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183) Rough numbers

Ludwik Kowalski (October 14, 2004)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

Here are some facts concerning observations described in the unit #182. I plan to add additional comments at the end; please revisit.

1) Using CR-39 to detect alpha particles from radon is very common. The detector is a transparent plastic plate, typically 1 mm thick. Alpha particles create latent tracks and these tracks become visible after etching the plastic for several hours in the 6.5 N solution of NaOH at 65 degrees. After that tracks can be observed through an ordinary microscope. I am using a microscope that has a digital camera able to capture pictures. The field seen with the naked eye is circular (for example, the diameter of 5 mm at the lowest magnification 40). But the field seen through the camera, on the monitor, is smaller. In my case it was 1.3 mm by 0.88 mm at magnification 40 and 0.26mm by 0.18 mm at the magnification 200.

Figure 1 Typical tracks from an 241 Am souce; magnification 200

Figure 2 Typical tracks from a Pd cathode ; magnification 200

The two figures above show tracks of alpha particles from 241Am (mostly circles) and tracks from the cathode #613 (often comet-like). In both cases the magnification was 200. Only small sections of photographs are shown to keep the graphic files short. Note that to scan the entire 10 by 5 mm cathode, at that magnification, would require 1100 fields. After realizing how much work is required I selected several fields randomly and counted numbers of particles. These results were then extrapolated to obtain total numbers of particles on the six CR-39 chips exposed to both sides of three cathodes. The numbers given below are likely to be reliable within the factor of two or three.

CR-39 facing the more active side of the cathode 613 (exposure time 820 hrs):
Total area of about 50 mm2. The highest track density, probably the cluster where the laser beam was intercepted, was close to 6000 tracks/mm2 (or about 500,000 tracks in the entire cluster). The number of tracks outside the cluster is about 20000. The density distribution outside the cluster was not uniform on the entire surface.

Figure 3 Tracks outside (left) and inside (right) of the cluster; magnification 40

CR-39 facing the less active side of the cathode 613 (exposure time 820 hrs):
The number of tracks from that side was about 4000 (1000 in the cluster and 3000 outside). That is less than one percent of the number of tracks on the opposite side. The apparent cluster is situated at essentially the same location, with respect to the Pd surface, as the much stronger cluster on the opposite side. Is this only or coincidence? I do not know. How can a 30 mW laser beam intercepted at one surface be responsible for the number of tracks on the opposite surface? The thickness of the cathode was close to one millimeter. It clear that the number of tracks on this surface is about 100 times fewer than on the CR-39 exposed to the more active side of the cathode.

CR-39 facing the more active side of the cathode 616 (exposure time 485 hrs):
The area of this piece of Pd was also about 50 mm2 but the shape of the cathode was nearly rectangular. The total number of tracks on the surface was about 8000. Their distribution was not uniform; not even approximately.

CR-39 facing the less active side of the cathode 616 (exposure time 485 hrs):
The total number of tracks on that surface was about 3000. Their distribution was also not not uniform, not even approximately.

CR-39 pieces facing surfaces of the cathode 615 (exposure time 266 hrs):
The Pd area was close to 50 mm2; there were less than 100 tracks on each CR-39 surface. The real background (cosmic rays, radon, thoron, etc.), on a piece of CR-39 that was not exposed to the cathode, would be less than 50, for the entire area. It is reasonably to think that all tracks (on surfaces exposed to palladium) were due to the background.

I was wrong in hinting (in unit 182) that some of the particles were able to pass the CR-39 detectors (about 1 mm thick). My CR-39 are dirty and, in a quick look, I probably took some dirty spots for tracks. But Pd particle tracks are definitely different from those due to alphas of 241Am. My guess is that nearly all of them are "born" on the surface, they do not come from the depth of Pd. How else can one explain a relatively large number of tracks looking like comets (not like circles). My etching time of 6 hrs (perfect for alpha particles from my 241Am source) was too long for shallow tracks. Many tracks might have been dissolved by the hot NaOH. If I had to do this over again I would etch for only 2 hrs, examine the tracks, etch for another 2 hrs, examine the tracks, etc. Very tedious, indeed. It would be much easier to use Si detectors, instead of CR-39, as Steven Jones does.

