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320) Phase 2 of Galileo Project

Ludwik Kowalski; 3/29/2007
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

1) Introduction
(written in September of 2007):
CMNS researchers are fully aware that a simple reproducible-on-demand demo of a nuclear effect, such as emission of alpha particles, caused by a chemical process would have profound effect on mainstream scientific community. The accepted point of view is that chemical processes (interactions involving valence electrons in atoms and molecules) are too weak to produce emission of nucleons, or groups of nucleons, from atomic nuclei. Yet, several researchers, such as Lipson, Jones, and Oriani, have been reporting unexpected emission of alpha particles, for many years.

About two years ago I decided to replicate Oriani’s effects. This was described in unit #192 at this website. I did observe results reported by Oriani but they were not sufficiently reproducible. Last summer I found out that Richard Oriani has a draft of an unpublished paper in which new results, confirming emission of nuclear particles, are described. The methodology used by him was essentially the same as that described in unit #192. But instead of investigating several effects he decided to focus on one effect -- emission of alpha particles from a cathode, after the end of electrolysis. Thirty seven similar experiments were performed; a typical electrolysis time was 3 days and a typical counting time was 2 days. The mean track density, attributed to nuclear particles, turned out to be 90 tracks per cm2. The standard deviation was 35; and the lowest result was 40. This was significantly higher than results from 24 control experiments, where the mean track density turned out to be 20. The standard deviation for the control samples was 11 and the lowest value was zero.

2) Inserted on 3/28/07:
Impressed by the above results, I decided to perform similar experiments. But plans changed after The Galileo Project (TGP) was organized by Steve Krivit. The Phase 1 of that project, and our contribution to it, are described in unit #319. When we were busy with the Phase 1 Oriani was performing a new sequence of experiments. The major modification, in comparison with his earlier setup, was a very thin window (5 microns of polypropylene) placed between the O rings. The cathode wire was above that window (in the electrolyte) while the CR-39 detector was below that window (in air). With this setup Oriani was able to record tracks of nuclear particles, presumably alpha particles or protons. They were emitted during the electrolysis, not after the electrolysis. The numbers of tracks on chips below the cathode were about two orders of magnitude higher than on blank chips of the same size. The photo of tracks after one of his experiments is shown in Figure 1 below.

The idea of using thin foils separating CR-39 detectors from the electrolyte has been discussed extensively on a special Internet list for TGP researchers. But Oriani was the first to implement this idea. He was also the first to use the term “PACA detector,” for a CR-39 chip “protected against chemical attack.” In fact, he invented this term after being convinced that at least some of copious SPAWAR pits resulted from chemical, rather than nuclear, activity.

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Figure 1
A spectacular shower of Particles reported by Richard Oriani. Magnification was 100; the area on the photo is about 1.5 mm2.” The clustering of tracks is remarkable. In a private message (4/2/07) Richard wrote: “In past work I have compared mean diameters of tracks produced by Am241 and by my experiments when both detector chips are etched at the same time, and have found that the tracks produced in the experiments are a bit smaller than those produced by Am 241. ”

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Our Phase 1 contribution to TGP project has been described in a paper presented at the recent APS meeting (see unit #319). Proceeding toward the Phase 2 we wanted to replicate new Oriani experiments. What follows was composed from my own notes, and from pieces of information supplied by other people. Numbering of individual sections of this unit corresponds to chronological order, more or less, in which separate pieces were added and modified. I apologize for some repetitions.

3) Experimental method
Our version of Oriani’s thin-window cell is shown in Figure 2 below. Note that only one O-ring was used in our first Phase 2 experiment. Oriani, on the other hand, used two O-rings, one on the wet side of the window and one on the dry side. In at least one case he used the same heavy water electrolyte as the SPAWAR team (see unit #319) in other cases he used Li2SO4 in light water. Results, he reported, were not very different. He did not use magnets. In our first Phase 2 experiment the electrolyte was also the same as that used by the SPAWAR team. In our second Phase 2 experiment, still being analyzed, we used the same electrolyte as Oriani (2.367 grams of Li2SO4 in 100 cc of light water)

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Figure 2
An Oriani-type cell with a thin polypropylene window. The rigid cathode-anode structure is supported by the thin layer of polypropylene.

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Contact between the polyethylene window and the silver-wire cathode (see Figure 2) was due to the weight of the cathode-anode structure. The total mass of that structure, in the first experiment, was close to 7 grams. In the second experiment the weight was close to 17 grams -- wood was replaced by a plastic cylinder and an iron nut.

