconds. They could not determine the difference between the cells that caused some to work and some not. There were also very a strange unknown reaction occurring; normally with fusion where you fuse two atoms of deuterium (hydrogen with an extra neutron attached) you will get H2, energy, neutrons and gamma radiation during the reaction (nothing toxic or dangerous, no waste, the reason why fusion holds such promise). The thing that made most physicists think it was a hoax was there was no gamma radiation detected, which according to their physics is impossible. Of course they were not the ones that saw it for themselves, I also think that many did not want it to be true, it means their life careers would be over, or at least very definitely altered forever.

    Within a year a number of other significant universities around the world duplicated the results, and there were over half of dozen theories how this reaction might occur.

    The problem since than is that it appears uncontrollable and unreliable. I have not heard anything new on this front, but it appears there is some combination of conditions that must occur exactly correct to get the "cold fusion" reaction to start. And AFAIK that is still the state of affairs, it is just a laboratory curiosity (one of many BTW) with no practical application until it can be controlled and duplicated.

    And of course the implications of it are very large, it could change geopolitics forever. Deuterium, or "Heavy water" occurs naturally in all the earth waters and is extracted by relatively simple means (centrifuges), so the fuel can be produced anywhere you have water (which is anywhere you have humans). And with the "cold" aspects of this type of reaction, the end usage can also be done anywhere using really tiny reactors (unlike the giant torus reactors that requires thousands of degrees of temperature that must be managed and controlled, Temperatures and pressures just like on the sun). Without toxic output these devices can be used to power everything from cars, ships, home energy systems, etc. etc. No centralized power plants, no control of raw materials or fuel, the implications are huge. I would say immeasurable. Gone would be all the power transmission lines, oil wells and pipes lines, oil refineries, "oil rich countries" many that also fund terrorism, and toxic pollution.

    So it looks like someone at NASA has actually thought about how such a reactor might be used, and small scale is the best payoff. That is if someone can ever manage to reliably produce and control the reaction. What is a bit baffling to me is, despite the huge profit to be made, why no deep pocket investor has not funded research into it. The really big money would not want anything to do it with it, unpredictable results means unpredictable profits. Add into it the very destabilizing influence on world economies, the really big money will do what they can to stop it. They like things they way they are, with them controlling the resourses. Just not profitable to give away so much power production.
     
  6. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

    Petros,
    I believe I would concur with your perspective. I worked in material science back in those days, including some electro-chemistry, and knew a number of people involved in the cold fusion saga. Based on the inside stories, it was very clear that there was a phenomenon. It was also clear that cold fusion was a bad career direction. I did not do any experiments on cold fusion personally, but was well aware of the techniques and difficulties of the experiments. Like I said, it was some very interesting politics involved. As a young scientist I wanted to believe that an unexplained phenomenon is exactly what should be investigated, but I was in no position to go against the grain. So, I’ve been watching the topic for years. I’m not sure if things have changed, but I’ve always suspected that the attitude would eventually change, at least change enough to fund investigation of the phenomenon.
     
  7. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    The last I heard, the US Navy was one of the few organisations left that was investigating the phenomenon. It's interesting that others are still plugging away at it.
     
  8. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

  9. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    I guess that there is a precise reason why only now the story about the cold fusion is becoming acceptable, while it wasn't acceptable back in 1989 - we are past the peak of oil production now, while the curve was still steep and alive back then ( www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Oilreport_10-2007.pdf - pages 11 and 12 ). First we have to burn everything that can be burned, and only then we will move on to other technologies. See the example of solar energy - it's been only some 10 yrs (maybe less) that it has started to massively become part of the energy market.

    We can rest assured that the cold fusion was dismissed only officially back then, but it has created a lots of fuss under the official (media) levels. Just like the solar energy as a world energy source was officially ridiculed for years, but unofficially the big energy names were preparing to enter the new business with haste and determination. It just couldn't be spoken out too loud because there was still so much stuff to burn... And today the solar plants are probably the fastest-growing compartment in the industrial world.
     
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  10. charmc
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    charmc Senior Member

    In case there are some here not familiar with the details of the "cold fusion" controversy of 1989, this is a good overview:
    http://newenergytimes.com/v2/reports/MistakesOfFleischmannAndPons.shtml

    I believed then, and still do, that their huge mistake was the press conference before the technical paper was released, with their simplistic statement that they had achieved a "sustained nuclear fusion reaction". Naturally, mass media created their typical massive hype, undermining the possibility of normal scientific discussion.

