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314) CMNS Research in the US Navy Lab

Ludwik Kowalski; 11/11/2006
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

1) This unit is prompted by what has just been published by Steven Krivit. He is a journalist who follows CMNS developments and writes about them in the online magazine called New Energy < >. He also wrote a book devoted to the controversial CMNS field. That book, by the way, can be ordered from the above website. Before reading beyond this introduction, please go to

and click the link to item #7, entitled “Extraordinary Evidence.” Read the item carefully and then read my comments below. I do not want to repeat what has already been described on the above webpage; I only want to share some observations.

2) Yesterday, in a personal message to me, Steven wrote: “The field of low energy nuclear reactions, historically known as cold fusion, has never had simple physical evidence of the claimed nuclear processes to physically place in the hands of doubters.   Until now.  Scientists at the U.S. Navy’s San Diego SPAWAR Systems Center have produced something unique in the 17-year history of the scientific drama historically known as cold fusion: simple, portable, highly repeatable, unambiguous, and permanent physical evidence of nuclear events using detectors that have a long track record of reliability and acceptance among nuclear physicists. Using a unique experimental method called co-deposition, combined with the application of external electric and magnetic fields, and recording the results with standard nuclear-industry detectors, researchers have produced what may be the most convincing evidence yet in the pursuit of proof of low energy nuclear reactions. “

3) Naturally, I was not the only one to read about Steve’s journalistic description of the work in San Diego. The publication was announced on the selected list for CMNS researchers. A scientific paper describing the results was submitted to a refereed journal in September; I hope it will not be rejected. On the same day the following message ws posted by another CMNS researcher, Scott Little. He wrote: “Ludwik, you have considerable experience with CR-39.  What is the possibility that these results, despite the controls that have been  run, are due to some sort of chemical/electrical/physical interaction  and not energetic particles?” Responding to this I wrote:

“Scott, I am glad you asked. As it turns out, in the last several days I was trying to answer the very same question about the new results of Richard Oriani. Last summer he sent me the unpublished paper describing the results. I am considering a possibility of working with Richard again, in the near future. With his permission I am happy to summarize the results. The bottom line is that, according to Oriani, nickel cathodes, after being used in a simple electrolytic cell, emit nuclear particles. His average result for used cathodes, from 32 experiments, was 89 tracks per cm^2  while his average result for virgin cathodes, from 24 experiments, was 20 tracks/cm^2. The electrolysis times and CR-39 exposure times (after cathodes were removed the cell) fluctuated between 2 and 4 days. For the purpose of statistical analysis I assumed that the average electrolysis time was 3 days while the average CR-39 exposure time was 2.5 days.

Richard, please confirm that this is correct, or give me correct times. Actually, the number of post-electrolysis experiments was larger than 32. But I eliminated the Pd cathodes results and one result for the Ni (because the electrolysis time was only 1 day). These eliminated cases were not significantly different from the 32 cases I analyzed statistically. But why should a statistical analysis be done on a mixture of very different cases? I also eliminated one extraordinary case in which the track density, from the used Ni cathode, was about 300 per cm^2. Yes, I know that this might turn out to be the most important case. But textbooks tell us to examine distributions before analyzing them, and to extract outliers. That is why the most favorable case was removed. I wanted to follow a standard statistical protocol. The so-called "null hypothesis" was that two slightly overlapping distributions (32 results 24 controls) were from the same population. The alternate hypothesis, that two distributions are really different, prevailed. My conclusion agrees with what Richard wrote in the draft -- the probability is vanishingly small that the difference 89 and 20 is coincidental. Yes, standard deviations are large, but they were calculated from Richard's data. In other words, random errors were realistically accounted for, to reach the conclusion.

I will provide more details about what I did in another message. And I hope Richard will tell us what the current status of his manuscript is. We are anticipating an experiment in which the CR-39 results will be compared with results obtained by using a silicon detector. The major technical difficulty will the very low counting rate, perhaps only two or three particles per hour. This is slightly above what is said to be possible with a commercially available unit from Erotic. Being an optimist I expect the background to be below 0.5 per hour, when the detection threshold is increased, for example to 4 MeV. Is this realistic? The advantage of using CR-39 is that it allows to work at much lower average counting rates, provided pre-counted CR-39 chips are used, as done by Oriani. . . .

