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Cold Fusion Gets a Boost From the US Navy 168

Posted by kdawson
from the fuse-this dept.
Tjeerd writes in to alert us to the publication in a highly respected, peer-reviewed journal of results indicative of table-top fusion. The US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, CA (called Spawar) has apparently been conducting research on "cold fusion" since the days of the discredited report of Pons and Fleischmann. They are reporting on the reproducible detection of highly energetic charged particles from a wire coated in palladium-deuterium and subjected to either an electric or a magnetic field. Their paper was published in February in the journal Naturwissenschaften (which has published work by Einstein, Heisenberg, and Lorenz). New Scientist also has a note about the fusion work but it is available only to subscribers.
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Cold Fusion Gets a Boost From the US Navy

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  • Figures (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrMrLordX (559371) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:53AM (#19008953)
    You can bet the Navy is interested in any portable, high-power energy source that could exceed the efficiency of fission reactors. Those rail guns they're pimping probably take a lot of power to operate.

    More power to em (literally and figuratively).
    • Re:Figures (Score:5, Informative)

      by Da Fokka (94074) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:58AM (#19008957) Homepage
      There's a huge difference between mere fusion reactions and an actual fusion reactor that will sustainably produce power. From what I've read, this is about the former, so I'm not keeping my fingers crossed just yet. However, it's still good to see that fusion research is being carried out along several different approaches.
      • Cold fusion (Score:2, Funny)

        by Oshkoshjohn (537394)
        The experiment would probably work better if they built the prototype in a cup of tea!
      • The key for this experiment is whether the output energy is greater than the input energy. If the former exceeds the latter, then some experimentation may harness the excess energy.

        Does anyone know how the output energy compares to the input energy for this military experiment?

        • by mdsolar (1045926) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:48PM (#19011589) Homepage Journal
          At this point, they are not aiming for net energy production. Their two main advances are to 1) use codeposition to get deutrium loading from the beginning and 2) using a detector that can fit within the experiment. The first advance means that the effects are seen just about every time, and the second means that the background has less of an effect on detection, particularly if charged particles are involved since these have trouble escaping the experimental setup owing to Compton losses. Getting more power out than in is not really the basic measure though. The power out so far is heat, so you want quite an excess before you can turn that back into something usable.
          --
          Energy out from the Sun: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
        • by h2g2bob (948006)

          The key for this experiment is whether the output energy is greater than the input energy.
          No it's not. This is an unexpected result, according to the standard models. The key to the experiment is improving those models, and hence our understanding of the world.
    • Re:Figures (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:28AM (#19009049)
      You might be interested to know that this isn't actually the case. A few hundred kilowatts of generating capacity is sufficient to fire rail guns. Why? Calculate the total energy content of 2 tons of explosives. That's how much kinetic energy a rail-gun shot might yield, and it isn't actually very much energy. (just released all at once : is why the rail-gun power supply would need to have massive accumulators of some type)
      • by DrMrLordX (559371)
        Yes, but how often can you fire your guns with that kind of generating capacity, and how many can you fire? Plus, I'm sure the Navy will eventually be interested in firing rail guns that can achieve a higher velocity projectile and/or higher-mass projectiles.

        Considering the fact that traditional naval guns have relied on chemical energy to propel projectiles, the amount of power generation capacity needed on a warship to fire old-school guns is/was likely much lower than that required to fire rail guns.
        • You would think that. But it actually isn't the issue. And, in any case, if power generation were the main limit, the navy could always install a fission reactor in a rail-gun packing destroyer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mvdwege (243851)

          Incidentally, guns on ships as an offensive weapon have been pretty much obsolete since Pearl Harbour, the occasional shore bombardment mission notwithstanding. The primary naval offensive platform is the aircraft carrier, seconded by the ballistic missile carrying submarine and the guided missile armed cruiser. The old battleship is a distant fourth, if in service at all, and even the use of guns as fleet defense is being phased out in favour of destroyers and frigates armed with guided missiles.

          Mart

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Have you read the crazy performance numbers they are projecting for a big railgun? They are talking about hundreds of miles of range, with projectiles that have active guidance (with movable fins).

