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Science News

Cold Fusion Scientist Exonerated 171

Icarus1919 writes "New Scientist reports that the scientist who discovered a possible cold fusion reaction by bombarding a solvent with neutrons and sonic waves has recently been exonerated of accusations of scientific misconduct following the verification of his results by another scientist."
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Cold Fusion Scientist Exonerated

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  • Odd. (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:54PM (#18070182) Homepage Journal
    Where's the cold fusion? The article sounds more like Sonofusion [wikipedia.org]. Which, I can assure you, is a long ways from "cold".
  • Re:Odd. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:59PM (#18070268) Journal
    Your definition of cold fusion is fusion happing at relatively low temperatures I take it?

    Well, the problem with that is that it most likely cannot exist, a certain amount of kinetic energy is required at the atomic level for fusion - meaning a lot of heat for the fusing atoms.

    I think cold fusion in general means that the average temperature of the reaction chamber is low. If I read the wikipedia article right, the technique used generates small superheated bubbles, but doesn't necessarily superheat the solvent, this I think it can be classified as cold fusion.
  • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:59PM (#18070274) Journal
    The person accusing Taleyarkhan of misinterpreting data was one of his own post-docs. I wonder what that person has to say now? I think it's easy to make allegations and its difficult to shake the effects of false allegations.
  • Re:Odd. (Score:3, Informative)

    by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:00PM (#18070290)
    The physicist in question didn't call it cold fusion, nor, I think, did anyone else besides the /. submitter.
  • Re:Odd. (Score:4, Informative)

    by yoder ( 178161 ) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:01PM (#18070296) Homepage Journal
    This article seems to be a teaser. No real information available.
  • Re:Odd. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:09PM (#18070438) Journal
    OK, this doesn't look like low energy input, even if it is room temperature, so it's probably not cold fusion as the OP posted.

    Cold Fusion [wikipedia.org]

    However such a thing may exist, and has been reproduced with difficulty, albeit on a small and commercially non-viable scale. It looks like it's hell on the components. And I suspect there are areas of high heat since it mentions parts melting.
  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:16PM (#18070564)
    Apparently, Purdue refused to state what the exact allegations investigated were, how many inquiries it conducted, or what its conclusions were based on. Hard to tell if the investigation's conclusions were arrived at fairly or were politically motivated. More details in this NYT article [nytimes.com] which I found from this blog entry [scienceblogs.com].
  • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:21PM (#18070628) Journal
    IAAPC and yeah I think the controversy was actually about whether the associated gamma rays, and not just the high energy neutrons, were from the deuterated acetone and not some other source sitting around the lab that was radioactive.

    Taleyarkhan, R.P., Cho, J.S. et.al. Physical Review E. vol 69 pg 36109-1. The title is: 'Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation.'

    See also this blurb [aip.org]
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:23PM (#18070662) Homepage
    Some context:
    • The slashdot editors have always loved posting credulous articles about cold fusion.
    • The original cold fusion experiments by Pons and Fleischman (using electrochemistry) didn't have any detectors in place to detect neutrons. In fact, if the experiment had been producing the level of power they were claiming, they'd have been dead from the neutrons.
    • In the '90's, Gai et al. at Yale redid the Pons and Fleischman experiments with an array of neutron detectors, and found no excess neutrons.
    • There are really only two ways of interpreting the electrochemistry experiments at this point: (1) they didn't produce fusion; or (2) there are huge, fundamental mistakes in our understanding of the hydrogen atom (e.g., there's another state whose energy is lower than the normal ground state's).
  • Re:Odd. (Score:5, Informative)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:25PM (#18070696)
    Your definition of cold fusion is fusion happing at relatively low temperatures I take it?

    Cold fusion is fusion that takes place when the fusing nuclei are at temperatures significantly below those required to overcome the Coulomb barrier. It has nothing to do with the temperature of the laboratory that the experiment takes place in, or the temperature of the majority of the mass of the apparatus. For example, we do not call tokomak's "cold fusion" because despite the fact that they sometimes use superconducting magnets and therefore are not just "cold" but positively cryogenic, the nuclei that do the fusing are HOT.

