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240) Helium is produced in spent CF cathodes
Ludwik Kowalski (15/7/05)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043
Searching for something else over the Internet I discovered an interesting paper published in 2002 by Robert Bass. That paper, a file in the
pdf format, is automatically downloaded, as a pdf file, when one clicks on the first link that appears after the following URL is specified
in the browser.
The title of the paper is Five frozen needles CF protocol; it appeared in Journal of New Energy, 2002. 6(2): p. 30. The
protocol is designed for a layman who, presented with data, would be convinced, with 95% certainty, than helium is produced in a cathode during
the electrolysis (in a Fleischmann type cell). In the last paragraph Bass wrote: I showed my one-page proof to an internationally reputable
expert in Statistics and he agreed that it was correct and said that if the experiment turns out as I predict then he will give me a
Certificate that the Confidence Level is that asserted and be willing to testify in Court as an Expert Witness that according to accepted
principles of Statistics the preceding protocol is definitive as stated.
The emphasis in the paper is on statistics. But experimental details for the proposed experiments are worth paying attention to. The
difficulties, as we know, are often in details. I see no evidence that the experiment has been actually performed by the author. Here
is what would be required:
1) Having a strip-shaped cathode of cold-fusion-suitable Palladium. As emphasized by Bass, recognizing suitable cathode material is not a
2) Loading the strip with deuterium up to a level of about one atom of 2H per one atom of Pd. This task is also not trivial.
Quoting E. Storms Bass lists four methods of measuring 2He/Pd ratios.
3) Keeping the foil at the liquid air temperature till five main experiments can be performed (to minimize losses of 2H due to
4) The foil should be cut into five narrow strips, called needles. These needles should then be used in five nearly identical experiments
(k=0, 1, 2, 3 and 4). The only difference between the experiments is duration of electrolysis, tk=k*T. If T=2 hrs, for example,
then the durations of consecutive experiments, would be 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 hours. The difference of potential between the electrodes should be
17.7 volts (I do not know why) and the current should be kept constant. The k=0 experiment would be a control.
5) All five cathodes should be sent to a laboratory specializing in measurements of the amounts of helium, Ak. Using the
results -- A0, A1, A2, A3, and A4 -- one would calculate statistical parameters defined
by Bass. Unfortunately, I am lost in the conclusive part of the paper. And I am puzzled by the fact that random errors, associated with
individual Ak, are not being used in the analysis. Plotting Ak versus tk, and showing the bars of Ak
errors, is likely to be more convincing. I saw that kind of a plot in several cold fusion reports; the most recent was a paper describing a
real experiment performed by Russ George.
The issue that Russ had to address was presence of helium in air. The challenge was to show that helium from air, or from something else, was not
confused with helium from nuclear reactions in the cathode. Those who remember the 1989 DOE report know that absence of nuclear ashes (such
as He), in the amounts commensurate with the amount of excess heat, was one of the decisive arguments against the claim of Pons and Fleischmann.
The topic was discussed by pannelists of the second DOE report, several months ago. This time some of them were convinced that generation of
He in cold fusion experiments is real.
Appended on 7/18/05:
The protocol described by Bass should not be viewed as applicable only to generation of helium. But the title of this unitis
is Production of helium. It is therefore appropriate to quote what Michael McKubbre wrote on that subject meny years
ago. His paper on the subject is in the compilation of articles publishe in Infinite Energy. That compilation, a file named
samplearticle.pdf, can be downloaded from <www.infinite-energy.com>. The method used by McKubre was not electrolytic;
generation of 4He was reported to occur in foils that were kept in a vessel filled with duterium
(at high temperature and pressure). Here is the quotation:
. . . we submit a sample of gas from each of the cells for analysis to the mass spectrometer, a high-resolving,
low-mass mass spectrometer. Were capable of separating the two masses of species, deuterium 2D
and 4He. . . . On the monitor you see displayed, in fact, the mass spectrum from one of these samples. This is a
relatively high level of helium-4. The peak here is the helium-4 peak, the deuterium peak would normally appear here; its
completely absent. This particular example shows 10.5 ppm helium. We compare the samples each day that we perform the analysis, we
compare the samples of gas from the various active cells and blanks with a sample of room air, which we have measured many, many
times and know to be 5.22 ppm. And we have some standards, which we typically usethat is, gas samples of helium in deuterium
and argon which we submit to the mass spectrometer for the purpose of calibration.