            Thus, a new weapons platform that can do many jobs that would currently require a missile, but the cost would be much less. And you can have a whole cargo hold full of warheads; missiles take up more room. And the kinetic punch of the warhead does the damage, so there isn't any explosive payload on the warhead;
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by evanbd (210358)
        The energy content of 2 tons of TNT is about 8 gigajoules. That's rather a lot of energy. A kinetic projectile at 10,000 m/s -- mach 30 -- has 50 megajoules per kilogram. You'd need a 160 kg of projectile to reach 8 GJ. Seems possible for a shipboard system, but I bet the first applications are much smaller. Anyway, for something that size you'd want much more than a few hundred kw of generator -- even at 1MW, that's over 2 hours between shots with no inefficiencies anywhere. My personal guess is that
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Please note that if cold fusion really exists, it will probably not bear the same amount of energy. After all, the first occurrence of hot fusion was in the Hydrogen Bomb and the first occurrence of cold fusion was a bottle making bubbles.
      Still interesting to power my laptop battery but maybe not enough for my jetpack.
      • That Depends (Score:5, Informative)

        by mdsolar (1045926) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:16AM (#19009469) Homepage Journal
        The energy produced per fusion event pretty much has to be the same, but the rate at which the fusion occurs is controled differently. If this can be harnessed for energy production, it may end up as distributed power generation rather than centralized power generation envisioned for hot fusion. There does seem to be sufficient palladium available to make significant levels of power.
        --
        Hot fusion now with no installation cost: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anna Merikin (529843)

        the first occurrence of cold fusion was a bottle making bubbles.

        Not so. The first occurence (the discovery itself) was caused by a fire in the lab where the experiment was housed; the starting point of the fire was the closet that contained the cooler with the heavy water.

        Several years later, probably the first replication of the effect was marked by a fire in the Palo Alto Lab containing the experiment. (To this day, both Stanford and the City of Palo Alto deny there was such a fire, but the local ne

  • curious (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:05AM (#19008981) Homepage
    The US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, CA (called Spawar) has apparently been conducting research on "cold fusion"

    I wonder why they chose that over ASP .NET or J2EE.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bender_ (179208)

      Computer geek vs. science geek battle alert!

      I will take the science side any time! Web technology fads come and go, science will stay.

      • Like how quantum theory is so very stable? or how the Earth is the center of the universe and also flat? Science fads seem to last longer but is that really better? I'd rather that science advanced as quickly as web technology.... would be nice to see this new science Cold Fusion come out of Alpha by next year so I could deploy my beta home CF Reactor and get off the grid.... like how I can now use an off the shelf OS CMS to run my own website without paying a million bucks for a dev company to build one fr
      • by f1055man (951955)
        cartman: social cripple fight!!!
    • Re:curious (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jessta (666101) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:23AM (#19009247) Homepage
      Because Myspace proved that you can make a solid, easy to use, and efficient website with it. :P
  • Far more exciting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ab8ten (551673) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:05AM (#19008983)
    is the work (also funded by the navy) undertaken by Dr. Bussard (of interstellar spaceship fame). His design for an electrostatic inertial confinement machine shows more promise than the heavy, expensive tokamak prefered by the internatinal ITER project, and has been built and tested in the lab, but not yet to an energy-return scale. The work was kept secret due to the source of funding, for the last 12 years, so it is only now that we're hearing aboutu it. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846 673788606 [google.com] - Lecture given by Bussard at google, giving an overview of the project. 1:30 long, so if you don't have time, read: http://www.askmar.com/ConferenceNotes/2006-9%20IAC %20Paper.pdf [askmar.com] - Summary paper, outlining the research and results so far. The real research paper is yet to be published, but that's what he's working on now.
    • by VoidCrow (836595) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:45AM (#19009121)
      On the contrary, I'd suggest that the LENR work is far more exciting because we don't have a theoretical framework which describes it. New physics, anyone?
      • Correction: We don't have an accepted theoretical framework. I've certainly heard talks where such a framework is proposed, and the codeposition particle sizes in the present experiment are anticipated by theory, but it is still much too soon to say if one theory or another is correct, or if any existing theories are adequate. But, I think you are right that this is a more exciting area to dig in.
        --
        Hot fusion now! http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-user s -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • LERN (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skrynkelberg (910137) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:23AM (#19009033)
    "... low energy nuclear reaction (LERN)" Someone needs to LERN to abbreviate correctly. (-:
  • ... that one day I'll be able to use the melted ice in my 'Cold Fusion' brand beer cooler to recharge my laptop and my iPod ... or even my TV remote.
  • by Eukariote (881204) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:29AM (#19009061)

    The "Cold Fusion" field has seen many more experimental successes: detection of neutrons, tritium, helium, transmutations of heavier elements, non-natural-abundance isotope ratios, detection of ionizing radiation. The best place to visit for an overview of the field is http://www.lenr-canr.org/ [lenr-canr.org].

    Though the experiments are remarkable, no concensus on the theory has emerged yet. Nuclear reactions are clearly happening, but it is doubtful that it is conventional fusion, that is, nuclei moving fast enough to surmount their mutual Coulombic repulsion. Something seems to be screening or catalysing the reactions.