    Any other use of the term "cold fusion" is terribly mis-leading for two reasons. One is that it invokes a completely arbitrary and unphysical division between various kinds of hot fusion, calling some kinds of hot fusion "cold" because someone happens to feel that it is important that some part of the apparatus that is not undergoing a fusion reaction is cold. The second reason is that it fails to distinguish between pressure-driven fusion of the kind claimed by Pons and Fleishman, and temperature-driven fusion which has actually been observed.

    People who use "cold fusion" when they mean "sonofusion" are either honestly ignorant of the differences between hot fusion and cold fusion, or are being wilfully dishonest.

    Despite the fact that neither Pons and Fleishman nor anyone else has ever been able to provide convincing evidence that pressure-driven fusion occurs between room-temperature nuclei, it is still the case that if anyone could figure out how to exert sufficient pressure, then the atoms would fuse, regardless of the amount of kinetic energy (that is, even at low temperatures.)

    So there is a real distinction in the physics of "hot" and "cold" fusion, and in terms of that unambiguous and physically interesting distinction, sonofusion, if it happens at all, is almost certainly hot. Although if the centre of the bubbles really is as hot as they seem, it is a mystery as to why we don't see any neutron production in water, but only in more complex organic molecules--the phenomenon remains mysterious and there is still a lot of work to be done to reveal its secrets.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @03:44PM (#18071820)
    Subsequently they have to find another excuse to disregard his findings.

    I think the fact that almost no one can reproduce his work seems like a good enough excuse.
  • by cheekyboy ( 598084 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @03:59PM (#18072102) Homepage Journal
    http://www.proton21.com.ua/index_en.html [proton21.com.ua]

    The first successful experiment was performed on February 24, 2000 in a specially created and proprietary set up. In fact, the 5,000+ successful experiments in controlled nuclei-synthesis performed since 1999, using various targets made of light, medium, or heavy elements; have allowed the research team at EDL to comprehend and evaluate this unique scientific breakthrough.
    The discovered process has been noted for its practical, environmentally friendly and extraordinary energy efficient attributes.

    Two major outcomes have emerged from this process:

            * First, the creation of an energy output far exceeding the initial impact.
            * Second, the creation of an array of unique nuclei-synthesis elements. These new elements were tested by leading scientific laboratories in Ukraine, Russia, USA, etc, and their artificial origin was confirmed.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Informative)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @04:52PM (#18073028)
    Of course, low temperature fusion is already old hat anyway (Farnsworth Fusor.)

    From the article you link:

    Unlike most controlled fusion systems, which slowly heat a magnetically confined plasma, the fusor injects "high temperature" ions directly into a reaction chamber, thereby avoiding a considerable amount of complexity.
    The Farnsworth Fusor is a high-temperature fusion device, just like sonofusion systems are high temperature fusion devices (if they really do produce fusion.)

    Do not confuse "table top" with "cold". The only reason conventional hot fusion systems are big is because the plasma losses scale as the surface area while the energy production scales as the volume, so the ratio of losses to energy goes down linearly with the size of the system. If one could produce a non-equilibrium device that had relatively smaller losses or larger energy production one could have a table-top fusion generator. Unfortunately, there is a quite general theoretical proof as to why such non-equilibrium devices cannot ever produce net power.
  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @05:17PM (#18073510)
    ... and also not all fusion reactions create neutrons.

    This is not quite correct, especially in the context of fusion in the solid state.

    It is true that considered in complete isolation from everything else, the reaction d + d -> 4He is neutron free. But considered in complete isolation from everything else a great many things are true. For example, it is true that considered in complete isolation from everything else, you can drive your car the wrong way down a one-way street and not suffer any collisions. But I doubt that would stand up in court as a justification for claiming that driving your car the wrong way down a one-way street is perfectly safe.

    In the case of fusion, for d + d -> 4He to occur, d + d -> 3He + n must also occur. And when d + d -> 4He occurs, the alpha particle carries off about 23 MeV, if memory serves. This is quite far above the neutron binding energy of most nuclei, which means that nuclear collisions as the alpha particle slows down can knock neutrons free. And such collisions produce a lot of gamma rays, too.