Comments and additions, made after October 14, will be appended below.

Dividing 500,000 tracks by 820 hours one gets about 600 tracks per hour. This is much higher than several tracks per hour observed from the TiDx foils by Jones. But even this would be too little to generate measurable amount of excess heat. On the other hand, the unusual excess heat event occured on July 31. This was several weeks before I received the cathode #613. Perhaps the ~500,000 tracks from that cathodes is nothing in comparison with what would be recorded if the CR-39 detectors were applied much earlier. My assumption that the nuclear activity was constant during the entire 820 hours can also be questioned. And I have no idea how many shallow tracks might have been desoved in the hot NaOH.

10/15/04 By Steven Jones:
Dear Ludwik and Dennis and Dennis:

The CR-39 results achieved and posted by Ludwik, using the Dennis**2 Pd foils, are very intriguing indeed. Congratulation to all!! Ludwik, I suggest you post the thickness of the Pd foils on the latest posting, as this would affect the ability to see tracks on both CR-39 plates. Also, I certainly agree with Ludwik that follow-up tests using silicon (ion-implanted) detectors would be extremely useful. With the Si detectors available now at BYU, we can determine both the energy and identity of the particles. Seems this should be done right away. And I agree with Ludwik also that the Pd plates should be looked at as soon after excess heat observation as possible. With a Pd foil on the "outside" of a cell, that is, as a wall, we can even put an energy-dispersive Si detector right next to the Pd (in air or helium to allow alphas to get to the detector more readily) -- and thus hope to catch emanated particles DURING excess heat production! This would really clinch it!

Anyway, I share Ludwik's enthusiasm and hearty congratulations to Dennis and Dennis and Scott. (PS -- Is the MOAC giving results yet? I'm very much looking forward to these... I may be convinced yet of correlated heat and particle production...)
--Steven Jones

The thickness of Pd was 0.42mm. Let me remind you that MOAC, in Steven's message, stands for Mother Of All Calorimeters. I am sure it will be fully described for us by two Dennises at the end of this year. A very short description was already made in unit 182.

In my first comment above I referred to 600 tracks per hour. Note, however, that for the 20,000 tracks outside the big cluster (cathode #613) one gets 24 counts per hour. This is much closer to what was occasionally observed by Steven, if I remember correctly. Perhaps there are two kinds of cold fusion tracks, those due to the 30 mW laser beam and those that would be present even without the 30 laser beam.

10/15/04 By D2 (Dennis Cravens, not Dennis Letts, D1, with whom I corresponded.):

I would be very much in favor of having Steve get an energy distribution on the electrodes.  And then at the end, perhaps an XRF from Scott and perhaps an elemental analysis from Ed.

  I am uncertain right now if the sauce sent to Letts several years ago had U in it.  I think it is the same one that Scott originally did the XRF on (see below) last year. I would be very cautious on making too much of the counts until we are sure about any U contribution. (my guess is U alphas will be easy to ID).   However, as said before, the interesting thing to me is the variation from side to side and area to area on the electrode since any plating should be nearly uniform across the plate and from front to back of the electrode.

  If it is the sauce I think it is, it has Ce, Er, Rh, U, Li, Pd and La and a little Hg  - The idea at the time was to incorporate high nuclear spins and high quatrapoles for spin exchange to the lattice and then seal with Hg or Au and to have point defects in the lattice for phonon exchange.  However, I think it is mostly Pd and Li with some sulfamic acid to keep ions in solution.
  [The XRF stands for the X-rays fluorescence. One bombards a sample with photons of 60 keV and observes characteristic photons of lower energies (soft x-rays) due to deexitations in different elements. As one can see below, the spectrum has two tiny picks identified as uranium. In the next comment D1 reminds us that the "sauce" was added to the electrolyte for the cathode #613 only. Is it possible that uranium was subsequently deposited on Pd surfaces? Yes it is. But why would most of the uranium be deposited on a small part of one surface? I do not know.]