The advantage of an electronic detector is that it will give energies of particles responsible for CR-39 tracks. Just imagine what one would be able to say if the energies turned out to be higher than 8 MeV. That would immediately rule out a possibility that what is being detected is due natural alpha radioactivity of something in our environment. On the other extreme, one may find that the energy histogram is consistent with energies for Rn etc. That would cause us to focus on a possibility of contamination. Another great advantage of electronic detection would be an opportunity to study the time dependance of counting rates. Do they decrease significantly from day to day or do they remain constant? . .

Here are actual Oriani’s results;

1) Controls, CR-39 chips, exposure 2 to 3 days

18,15,39,23,45,21,27,0,10 0,22 26,36,22,34,14,10,17,10,25,16,21,24,12
24 results, mean value=20.3; standard deviation=11.1

2) Used Ni cathodes, CR-39 chips, exposure 2 to 3 days

145,128,116,149,133, 145,63,45,66,118,69,96,180,127,84,115,57,79,65, 71,74,71,41,66,43,81,71,53,56,69,99,80
32 results, mean value=89.2; standard deviation=35.8

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

This is the end of my introduction.
Please go to the “Extraordinary Evidence” item now, and read it before
reading what I have to say.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Appended on 11/15/06:
The ongoing Internet discussion of SPAWAR results, on our restricted list, is going on. I was reading numerous messages and thinking about the best way to summarize them here. Meanwhile, Pamela Boss, who leads the SPAWAR project, wrote to me in private: ". . . Once we've got this Q&A to a mutually satisfying place, we'll review the verbiage and get you a cleaned up version that we feel comfortable with you posting very soon." That is great; what could be better than this? Please read her input below before jumping to my closing comments.

Appended on 11/19/06:
I sort of expected to receive pieces from Pamela and from Steve during this weekend. But nothing was sent to me. I suppose Pamela is very busy with the ongoing experiments. So I should wait. Meanwhile I started speculating about the Frapa -Stanila effect discovered in San Diego. The suggested name seems to be appropriate; it is made from first names of four SPAWAR researchers: Frank, Pamela, Stanislaw and Larry, in the order in which they were introduced in Kriven’s report. This temporary name has some melody; perhaps it is appropriate for a folk dance to be created to celebrate the 2006 discovery. But what if Frapa-Stanila refers to something bad or impollite in another language? In that case another name would have to be composed. Why don't I say SPAWAR effect ? Because when I tried to guess what the acronym stands for, the first words that came to my mind were "spaying" and "war." I prefer something more pleasant, for example, an Italian dance, Tarantella. But I will be glad to use the name chosen by those who discovered the effect.

Appended on 11/20/06:
Something interesting was posted this morning on the CMNS list by Krivit. He wants the replications of the Frapa-Stanila effect to be organized and coordinated. The first step, labeled alpha; is to have the effect replicated by selected electrochemists. The second step, labeled beta, will be based by the detailed protocole written by the SPAWAR team and refined by alpha group. Anyone willing to be part of the beta project will receive the protocole. This was described in:

I would not mind to participate in the beta phase; but not before confirmations are announced in the alpha phase. The idea of coordinating efforts of several teams, working on the same project at the same time, is worth supporting. Will researchers outside the CMNS list, for example, teachers and students, by invited to participate in the beta phase? I hope so.

Appended on 11/22/06:
What follow is a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Frapa-Stanila effect. It has just be posted by the New Energy Institute,

I expect the FAQ list, grabbed from

to become longer. Keep in mind that the author, Steven Krivit, is a journalist, who has learned a lot about science since he started investigating cold fusion (the new name is CMNS) several years ago. It would not surprise me to learn that the piece pasted below was actually approved by scientists who are investigating the new effect. Steven assumes that readers are already familiar with his article, "Extraordinary Evidence," published in New Energy Times on Nov. 10, 2006 It is item #7 in:

Q1. Did the researchers consider possible sources of contamination?

