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60) Alchemy; comments on two papers

Ludwik Kowalski (
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

The 1996 Japanese paper of T. Mizuno, T. Ohmori and M. Enyo, downloaded from the, is worth reading; it shows evidence of nuclear transformations taking place in a Pd-Pt-heavy water electrolytic cell. Several analytical methods were used to demonstrate that isotopes of many elements (mass numbers from 6 to 220) were deposited in the Pd cathode during its one-month-long operation. This is highly unusual nuclear alchemy. In the introduction to the paper the authors claim that the accumulation of elements in the cathode can not possibly be due to contamination because, in many cases, the isotopic composition of reaction products is highly unnatural. For example, natural chromium is known to be 4.3% 50Cr, 84% 52Cr, 9.5% 53Cr and 2.4% 54Cr. But the chromium found in the cathode was 14% 50Cr, 51% 52Cr, 2.4 % 53Cr and 11 % 54Cr. The percentage differences are extremely significant; natural variations of abundance of chromium isotopes is known to be less than 0.003%.

Similar observations were made, at about the same time, by two American scientists:
G. H. Miley and J. A. Patterson. Their paper can also be downloaded from the above mentioned web site. The authors analyzed composition of elements accumulated in a very thin Ni foil used in an electrolytic cell. They wrote: “Following a two-week electrolytic run, the Ni film was found to contain Fe, Ag, Cu, Mg, and Cr, in concentrations exceeding 2 atom % each, plus a number of additional trace elements. These elements were at the most, only present in the initial film and the electrolyte plus other accessible cell components in much smaller amounts. That fact, combined with other data, such as deviations from natural isotope abundance, seemingly eliminates the alternate explanation of impurities concentrating in the film.”

Analytical methods used to detect and analyze the accumulated elements in these studies were: secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), Auger electron spectrometry (AES), energy dispersive x-ray (EDX) analysis, electron probe micro analyzing ( EPMA ), and neutron activation analysis (NAA). Let me describe these techniques briefly.

SIMS: A sample under investigation is placed in a vacuum chamber and high-energy ions are fired at its surface. Known as ‘primary’ ions, they penetrate the near-surface atomic layers and set up chains of collisions between surface atoms. This results in releases of ionized (secondary) atoms from the exposed material. These atoms are analyzed in a mass spectrometer. Surface imaging is possible by focusing the primary ion beam on selected spots of a sample. The depth profile of trace elements concentrations can be obtained by using the ion beam sputtering, that by removing thin layers of material.

EDX: A sample to be examined is used as an anode of an X-ray tube; it is bombarded by electrons whose energies are between 10 and 20 KeV. The characteristic X-rays are analyzed with a high resolution Li drifted silicon detector. The method is used to study chemical composition of materials at the depths of up to microns. The sample can be scanned to perform surface imaging.

AES: A sample under investigation is placed in a vacuum chamber and bombarded by a beam of electrons whose energies are sufficient to ionize atoms. This results in the emission of characteristic X-rays, as in the EDX, and in the radiationless deexcitation process producing Auger electrons. The energy spectra of these electrons are analyzed to identify individual chemical elements and to determine their concentrations near the surface. Note that Auger electrons generated in deeper layers do not escape from samples. Chemical surface imaging is possible by scanning the surface with the focused beam of electrons.

EPMA: It is essentially a scanning electron microscope designed and optimized for X-ray analysis of elements from small areas. An X-ray spectrometer is used to identify elements, scanning is used to perform chemical surface imaging.

NAA: A sample under investigation is first exposed to a beam of neutrons, usually in a nuclear reactor. It is then analyzes with a detector of nuclear radiation. The nature of radiation is indicative of the average chemical composition of the irradiated sample.

The instruments used are sophisticated and only highly qualified scientists are able to use them. Pseudoscientists would not know what to do with such instruments, or how to describe observations correctly. And, yet, the entire cold fusion field is often said to be pseudoscientific. By the way, the authors of the above two articles are affiliated with highly reputable research centers: Department of Nuclear Engineering of Hokkaido University, Catalysis Research Center of Hakkaido University and Fusion Studies Laboratory at the University of Illinois. They are veteran scientists and recognized authorities in several disciplines. On what basis can their research be disqualified as pseudoscientific?

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