The prospect of cold fusion
The prospect of cold fusion
The Prospect of Cold fusion
In March of 1989, Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons first announced that they had discovered a way of producing heat from metals supersaturated with heavy water. Thus at the University of Utah, cold fusion was discovered. In the weeks following this announcement many other scientists tried to replicate the same experiment, with little result. After many scientists and Universities came up empty handed, the possibility of cold fusion was called a fluke or a con mostly because none of the nuclear or chemical theoretical models could explain the observed cold fusion effects.
So it would not be surprising if you thought that cold fusion was "dead," because the scientific establishment, the hot fusion community, and many in the news media have ignored the continuing cold fusion research. But cold fusion is far from dead. It is alive not only in dozens of laboratories in the United States, but in numerous foreign research centers, particularly in Japan.
Cold fusion is a real but still incompletely explained energy-producing phenomenon that occurs when ordinary hydrogen and the special form of hydrogen called deuterium are brought together with metals, such as palladium, titanium, and nickel. Usually, some triggering mechanism, such as electricity or even acoustic energy, is required to provoke the "cold fusion" effects. Both ordinary hydrogen and deuterium are abundant in ordinary water so the process would likely end many of the world's energy concerns, if it can be developed commercially.
One of the biggest reasons that cold fusion is so difficult to replicate is that it is not easy to supersaturate a metal with hydrogen or deuterium. The electrolyte, hydrogen or deuterium gas must be kept free of impurities. The metal must be carefully manufactured, cleaned, prepared and pre-treated. As the metal lattice fills up, tremendous pressure is created, which causes most metal samples to fracture. This prevents high loading, which is a necessary condition for cold fusion
The most important evidence for cold fusion is the excess heat energy that comes from special electrochemical cells --- much more heat excess power output beyond input power anywhere from 10% beyond input coming out than electrical energy being fed in. Researchers have now confirmed that under the proper conditions it is possible to obtain to many thousands of times the input power. In fact, in experiments reported at the Fourth International Conference on Cold fusion, one researcher, D. T. Mzuno of Hokkaido University, reported an output/input ratio of 70,000! Sometimes this power comes out in bursts, but it has also appeared continuously in some experiments for hundreds of hours, and in some cases even for many months.
And there is more. Neutrons, tritium, energetic charged particles, and other ionizing radiation have been detected in a variety of cold fusion experiments. In the past few years, there has also emerged startling experimental evidence that elements have been transformed in cold fusion experiments. Several laboratories have found helium-4, for example, and low levels of radioactive metal atoms. Isotopes of silver and rhodium have appeared from cold fusion cells where no such atoms existed before the experiments began.
Cold fusion cannot be classified as a chemical reaction or a nuclear reaction even though it does have some characteristics of each.
Cold fusion cannot be a chemical process because it consumes no chemical fuel and it produces no chemical ash. Cold fusion cells contain mostly water, which is inert material that cannot burn or undergo any other exothermic chemical reaction. Cells also contain metal hydrides, which can produce a small amounts of chemical heat, but cold fusion cells have produced hundreds of thousands of times more energy per unit of mass than any chemical cell could. For example, a cell containing 40 milligrams (0.04 grams) of metal hydride, and no other potential chemical fuel, produced 86 megajoules of energy over a two month period. The best conventional chemical fuel is gasoline; only a few exotic rocket fuels produce more energy per gram than gasoline, and they are not much better. It would take 2,000 grams of gasoline to produce 86 megajoules of energy, so the cold fusion cell was 50,000 times better. Furthermore, no cold fusion cell has ever shown any sign of petering out for lack of fuel. The cell that produced 86 megajoules was deliberately turned off after two months. If it has been left on it might have run for years, or decades. Nobody knows how long it might go.
Cold fusion does produce nuclear ash: helium, a low level of neutrons, and in some cases tritium and transmutations in the host metal. It produces trillions of times fewer neutrons than plasma fusion or fission, and most scientists believe that nothing resembling plasma fusion can take place in a metal lattice, so if cold fusion is a nuclear fusion or fission reaction, it must be very different than any known reaction. It is not yet clear whether the helium, tritium and other nuclear ash from cold fusion is sufficient to account for all of the heat generated. If it is not, then perhaps this is a new source of energy never observed before, which occasionally produces nuclear reactions as a side effect.
There are many differences between hot fusion and cold fusion. Cold fusion releases enormous quantities of energy in the form of heat, not ionizing radiation, as in hot fusion. The only byproduct being helium. This heat energy is hundreds to thousands of times what ordinary chemical reactions could possibly yield. If cold fusion is a previously unknown form of benign nuclear reaction, (as most researchers in the cold fusion field believe) there is more potential cold fusion energy in a cubic mile of sea water than in all of the oil reserves on earth. Cold fusion, in contrast to hot fusion, occurs in relatively simple apparatus.
Cold fusion does not operate like hot fusion. That has been clear from the start. It must have some other explanation.
Cold fusion researchers have attempted to find theoretical models to explain the observed cold fusion effects: large thermal energy releases, low-level nuclear phenomena, and the absence of massive harmful radiation and other conventional nuclear effects. There is yet no single, generally accepted theory that explains all these phenomena. There is no doubt, however, that the phenomena exist and will eventually be explained. It is difficult to come up with a theory that fits all the data. The explanation might lie in nuclear reactions, exotic "super-chemistry" requiring some modifications to quantum mechanics, or something even more bizarre (such as tapping of the zero-point energy of space at the atomic level).
The future of cold fusion is very shaky. Cold fusion research is not "Big Science." It does not need massive installations; just relatively small-scale work at national laboratories, universities, and in private industries, which are already beginning to enter the field in the U.S.
Cold fusion does, however, require the talents of top scientists and engineers, combined with sophisticated analytical instrumentation. Federal laboratories, in search of a new mission, are well equipped to support cold fusion research. Cold fusion research could well become a major mission for scientists at these laboratories. Cold fusion energy development, however, will dominantly be the territory for private industry. There is no need for massive government investment. But government must smooth the path for private efforts.
Probably the most difficult hurdle in trying to come to terms with cold fusion is that is seems too fantastic scientifically, and "too good to be true" economically and socially. But the same could have been and was said about many other technological revolutions as they began to happen.
Cold fusion would likely revolutionize the world in ways we can barely begin to imagine. Some believe that before the year 2010 there will be cold fusion powered automobiles, home heating systems, small electrical generating units, and aerospace applications. These technologies will revolutionize the world as they speed the end of the Fossil Fuel Age.
The stakes have never been higher. We should remember the sentiment of the famous scientist, Michael Faraday, in the last century, to whom we owe our revolutionary electrically powered civilization. He wrote, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true�.