A1. The SPAWAR team performed a number of controls that indicated that their observations were not the result of radioactive atoms in the solution.

(a) For example, they immersed a CR-39 detector in the co-deposition solution without performing electrolysis. The detector was immersed for the same amount of time as for their electrolysis experiments. The result was that no tracks were observed on the detector.

(b) They performed electrolysis experiments without the PdCl2 in the solution. Result: No tracks were observed.

(c) They performed co-deposition experiments, in the absence of external electric or magnetic fields. Result: No tracks were observed.

With regard to possible radiological contamination, although CR-39 background studies continue at SPAWAR, the reported CR-39 charged particle density is more than 10,000 times the background track count.

If the tracks are caused by alpha or proton emission, as proposed by the researchers, then this indicates energy levels 1 million times larger than any known chemical source. The absence of tracks, as shown in the control studies performed without the required parameters, rules out internal chemical, and both internal and external radiological, cell contamination as the track source.

Q2. Are the researchers claiming that this is proof of cold fusion?

A2. No. They make no claims of any form of fusion reaction with regard to this experiment. Instead, the evidence reported is suggested as a novel, anomalous low energy nuclear reaction.

Q3. Did the researchers measure heat?

A3. No attempt was made to measure heat in this experiment, it was not a concern of the researchers at the time.

Q4. Di-alkyl carbonate polymers will decompose in the presence of a acid, and especially acid + heat to form lower molecular weight species + CO2. The acid-degraded lower molecular weight chains become carboxylic acid terminated, and hence are soluble in aqueous base, and can be extracted from the polymer matrix. This could give the appearance of pits (as seen in this article). Could the CR-39 plastic have degraded due to heat, and thus become soluble in the aqueous base development step, and thus be the result of a chemical, not a nuclear reaction?

A4. SPAWAR researchers reply: "Each of the wires Au, Ag, and Pt were at the same potential of approximately 2 V or less, and the current was approximately 100 mA or less. It was observed that the number of charged particles varied among the wires, but there was a distinct "shadow" corresponding with the back side of the wires closest to, and in contact with, the CR-39. This “region,” without tracks, directly behind the wire constitutes an insitu “control.” If the proposed localized heating is a function of joule heating, the heat conductivity of the various metals is sufficient to prevent local hot spots against the CR-39. If the proposed localized heating is a function of simply D2O dissociation and Pd loading during, or subsequent to, co-deposition and even if anisotrophic, again, the heat conductivity of the various metals is sufficient to prevent local hot spots against the CR-39. Therefore, if the purported catalytic effect causing depolymerization of the CR-39 was occurring, then it should have occurred directly behind the wire in closest contact with the CR-39. It did not.

In addition, we observed tracks at distances exceeding the diameter of the wire and extending over 1 mm, where there was no contact between the wire and the CR-39. Thus, there was not opportunity for exothermic, Pd-loading generated heat or joule heating to provide the catalytic heating required to depolymerize the CR-39, whether or not a localized low low pH or insitu acid contamination exists.

I know that the authors are still deeply involved in studying the Frapa-Stanila effect, and in revising the initial manuscript. Their paper will probably be published in two or three months. That would be the best time to ask for additional questions. Their argument (c), against a possibility that tracks might be due to alpha-radioactive substances accumulating on the cathode, is very convincing. But if I were a referee of their paper, I would insist on measuring and reporting activities of alpha-radioactive substances in the used materials. Such activities, or upper limits, can easily be measured by using CR-39 detectors.

The most likely source, in my mind, would be water. i know that alpha radioactive substances, such as uranium, radium, radon, etc., are always present in water. Typical concentrations are 1 to 10 pCi/L, but sometimes much more. Suppose that only 222Rn is present and that its initial concentration is 10 pCi/L. How many alpha particles is emitted each hour? (Hint: One Ci emits 37 billion particles per second.) The answer is 133 particles. How many atoms of 222Rn are initially present in the 0.1 l of water? (Hint: The half-life of 222Rn is 3.8 days.) The answer is 17700 atoms. Suppose all these atoms are rapidly electroplated on the cathode and decay there during a 10-days long experiment. Also suppose that 10% of alpha particles are creating tracks in CR-39 detectors. How many tracks will be recorded? The answer is trivial; it amounts to 1770 tracks.

