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350) My notes based on SPAWAR paper

Ludwik Kowalski
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, 07055
May 3, 2008

This unit contains notes I made for myself while rereading the SPAWAR paper (published in EPJAP, December 2007). I do not know why that paper is only listed in our CMNS library at

instead of being downloadable from it. Perhaps it has something to do with copyright. So here is the reference again:

Mosier-Boss, P.A., et al., Use of CR-39 in Pd/D co-deposition experiments. Eur. Phys. J. Appl. Phys., 2007. 40: p. 293-303.

The supplementary part of that paper, that was published online, is available (if you pay, or belong) from:

Part of what I wrote has already been written in Unit 347 but it is now better organized and better formulated, I hope. The bottom line is essentially the same -- I do not think that tracks created during SPAWAR-type experiments are due to alpha particles. That was the conclusion reached on the basis of my own experiment (as reported at the March 2007 APS meeting).

1) The paper’s introduction describes the CR-39 detection methodology and shows that authors are aware how it was used in several fields. They give credit to CMNS researchers who also detected unexplained particles, for example, 11-16 MeV alphas and 1.7 MeV protons (Lipson), huge clusters of tracks during light water electrolysis (Oriani and Fisher), and emission of particles when deuterium gas was diffusing through Pd ( Li).

2) Here is the last sentence from the introduction: ”Evidence is presented that shows that these pits are tracks caused by the emission of charged particles and that these tracks are not due to either radioactive contamination; or from the electrolysis of heavy water; or from chemical reaction with D2, O2, or Cl2.”

3) In the concluding Section 4, the authors wrote: “The experiments are reproducible. . . . . Quantitative analysis shows that there are three populations of pits (0.1–0.5µm, 0.9–4.0µm, and 4.1–12µm) and that the pits can be either perfectly circular or elliptical in shape. These features are consistent with those observed for nuclear generated pits. In this communication, it has been shown that the pits formed during Pd/D co-deposition are not due to radionuclide contamination of the cell components nor are they caused by impingement of gas bubbles on the surface of the CR-39. Since electrochemical plating of CuCl2 did not result in pits, production of pits in a Pd/D co-deposition experiment cannot be attributed to chemical attack of the surface of CR-39 by either D2, O2, or Cl2 present in the electrolyte.”

4) Is the description of the protocol sufficient to guide someone? I think it is. In the simplest case the cathode was an Ag or Au wire (wrapped around the CR-39 chip) while the anode was a wire made from Pt. A nickel screen has also been used as a cathode on which the Pd/D was deposited.

5) Figure 2 shows the cathode surface from experiments without magnetic field (a) and with magnetic field (b). The Lorenz force in the magnetic field is said to be responsible for structural surface differences. Electric field is also said to produce structural changes.

6) By Lorenz force they certainly mean q*(vXB), where q is the charge of the ion, on which the force is acting, while vXB is the cross product of the ion’s velocity, v, and the field strength, B. The field on the order of 2500 Gs, probaly measured with a gaussmeter, was created with two strong neodymium magnets, outside the cell.

7) The value of B between two magnets (inside the cell) is certainly not strongly affected by plastic walls from which the cell is made (see Figure 1) or by presence of the electrolyte. But the same is not true about the electric field, E. That field was created by applying 6000 volts to two copper plates outside the cell. The distance between plates was close to 3 cm. In the vacuum (or in air) the field strength would be only slightly smaller than 6000/3=2000 V/cm. But presence of electrolyte (a conductor) and plastic walls (dielectric) probably reduces E to less than 0.002 V/cm. How can such field affect the co-deposition process?

8) It is interesting that, in the case of a Ni cathode (Figure 3d), pits appear “only when either an external electric or magnetic řeld is applied.” Nickel is known to be a ferromagnetic material. Is this significant? I do not know. The authors report that “the overall size and shape of the pits are similar to nuclear tracks reported by Oriani and Fisher [10], Li [9], and Lipson et al. [11, 12].”

9) The picture in Figure 3a shows the CR-39 but the picture of Figure 3b shows the photographic film. The film was protected from the cathode by mylar. Dark spots on the photographic film are believed to be due to X-rays emitted during electrolysis. Figure 3d shows copious CR-39 tracks. Some dark circles have diameters of about 4 to 8 microns.