4) Additional experimental details.
The electrolysis time schedule was as described in unit #319, except that the first day (I=0.5 mA) was skipped; the third cell was inserted into the circuit one day after the first two cells. The CR-39 chip was located below the window. Another CR-39 chip was located next to the glass tube (see Figure 2). The two chips were etched and analyzed, as usual. Here is how the result was described in a message posted on our CR-39 list, on 3/1/07:

“We etched all chips in a fresh NaOH solution for 6 hrs at ~70 C and americium pits confirmed that etching was sufficiently long. But post-electrolysis chips did not show anything significantly larger than the background. Here are details:
a) The area of the chip below the thin window was about 0.95 cm2. The surface facing up (looking at the cathode wire 3 mm away) recorded 17 track-looking pits.
b) The blank chip, exposed to air, far away from the cell, had the area of 1.6 cm2. The number of pits one one side was found to be 17 while on the other side it was 10.
c) The area of the chip in contact with the glass tube (in air, looking toward the electrolyte above the anode, the bubbly region) was 1 cm2. The number of pits on the side facing the tube was 27, the number on the opposite side was 14.

In my opinion the signal should be at least ten times stronger that the noise (number of pits on the blank chip) before it can be taken for granted. I know that three standard deviation is considered to be sufficient, under well defined conditions. But such conditions are not satisfied in our experiments. Oriani's signal/noise ratio was much larger than 10; our results are significantly different from his results. But Richard's experiment was not exactly like our's. Today we started another Oriani-type experiment; it will last about 10 days. The experiment will be supervised by Mike because I will be away. The geometry is similar to our first Phase 2 experiment but the cathode is made from nickel wire and the electrolyte is
Li2SO4 in light water. “

The cell for our second Phase 2 experiment was essentially the same as in Figure 2 above. But the distance between the anode and a cathode was 24 mm. Here is how our preliminary result was described on 3/15/07 (in a message sent to Oriani, Brian and Simon).

“Oriani 2 experiment ended today. Working with Mike we examined three CR-39 chips that were positioned to detect particles during the electrolysis. Quick examination showed that there might be slightly more tracks on these chips than on the blank chip. But it will certainly not going to be the factor of ten difference (as reported by Oriani) or the factor of 7 (as in a recent SPAWAR experiment, according to Pam). Mike will analyze the chips and will report the actual number of pits. This will be the main part of his paper, to be presented at the Sigma-Xi student research conference. The other part will be comparison of background on CR-39 from three sources. And he will have an appendix explaining CR-39 detectors.

Before specifying details I want to mention an interesting observation. The chip that was below the cathode (originally about 2 mm from it, in air) had a naked-eye-visible circle when we removed it. Contrary to my expectation, the circle was not washed away after 4.5 hours of etching at ~78 C. Microscopic examination (after etching) showed that the circle is not made from track-looking pits; it was a grayish area matching the cathode wire “foot.”. What can this circle be? Here is my guess. The polypropylene foil, supporting the weight of the electrolyte, and the weight of the cathode-anode structure, sagged and was actually in contact with the CR-detector. In other words, the cathode "foot" was separated from the CR-39 by only five microns of the plastic window. The circle (imprint of the cathode) was probably due to a thermal (or mechanical) effect. What else can it be?

a) Electrolyte: Li2SO4 in distilled H2O (2.367 grams in 100 cc of water)
b) Distance from the circulat cathode (Ni) and pancake anode (Pt) was 24 mm.
c) Timing: 30 hrs with 10 mA, 72 hrs with 50 mA, 192 hrs with 127 mA and 30 hrs with ~270 mA (at the end, without a current stabilizer).
d) Three CR-39 chips were used. One bolow the polypropylene window (where the circular imprint was discovered), one in the air above the tube (exposed to escaping H2 and O2) and one applied to the external side of the cell (at the level below the anode). We also had two blank CR-39 chips and two chips exposed to Am-241. Pits due to americium were well developed.”

5) A message from Oriani:
Here is a very interesting message that Oriani posted on the CR-39 list for TGP researchers: “I thought that it may be useful for me to submit for your consideration my results so far from experiments with film-protected CR39 during electrolysis in which the cathode is in close contact with the protecting film. The work so far has been designed only to see if one can get repeatedly more tracks than background level with this procedure. A systematic investigation to try to optimize the production of tracks is still to be done. . . .

I believe that one can conclude that the SPAWAR electrolyte composition in D2O is not particularly advantageous. One sees also that the formerly used O-ring adds considerably to the tracks/cm2 seen in an experiment. Additional experiments have shown that the O-ring retains a residual radioactivity after an electrolysis, and presumably so do other portions of the apparatus employed in an electrolysis experiment, as described by Fisher's polyneutron theory. All of the results so far share the characteristics that the track distributions are bi-modal, ie. groups and widely separated tracks, and that there is no discernible correspondence with the position of the cathode wires. There is also no correspondence between the tracks on one side of the detector and the tracks on the other side. These are independent events.”

