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Published online: 26 November 2008

357) Interpreting SPAWAR-type pits: Comments

Ludwik Kowalski
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, 07055

A recent claim demonstrating a nuclear process triggered by electrolysis is challenged. An analysis, based on relative diameters, is used to demonstrate that predominant pits could not possibly be attributed to alpha particles, or to less massive nuclear projectiles. This conclusion is supported not only by positive results from a replication experiment, but also by results from the experiment on which the original claim was based. While the numerous SPAWAR-type pits seem to be highly reproducible, their interpretation is not yet clear.

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Today is January 8, 2009. I am revising this unit. Instead of showing a slightly abbreviated version on my paper I am now providing a link to the entire paper (the first link below). The second link below will download the entire rebuttal paper published by the SPAWAR team.

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1) To download the entire paper (pdf file) click here

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2) To download the rebuttal paper (pdf file), subsequently published by the SPAWAR team click here

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3) The original SPAWAR paper, published in 2007, had two parts, one printed and one online.

To download the original printed part of the article (pdf) click here

To download the original online part of the article (pdf) click here

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Addendum (January 11, 2009)

Let me comment on the rebuttal, and on some private remarks received by e-mail. This brief addendum is for people familiar with SPAWAR articles (links 2 and 3 above) and with my article (link 1 above).

a) Criticism of SPAWAR interpretation, presented at the 2007 ACS meeting, was based on my own experimental data. Dominant SPAWAR-type pits I saw were typically 2.5 times larger that pits due to my alpha particles of ~ 4 MeV. In other words the ratio of measured mean sizes was R1=2.5. The symbol R2 will be used below for the expected ratio of sizes.

b) Suppose the pits created during electrolysis are due to alpha particles of ~1 MeV, as claimed in a subsequently-published SPAWAR paper. In that case the ratio, according to the calibration curve used in my paper, would be R2=1.30. (The R2 would be even smaller for alpha particles of other energies.) The big difference between R1=2.5 and much smaller R2 allowed me to say that SPAWAR-type pits should not be attributed to alpha particles.

c) A subsequently-published SPAWAR paper had photographs of dominant post-electrolysis tracks, and tracks due to alpha particles of 5.5 MeV (on the same CR-39 chip and under the same magnification). Using these photos, I concluded that their R1 was close to 1.7. That is significantly smaller than my value R1=2.5. I do not know how this can be explained. (P.S. See item f below.) By the way, I was not the only one to successfully replicate the experiment. It would be desirable to compare R1 values determined by other participants of The Galileo Project.

d) Is it possible that the calibration curve, which I used to determine R2, does not apply to CR-39 chips manufactured in Japan, as suggested in the rebuttal paper? In my opinion, the shape of a calibration curve of CR-39 should not depend on where the material was manufactured. That shape reflects the energy dependence of the dE/dx (sometimes called the stopping power, or ionization density). But I know, from what has been reported by several researchers, that CR-39 chips from different manufacturers do differ in several other ways. Let me accept the fact, reported in the rebuttal paper, that the value of R2 is 1.5 for chips from Japan and 1.3 for chips from UK. The difference of 0.2, between the two values of R2, does not weaken my claim (that dominant pits cannot be attributed to alpha particles of ~1 MeV) when R1 is 2.5. But, as indicated in the rebuttal paper, the argument is weakened when R1 is much smaller, for example, 1.7 or less. Hopefully, the correct value of R1 will be determined on the basis of additional measurements. (P.S. The dE/dx, for a given material, depends on its main chemical composition; it does not depend on composition differences at the ppm level. Such differences always exist among batches from different manufacturers.)

e) I am happy to see the new sequential etching curve (Figure 2c in the SPAWAR rebuttal paper). It shows that sizes of pits due to alpha particles of 5.5 MeV grow at the same rate (versus etching times) as SPAWAR-type pits. Would the same be true for alpha particles of ~ 1MeV? This remains to be seen.