Figure 4; the XRF spectrum sent by D2

10/15/04 By D1 (Dennis Letts):

Steve, Thanks for your interest and enthusiasm. As I told Ludwik, #613 was spiked with a small amount of Cravens sauce #1 during electrolysis and that may be the source of the large number of counts. I sent the remainder of the sauce to Ludwik and hopefully he will be able to make an estimate of how much the sauce influenced the high counts on #613. The other two cathodes did not receive any Cravens sauce, so the elevated counts on cathode 616 may be valid.

  So far I have failed miserably in MOAC:  Scott and his colleague, George Luce, have designed and built a splendid machine and their cooperation has been "over the top." Our plan was to see the laser effect isoperibolically in MOAC and then observe the mass flow measurement a few minutes later, since MOAC was designed to be a dual method calorimeter. If the flow measurement showed a similar response  to the isoperibolic measurement, then we would conclude that the signal was real. Failing to see a flow confirmation, we would conclude that the signal was false.

  I never contemplated that we would see NO signal. A possible reason is this:  I ran out of my old stock of Palladium before beginning the MOAC tests. Cravens and I thought that our methods would work for any metal source but that may not be true. We are presently testing other Pd, Lithium, Gold, D2O sources in an attempt to re-establish the effect so that MOAC can judge our results. As McKubre has said "there's a demon in these experiments". Any analytical help from you, for my part, would be welcome...hope you and your work are well,
Letts, Cravens and the Earthtech group.

I just received the "sauce #1" in a little bottle; about 1 mL. In unit 182 Letts wrote: "I added about 1/4 of a small pipette to the cell on the last day of the experiment; the cell contained 100 mL of .7M LIOD. I estimate that I added at most about 1/2 mL to the cell. . . . " Thus the worse possible scenario is that all the uranium from the 0.5 mL of the sauce was deposited on one Pd surface. To simulate this (at the reduced scale) I deposited 0.1 mL of the sauce on a sheet of plastic and dried it on my desk below the 60 W light bulb. The sauce in the bottle did not look like a solution, it looked as a colloidal suspension. The dry layer is probably as thick as the range of alpha particles of uranium. I will measure the thickness in mg/cm^2 eventually. A piece of CR-39 was placed over the dried spot (same shape and same area as the Pd 613 cathode). I will see how many tracks will be created in CR-39 after several weeks of exposure.

David Dow (from . . . ?), who read this unit, used my Figure 3 (see above) to produce a density distribution chart shown below. His specialty is GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and he has software for creating density maps. I think that Richard Oriani also used this kin of mapping to analyze cascades of tracks on his CR-39 detectors. His paper on massive cascades of tracks (in the air above the electrolyte) was presented at the ICCF10 last year. It can be downloaded from library at


Oriani, as far as I know is the only researcher who also saw cascades of incredibly large numbers of tracks. I am going to work with him after the ICCF11. The goal will be to develop an experiment that can be performed by high school students.

Figure 5 Density distribution map produced by David Dow.

I just realized that I am actually conducting two tests on the uranium hypothesis. I will call them "thick source test'" and "thin source test." The first one was described in the piece above; it involves the "sauce #1." The second test started when the Pd-613 was sandwiched again. Suppose a thin layer of uranium, deposited on the cathode is responsible for the observed 500,000 tracks. In than case I should observe the same number of tracks again. The half-life of uranium isotopes is very very very long. The alpha radioactivity may actually increase due to an accumulation of daughters.

If the number of tracks observed from the thin source test is negligible, in comparison with ~600 per hour, then the idea of uranium contamination could be put aside. But suppose it is not negligible. This should not be taken as a conclusive validation of the hypothesis. But would be a very strong indication that the hypothesis is valid). If this turns out to be the outcome of the test then I would ask for your permission to send the cathode to Steven Jones. The energy spectrum of alpha particles from uranium, and its daughters, are well known. If the observed spectrum matches known peaks of uranium than we would say that uranium was indeed responsible for our excitement. I am assuming that Steven would be happy to conduct the decisive test with a Si detector.

