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254) Excess energy; progress report

Ludwik Kowalski (9/6/05)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

1) In this unit I plan to write about reports, comments and reflections related to the project described in the unit #252. Two discussion lists were used to announce the initiative: PHYS-L (~200 subscribers, mostly physics teachers) and CMNS (~ 150 subscribers, members of the International Society of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science). Most members of that society either conduct or conducted research in three areas of CMNS: cold fusion (CF), cold transmutations (CT) and excess energy (EE). Except for myself (LK), I will refer to authors of comments as either T (teachers), S (students) or R (CMNS researchers).

2) Here is the first message on PHYS-L; it was posted by me yesterday.
Dear colleagues: Please read what has just been posted at my website as:

It is an invitation to participate in a collective student-oriented project. The idea of turning what I wanted to do into a collective Internet project was prompted by the ongoing debate about scientific methodologies. Give your students a chance to participate in a research project they can easily understand.

3) Here is the first message on CMNS; it was also posted by me yesterday.
The following has just been posted on a discussion list for science teachers (PHYS-L): . . . [see item 2 above]. I would also like to reach people who are not on the PHYS-L list. Some of you might know teachers who are qualified to participate in this research project. If so then share the above URL, and my e-mail address, with them. By the way, it would be great if you could assist them. Please comment on the idea of organizing easy-to-set-up Internet-based CMNS projects.

4) So far I had only one person commitment. A physics professor T1 wrote:
“We would like to participate. One or more students from my experimental physics class (senior physics majors) will set up and perform the experiment. Thanks for the opportunity.”

5) Several interesting comments were made on the CMNS list. Here are extracts from their messages:

R1: “. . . I do not think experiments of this nature will produce definitive evidence, and I doubt it will change the minds of any of the professional skeptics. I expect this work will be like the experiments conducted by high school students working with John Dash: interesting, worthwhile, thought-provoking, but not fully convincing. The students are smart cookies and they deserve an A for effort. The experiments are excellent publicity for cold fusion. They attract young people, which the field desperately needs. But most researchers I have spoken with feel that the instruments are too crude to be convincing. . . . I hope that some of the leading researchers in the field, such as McKubre, Storms, Dash and Mizuno, will lend a hand and offer advice directly to the participants.”

R2: (who was not able to confirm excess heat in similar experiments): “ . . . I applaud the idea of making the experiments public via the Internet.  I think it will go a long way towards getting to the bottom of this particular phenomenon. As you can see from our 'Experiments" pages [several links were provided] . . . ....we have tried a variety of closely-related experiments and never observed the excess heat reported by other investigators. . . . Since the heat output is relatively easy to measure in these experiments (especially in the Clauzon embodiment), this means there is a high probability that the other investigators are either getting real excess heat or mis-measuring the electrical input power.  Due to the highly erratic nature of the current flowing in this experiment, the latter is a very real possibility.

I therefore urge all participants in this experiment to focus on the accuracy of their electrical input power measurement.  In lieu of purchasing an expensive power analyzer (such as our Clarke-Hess 2330), experimenters should consider using an ordinary residential watt-hour meter (readily available on Ebay for ~$25).  The smaller of these meters have low Kh values (watt-hours per revolution of the dial) and finely graduated dials so they can be used to measure pretty low energy values accurately.   For example, half a revolution on a Kh=1.8 meter, would be 0.9 watt-hours or 3240 joules, which is the energy delivered by a 324 watt source in 10 seconds -- this is well within the range of interest in this experiment.

I look forward to seeing the results of these experiments.  Because of our history with this experiment we will wait and see how things turn out....for now.  If several groups obtain positive excess heat results and double-check their electrical measurements, naturally we will drop everything and join the party immediately.”

R3: “. . . The discrepancy between Mizuno's results and Little's are a mystery. I do not think progress toward resolving this mystery will be made until Little and Mizuno spend several weeks working together, perhaps using some of both sets of instruments. Mizuno reportedly has a great deal more space these days in his new lab, so it should be easier to work with him. . . .”

R4:” LK asked: ‘Can a chemist tell me how much thermal energy is released when one gram of tungsten is totally oxidized. A sentence or two explaining the calculation would also be appreciated. Quick and dirty reply, W has an atomic mass of about 184 so 1 gram is 1/184 moles or about 0.0054 moles. Assuming it goes to WO2 with O2 that is about 140 Kcals /mole. That is about 0.76Kcals.”

