273) A note on microbial transmutation

Ludwik Kowalski (11/29/05)

Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey

One of the fields of CMNS (Condensed Matter Nuclear Science) is CT (Cold Transmutation). And microbial induced transmutation is a small part of that field. Last year, during the ICCF12 (12th International Conference on Cold Fusion), I heard about Ukrainian - Russian experiments in that subfield. They were conducted in a laboratory near Chernobyl. Scientists from the University of Kiev and university of Moscow were able to transmute radioactive cesium - 137Cs - into nonradioactive products. Today I learned that more recent phenomena (in the same laboratory) confirmed the earlier report. Radioactive salt was dissolved in water and some kind of bacteria, highly resistant to radiation, were introduced into small (20 cc) flasks. One half of each sealed flask was filled with the solution while the other half was air.

Gamma rays emerging from the loaded flasks was observed for 100 days. During that time radioactivity was reduced, typically by 30%. The half-life of 137Cs, the most troublesome fission product, is 30 years. With the help of bacteria, according to the A.A. Kornilova and V.I. Vysockii report, that material can be eliminated much faster than by natural radioactive decay. Destroying 137Cs, and other radioactive fission products, would be a tremendous boost to nuclear electricity. The problem of storage of radioactive waste would be simplified greatly if Cs and Sr could be destroyed. According to the report, the reduction of radioactivity, measured by several large Ge detectors, could not be due to changes in the counting geometry caused by progressive redistribution of radioactivity. That was my first concern. They used several large detectors; the total solid angle was about 2*Pi.

After hearing the news I said that such important invention, if real, would be a solution of our energy dilemma. Here is how that dilemma was summarized by Dr. Akito Takahashi, the conference organizer, in the opening talk:

a) Energy is an essential component of social progress. Sustained development of the world depends on available energy.

b) Energy resources are limited. Supplies of oil will end in about 60 years. Solar energy (including wind) satisfy no more (?) than 10% of our needs. Fuel for reactors based on 235U will be exhausted in about 50 years. Fuel for breeder reactors will be also be exhausted, sooner or later.

c) Pollution, and climatic changes associated with coal, are very real. Economic developments in China and India depend mostly on burning coal.

d) Industrial hot fusion reactors will not be available for at least another 50 years.

e) Clean fusion devices, in this situation, might be the only possible short-term solution of the worldwide problems associated with energy supplies.

Future of reactor technology, in my opinion, does depend not only on availability of fuel; it also depends on social attitude of toward radioactive waste. Make your technology known to general public, I said to Alla and Vladimir, and those in charge of technological development will beg you for help. Not only would you become rich; you would be recognized as benefactors of mankind.

They smiled. They said that authorities know about their published results and that their proposals have been blocked by those whose business depends on existing technologies. I said that a way to overcome such conspiracies can be found. To convince a potential investor an inventor should also demonstrate willingness to share risks. Suppose, I said, an inventor is offering to invest 50% of his savings into a business if the big investors puts one thousand times more. Those who are able to invest big money probably need assurances that the inventor is serious.

Another thing to do, if a working microbiologic solution to the problem of radioactive waste were at hands, would be address general public. That is where a help from a journalist would be very useful. In a democratic society public opinion can become an important factor influencing what does and what does not happen. Trying to find a journalist, interested in the invention, would be an important part of my strategy. Another part of that strategy would be have a constantly-working setup. Using 137Cs radioactivity, for example, from dry mushrooms, I would start a new experiment every year (for example in a museum).

If only 70% of initial radioactivity remains in the flask after three months then the biological lifetime is about six months. This means that only 25% would remain after one year, only 6% after two years, only 0.4% after three years, etc. Fresh load of bacteria would probably have to be added each year. Such result would be very convincing. Personally I would not stop testing when only 30% of the initial radioactivity is destroyed. I would keep collecting data for two years before announcing the result. Monthly meetings to discuss the results would be organized and students from local schools, as well as scientists, would be invited. Internet summaries of results would be published periodically at my webste.

After listening to the draft of this note, and after correcting my wording in one or two places, Alla and Vladimir told me about their strategy. With help from experienced lawyers they have submitted a patent application in Russia and expect its approval early in 2006. Russian government, if I understood them correctly, will become the co-owner of the patent and will take a large fraction of potential royalties. In exchange for this the government will protect interests of inventors. Recent changes in the Russian patent law make such arrangements possible.