    • by ResidntGeek (772730) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:02AM (#19009193) Journal
      Shit... "nuclear catalyst" - there's a phrase to put fear into the heart of anyone who knows what a catalyst is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "Nuclear catalyst" the most sensible phrase, given the theory (false or not) is that palladium can be used as a nuclear equivalent to a chemical catalyst (i.e. not used up in the reaction it assists). This "misue" of catalyst is also found in other approaches to fusion, such muon-catalyzed fusion [wikipedia.org] and antimatter catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion [wikipedia.org].
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110)

        "nuclear catalyst" - there's a phrase to put fear into the heart of anyone who knows what a catalyst is.
        ...but doesn't know what "nuclear" actually means.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122)
          No, it's still quite scary. though probably not for the reason the gp intended..

          For instance, in addition to the sub-critical nuclear terrorism angle, nuclear catalysts could cause a bit of a stir in isotopic dating.

          If such a catalyst exists, geology should give us some clues: We should look for minerals composed of reaction products, but in concentrations that shouldn't exist.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by evilviper (135110)

            nuclear catalysts could cause a bit of a stir in isotopic dating.

            Yes, that could be an issue... But that's absolutely, positively, NOT SCARY, in any way, shape, or form.
          • by DeadChobi (740395)
            Yes, the catalyst exists. We are all made in His image. You might also be interested to know that He is invisible, and passes through normal matter with ease. Clearly you cannot see past the marinara to the noodles below and understand that this is proof of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's existence.
          • by mdsolar (1045926)
            To get this to go takes quite a lot of preparation, not least getting deuterium concentrated. The effect is not seen with plain hydrogen, so while interesting transmutation have been measured, it is hard to see how this could happen in nature and affect isotopic dating.

            Heck, it is hard to see how this could happen at all. The deuteron having integer spin seems like the only thread to pull on....
  • Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eukariote (881204) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:37AM (#19009087)
    For an video/documentary outlining the status of the "Cold Fusion" field, see the following over on Google video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6426393169 641611451&q=COLD+FUSION&hl=en [google.com]
  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:50AM (#19009143) Homepage
    I won't believe the Navy has really discovered anything until they commission The Village People to write a song about it.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      ...L - E - N - R! It's fun to play with some L - E - N - R...
    • so they can't, sorry. BTW, the sailor was also the policeman.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      The Navy didn't commission The Village People, they just tried to get the rights to use their song after it became popular. As payment, they provided the use of a ship and some sailors for filming the video, which caused a PR backlash.

      Also, to address the sibling poster, this guy [wikipedia.org] played the sailor, this guy [wikipedia.org] played the construction worker, and neither of them appear to be dead.

      Sorry for letting facts get in the way of an otherwise good joke though.
  • So maybe I've had a few tonight, but I'm thoughtful enough to not go texting people at this hour. I'll just bug all of you instead.

    I feel like I've been reading about cold fusion for as long as I've been old enough to read about science. I can't shake the feeling that cold fusion research is the modern equivalent of alchemy. That is to say that it's kind of a dead end in itself, but the amount of work being done to that end is yielding all kinds of results that will be beneficial to other scientists at some
  • Cold Fusion (Score:3, Funny)

    by NotFamousYet (937650) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:08AM (#19009441)
    When I saw the title I thought it was about ColdFusion and started wondering why the hell would the Navy want to improve MySpace :)
  • Method (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:25AM (#19009511) Homepage Journal
    The method of recording nuclear tracks is a solid is an old one but it has the advantage that the recording material can be placed very close to the reaction. This has lead to the discovery of very short lived particles that might be long sought axions in a recent accelerator experiment: http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0954-3899/34/1/009 [iop.org]. The plastic detectors used in the SPAWARS experiment can be placed close to the electrode so that background is a smaller part of the overall signal. Their method of electrode fabrication is also impressive. It seems to work just about every time.
    --
    Get solar power for what you pay your utility now: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • by bronzey214 (997574) <jason.rippel@gmail.3.14com minus pi> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:29AM (#19009519) Journal
    ...Yvan Eht Nioj
  • Article excerpts (Score:5, Informative)

    by gvc (167165) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:48AM (#19009579)
    New Scientist:

    Could it really be true that nuclear fusion can be coaxed into action at room temperature, using only simple lab equipment? Most nuclear physicists don't think so, and dismiss Gordon's pitted piece of plastic as nothing more than the result of a badly conceived experiment.
    Naturwissenschaften article, last sentence:

    from a physicist's point of view, the theoretical arguments offered in this communication are pure speculation. It is hoped that future investigations will undoubtedly provide a clearer picture of the nuclear events taking place in the polarized Pd/D-D2O system.
  • ...it's all about probabilities.