10) I am puzzled by Figure 3a. Commenting on it, the authors conclude: “It is therefore possible, that the hollows observed in the CR-39 detector, Figure 3a, are the results of damage due to the soft X-ray emission.” The density of ionization due to an X-ray photon is known to be very low, in comparison with that due to an alpha particle. What X-ray dose would be needed to produce a detectable damage in CR-39 material? Intuition told me that the dose must be very large. But how large?

Intrigued by this question I went to the reference 25 (Amemyia et al.,”Soft X-ray imaging . . . “, Nuclear Instruments and Methods B, vol 187, 2002, page 361) and found the answer. The dose has to be “more than kGy.”  The unit of dose, Gray, translates into 100 rads. In other words, 1kGy is 100000 rads. My recollection is that about 50% of experimental rats die shortly after receiving the whole-body dose of 500 rads. This is only 0.5% of one kilogray. Fortunately the danger to SPAWAR researchers was not as great as one might think. First the X-rays were highly localized; each hollow was about 1 mm, as shown in Figure 3a. Second, soft  X-rays would be stopped inside the cell (or in the skin of a rat). Third, the film shown in Figure 3b would be much darker without the mylar film. How thick was the mylar film?

11) Was the CR-39, shown in Figure 3d, also protected from the cathode by mylar? Several CMNR researchers suggested (about a year ago, after phase 1 of The Galileo Project) that in some experiments CR-39 should be separated from the cathode by a mylar film of about 5 microns. Such film is commercially available; it is thin enough to transmit alpha particles. The film would protect the CR-39 surface from suspected chemical reactions at the cathode. This topic is discussed in Section 3.2, named “Nuclear tracks vs. chemical damage.” The main argument is that tracks, as shown in Figures 5, are not different from tracks due to alpha particles from radioactive sources (Figure 4). Tracks due to chemical corrosion would be “lighter in appearance and irregular is shape.” This is a powerful argument for the central CMNS claim -- a nuclear process of a new kind is triggered by electrolysis.

By the way, I also observed alpha-particle-like tracks produced during the co-deposition electrolysis. This was during the phase 1 of The Galileo Project. But I was troubled by the fact that tracks created during electrolysis were usually more than 2.5 times larger than tracks due to alpha particles from my 241Am source.

12) At the end of section 3.2 the authors refer to experiments in which CR-39 chips were etched incrementally. They conclude: “The incremental etching result support the conclusion that the pits observed in the CR-39 detector as a result of the Pd/D co-deposition process are nuclear in origin.”

13) The rest of the paper describes additional experiments. One learns, for example, what happens when KCl is used instead of LiCl, when light water is used instead of heavy water, when cathodes made from different metals are used, etc. etc. Was one particular setup found to be much better that the setup described in the original protocol, nearly two years ago? Are authors ready to offer the world a protocol for a simple and convincing demonstration of a nuclear activity caused by a chemical activity? I hope they are. I would be happy to participate in the new phase of The Galileo Project.

14) Let me comment on results from incremental etching experiments, mentioned in point 12 above. These results confirmed my old conclusion -- tracks created in SPAWAR-type experiments cannot possibly be due to alpha particles. That is what I reported at the APS meeting in Denver. The recent EPJAP paper offers a chance to return to this topic on the basis of new SPAWAR results.

15) Two photos below are from Figures S1 and S2, of the online version of SPAWAR paper.

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Figure S1
Picture of CR-39 tracks (after 9 hours of etching) due alpha particles from 241Am. Macroscopic magnification was reported as 1000.
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Figure S2
Picture of a CR-39 track (after 9 hours of etching) due an particle emitted during electrolysis. Macroscopic magnification was reported as 1000.
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Macroscopic magnifications under which these pictures were taken was 1000. The photographs taken from the supplement also showed the same tracks after 12, 16 and 20 hours of etching. Fortunately, the same chip was used to record alpha particles of 5.5 MeV (near the CR-39 corner) and particles emitted during electrolysis (in the CR-39 center). Comparing sizes of these two kinds of tracks would be much more difficult if etching conditions were not identical. Figure 3 shows how the widths of tracks changed with time of etching. The size of a track is defined as its diameter, when the track is circular, or as its width when the track is more or less elliptical. The length of the major axis depends on the angle of incidence, its width does not depend on that angle.

