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361) Spawar Triple Stars

Ludwik Kowalski

Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA
April 25, 2009

click to see 359 unit

1. Introduction
The discovery of Cold Fusion was announced exactly twenty years ago. I read several interesting messages about this, on the private website for CMNS researchers. Unfortunately, I had nothing valuable to contribute. But then a science journalist, who I do not know, sent me a URL for a file containing a recent SPAWAR paper.

This paper was published in Naturwissenschaften (2009) 96:135–142. The title is “Triple tracks in CR-39 as the result of Pd–D Co-deposition: evidence of energetic neutrons. The authors are: Pamela A. Mosier-Boss, Stanislaw Szpak, Frank E. Gordon, and Lawrence P. G. Forsley. I knew about this paper but I did not have a chance to read it. The journalist, Mark Anderson a journalist working for “IEEE Spectrum,” asked me to comment on that paper.

Why did he ask me? He probably knows about my successful replication of an earlier SPAWAR experiment, and about what I wrote in

2. My comments
a) The methodology used is basically the same as in the experiment I performed two years ago. But a large number of control experiments make the reported results much more acceptable. Instead of focusing on dominant overlapping tracks, as in an earlier paper, the author analyze rare triple tracks, said to be due to high energy neutrons (above 9.6 MeV) emitted during electrolysis. They write that “among the solitary tracks due to individual energetic particles, triple tracks are observed. Microscopic examination of the bottom of the triple track pit shows that the three lobes of the track are splitting apart from a center point. The presence of three alpha-particle tracks outgoing from a single point is diagnostic of the 12C(n,n’)3alpha carbon breakup reaction and suggests that DT reactions that produce ≥9.6 MeV neutrons are occurring inside the Pd lattice.”

b) This paper confirms, once again, that codeposition experiments yield reproducible results. In 2007 I was one of several researchers who used the SPAWAR protocol and confirmed the reported results. That is why I think that codeposition experiments, developed by the SPAWAR team, belong to science, rather than to protoscience, as many other CMNS experiments. CMNS, by the way, is a new acronym for CF--what used to be called Cold Fusion is now called Condensed Matter Nuclear Science.

c) In one set of control experiments the authors used the electrolyte made from H2O. The number of tracks was at least three orders of magnitude lower that in identical experiments in which heavy water, D2O, was used. They wrote: “Since the natural abundance of deuterium in light water is 0.015%, it is possible that the tracks observed in the light water experiments could actually be due to Pd–D interactions. Microscopic examination of the CR-39 detectors used in Pd–D electrolysis has been done in areas where the density of tracks is less. In these areas, what appear to be triple tracks are observed interspersed among the solitary tracks. The number of these triple tracks is very low—on the order of a ten or less per detector and they are only observed in heavy water experiments. These triple tracks have been observed in every Pd–D co-deposition experiment that has been conducted using Ag, Au, or Pt cathodes in both the presence and absence of an external electric or magnetic field. When Ni screen is used as the cathode, tracks and triple tracks are only observed when an external electric or magnetic field is applied.”

c) Figures 1a and 1b show pits due to alpha particles from Am-241. Clusters of triple tracks observed are due to overlapping--rare coincidences when three alpha particles hit nearly the same spot. Triple tracks created during electrolysis (in subsequent figures) are shown to be very different. That is a relevant point; triple pits produced during electrolysis do occur among single pits; showing that they are not due to overlapping is very important.

d) Control experiments described in the paper speak loudly against possible alpha-radioactive contamination.

e) A significant difference between track densities in D2O and H2O is also a strong argument against the chemical origin of tracks.

f) The authors conclude that “no tracks, single or triple, were obtained when CuCl2 was used in place of PdCl2.” Yes indeed; what can be a better demonstration that Pd plays an important role in the claimed new kind of chemically-induced nuclear process. To elaborate on this the authors write that “the deuterium must be inside a metal lattice for these reactions to occur and not simply adsorbed on the surface of the metal. This implies that the metal lattice facilitates these reactions indicating that nuclear phenomena can be influenced by the atomic and electronic environment.” This is no longer an abstract speculation.

g) Presence of triple pits on both sides of the CR-39 chips is consistent with the idea that they are due to neutral projectiles of some kind (able to penetrate about 1 mm of the CR-39 material). Neutrons are the most natural candidate.

i) What is needed is an independent verification of these results. My suggestion would be to organize coordinated replications, for example, in a national laboratory. The cost of several hundred dollars per experiment is negligible in comparison with costs of routinely performed experiments in these labs. Unfortunately, I do not know how
to make this happen. Confirmation of SPAWAR results (nuclear origin of tracks) would the best anniversary present to society. Will this happen during this special year?