f) How should the size of a pit be defined? For a circular pit the size should be identified by the diameter; for an elliptical pit, on the other hand, the size should be identified with the minor axis. Why do I suggest this? Because I know that the major axis of an elliptical pit depends on the angle of incidence. It is interesting that the SPAWAR-type pit in the Figure 2c is nearly two times larger that the pit due to an alpha particles of 5.5 MeV. In other words, their R1=2.0. This is larger than 1.7, and closer to the value of R1=2.5 I obtained in 2007. The hypothesis of "1 MeV alpha particles" was formulated in 2008, as far as I know.

g) Note that according to SPAWAR figure 2c the value of R1 increases when etching times become shorter. That is very interresting! Extrapolating to 6 hours of etching, used in my 2007 replication experiment, the value R1 approaches 2.5. In other words, new SPAWAR data seem to be consistent with my first result. Extrapolating to 22 hours of etching, the value R1 approaches 1.3. This makes me think think that the difference between R1=2.5 and R1 "close to 1.7," might be due, at least partially, to differences between our etching times.

h) Fortunately, as described in Section 4 of the next unit, (click here) , the SPAWAR hypothesis can be tested more directly. Will experiments with alpha particles of ~1 MeV validate the SPAWAR claim? That remains to be seen.

i) The “corona discharge” argument, only mentioned in my paper (reference 8 and 9), was developed by Lipson et al. I am not familiar with details of their experiments. Because of this I am neither for nor against their position.

j) P.S. In the past I measured sizes of alpha particles under very short etching times. The tracks, already countable after about 2 hours of etching, grow when etching times become longer. Suppose each line (see Figure 2c in the SPAWAR rebuttal paper) remains straight, down to the etching time of 3 hours. That would produce R1=4.3 after 3 hours of etching and R1=3.5 after 4 hours. I suspect that something important might be learned, about dominant codeposition pits, from examining their behavior after short etching times. Dependence of R1 on the etching time, illustrated in the SPAWAR Figure 2c, is puzzling. Is it consistent with the SPAWAR hypotheisis about post-electrolysis pits? How can it be explained?

k) It is well known that prolonged etching (12 hours versus 6 hours) changes small elliptical pits, due to alpha particles, into larger circular pits. This was illustrated in Figures 4 and 5 at . Suppose that copious codeposition pits also change from "mostly elliptical" to "mostly circular," for example, between 3 hours of etching and 5 hours of etching. That would support the idea that tracks are due to low energy particles. Most circular SPAWAR-type pits touch each other (on my photos and on similar photos shown at the ACS meeting in Denver). Would smaller pits, seen after only 3 hours of etching, also be touching each other? Would small elliptical pits be oriented randomly or would some patterns be seen? I am thinking about clusters of two or more radially oriented tracks (see SPAWAR rebuttal paper).

l) l) Another parameter worth exploring, in searching for useful indicators, is the effect of the co-deposition time on track density. My guess is that the co-deposition time of one hour, for example, will produce 24 times less tracks than the co-deposition time of one day, under identical conditions. I know that preliminary experiments of that kind were performed by SPAWAR researchers. (Parallel cathode wires were disconnected at different times.) Was it possible to reduce the co-deposition time sufficiently to dramatically decrease track densities?

m) In the rebuttal paper, SPAWAR researches show several theoretically simulated tracks due to alpha particles of very low energy. Does their simulation code predict transitions from "mostly elliptical" to "mostly circular" pits? What etching times should be used to observe such transitions? People who developed the code probably tested its predictions by experimenting with real particles. Was the code tested with alpha particles of very low energies? If so then agreements with theoretical predictions could be used as arguments supporting the SPAWAR hypothesis.

n) P.P.S. Why are you "casing doubt?"--someone asked me recently. Because I am trying to help. It is my obligation as scientist. Casting doubt is part of being helpful. On the basis of my own experience, long before cold fusion, I can say that criticism is likely to be more helpful than compliments. Criticism often helped me to overcome personal bias. It is unfortunate that The Galileo Project, triggered by SPAWAR discovery, died so early (after Denver meeting, about two years ago). Progress would be much faster if those who confirmed initial SPAWAR results continued studying the phenomenon in unison, and argued about interpretations. That would be a natural next step for working with a protocol yielding reproducible results. Each of us already had a working experimental setup. Why did we stop working in unison so early?

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