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158) An interesting article from MIT

Ludwik Kowalski (7/8/04)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

Here is an interesting extract from an article about cold fusion published recently (April 23, 2004) in the MIT magazine “Technology Review:” The title of the article “Is Cold Fusion Heating Up?,” and the introduction, indicate that it was prompted by the pending evaluation of cold fusion by DOE.

“. . . The evidence for ‘new physics’ has been building for years, says Peter Hagelstein, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who chaired the tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion in Cambridge last August. Experiments performed under properly controlled conditions reliably produce more heat than standard theory predicts. Nuclear products show up in about the right amounts to account for this excess heat. Patterns have emerged that explain previous anomalies. When Hagelstein saw how pieces of the puzzle were fitting together at the August meeting, he urged the Department of Energy to reconsider a field that had been cast out of orthodox science soon after its birth.

Over the past 15 years, enthusiasts have generated some 3,000 manuscripts on cold fusion, but very few were ever published in scientific journals. Many results evaporated under outside examination, and promoters pushed ‘free energy’ schemes that sounded more like perpetual motion than physics. Most of those manuscripts ‘are not helpful,’ says Hagelstein, a theorist with wide-ranging interests in optics, energy, and nuclear physics. But some 50 do show interesting, reproducible effects. ‘The heat effect has been replicated many times,’ Hagelstein. It works only when deuterium is loaded into palladium cells, and never when normal hydrogen is used instead of the heavy isotope. Exacting measurements with heat-measurement instruments have answered criticisms of the original experiments. Excess heat has been measured beyond what Hagelstein considers any reasonable doubt. Experiments that produce excess heat also have yielded helium-4, one potential product of the fusion of two deuterium nuclei, in amounts that correlate with the excess heat. Theory predicts that the fusion reaction should generate 24 million electron volts (MeV) of energy per helium-4 nucleus. An analysis by Michael McKubre of SRI International detected energy of 31 MeV— a match within the experimental uncertainty of plus or minus 13 MeV. Skeptics had doubted the reaction was possible, but Hagelstein says McKubre's analysis of the experiments, reported at last year's cold fusion meeting, shows that fusion of two deuterium to yield helium-4 ‘is not as nutty as it initially seemed.’

McKubre has also found that the seeming inconsistency in experimental heat production arose from differences in the amount of deuterium packed into the palladium electrode. Whenever the number of deuterium atoms loaded into the metal matched or exceeded the number of palladium atoms, excess heat was generated. Palladium loaded with slightly less deuterium produced inconsistent results, and if the deuterium level was reduced by a great amount, then no excess heat at all was produced. Deuterium loading was hard to control and limited by the strength of the metal. Unfortunately, palladium strength is difficult to predict or control, and is not improved by purification; indeed, the purest palladium ruptured at lower loadings, and the highest strength was seen only in one impure batch. . . . “

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