I was not the only who posted a comment on SPAWAR neutrons today. One CMNS researcher directed me to:

where I found out about Paul Padley, a physicist at Rice University who reviewed Mosier-Boss’ published work.

“Fusion could produce the effect they see, but there’s no plausible explanation of how fusion could occur in these conditions,” Padley said. “The whole point of fusion is, you’re bringing things of like charge together. As we all know, like things repel, and you have to overcome that repulsion somehow.”

The problem with Mosier-Boss’ work, he said, is that it fails to provide a theoretical rationale to explain how fusion could occur at room temperatures. And in its analysis, the research paper fails to exclude other sources for the production of neutrons.

“Nobody in the physics community would believe a discovery without such a quantitative analysis,” he said.

I tend to disagree. I believe that claims based on unexplained, but reproducible-on-demand experimental data, have their own intrinsic values, especially when established ideas are challenged by new data. Emission of nuclear projectiles during electrolysis does conflict with preexisting ideas. An accepted theory of CMNS is likely to emerge very quickly after the experimental data reported by the SPAWAR team are independently confirmed, for example, by two or three teams of qualified scientists. That is why I think that organizing independent replications is more important, at this stage, than theoretical studies. What should be done to convince our government that an attempt to find a clear yes-or-no answer is worth undertaking?

Added on 3/24/2009
Here is a link to another article on the same topics:

It informs us that many papers, on several CMNS topics, will be presented at the ongoing American Chemical Society meeting this week. Maybe this will help to generate action toward independent replications of experiments which are said to be reproducible on demand.

The author writes: “. . . One of their problems involved extreme difficulty in using conventional electronic instruments to detect the small number of neutrons produced in the process, researchers say.” The “small number of neutrons produced” may be an illusion. Yes, the SPAWAR team reported only about ten neutrons per experiment (lasting two or three days, I suppose). But this does not include the CR-39 area in which tracks are said to be practically on top of each other. Furthermore, detection of fast neutrons via triple tracks is likely to be highly inefficient; I would not be surprised to learn that, on the average, only one triple track is produced by zillions of neutrons. Most high energy neutrons produce protons in CR-39 material.

Added on 3/31/2009
1) The journalist, Mark Anderson, who sent me the SPAWAR-neutrons paper (and who subsequently interviewed me on the phone), published a short article about cold fusion in IEEE Spectrum

2) This evening Richard Oriani posted an important message, on the Internet list for CMNS researchers. Addressing SPAWAR team he wrote: “You have reported finding triple tracks in CR39 detector chips that had been placed within operating electrolysis cells and have pointed out that three nuclear particle tracks emanating from one point indicate the occurrence of the reaction 12C(n,n')3 alphas, suggesting the production of neutrons of energies 9.6 MeV or greater. I have also found triple tracks going out from a central point, but I have also found double, quadruple, and higher-order multiple tracks emerging from a single point. (See the attached images). You may be right in you interpretation, but in view of the variety of the numbers of tracks with a common point of emergence that can appear after electrolysis it seems rash to ascribe to one member of the family a specific nuclear mechanism that cannot apply to the other members. I suggest that other supporting evidence is needed before your
interpretation can be accepted.”

Replying to this, I wrote: “Attached is a file showing my cluster of "multiple tracks emerging  from a single point." You can also see it in Figure 7 at

The attached picture was trimmed. The larger picture (Figure 7 under the above link) shows not a single tracks around this cluster. Suppose this cluster is due to a rare reaction induced in CR-39 by fast neutrons. In that case there would be a lot of single tracks due to elastic and inelastic collisions of such neutrons with hydrogen nuclei. Absence of tracks due recoiling protons is a valuable argument against the idea of high energy neutrons. Note that I was using Oriani's protocol, not the SPAWAR protocol.