    For my fellow nukes out there, remember cross-sections [wikipedia.org]? [Note to self: Wikipedia is like the duct tape of encyclopedias; there's nothing it can't do, but do use with caution]. If the experimenters can improve the probability of the reaction's occurrence, then sure, fusion can result. I mean, who would have thought that less than 100 years ago, setting up a pile of graphite bricks with bits of U metal at Stagg Field [wikipedia.org] would have spawned an entire industry for energy and
  • by Locutus (9039) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @10:45AM (#19010203)
    It's called Ampere's Law(http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mag netic/magcur.html ).
    Your tax dollars at work. ;-)

    I didn't bother with the article due to the subject matter being of little interest other than to show how money and minds are being wasted. IMO.

    LoB
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Really? I don't recall the part of Ampere's Law that mentions the production of energetic subatomic particles. That's what this story is about. They aren't claiming excess energy production. That was in the SUMMARY.
      • by Locutus (9039)

        They are reporting on the reproducible detection of highly energetic charged particles from a wire coated in palladium-deuterium and subjected to either an electric or a magnetic field.

        As stated, I didn't bother to read the article and so I'm only commenting on the /. summary. I also thought that electron flow was the movement of electrons and electrons were part of an atom( sub-atomic maybe ) and had a charge. THAT lead me to the comment regarding Ampere's Law of electron flow in a wire induced by a changi

  • Doubtful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IvyKing (732111) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @10:52AM (#19010285)
    About ten years ago, I met a couple of guys at NRAD (Navy Research And Development) in San Diego who were doubtful of the work being done on cold fusion. One of the them was making comments about dadiation being detected with some ancient technology (e.g. electroscopes) but not with more modern radiation detectors.


    The most amusing comment was that they were able to recreate Fleischman and Pons 'excess energy' - but pointed out that the palladium electrodes became more resistive when absorbing hydrogen and that they were using constant current power supplies (hint: Fleischman and Pons weren't monitoring the power supply voltage).

    • Yep, that was amusing. Now I'm interested in how poorly-monitored power supplies can produce measureable quantities of tritium.
      • by IvyKing (732111)
        I'd believe they're creating fusion if they produce measurable amounts of 3He. At low energies, D(D,n)3He is about as likely as D(D,p)T - in other words, they should be producing shitloads of neutrons.


        Tritium is found in most sources of water. Just about any process used for enriching deuterium will also likely be equally as good for enriching tritium.

  • Theory (Score:4, Informative)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @11:40AM (#19010631)
    Pons and Fleischmann didn't begin with lab experiments but with a theory, that protons packed together under intense pressure would have a quantum probability of fusing, similar to the way that electrons tunnel. Palladium soaks up hydrogen (that's why it is used) and inside a palladium electrode, the hydrogen is forced by electric charge to be highly pressurized. Lab experiments have verified that funny things happen, resembling nuclear fusion, but to say there is no plausible theory as to why is just plain wrong.
  • right now China has made us look like asses by very effectively using very old tech (diesel-run subs) to sneak up on US carrier groups a couple times. They charge up massive batteries with the diesel engines, then can run for a while completely silent, and at the same temp as their environment.

    We were brainiacs and went to nuclear power for many of our more important subs, which run very *hot*, even if they are silent. They can be seen easily due to their thermal footprint.

    Cold fusion, therefore, would be
    • by BCW2 (168187) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:33PM (#19015027) Journal
      Have you ever served on a sub? I question your knowledge. The way you detect a nuclear sub is still by noise, normally the cooling pumps for the reactor. Cold fusion would eliminate those pumps and the noise that goes with it. A diesel electric has always been the quitest boat under the sea and anyone can sneak up on a surface task force. We used to joke about the skimmers pinging away like they could find something with active sonar, what a joke! We could hear them pinging over 50 miles away, with that kind of head start did they stand a chance of finding us? Hell NO!. Every exercise with a USN task force or RN ended with us inside the screen and execise shots passing under the flagship. Nobody ever tracked us thermally because it mixes with the surrounding water to fast. Now a P3 with a MAD unit (magnetic anomally detector) was a bitch to get away from! That was the only thing that could ever find us when we didn't want to be found. The Soviets were always 3 generations behind in quieting and sonar.
      signed - a cold war sub sailor
  • Not unexpected. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Entropius (188861)
    Keep in mind that the purpose of military R&D isn't to develop working products; it's to get funding to continue work. This is especially true for the pseudoprivate military contractors like Boeing and Raytheon, but also partly true for groups like Spawar... who tend to be less greedy but also less concerned with actually making something that works. Military R&D labs and contractors don't manufacture products; they manufacture grants.

    Saying "They must be on to something, because they're still doing
  • ...of the very piece of CR-39 plastic that detected the atomic particles. And it even has a genuine Roosevelt dime next to it. What more proof could you want?

    No, wait, it's only a piece of CR-39 plastic like the one that detected the atomic particles. Never mind.

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