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214) That is not cold fusion!

Ludwik Kowalski (5/1/05)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

1) The following reprint was posted on Phys-L, a discussion list for physics teachers:

Observation of nuclear fusion driven by a pyroelectric crystal
B. Naranjo, J.K. Gimzewski & S. Putterman
NATURE _434_ page 1115 (28 APRIL 2005)

While progress in fusion research continues with magnetic and inertial confinement, alternative approaches such as Coulomb explosions of deuterium clusters and ultrafast laser plasma interactions also provide insight into basic processes and technological applications. However, attempts to produce fusion in a room temperature solid-state setting, including cold fusion and bubble fusion, have met with deep skepticism. Here we report that gently heating a pyroelectric crystal in a deuterated atmosphere can generate fusion under desktop conditions. The electrostatic field of the crystal is used to generate and accelerate a deuteron beam (>100 keV and 4 nA), which, upon striking a deuterated target, produces a neutron flux over 400 times the background level. The presence of neutrons from the reaction D + D ==> 3He (820 keV) + n (2.45 MeV) within the target is confirmed by pulse shape analysis and proton recoil spectroscopy. As further evidence for this fusion reaction, we use a novel time-of-flight technique to demonstrate the delayed coincidence between the outgoing a-particle and the neutron. Although the reported fusion is not useful in the power-producing sense, we anticipate that the system will find application as a simple palm-sized neutron generator.

See also:

2) Yesterday, replying to the above, I wrote: “The most interesting is generation of high potential differences by small differences in temperatures. I was familiar with piezoelectric, but not with pyroelectric, crystals.” Then I discovered that Google points to many references on that subject. One paper (see the URL below) prompted me to write the following private Email message:

“I enjoyed reading your description of the new neutron source at:

Can I have your permission to post it on my website? That website:

is devoted to cold fusion but I am sure that people interested in that controversial subject will also be interested in what you wrote. As you probably know, several years ago CF researchers were discussing high electric fields (due to + and - charges across different highly localized surface defects) as a possible cause of cold fusion.”

Here is the reply from Dr. Mike Saltmarsh:

“The copyright to my article belongs to Nature, so I'd guess that it is their permission not mine that you need. Of course you need no permission to post a reference to the article on your website. However as you are presumably are aware, the pyroelectric generator idea has absolutely nothing in common with the cold fusion furore. There is no new physics involved, indeed fusion has been produced by beam-target interactions for decades. It's easy, but regrettably useless for energy production.

Parenthetically, I was involved in the original cold fusion fiasco, and had overall charge of the effort to investigate the phenomenon at ORNL. I was absolutely stunned to find that so many apparently competent researchers seemed to suspend their critical faculties when presented with an exciting result. Do not underestimate the power of self delusion! Irreproducibility is still a key indicator of a lack of understanding.

Responding to the above, and hoping to enrich this item, I asked Mike to elaborate on the power of self-delusion. He wrote: “I don't think that I will amplify what I said before. To do justice to the topic I'd need to collect some references and do a decent job for you, and I'm not willing to put in the time right now. If you're interested, you might like to look at the history of "polywater", which caused a furore about 20(?) years ago. Or read Steven J Gould's article on the measurements of the speed of light as a function of time (I think it's in his book The Mismeasure of Man). Good luck with your website. You can quote whatever I've emailed to you.” Too bad; input from a retired national laboratory scientist, who was in the center of a recent controversy about cold fusion via ultrasounds, would be interesting.

The controversy is not over; researchers from Energetics Technologies (see item #213) did say that ultrasonic cavitation was an important factor in their excess heat experiments. The first topic on the agenda of the upcoming cold fusion workshop at MIT (May 21, 2005) is “Acoustic-induced Cold Fusion Experiments.” Russ George, who I met at ICCF11, has a website <> at which he writes that tiny-heavy-water bubbles, collapsing on metallic surfaces, cause cold fusion. Responding to the search phrase <nuclear "bubble-fusion"> Google delivered 771 references. Yes, I know that sonofusion might turn out to be hot fusion, and that it has nothing to do with the title of this unit. But the connection is obvious: from tiny bubbles to ultrasounds that produce them; from ultrasounds to piezoelectric generators, and from piezoelectricity to pyroelectricity.

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