I have observed recoiling protons in CR-39 that was exposed to a Pu-Be source of neutrons, many times. I would not fail to recognize them. These tracks are similar to those due to alpha particles from Am-241, but most of them are about one half the size of alpha tracks.

3) The lead article in  the Science and Technology section of The Economist (March 28 2009) also has an article on SPAWAR neutrons:

The author, who was apparently present at the Salt Lake City conference last week, writes that “. . . most researchers in the field, though, do not accept that heat is sufficient evidence of fusion (if only because it was the basis of the Pons/Fleischmann claim). So to strengthen her case, Dr Boss placed a special plastic called CR-39 next to the hot electrode. If fusion was taking place, then neutrons flying through the plastic would cause protons within the material to recoil, leaving telltale tracks. Studying CR-39 under a microscope and counting the number of tracks is a standard way to assess how many neutrons bowled past.”

In reading the article, I realized that SPAWAR own experimental data can be used against the hypothesis that fast neutrons are responsible for triple tracks. Here is my tentative argument. Suppose the hypothesis is correct. In that case triple tracks would be surrounded by an overwhelming number of tracks due to recoiling protons. But, according to the SPAWAR published article, and according to their 2007 presentation in Catania, triple tacks were surrounded by single tracks due to alpha particles, not recoiling protons. Surrounding single tracks were definitely too large to be attributable to protons. That confirms what Richard Oriani wrote, multiple tracks emerging from a single point are not due to neutrons.

Fortunately, SPAWAR experiments are said to be reproducible. Therefore a clear yes-or-no answer, about generation of high energy neutrons in co-deposition experiments, can be obtain by performing an experiment I suggested. Will such experiment be performed? This remains to be seen.

Appended on 4/3/2009
The current discussion of neutrons emitted during SPAWAR experiment reminded me of a 2007 report of Larry  Forsley (at "8th International Workshop on Anomalies in Hydrogen/Deuterium Loaded Metals,” in Catania, Italy). Larry is a member of SPAWAR team. I do not know why his report is not printed in the Workshop Proceedings. Perhaps this would conflict with plans to publish the paper in a journal).  

But another paper (page 182 in the Proceedings), is related to neutrons emitted in SPAWAR-type experiments. The authors of the report are Lipson et al (Russia), and Tanzella et al (USA). Experiments were performed in SRI (Stanford Research Institute) but CR-39 were sent to be analyzed in Moscow.

The abstract states that it is a “preliminary evidence for the fast neutron emission. The  energy is estimated to be in the range of ~2.2 - 2.5 MeV with a rate of 1 - 3 n/s.” That evidence was based on recoiling protons, from scattering of neutrons. Protons produced during electrolysis were compared with protons resulting with collisions with neutrons from a Cf-252 source. No subsequent report was presented at ICCF14, last fall. It probably means that nothing more was done along this line of research. If neutrons of ~2.4 MeV are really emitted, at the rate of one per second, during SPAWAR type electrolysis, then triple tracks would be surrounded by tracks from single protons--probably millions of them per triple track. That is a puzzle.

The same report sheds light on another puzzling aspect of SPAWAR results. The first 2007 idea was that tracks (whose presence I was able to independently confirm) were due to alpha particles of several MeV. My analysis conflicted with this interpretation; tracks were too large for this. The Catania report of Lipson et al. informs us that one of the two CR-39 chips, sent to Moscow, was covered by a mylar film during electrolysis. Alpha particles of several MeV (but not 1 MeV) would traverse the film and would produce tracks in CR-39. Some nuclear tracks (densities exceeding the background) were observed, but the number of tracks was orders of magnitude less than what is observed when a CR-39 is in direct contact with the cathode, during electrolysis. In other words, at least 99% of SPAWAR tracks, seen in our replication experiments, disappear when CR-39 is covered with mylar.