LK: “Thanks. That translates into 3181 joules. Dividing this by 300 s (for a 5 min. test) one gets only a 10 W contribution to excess power. According to Clauzon, experimentally measured excess powers are often higher than 100 W. To explain 100 W one would have to assume that 10 grams of tungsten "fuel" is consumed in 5 minutes. That is about 0.5 cc. I do not know by how much the mass of the cathode was reduced in experiments in which excess power was 100 W. I suspect it is no more than 2 or 3 grams; but that is only a guess based on what I know.”

R4: “If I understand correctly, tungsten is the cathode where hydrogen is produced, not oxygen. Therefore, the tungsten can not oxidize. Loss of material from the cathode is caused by other reactions including vaporization when a plasma is used.”

R3: “Yes, but LK asked about one gram of tungsten being totally oxidized. It may or may not be in an electrolytic system. The W may or may not be a cathode since some of these are run with AC. “

R4: “True, but this is an important fact anyway. In addition, if W is run as the anode, it quickly oxidizes and disappears. Use of AC gives some protection because the oxygen activity at the anode does not get as high as would when using DC.”

LK: “R4 makes a good point that oxidation of tungsten is probably not the main cause of its gradual consumption. I was thinking about the worst possible scenario. Even with that scenario the reported excess power is too high to be due to chemistry. . . . “

R2: “ . . . The formation of tungstic acid is exothermic and yields 270.5 kilocalories/mole....BUT, the dissociation of 4 moles of H2O into the H2 and O2 needed for the formation of H2WO4 is endothermic and requires 4 x 68.3 = 273 almost perfect cancellation.”

R4: “T2, I suggest the H2WO4 was not made by electrolysis but by hot W reacting with steam in the bubbles. Of course, this would produce energy and extra hydrogen, but not from the electrolytic process. The electrolytic process is too reducing at the cathode for H2WO4 to form - a small point that might help clarify thinking about the process.”

R2: “I don't see the "produce energy" part. It looks like a slightly endothermic reaction to me 270.5 kC/mole for the formation of H2WO4 but it costs 273.2 kC to get the 4H2O dissociated into H2 and O2. Net heat of formation under these circumstances: -2.8 kC/mole (here the minus sign signifies the reaction consumes this energy....not releases this energy. Yes, I know that's contrary to conventional heat of formation sign conventions but I'm a physicist not a chemist...:).”

R4: “I don't have the numbers handy, R2, but this reaction would only go above about 1000° C. Are your heat values for this temperature. Such a temperature would be expected to occur for brief times on the surface of the tungsten in contact with the plasma. In any case, such a reaction would not go unless it is exothermic.”

6) I see three very distinct aspects in this project. First is to ether confirm or contradict experimental facts reported in the French paper. Is it true that less electric power is used to evaporate a given amount of water in five minutes via high voltage electrolysis than via ohmic heating? In other words, is it true that the experimental data points (rate evaporation versus electric power, as in Figure 1) from high voltage electrolysis can be located above the data points from ohmic heating? The second aspect is to interpret experimental results, after they are recognized as valid. Can the difference between the two sets of experimental data be explained in terms of well known chemical processes or not?

The first task is relatively simple; both physicists and chemists are trained to deal with it. The second task seems to be much more complicated because it calls for the expertise in analytical chemistry. All major chemical reactions, taking place during the high voltage electrolysis, must be recognized and their thermal outputs must be calculated from enthalpy tables. If the existence of excess energy is confirmed, and if that energy cannot be attributed to known chemical reactions, then the situation is really abnormal and worth of additional investigations. The third task would consist of numerous projects designed to identify the abnormal phenomenon, to explain it in terms what is known, and to explore possibilities of practical applications. One particular “abnormal” phenomenon comes to my mind -- I am thinking about the first transformer. An electric current was discovered (Faraday, 1830’s) in a circuit not connected to a battery.

Appended on 9/1/05:

7) This is my reply, posted on the CMNS list, to what R2 wrote yesterday, about kWh measurements. “Commercial kWh meters are probably designed to operate when volts and amps change sinusoidally. The high voltage electrolysis cell is an arcing and sparking load. Therefore the instrument must be calibrated; otherwise honest skeptics will have good reason not to take the reported excess heat seriously. Please comment on the following way of calibration (or suggest a better way).