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Figure 3
Depenedence of the track sizes on time of etching. For example, what does the 23% represent? The total width of an alpha track, was 30 units after 16 hours of etching and 37 units after 20 hours of etching. The ratio, 37/30=1.23, shows that the increment was equal to 23% of the final size.
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16) In what follows I will explain why, in my opinion, the large track shown in Figure S2 should not be attributed to an alpha particle of ~1 MeV, as tentatively assumed by SPAWAR team. Figure 3 and Figure 4 will be used to justify my position.

One thing becomes obvious at once; sizes of tracks created during electrolysis tend to stop growing, after 20 hours of etching, but tracks due to alpha particles from the radioactive source keep growing. This difference seems to be very important. According to recognized CR-39 experts, such as Nikozic and Yu (see reference in my unit 346), diameters of overetched tracks due to nuclear projectiles keep growing infinitely, at the 2*Vb rate. The value of Vb depends on the etching conditions (temperature and molarity of NaOH); Vb is usually between about 1 and 2 microns per hour. SPAWAR experimental curve for alpha particles seems to be consistant with the continous growth of the diameter. The average rate of growth, between 9 and 20 hours, is close to 2 microns per hour; this corresponds to Vb=1. Note that the etching temperature of the SPAWAR etching solution was said to be between 65 and 72 degrees C. Drifts in the temperatur could be responsible a slow chage of Vb.

But how to explain the second experimental fact? Why does the diameter of the upper curve tend to stop growing after 20 hours? I do not know how to answer this question. But one thing is clear; the second experimemental fact is not consistent with the idea that tracks produced during electrolysis are due to alpha particles emitted from the Pd/D deposit on the cathode. That argument has nothing to do with the argument I used before to justify the same conclusion.

17) Let me now return to the old argument; it was based on comparisons of track sizes. Would the same argument be defendable in light of new experimental data? I think it would, considering what I wrote in Unit 346, at this CF website. A quick look at tracks in Figure S1 and S2 shows that their sizes are very different. At first I thought that the diameter of the track in Figure S2 was more than twice as large as the width of a track in Figure S1. Both photos were taken at the magnification of 1000. That would be close to what I found more than one year ago. But I learned, from one of the authors, about additional zooming factors. The true diameter of the pit in S2 was close to 7.5 microns while the true width of tracks in S1 was close to 5 microns. The question becomes: is the ratio of diameters equal to 1.5 consistent with my claim? It was easier to denend the claim on the basis of my own experimental data, when the ratio of diameters was close to 2.5. But now I am better prepared to adress the question. Before I was guided by intuition, now I can be quided by experimental data of those who studied how diameters of alpha particle tracks depend on their energies.

The figure below shows experimental data of that kind. It was found in a paper (1) published by two teams of researchers, one from France and another from Germany.
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Figure 4
Diameters of etched alpha particle tracks in CR-39 versus their ranges. Even though the etching conditions are not the same for the two teams, the shape of the curves are very similar.

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18) Slightly different etching conditions in two laboratories explain differences in absolute diameters. But positions of maxima (at R~10 microns) are nearly identical. Also nearly identical are ratios of diameters, for example diameter at R=10 and at R=25 microns. In what follows I will use the lower curve because is covers a wider range of experimental data. To convert ranges in CR-39 into energies I will use the following data:

Alpha energy . . . Range in CR-39

5.5 MeV . . . . . . . . 33 microns
4.0 MeV . . . . . . . . 20 microns
2.4 MeV . . . . . . . . 10 microns
1.6 MeV . . . . . . . . 7 microns
0.8 MeV . . . . . . . . 3 microns
0.0 MeV . . . . . . . . 0 microns