These results are in conflict with the idea that SPAWAR  “copious tracks” are due to alpha particles of several MeV (or to other charged particles able to traverse the mylar film). That is how, I suppose, the interpretation shifted from alphas of several MeV to alpha particles of about 1 MeV. But that is my guess; SPAWAR papers do not mention the results reported by Lipson et al, and Tanzella et al. Why is it so?

Appended on 4/10/2009
The 20th anniversary of the Salt Lake press conference prompted me to think again about the strategy needed to convince mainstream scientists that our claims are valid. I think that the issue is worth discussing. My advice would be not to inject theoretical interpretations until facts are recognized as real. Remember what happened in 1989. Instead of focusing on real experimental facts (generation of excess heat) discussion quickly shifted to theoretical considerations, such as coulomb barrier, expectations based on wrong models, etc. It would be much better if the new phenomenon were called UEH (unexplained excess heat) rather than CF (cold fusion), until the reality of UEH were recognized by most scientists.

Explaining facts in terms of unexplained ideas seems to be counterproductive, at this stage. But this is not something unheard of. I am thinking about the famous paradox of missing energy in beta decay. Calorimetric measurements of the mean energy per beta particle, conducted in 1930s, were not consistent with the law of conservation of energy. To explain these experimental results, Pauli invented neutrino, a particle of negligible mass that carries the missing energy. I suppose that many people had reservations about this, just like many of us resist premature explanations based on polyneutrons, erzions and magnetic monopoles. But Pauli’s ad hoc hypothesis was eventually shown to be correct by Cowan and Reins (1950’s).

In our situation, however, mixing experimental facts with theories might backfire again. What we are facing is more complicated than a conflict between valid nuclear theories and new experimental data. We are also facing a political conflict between two groups of scientists. We want people to look at our experimental data; we want them to perform experiments and to focus on critical analysis of results. Yes, pure empiricism is not science. Yes, theoretical debates are essential. Knowing what happens is not the same thing as knowing why it happens. Progress is faster when theory and experiment go hand in hand. But, like other powerful tools, theories can have both positive and negative effects. I am afraid that premature theoretical considerations can produce more harm than good at this delicate stage. Experimental data are easier to defend than ad hoc theories. Let us fight in terrains with which we are familiar; let us avoid terrains where we are weak. Theoretical people will probably do the same and the two tracks will coexist without interacting formally with each other, for the time being.

Appended on August 7, 2009
Steve Krivit, who initiated The Galileo Project, continues publishing interesting CMNS-related articles in New Energy Times. In one item (see the issue #32, July 2009) at:

he wrote: “Another prominent researcher in the neutron-denial community said the same thing in response to questions about his draft paper submitted to Infinite Energy magazine in the spring. “I have a problem in telling Pete Wilhelm [Head of the Naval Center for Space Technology] that co-deposition has resulted in production of energetic neutrons," the researcher wrote. "I don’t think that the CR-39 interior or backside etch pits are due to knock-on protons. I can’t support the view that production of energetic neutrons is occurring.”

Running alongside the neutron-denial community is Ludwik Kowalski, a retired physics teacher from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Kowalski is the most prolific poster to the semi-private Condensed Matter Nuclear Science e-mail list; he often professes his sympathy to and for LENR researchers in their battle against the mainstream opponents to LENR. Kowalski explains that his aim is to help the field.

He has long opposed the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center/ JWK Corp. work that has shown evidence of charged particles and neutron signals - strong proof of LENRs. His first opposition was an impromptu presentation at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colo., on March 5, 2007. More recently, in December 2008, Kowalski published a comment to a SPAWAR/JWK paper in the European Physical Journal. The editors of the journal gave SPAWAR/JWK a chance to reply in parallel, and they analyzed Kowalski's erroneous statements.”

I do not oppose the SPAWAR work; my argument, both at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver and in the Europea Physics Journal paper, was that dominant CR-39 pits are too large to be due to alpha particles. By the way, I am not aware of a neutron-denial community. As far as I know, some tracks on the CR-39 chip from an experiment of Francis Tanzella (who replicated SPAWAR experiment) were attributed to neutrons. This was two years ago, as described earlier in this unit.

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