Modified on 10/17/04
Let me add one more observation. Some say that cold fusion people are con artists. Are we con artists? A con artist would hide everything that might cause doubt about his claim, he would focus on convincing arguments only. But the idea of a possible uranium contamination came from Dennis Cravens. He tells us not to accept the results from Pd-613 before further testing. I agree with this. His observation about Pd-616 (11,000 tracks) is also valid. Dennis's experiment was designed to confirm the reality of cold fusion; how can he remain objective in the face of an apparent confirmation? But he is saying to us "hold your horses". That this fact is very significant to me, in the context of the cold fusion controversy. Dear Dr. Park, are you reading this unit? I would be happy to append your comment below. Do you think that what dennisses do is voodoo sciece? Will I see you at the ICCF11 event or are you going to boycot it?
End of modification.

I was tempted to ask D1 and D2 about their motivation for adding the "sauce 1" into the electrolyte. I did not ask because they decided to wait till December 31, the date of the announcement. The answer came, quite unexpectedly, from Steven Krivin who interviewed D2 before writing a new book on cold fusion (see item 181). During the interview Steven asked: "Can you describe your work in layman's terms?" The answer of Dennis Cravens was: "Right now I'm doing work with Dennis Letts, who's doing laser induced reactions, trying to stimulate the surface and get surface reactions going. Also, chemical excitation of a palladium cathode. And putting in special chemicals within the mix and then electrolyzing and then kicking off the reaction through a new surface applied to the palladium." That is good enough for me, at least for the time being. To see the entire interview go to:

10/18/04 from Steven Jones to D1 and D2.
Thanks for the additional – and very important—information. As D2 noted, “I am uncertain right now if the sauce sent to Letts several years ago had U in it. I think it is the same one that Scott originally did the XRF on (see below) last year. I would be very cautious on making too much of the counts until we are sure about any U contribution.  (my guess is U alphas will be easy to ID). “ This is just the sort of thing we need to do – check and re-check ourselves! 

Note that an advantage of the dual-coincidence spectrometer here (which includes a cosmic-ray veto) is that we are not sensitive to alphas from uranium – or radon, etc., since a coincidence is required, such as proton + triton from d-d fusion. (Another example is alpha + alpha from d-Li6 fusion.) We would miss events in which single nuclear particles are emitted.  And we did see a signal from the foil D2 prepared last year when placed in our dual-coincidence spectrometer. I wish you the best of progress and success with the MOAC. To me, an instrument such as this has great promise in unraveling the mystery of “cold fusion.” 10/19/04 My message emailed to D1 and D2: A nuclear physicist, and a friend, who is very skeptical about cold fusion, asked: "How pure is your palladium? Are you sure that palladium does not contain naturally a minute intrinsic admixture of thorium or uranium?" Well, one can find atoms of any anything in a manufactured object. The issue is how many. This question of impurities is likely to be asked by others. The XRF spectrum sent to me by D2 does not have any numbers (ppm?) along the vertical axis. Do you have manufacturer's specification of impurities? If so then I would like to have it in Marseilles. Let me summarize this issue of contamination.

1) According to D2, who was the first to say "hold your horses," the sauce #1 might have contained some uranium. To back this hypothesis he showed the XRF spectrum with two tiny peaks attributed to uranium. He is not certain that the sauce (~0.5 mL) actually added to the electrolyte (~250 mL) was the same as that used in the XRF analysis. Therefore, a possibility that the sauce actually used was even more contaminated should not be excluded.