If the same activity of 10 pCi/L was due to 226Ra, (half-life is 1620 years) then the number of atoms would be much larger. Only a very small fraction of them would produce tracks. The number of tracks, however, would be larger, but not astronomically larger, under identical conditions. More specifically, 133 particles per hour translates into 31920 particles in ten days. Ten percent of this is 3192, or about two times more than for 222Rn . The same result would be obtained for any alpha-radioactive isotopes whose half-life is significantly longer than the duration of the experiment. This includes 238U, 235U, 232Th, etc. etc. Naturally, all this would become irrelevant if the initial activity in the electrolyte was shown to be less than 0.001 pCi/L; I do not know what to expect from distilled, or twice-distilled water. Naturally, all this would become irrelevant if the initial activity in the electrolyte was shown to be less than 0.001 pCi/L; I do not know what to expect from distilled, or twice distilled water.

The reader of a paper should be informed about the initial concentration of alpha radioactivity (pCi/L) in order to be even more convinced that tracks are not due to alpha radioactive substances originally present in the electrolyte. The claimed effect -- a nuclear process triggered by a chemical process -- is so unexpected, according what is known, that a reader (and a referee whose role is to help potential readers) is likely to think about various artifacts. What if electric or magnetic field, imposed from the outside the cell, simply deflect the ions that would otherwise be deposited on the cathode? It is not hard, for a knowledgeable person, to invert scenarios in which observed effects are trivialized, in one way or another. The authors of claims must try to anticipate such attempts and address the issues.

This is very difficult when one has no theory to lean on. Nothing makes sense without an acceptable theory. And experimental results that make no sense are very difficult to promote. I am convinced that experimental facts will be explained, one way or another, in less than one year, after experiments become reproducible on demand. This will be accomplished in small steps, by changing one parameter after another and by discussing the results openly. That is the essence of scientific methodology. Secrecy does not help to promote science.

Appended on 11/24/06:
The New Energy report contains references to papers already published by San Diego team. The authors have investigated several indicators of nuclear activities before focusing on the use of CR-39. One of these papers (3), by Stanislaw Szpk, Pamela A Mosier Boss, Charles Young and Frank Gordon, describes morphological changes in the cathode and production of new elements in presence of an external electrostatic field. After a brief historical introduction the authors mention co-deposited Pd/D electrodes and external electrostatic field. These are essential components of the methodology they used to discover massive tracks in CR-39. I suppose that present setup does not differ drastically from the one used before.

The rectangular cell (2 by 2 by 8 cm) was made from acrylic -- 8 cm refers to the height. The cathode was gold while the anode was platinum. The electrolyte was 0.03M PdCl2 + 0.3M LiCl in D2. Each experiment was perform in three stages, as specified below:

(a) Preparation: Current 1 mA for 24 hours. Then raising it to 3 mA and waiting till the electrolyte becomes transparent.

(b) Stabilization: Raising the current to about 40 mA for 2-3 hours.

(c) Exposure: Applying the constant difference of potential, 6000 V, to two parallel copper plates glued to outside walls. The anode and the cathode plates were parallel to the cell bottom. The current was raised to 100 mA and above. To explain this the authors wanted the system to be “in far-from-equilibrium condition.” After 48 hours the current was turned off and the cathode was examined. Exposure to external electric field was reported to be responsible for dramatic morphological and chemical changes on cathode surfaces. It is now easy to understand motivation for placing detectors of nuclear particles near the cathode in recent experiments.

It would be interesting to known if similar experiments were performed with the electrolyte based on ordinary water, rather than based on much more expensive heavy water. Note the Oriani effects were discovery with the electrolyte made from ordinary water. I am thinking for experiments to be performed by students and teachers.

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