Neither Alla nor Vladimir are biologists; they are nuclear physicists. Alla works at the University of Moscow while Vladimir works at the university of Kiev. They do cooperate with qualified microbiologists. The biologists, however, are only technical advisers; they are not partners. In their position I would try to find a partner who is a recognized authority in the area of microbiology. With that person I would go to microbiologic conferences to address biologists, rather than physical scientists. A proposal from a recognized authority in the area of microbiology would likely to be taken more seriously (by potential investors) than a proposal from a cold fusion researcher. In the present unfortunate situation an association with cold fusion is likely to result in more harm than good. People living near Yucca Mountain, and in other areas where radioactive waste is going to be stored, would naturally become my supporters. With their help turning a working scientific solution into desirable technology would not be difficult. But I would not do anything before being 100% certain that the effect is real.

Appended on 12/1/05
Let me add what another CMNS researcher, Jean-Paul Biberian, told me about microbial induced transmutation. Jean-Paul’s laboratory is at the French University in Marseilles. He also conducted research on Microbial transmutation and is totally convinced that the phenomenon is real. I asked Jean-Paul to briefly describe his own research on biologically induced transmutations. Here is his input:

”I conducted biological transmutation experiments with seeds (wheat and oat in a sealed container containing microbes: lacto basilius and sea bacteria). Chemical compositions of material from containers with bacteria and from containers without bacteria were found to be different. No changes were observed in the homogenized material from cells without bacteria. Material in cells with bacteria, also after being homogenized, was depleted of silicon and enriched of calcium. The possible explanation is a nuclear reaction Si + C --> Ca. The growth of wheat seeds was accompanied by the decrease in the concentration of heavy metals, such as mercury and lead. Changes by the factor of nine or more were not uncommon. The homogenized material was analyzed with the ICP-AES and ICP-MS instruments.”

That is very interesting. The ICP-AES methods are used to perform elementary analysis while the ICP-MS methods are used to perform isotopic analysis. Jean-Paul did not study isotopic ratios because the cost of analyzing mass spectra are too high.
Neither the university nor the French government support cold fusion research.

Appended on 12/2/05:
What I did not know, when the above was written, was that Kornilova and Vysockii are deeply involved in the issue project. The hard to believe, issue claims are described on the company website <http://www.iesiusa.com> also (see items #216, #226, #229 and #237 on this website). Yang and Chai were present at the conference but, unfortunately, they preferred not to talk about the issue project. They were listed as coauthors of a paper presented by Vysotskii. The title of the paper was “Observation and investigation of 4He fusion and self-induced electric discharges in turbulent distilled light water.” I did not notice any information about generation of 4He. Presence of helium “substantially above the background,” was detected via optical spectroscopy. But this happened only when 11B was added to ultra-pure water circulating In the setup.

Helium is presumably produced when protons react with 11B. The origin of these protons is not clear to me. The12C compound nucleus was said to break into three alpha particles releasing 8.7 MeV of kinetic energy. Was the amount of 4He produced consistent with excess heat? This question could not be answered because investigations are in progress. But the abstract of the paper contains this sentence: “Initial calorimetric measurements indicate a significant evolution of thermal energy along with the production of helium, as expected from the mass deficit of the reaction products.”

The first author of the paper, by the way, is Koldamasov. Contrary to what I wrote in #216, that Russian researcher is not dead. In a private conversation Kornilova told me that he has some health problems. She insisted on making Kopldamasov the first author because he deserves it. Vysotskii talk followed an extremely interesting presentation made by S. Krivit. Steven was one of those who were invited to visit the company test side. As a journalist he was allowed to film the event. The film showed the apparatus being tested. It also showed Martin Fleischmann (and several other CMNS researchers) desiccating the experiment with Yang and his coworkers. Unfortunately, Steven said, the signed nondisclosure agreement does not allow him to share what else he saw and heard.

After listening to Krivit's presentation I asked about two other claims described at the company website -- generation of hydrogen and the electric generator at Norwood foundry (producing electricity at the rate of 12 MW while using it at the rate of 2 MW). Steven said that he has no permission to answer this question. At that point Yang made an interesting general comment. He said that he is not involved in commercial aspects of the project; his role is to promote technology. At the same time he made it clear that scientific work, as opposed to practical engineering, is being conducted in Russia. I was really surprised to learn that my friends Alla and Vladimir are deeply involved in that project.

Contrary to what I expected, Vysockii's talk was mostly about a “laser-like” electromagnetic radiation (X-rays and visible). The “laser-like” term, in my opinion, was not appropriate. Most people would probably think that “laser-like” means “coherent.” But no evidence of coherence was presented. High intensity, and a narrow beam diameter do not make light “laser-like.”

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