2) Two tests for contamination with an alpha-radioactive source are in progress. Waiting for the result one must rely on the following reasoning (speculations).

a) One line of reasoning goes like this: "The Pd-615 cathode was made from the same stock as the Pd-613. Both cathodes were processed in exactly the same way. The Pd-615 cathode did not produce tracks. Therefore, palladium itself, or the electrolyte, were not contaminated."

b) Another line of speculation goes like this: "Contamination from the electrolyte would lead to essentially the same number of tracks on both surfaces of Pd-613 due to the geometry of electrodes (Pd cathode surrounded by the spiral Pt anode). But the numbers of tracks produced were found to be very different on two surfaces."

c) Contamination of the original Pd, or contamination of the electrolyte, could not produce a highly localized cluster discovered on the Pd-613 cathode. Why would the size of the cluster, and its location on the cathode, coincide with the location and the size of the laser beam?

d) An apparent correlation between the number of tracks observed with three cathodes and the excess heat they generated is based on three cases only. It can be a matter of coincidence. I am referring to is this: Pd-613 --> a lot of tracks and a lot of excess heat, Pd-616 --> much less tracks and much less excess heat, Pd-615 --> no tracks (above the background) and no excess heat.

The weakness of the first three arguments is that the contamination might have been introduced when the Pd-613 cathode was handled. It is not totally impossible that such contamination occurred on one of the Pd-613 surfaces, and exactly at the same place where the laser beam was later intercepted. That is why the outcome of the ongoing "thin source" test will be so important. I just calculated the amount of U-238 needed to emit 500,000 alpha particles in 820 hours. That amount would have to be only 0.14 micrograms. Assuming that the CR-39 detects one half of alphas (the other half is emitted into the opposite direction) the amount would be due to 0.28 micrograms of uranium. On the other hand, uranium is likely to be mixed with its alpha-radioactive daughters. In that case even 0.05 micrograms could be sufficient to produce the observed tracks. The mass of Pu or Am, needed to produce 500,000 alphas in 820 hours, would be many orders of magnitudes smaller than what was calculated for the U-238.

10/19/04 A reply to the above from Dennis Cravens:
The Pd used, that you have is four 9's ..... 99.99%. Many other researches in CF have very well characterized Pd. The most sensitive way to check for U or Th is via neutron activation of a sample. We don't do that but others have. U and Th is not at all likely to be in quality Pd. I prepared four sauces for Letts. Only one had U and it is the one that you have the XRF of. I just do not know which one is the one he used in that experiment. In the case of treatment of Jones' Ti (though I am not sure you have that one) no U was used only La. The bottom line is that the sample you have is either the same as the one that the XRF was done on or it has no U at all. It cannot be the case that it has more U than the XRF sample.

10/19/04 Additional details from Dennis Letts:
This metal was provided by Scott at Earthtech International. The metal may be nearly a decade old. The metal is:  "Premion" Palladium foil, 1mm thick, 99.9975% purity (metals basis), stock # 12056, lot# w25022. Seller:  Alfa Aesar, 30 Bond St, Ward Hill Ma 01835 800-343-0660. I called Alfa Aesar a few minutes ago and they will look for a spec sheet on the metal but they said the lot number was old and they probably would NOT have the data. I do have plenty of the metal left for analysis, so if purity becomes an issue then we could have it analyzed by a recognized lab.  

I think that the most sensitive method of testing for an alpha emitter of a surface is detection of alpha particles. A negative outcome from our "thin source” test, already described above, would be a definitive proof of “no contamination.” Revisit this page on November 14 to see how many tracks were found on the CR-39 exposed to the suspected Pd-613 surface for one month. It should be close to 500,000, if uranium is responsible. I would be nearly certain of contamination in such case; to be 100% certain one must show that the energy spectrum of particles matches the known spectrum of uranium. We will see.

One possibility of contamination has been ignored so far. How can you be sure, a person with a healthy dose of skepticism might ask, that the Cr-39 used was not contaminated? My answer would be “all seven pieces of CR-39 were cut from one larger piece. Why would only one of them be contaminated?” But once again, this argument belongs to logic; my answer should be based on a test. Perhaps the contamination took place after the original piece was cut. Here is what I am going to do, right now. I will expose the CR-39 surface, that produced tracks shown in Figure 2, to a fresh CR-39 detector. If the surface is contaminated then the fresh detector will show tracks resulting from contamination. The result will also be shown here on November 14; please revisit. I know that I will embarrassed if contamination is found. It would be a lesson; one should not claim anything important without conducting all the necessary tests. But not announcing a tentative conclusion would deprive me of readers’ constructive comments.

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