    Mcollins07 and Petros make good points. Personally, I agree that describing the more recent phenomena as low energy nuclear reactions, rather than cold fusion, helps to enable rational discussion. Failure by peers to duplicate an experiment doesn't necessarily mean the claimed result is bogus, rather it more typically indicates that something necessary has not been identified, i.e. the initial report may be incomplete, requiring more research. This, of course, is the very reason why press conferences in advance of publication and peer review are strongly discouraged.

    Getting back to the possible applications of the current group of LENR experiments, I find it exciting, at the very least, that we might be within a decade or two of practical low energy nuclear reaction devices and distributed power.
     
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  11. charmc
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    charmc Senior Member

    Daiquri,

    Whether or not one believes "peak oil" is a precisely accurate description of the current state of fossil fuel supplies, there seems to be a consensus that "easy oil" supplies are mostly gone. Your comparison of LENR to solar (and I would add wind) power development is accurate. Initially, fringe technologies are opposed or ignored because mainstream technologies are readily available at lower cost. Over time things change. Petroleum oil was once a fringe technology, generating little interest or investment capital until whale-sourced products became more costly due to the decline in whale populations as the result of massive killing driven by the increasing demand through the 19th century. Similarly, and this seems obvious, the long term trend of rising fossil fuel prices, driven by increasing production costs and by increasing political instability in many oil producing countries, coupled with declining costs of manufacturing solar panels, wind generators, etc. makes alternative energy sources more attractive. It is beginning to look like LENR may become affordable in the near future; marginally affordable, i.e. still very costly but at least possible, at first, and increasingly more affordable as more projects come on line.
     
  12. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member


    It was my impression at the time this was playing out with Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, that they were somewhat victims of circumstances, not really doing bad science as they were later accused. As it was conveyed to me third-hand, Pons and Fleischmann were faced with a situation where news had leaked out, perhaps through student to student interactions to the school news paper. They were faced with the reality that the news media was going to write about their work whether they were ready to release or not. It was under this pressure they thought it better to try to get the facts correct, which is often difficult to accomplish with the mainstream media regarding science.

    There was a colleague in similar research field at another school, heard of the rumor and knew one of them well enough to telephone and ask if there was any basis to the rumor. He got a reply that yes, they were seeing something but the experiments were very difficult to perform. They still had lots of questions and were not really ready to publish. They were not ready to go public, but the information had leaked. This second researcher was able to get what he thought to be the details of the experiments they were performing. The second researcher wanted to get in the spotlight himself. He saw himself is a unique opportunity to take advantage of the private communications. This was going to be really big news, a huge scientific discovery. So he put a grad student to work on confirming Pons and Fleischmann’s work, before it was ever published in any scientific peer reviewed or mainstream media. The grad student was very capable, however he was a student. The primary researcher spent little time in the lab, and would meet with the student saying, why have you not confirmed this experiment. If you don’t confirm their work, we will be scooped, and loose this opportunity. Well, eventually the student got a positive result, and I think this was possibly a single positive result. They quickly went to press to confirm Pons and Fleischmann’s work. Now, under normal circumstances, this second researcher had done several things which would be considered bad-science. In my opinion his greed and ambition had clouded his judgment at several levels.

    Well, they went to press quickly. Then after the furious effort to publish, the student went back to the lab to resume work. It was then that he found that he could not reproduce the results. And here we are talking about results of confirming someone else’s original works. They had already published the confirmation of Pons and Fleischmann’s experiments. This was a very serious situation and in many cases it would be a career destroyer. The student kept working in the lab, and the researcher got on the telephone again. He talked to the Pons Fleischmann camp, and learned that yes they too had difficulty reproducing these experiments, and were not able to get the results on each cell. Pons and Fleischmann were open that they did not fully understand exactly what was going on. The researcher in the confirming camp also spoke with a government official which was in the agency where most of his funds came from. The government friend said that this might not be as bad as the secondary researcher was expecting. His career would probably be salvageable. It was suggested that, what he needed to was to be the first to come out and claim that Pons and Fleischmann’s work was bad-science. Yes, he would have to do a retraction (which is a sign of bad science) but that he could point the finger at Pons and Fleischmann. The media spot light was already on them. Now there was considerable speculation about motivations beyond the obvious, and about other parts of the conversation. But few people would speak aloud of such speculations at that time. And this second researcher, whom had first confirmed their work, became one of Pons and Fleischmann’s biggest critics.
     
  13. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    If it was easy everybody would be doing it.
     
  14. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    Michael, I read so many thousands of small science snippets every year
    that I couldn't tell you exactly which one.
    I just remember being surprised whenever I read that the US Navy was
    still working on it, long after everyone else had abandoned the research.
     

  15. masalai
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    masalai masalai

    Thanks all for a most interesting topic... I hope continuing posts will serve to keep us all informed of new developments...
     
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