The Dresden curve shows that the diameter of tracks af 5.5 MeV is about 13 microns. The diameter at the maximum, corresponding to 2.4 MeV, is about 15.2 microns. That shows that the diameter of an alpha particle track can exceed the diameter of an alpha particle of 5.5 MeV by no more than a factor of 15.2/13=1.2. That is considerably smaller than the factor 1.5 reported by the SPAWAR team, suggesting that the track in Figure S2 should not be attributed to an alpha particle. But the difference between 1.5 and 1.2 is not enormous. How reliable are Dresden data? The precision in measuring diameters was certainly very high, otherwise the data point would fluctuate more widely around the smooth curve. I read the paper and I am satisfied with the method by which energies were determined. My guess is that the uncertainty about the 1.2 ratio is smaller than +/- 0.05 (which is 4%). The uncertainly associated by the 1.5 factor is probably close to 16%. To calculate that value I simply assumed that the uncertainty in each diameter is 0.5 microns.

19) These considerations lead me to a conclusion that the difference between the ratios of diameters (1.5 versus 1.2) cannot be taken too seriously, in the context of the new paper. Also note that the 1.5 ratio was calculated on the basis of a questionable assumption. I assumed that the diameter 7.5 microns (from SPAWAR Figure S2) is typical for particles created during electrolysis while the diameter 5.0 microns, taken from their Figure S1, is typical for alpha particle. Taking this for granted was probably a mistake. To correct this mistake let me refer to Figure 7 of the new SPAWAR paper. According to the scatter plots, shown in that figure, the mean value D1 (width of an alpha particle track) is close to 10 microns while the mean value of D2 is close to 6 microns. These mean values give the D2/D1=0.6. It is two times smaller (not 1.5 times larger) that the maximum expected ratio of 1.2 (for alpha particles). The difference between 0.6 and 1.2 is likely to be more significant than the difference between 1.5 and 1.2.

20) I wish the actually-calculated mean values were reported. That would probably reduce the uncertainty in 0.6 to less than 5% (because each scatter plot is based on more than 300 data points). My estimated mean values are likely to be less precise. But they seems to be sufficiently precise to take the difference between 0.6 and 1.2 seriously. I expect mean values to be reported at the upcoming cold fusion conference, ICCF14, in Washington DC. At present I am mostly disturbed by discrepancy between the new data and my own results described at

These results showed that mean sizes of tracks, created during electrolysis, were much larger than sizes of tracks due to alpha particles. This was consistent, more or less, with the old SPAWAR results, also presented at the 2007 APS meeting. But new SPAWAR results show that the opposite is true. Tracks created during electrolysis are now much smaller than tracks due to alpha particles. I hope that this (apparent ?) contradiction will be explained at the ICCF14. For the time being I will stick to my old results. They show that the mean D2/D1 ratio was slightly larger than 2.5. The difference between 2.5 and the expected 1.2 ratio was certainly highly significant. My ratio and SPAWAR new 0.6 ratio cannot be correct at the same time.

21) Another reason for tentatively rejecting the SPAWAR idea -- tracks created during electrolysis are due to alpha particles -- has to do with the “chopped meat” structure of tracks produced during electrolysis (but not tracks due to alpha particles). I suspect that SPAWAR people also saw the “chopped meat” regions; but the article does not mention this. Ignoring troublesome issues, let me ask the following question. Which of two arguments is more convincing, the one based on long etching times or the one based on ratio of diameters? I think that the first argument is more convincing. It is also more powerful. The second argument would be about a hypothetical claim (that co-deposition electrolysis tracks are due to alpha particles), the first argument is against the actual claim made in SPAWAR paper (that tracks are due to nuclear particles).

23) P.S. By criticizing the SPAWAR paper I am trying to be useful. Yes, I know that my help might not be needed; they have been studying tracks for more than two year. But, hopefully, my critical comments might be useful to some readers. I would be very happy to applaude the SPAWAR success. That would be a great scientific contribution. The topic is too important to give up, after encountering first difficulties. But one must be careful in forging ahead.

1) C. Brun, M. Fromm, M. Jouffroy, P. Meyer, J.E. Groetz, F. Abel, A. Chambaudet, B. Dorschel, D. Hersmdorf, R. Bretschneider, K. Kander, and H. Kuhne; “INTERCOMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE DETECTION CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CR-39 SSNTD FOR LIGHT IONS: PRESENT STATUS OF THE BESANCON DRESDEN APPROACHES,” Radiation Measurements, vol 31, (1999), pp 89-99.

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