* The following article was featured earlier this month on the Brockporter Online News Magazine Philosophy of Science Monday:
Cold Fusion debuted in the year 1989 when two renowned experimental chemists, Dr. Martin Fleischman and Dr. Stanley Pons of the University of Utah, made an announcement that sounded too good to be true. During experiments where they applied voltage across electrolytic cells that contained hydrogen isotopes (aka deuterium) and palladium lattice structures (aka cathodes), their apparatuses began to serendipitously give off abnormal amounts of excess heat. After running many trials and ruling out experimental defects, they concluded that perhaps they had stumbled across a new type of nuclear fusion reaction taking place at room temperature devoid of radioactive byproducts. The term “Cold Fusion” was not coined by Pons and Fleischman; that was done by a rival physicist at BYU named Steven Jones. Amazingly Jones simultaneously stumbled across results (i.e. anomalous neutron production) that seemed to suggest that some variety of abnormal nuclear fusion was taking place. If true, Cold Fusion represented the penultimate solution to all of humanities energy needs.
What followed this announcement was nothing short of a firestorm. Soon after dozens if not hundreds of labs around the world sought out to replicate these experiments. Unfortunately at the time very little information concerning how the reaction was initiated and controlled was available to would be experimentalists. Therefore it should have come as little surprise that few of the replicated experiments yielded positive results. Two of the most publicized null results emerged out of the labs of MIT and Cal Tech. Many skeptical scientists skewered Cold Fusion as a result, often referring to it as “pathological science” and “utter nonsense”. Accusations of outright fraud also followed. Journalists and the mainstream media, picking up on the cues of these so-called authority figures, followed suit and published many negative articles about Pons, Fleischman, and their discovery. Only a handful of months after the initial announcement, the Department of Energy (DOE) convened an investigative panel composed of experts from the nuclear physics and electrochemistry communities. Though opinions were mixed, the group ended up delivering an unflattering critique of the new discovery and did little to encourage the federal government to pursue or fund cold fusion seriously. This seemed like the proverbial nail in the coffin. Cold Fusion appeared by all accounts to be dead and buried.
But the story was not so cut and dried, and Cold Fusion refused to fade away completely. Though initially small in number there were in fact a number of rigorously demonstrated positive results emerging out of labs across the United States. For example Professor John Bockris of Texas A&M found excess heat in many of his electrolytic cells. Similarly Dr. Edmund Storms of Los Alamos National Laboratories also produced excess heat, and was able to produce tritium as well (supporting the notion that some type of fusion reaction was occurring within the cell). Surprising revelations also began to emerge that showed the naysayers were not quite as competent or honest as the media originally portrayed them to be. For example Dr. Eugene Mallove, who was head of science journalism at MIT during this period, discovered that the MIT team had in fact produced positive results that they chose not to publish, and also doctored (altered) the null results they released to the public. Mallove resigned in disgust over this embarrassing episode. Professor Melvin Miles, formerly a naval researcher at China Lake, revealed that the experiments set up by both MIT and Cal Tech contained a number of crucial flaws in both their experimental components and overall procedure (calorimetric preparation, palladium purity, etc). Nobel Laureate Julian Schwinger, a pioneer in Quantum Electrodynamics (aka QED), was one of the first to develop a theoretical explanation for Cold Fusion. After witnessing firsthand the deep prejudice exhibited by the scientific community toward this new science, Schwinger decided to resign from the American Physical Society in protest.
Since 1989, despite shoe string budgets and the risk of scientific excommunication, many brave scientists have continued to work in and progress the field of what is now referred to as Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR for short). It has been almost 25 years, and the corpus of data that exists today on LENR is truly astounding. The effect itself, while still not completely understood theoretically, has been proven beyond any doubt experimentally. The LENR effect is now repeatable for the trained practitioner. A declassified report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2009 titled “Technology Forecast: Worldwide Research on Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions Increasing and Gaining Acceptance” collected and catalogued positive experimental results from over eight industrialized nations. Their report concluded that “This body of research has produced evidence that nuclear reactions may be occurring under conditions not previously believed possible.” Providing further validation, the most recent International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF 18) was held at the University of Missouri and was keynoted by the CEO of National Instruments.
Even more exciting commercially viable reactors may be closer at hand than we think. Italian engineer Andrea Rossi, backed up by an advisory team of Italian and Swedish physicists, is currently making great strides in bringing his Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat) to market. Also the Euro-based company Defkalion Green Technologies recently demoed their generator back in early July to an audience of nearly one thousand. They were able to achieve a COP (Coefficient of Performance) of approximately 3. This means three times more energy is produced than is expended. Brillouine Energy Corporation, an American company, has also been making strides with impressive prototypes that have allegedly caught the attention of Stanford Research Institute. During a recent interview Dr. Edmund Storms said that once LENR reaches peak performance self-looped machines will be possible, and “no other source of energy will be necessary.” Beside energy production, LENR reactions have also been found to transmute elements. Once fully understood this represents a revolutionary tool for cleaning up radiation and hazardous waste that we have irresponsibly deposited into the environment over the course of decades.