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139) Suggestions for the DOE investigators

Ludwik Kowalski (4/25/04)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

While waiting in suspense for the pending DOE investigation of cold fusion, I would like to speculate about what I might do if I were in charge of the project.

1) By
my definition: "Cold fusion (CF) is any process in which a nuclear reaction is produced without relying on traditional means, such as particle accelerators, neutrons, cosmic rays, alpha particles or stellar temperatures." Unfortunately the term "cold fusion" means different things to different people. It is certainly premature to define cold fusion as a practically unlimited energy resource. But that is what most people say when asked to describe CF. I suspect that some disagreements about CF would disappear if the above definition were accepted by all antagonists.

2) Is the so-called “excess heat,” reported by many investigators, real or not? I would not focus on this question, unless the heat were generated reproducibly at the rate of 10 W or more. Excess heat per se is not a signature of a nuclear process; heat generated at the rate of one watt or so can be due to parasitic chemical reactions or to other hard-to-identify effects. The most convincing argument against CF, in the 1989 ERAB report (1), was the lack of evidence for nuclear reaction products accumulating at rates commensurate with excess heat. This argument, according to many cold fusion researchers, is no longer valid. They claim that in some experiments 4He has been observed to accumulate at the rate of about one atom per 23 MeV of excess heat. This claim would be the first to investigate on my agenda.

3) In practical terms I would proceed as follows. First I would select a research team claiming to be able to conduct the experiment. The Japanese team headed by Arata, for example, would be a good candidate; they did build the apparatus and described highly reproducible experiments on accumulation of 4He (2). I would consult many cold fusion researchers before selecting a team of proponents. Then I would select a highly qualified team of scientist who are highly critical of the reports published by proponents. I would call them opponents. Again, I would consult many cold fusion researchers before selecting a team of opponents. Proponents would be asked to perform experiments in presence of opponents. The claim would be validated if opponents were satisfied with conclusions of proponents. In case of a disagreement each team would be asked to write a report. Another group of experts would read the reports and decide the outcome.

4) What else is worth investigating? The number of claims is large and one must be selective. The most convincing nuclear signature in a CF setup, as far as I am concerned, were dramatic changes in isotopic ratios of trace elements accumulating in CF setups. It is conceivable that some of these elements result from redistribution of contamination but dramatic changes in isotopic ratios can not be explained in that way. To investigate the claim I would proceed, more or less, as described in 3 above.

5) For practical reasons I would limit the number of claims to investigate to three. The third claim would be the unexpected emission of nuclear particles, at very low rates, as reported by Jones (3). The rates of emission are too low to produce measurable heat. This, however, does not mean that the confirmation of the claim is not important. It might indicate that a nuclear process similar to hot fusion (emission of neutrons, protons, tritons and 3He) can take place at ordinary temperatures. The name “cold fusion” would be appropriate for this kind of reaction, but not for other cold fusion processes.

6) What makes cold fusion possible at room temperatures? Is it screening by electrons or minima near the top of the potential-energy-versus-distance curve? Such questions would be left for later studies. Another question to be left for further study has to do with our model of stellar energy generation. Is it conceivable that cold fusion also contributes to generation of heat inside stars. Is it conceivable that the sun emits fewer neutrinos than expected because not all of its heat is generated through fusion reactions with which we are familiar? Yes, I know that this is only a speculation. But who said that cold fusion is not possible at stellar temperatures?

7) I would totally ignore proposals dealing with practical applications at this time. Such proposals would evolve naturally if cold fusion were no longer blacklisted. The main overall task would be to decide about validity of scientific claims in the area of cold fusion. And about quality of research. Were methods of validation, in the area of CF, different from those used in other areas of science or not? Were major CF researchers qualified in their sub-disciplines? Was there any evidence of fraud or mutual deception?

8) Only highly respected scientists, preferably Nobel prize winners, would be selected to evaluate reports, and to announce decisions, which either confirm or refute claims made by cold fusion researchers. Time limit to reach decisions, and material support to conduct experiments, would be generous. Recall that the 1989 ERAB report was published only nine months after the discovery of cold fusion was announced. In my opinion this was not appropriate.

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