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325) Larry’s Findings

Ludwik Kowalski; 5/12/2007
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, 07043

The May 10 issue of The New Energy Times, at

contains an interview that Steve Krivit had with Larry Forsley. Larry was the first author of a SPAWAR team paper entitled “Time Resolved, High Resolution, Gamma-Ray and Integrated Charged and Knock-on Particle Measurements of Pd:D Co-deposition Cells.” That paper was presented at the March 5 APS meeting in Denver, Colorado. Other authors were: P.A. Mosier-Boss, G.W. Phillips, S. Szpak, J.W. Khim, and F.E. Gordon. Larry’s talk was based on twelve Power Point slides. Steve’s interview was entitled “Charged Particles for Dummies: A Conversation with Lawrence P.G. Forsley.” My purpose here is to make some comments on the content of slides, and on what was said in the interview. Please download Larry’s slides from the above URL before reading the rest of this piece.

1) SPAWAR results were obtained by using a method of codeposition. That method, invented by Stanislaw Szpak and Pamela Mossier-Boss, has been used in numerous experiments during about ten years. The goal was to gather evidence that a nuclear process takes place during the electrochemical process of codeposition. But methods of detection were different in different experiments. Use of the CR-39 detectors was relatively recent and Larry became one of the partners. The content of Larry’s slides is interesting but not everything is clear to me. I do not like the telegraphic style -- inevitable in a slide show -- I prefer traditional papers with illustrations.

2) On the slide #12 Larry states: “Tracks are not of chemical origin, although chemical damage may occur.” I am glad that a possibility that some pits might not be due to nuclear projectiles is now recognized. That was the main point of my own APS presentation, as described in the unit #319. And what about the remaining pits? They do look like tracks of nuclear projectiles. Taking this for granted, Larry advances several interesting hypotheses. One of them is massive presence (about 75% of all tracks on the front surface) of low energy projectiles -- protons with energies below 0.5 MeV and alpha particles with energies below 1.5 MeV. These particles are stopped in the mylar foil of six microns. Another hypothesis is about presence of neutrons; they are said to be responsible for the tracks on the back surface.

3) Slide 1 is the title of the talk at the APS meeting. Slide 2 tells us that each field under the microscope is 0.6 by 0.5 mm. Thus, a chip whose size 20 by 10 mm, will have to be photographed 200/0.3=666 times. In practice this becomes 1000 times because some overlapping of fields is desirable. That is why the task of analysis is performed by a computer (TASL scanner) and not by a human being. But the scanner was not designed for very high densities, such as those discovered by the SPAWAR team. The dilemma of ”what to count and what not to count” has been addressed and the software was set up to be very selective. Even a shadow of doubt was sufficient to assume that a pit is not a track. Larry found that the numbers of tracks per field, determined by visual inspection, were often ten times larger than what was determined by the TASL scanner.

4) Slide 3 shows range-energy relations for various nuclear projectiles in CR-39. According to these curves, expected nuclear projectiles would be stopped in CR-39 chips. This becomes important in the context of explaining presence of tracks on both sides of detectors. Slide 4 informs us that PACA detectors with mylar were used in a “dry experiment” by SPAWAR team. But, as far as I can tell, most data on other slides refer to “wet experiments,” that is to experiments in which CR-39 were in the electrolyte. In the interview Larry tells us that track density is reduced considerably when mylar film of 6 microns is placed between a wire and the CR-39 detector. It means, according to Larry, that protons with energies below 0.5 MeV and/or alpha particles with energies below 1.4 MeV are emitted from the cathodes. About 3/4 of all identified tracks are, according to Larry, due to these low energy projectiles. What is the difference between green and red rectangles on the right chip of slide 4? I do not know.

5) Slide 5 is not important. Slides 6 and 7, to which the first half of the interview was devoted, are indeed very interesting. They show that three different wires, Pt, Ag and Au were used as cathodes at the same time. For some reason track densities, on the back side of the chip, are different for different wires. Is this because each metal is chemically different or because contacts areas between the wires and the CR-39 chips were slightly different? Later in the interview Larry states that silver is “special.” I am not convinced. The most interesting thing on slides 6 and 7 is presence of pits on the back side of the chip. They are more numerous than in the estimated background. That, according to Larry, is a clear indicator that neutrons are also emitted during the electrolysis. But why is the number of neutron-induced tracks, on the back of Ag, much smaller than on the back of Pt and Au? That is not clear.

6) Slide 9 tells us that only one neutron out of many (for example, out of 100,000) is actually detected. Multiplying numbers of pits displayed on the back of the chip (see Slide 6), by 100,000 I am inclined to think that the number of neutrons exceeds the number of charged particles. Is this consistent with the results obtained with two detectors of neutrons during one of the SPAWAR experiments? I do not know. For some reason nothing has been reported about what was learned from neutron detectors. Why is it so? I think that all experimental results should be reported. Another interesting thing, on slide 9, is a suggestion that neutrons of energies larger than 12 MeV can be detected not only via elastic scattering on protons but also via decomposition of C-12 into three alpha particles.

7) Slide 8 show distributions of pit sizes. The U-238 source was probably “thick;” otherwise the distribution of track diameters (actually major axes) would be narrower. Larry shows that dominant frontside pits have diameters between 6 and 16 microns. The dominant backside pits, on the other hand, have diameters ranging from 10 to 22 microns. That is indeed puzzling. Distributions of pit sizes, due to neutrons of various energies (between 1.2 MeV and 19 MeV), are shown on slide 9. They are taken from a 2004 reference. Were the etching condition in the reference the same as in the SPAWAR work? i suppose they were; otherwise comparing what is on the slide 8 with what is on the slide 9 would be meaningless. Larry thinks that large tracks, on the back side of the CR-39 chip, are due to high energy neutrons. That what I would expect if higher energy neutrons were main contributors to the neutron-alpha reactions.

8) Slide 10 compares tracks on the back of the SPAWAR chip with tracks due to neutrons from a Pu-238 source. Larry states that etching conditions were not identical; tracks from the Pu-238 experiment were etched about 25% longer that tracks from the SPAWAR experiment. Taking this under account, he concludes that sizes the largest tracks are roughly the same. Then he addresses the issue of smaller tracks. I agree with him that tracks due to neutrons would begin at different depths inside the chip. That would indeed produce a mixture of tracks of different diameters. In fact that is what I saw, several years ago, when chips irradiated with neutrons from a Pu-Be source were examined.

9) Slide 11 shows preliminary results deduced from gamma rays detected during the electrolysis. Larry identified them as coming from the Sr-92 and Zr-97. These are, presumably, transmutation products resulting from nuclear reactions induced by neutrons. The intensity of gamma ray radiation from the Sr-92 was found to be about ten times higher than from the Zr-97. This, according to Larry, is consistent with what one would expect if the numbers of atoms were identical. But he also mentions missing lines in the recorded gamma ray spectra. This weakens his argument about the presence of the above two radioactive isotopes. An identification is certain when all known gamma rays are present and when the rates of decay match the known values (2.7 and 16.9 hours). Why were the rates of decay not measured? I would make several measurements of counting rates, each lasting about 30 minutes, not 13 seconds. Perhaps they were looking for isotopes with much shorter half-lives.

10) How do SPAWAR results differ from the results of Richard Oriani? The most obvious difference is the number of tracks, and the fact that these tracks are concentrated near wires. Oriani-type clusters would be difficult to identify among the much more numerous pits produced in the SPAWAR codeposition experiment.

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