A small cell with a cold electrolyte is immersed into a high school calorimeter (a double-wall aluminum cup) and the high voltage is applied to electrodes. The electric energy, taken from the a.c. 110 V outlet, flows through the kWh meter to the HV power supply and then to the cell. That is the anticipated setup. At time zero the switch is turned on to start arcing and sparking. The switch is turned off when the temperature of the electrolyte becomes, for example, 60 C, as monitored with a thermister. Then the kWh are recorded. The amount of heat received by the calorimeter is calculated (from the change of its temperature, the amount of water in it, etc.) The kWh meter can probably be trusted to measure the energy needed to operate the power supply when the load is disconnected.

Suppose that the electric energy needed in two minutes, when the load is disconnected, is 1 kJ. Also suppose that during two minutes of arcing and sparking the measured electric energy was 36 kJ (10 kWh). That would indicate the net electric energy of 35 kWh. Suppose that the calorimeter shows that ~35 kJ of thermal energy was delivered to the cell at the same time. That would mean that the kWh recorded by the electric instrument are reliable. On the other hand, suppose that the thermal energy delivered to the calorimeter was found to be 20 kJ. That would indicate a correction factor of 35/20=1.75. That factor would have to be used to convert the kWh read by the electric instrument into true input energy. The accuracy of measuring thermal energy with a high school calorimeter is not great (~5%) if one is careful. But such instruments are probably sufficient to avoid larger calibration errors.”
As I read my own message, thinking critically, I see need to specify that electrodes used to calibrate the kWh meter should be nonmetallic, for example, carbon rods. Why is this important? Because a metallic cathode, especially Pd, is believed to promote releases of thermal energy from nuclear reactions. My anticipated method of calibration is based on the assumption that thermal energy and electric energy are equal (during a given time interval). Is this an acceptable assumption when carbon electrodes are used? If not then a better way of calibration is needed. Do you agree that the recalibration of a commercial energy-meter is essential when the load is an arc or glow discharge?

This is not the whole story, unless the cell was sealed (to be totally immersed inside the calorimeter), and contained a recombiner of hydrogen and oxygen. Without the recombiner chemical energy produced (formation of hydrogen and oxygen from water during the electrolysis), would have to be added to the reading of the calorimeter. Like heat, chemical energy, produced during the calibration, comes from electric energy.

How much chemical energy is produced in 5 minutes when the electric current is 2 A? The total charge is 2*5*60=600 C. According to Faraday Law 96500 C will produce one mole of atomic hydrogen. This in turn becomes 1/2 mole of molecular hydrogen (one gram of H2). The heat of combustion of hydrogen is 143 kJ/gram. In other words, production 1 gram of H2 fuel, via electrolysis, will use the electric charge of 96500 C to store 143,000 J of energy. This translates into 1.48 joules of excess energy per coulomb. Mizuno called it “heat of formation.” For I=2 A and t=5 min the charge is 2*5*60=600 C. The corresponding chemical energy is 1.48*600=889 J, or nearly 0.9kJ. This is about 1% of the excess energy reported by Clauzon and his colleagues. In other words, excess heat would not increase significantly if production of chemical energy was taken under consideration. But the total immersion of the calibration cell, in the high school calorimeter, is important, as in bomb calorimeters used to rate bread, butter, sugar, potatoes, etc.

R2: “I suggest we use a residential watt-hour meter for one of the instruments and a pair of DMM's for the other instrument. One DMM [digital multi meter] can measure the voltage across the cell and the other, perhaps with some filtering, can register the average current through the cell. Since the average cell current often changes significantly throughout a run (due to erosion of the cathode), the experimentalist will have to discipline themselves to record voltage and current at regular intervals throughout the run and then add up the total energy delivered. BTW, residential watt-hour meters can handle significantly non-sinusoidal waveforms. They must do so in order to accurately meter the electrical energy consumed by motors, light dimmers, etc.

R4: “
Carbon is not good, LK, because CO is made at the anode and CH4 is formed at the cathode, thereby contributing extra chemical energy. Clean Pt is the best material for both electrodes.”

LK: “Pt is in the same group as Ni and Pd. But I will take your advice, R4. By the way, those who are very skeptical about CMNS phenomena will not object to the calibration on the basis that "nuclear energy might possibly be released on the metallic surface." They think that this is impossible. To convince myself (that calibration is correct) is much more difficult. I agree with R2 that the level of confidence will go up when several methods of calibration give nearly the same result. . . . Something has to be trusted as one goes from what is known to what in not known.”

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