The mass spectrometer simply sweeps a mass from low mass to high mass, in this case from 3.96 mass units to 4.06 mass units, which
encompasses the range in which helium is to be found. In fact, this peak is helium, and deuterium D2 is to be found which will be
found somewhere in this region. We use a liquid nitrogen cooled carbon trap in order to remove D2 so that were able to see
quite low levels of helium. Were accurate to probably 0.1 ppm helium and we can clearly resolve the presence of
2D and 4He. This spectrum is, in fact, the sum of a number of spectra that the mass
spectrometer simply sweeps for the period of time that we pre-program, and this is the cumulative signal representing the integral
of all helium which was present in the sample when we submitted it for analysis. To acquire this spectrum takes us about five minutes.
Its clearly not possible to produce helium from a chemical process. If we observe helium in our experiments its either
because it leaked in from the atmospherewe can rule that out by the blanks that we do and the fact that the helium signal that
we have seen is larger than the helium in the ambient. Its possible that the helium pre-existed in the sample and was simply
released to the gas phase with long term exposure. We can rule that out largely because weve analyzed the catalyst that
were using and found that it contains no measurable levels of helium. The only possibility that remains, and remains to be
checked, is that the helium is produced by a nuclear process. If the helium is produced by a nuclear process, then necessarily there
will be an associated release of heat. . . .
Recognizing the major problem in the entire cold fusion field McKubre wrote: One of the difficulties in the cold fusion
field is the apparent apparent lack of replicability of experiments: many people performing the same
experiment get apparently different results; different experiments performed in the same laboratory give apparently different results. So its
obvious that if you do the same thing you must always get the same result. What this is telling us is that there are some important parameters of
our experiments that are not under our control. Some of them I know and understand, and still [we] cant control some of these parameters we don't
know about yet. We just dont know what the process is that we are studying, so we dont know what parameters we need to control in order
to yield a consistent result. An experiment which always gives the same result --can be performed in several different laboratories to yield the same
result--would be very valuable to us, in part in helping to convince the remaining skeptical scientists in the world that there is a phenomenon to
observe. But, in fact, in order to use the scientific method to observe scientific results, we have to be able to reproduce the results of our own
experiments so that we can see what the effects of small changes are on these experiments.
One experiment which has been reported to produce consistent and reproducible results is that of Professors Arata and Zhang, both of them are
very, very experienced and very well recognized scientists in Japan. They performed a very careful experiment, reproduced it apparently a number
of times in their own laboratoryproducing both anomalous excess heat in fairly significant levels and helium-4 and, perhaps more interestingly,
helium-3. The helium-3 to helium-4 ratio that they observed in their experiments is different from that in the air that we're breathing. Sufficiently
different to indicate that there is clearly an anomalous nuclear reaction occurring. The difficulty with Arata and Zhangs experiment is that
its only been performed by them and only in their laboratory. What were attempting to do here is to produce their same results with
their apparatus and with their help. This is a collaborative effort between Arata and Zhang and the SRI group, to produce in our laboratory
the same results as they have obtained repeatedly over the years, which would indicate that we have
some degree of mastery over the experiment.
The experiment that we have running here, in fact, is relatively young; it hasnt been operating for very long. One of the difficulties with
Aratas experiment is that it requires many, many months to produce a result, and quite literally were not very experienced with Aratas
methods, so weve had some difficulty getting his experiment set up and operational. Certainly, its caused me to have an increased level
of respect for Arata and Zhangs technical competence. They are very, very good scientists. Within a month or two, we hope to have reproduced
their experiment faithfully and reproduced their result.
It should be clear that factors mentioned by McKubre are not at all addressed in the statistical protocol described by Bass. His protocol
was not designed to deal with systematic errors; it was designed for experiments in which all uncertainties are due random fluctuations about mean
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