6) Future plans and ideas
After reading the above message, I decided to perform at least one more Oriani-type experiment. But not immediately; I want to learn more from the ongoing Phase 2 experiments of Pamela Mossier Boss et al. And I am not the only one who made such decision. In a private message received this morning Oriani promised to send me some “kindling” for another attempt to observe showers.

Will our result -- prominent pits on post-electrolysis chips are about 2.5 result larger than pits due to alpha particles, under identical etching conditions -- be confirmed by other researchers? So far I have seen only one confirmation (from TGP beta team #2) and not a single negation. This is not enough; hopefully other TGP researchers will soon ether confirm or negate our results. I also want to know if my interpretation of the above result is valid. This section will probably be expanded when new results, and new interpretations, become available. Please do not miss unit #321 which I am posting at the same time. It shows my view of scientific issues raised in The Galileo Project.

7) Polyneutrons
Oriani referred to a theory developed by John Fisher. My understanding of that theory has been described in units #191 and #227. But that was about two years ago. I know that John has been improving his theory constantly. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the curren version. Here is a recent message from John; it was posted on the CMNS list (3/13/07):

“Some researchers have regular success with starting nuclear reactions in their laboratories whereas others, notably those trying for the first time, can wait for weeks or months without success. This may not be the fault of the beginners. Polyneutron theory suggests that a free polyneutron is required to initiate a reaction (just as a free neutron is required to initiate a fission reaction), and that such polyneutrons are emitted by precursor particles in the air and water. The precursor particles are exceedingly rare and it can take considerable time for ignition of the first reaction in a laboratory. After that things get easier. A successful reaction produces large numbers of the required precursors, many of which stick to the experimental equipment or escape and condense on surfaces throughout the laboratory. On subsequent attempts they are available in the equipment, or are desorbed from the laboratory surroundings, enabling much prompter ignition. Hence it may be helpful to seed a start-up experiment with a bit of hardware or electrolyte taken from a successful one. This is equivalent to transporting an ember from a fire to a stack of kindling, rather than waiting for lightning to strike.”

That is an interesting observation. Replying to the above I wrote: “Irreproducibility is taken by John as an experimental fact. Guided by that fact he found a theoretical explanation. That seems to be consistent with scientific methodology. But is the explanation valid? Oriani had eight consecutive successes in observing CINA (chemically induced nuclear activity). Our one recent attempt to reproduce it failed. That attempt was made at the same time (February and March 2007) at which we were able to successfully reproduce the SPAWAR experiment. Another attempt to reproduce Oriani's experiment is in progress. If it fails then I will ask Oriani to send us kindling pieces. I suggest that other researchers, using CR-39 and thin foils, do the same. Were we just lucky to replicate the SPAWAR effect [without any kindling] or Fisher’s theory does not apply to SPAWAR effect? . . . “

And here is a message I posted on the same list more recently (3/16.07). “In reading Steve Krivit's summary, just published in the #21 issue of NET, I see a reference to a recent PACA-type experiments (Protected Against Chemical Attack) at SPAWAR. It is an indication that large dominant pits, possibly due to corrosion (term first used by Oriani, if I recall correctly), mask presence of smaller and much less abundant pits due to nuclear projectiles. Oriani's eight consecutive experiments confirmed presence nuclear tracks on PACA chips. SPAWAR team also reports presence of tracks "more than seven times the background." Unfortunately, our (beta 5) results, and preliminary results reproted by beta 2 and beta 6 teams of TGP, seem to be very different in that respect. I hope that the situation will become more clear when other beta teams, and other investigators, share the results of their Phase 2 observations on this list. It would be interesting to know if tracks observed on PACA detectors are also formed only when magnetic and electric fields are present. That would be a highly convincing argument that tracks are not from radioactive contamination.

9) Other things.
This section is a place for an insertion that has nothing to do with science of TGP. I plan to write that insertion after it becomes clear whether or not the SPAWAR effect is an example of a chemically induced nuclear activity. Keep in mind that only one half of the Phase 1 teams reported the results so far. According to our leader, Steve Krivit, the Phase 2 was supposed to be less rigid than Phase 1. It was not to be a project in which each beta team was expected to follow a protocol developed by alpha teams. Each beta team researcher was expected to participate in Phase 2. Let us hope for more reproducible and convincing data from the second phase of The Galileo Project.

Also keep in mind that the SPAWAR claim is not based only on recent discoveries made with CR-39 detectors; it is also based on other observations, as described in numerous papers. References can be found in the 2007 paper of S. Szpak et al.:


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