    Believers in cold fusion are required to make up phenomena that might suppress these and other neutron and gamma production processes. Unfortunately, those phenomena always contradict what we know about solid state and nuclear physics. And by "know" I don't mean just "what we have a good theoretical understanding of" but also "what we are empirically certain of."

    Finally, I'd like to point out a trivial falsehood in your post:

    Well, 40 years ago "high temperature" super conduction was physically impossible. If a scientist had claimed super conduction does exist on high temperatures as well, his colleagues had declared him mad.

    On the contrary, when a scientist actually did claim that super conduction exists at high temperatures his colleagues first reproduced the results and then gave him a Nobel Prize. That's what scientists do when people find the unexpected--try to reproduce the results, and if they do, reward the discoverer. No matter how astonishing and unexpected the results are. It is only when people make improbable claims with insufficient evidence that the question of their sanity is raised.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @05:27PM (#18073680)
    On a slightly off-topic note, for those who have not been following the details in the cold fusion field, some very persuasive evidence has emerged FOR the original cold fusion experiments (the Pons-Fleischmann style cold fusion using Palladium and Deuterium). The evidence was presented by researchers at the US Navy's SPAWAR labs late in 2006. The reserchers are highly experienced scientists who have taken their time and performed the experiments thoroughly. A description of the evidence is at http://www.newenergytimes.com/news/2006/NET19.htm# ee [newenergytimes.com].

    Some of the biggest problems in cold fusion experiments has been long incubation periods, perhaps weeks/months, difficulty in calorimetry experiments for determining if heat was being generated, and replication.

    Two techniques have been detailed by SPAWAR. The first is the using chemical co-deposition methods to combine Palladium and Deuterium, allowing a solid Palladium structure to form with Deuterium already 'mixed' in with it. Previously, weeks were often needed to allow absorption of Deuterium into the Palladium. Using the co-deposition technique, cold fusion effects become apparent within minutes, such as anomalous amounts of tritium, low-intensity x-ray radiation, and increased heat. This happens on a highly repeatable basis.

    The second, highly outstanding experimental result is the use of nuclear industry standard CR-39 nuclear track detectors, which look like small pieces of plastic and are permently etched with tiny impact craters whenever a high energy nuclear particle hits them. Chemical reactions cannot produce the craters or tracks. The experiment involved placing a CR-39 track detector physically next to the Palladium-Deuterium electrode.

    What resulted was the detection of some of the highest density counts ever seen on the detectors of high energy nuclear particles. Independent nuclear experts who have examined the CR-39 detectors recognized the signature tracks of protons and alpha particles, which, to be ejected from the atoms where they reside, require millions of volts - at least 1,000,000 times more energy than can be produced by any known chemical reaction. As a control experiment, exposed CR-39 detectors in a lithium solution without palladium in it resulted in only a sprinkling of tracks, randomly distributed and so few in number that they could be accounted for by background radiation.

    The only surrounding energy sources were a few volts from the current applied through electrolysis; the second is an applied external electric field of about 6,000 volts. The particle tracks look identical to tracks made by nuclear particles that have at least 2 million electron-volts.

    The really nice thing is is that you can almost see the tracks with your naked eye. Take the detectors elsewhere, to conferences etc, show others later; the tracks are permently etched evidence of nuclear reactions occuring in a Palladium-Deuterium benchtop setup.

    The evidence here for Pons-Fleischmann cold fusion is now getting to the point where the scientific community has to seriously consider that Pons-Fleischmann cold fusion DOES exist under the right conditions, whether people want to accept it or not. Hard to replicate is not the same as impossible to replicate.

  • "another scientist" (Score:5, Informative)

    by forringer ( 635269 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @06:21PM (#18074524)
    Well, I am that "other scientist." It is nice to see good press for bubble fusion reach slashdot (no, I didn't submit it.)

    First, I agree with the previous posters that this is not "cold fusion." The centers of the collapsing bubbles are very hot. Apparently hot enough to cause fusion.

    The research I published was based on experiments conducted at Purdue University using a setup provided by Dr. Taleyarkhan. All equipment calibration, measurements, and data analysis were preformed by me and my students. We had full access to the equipment and we were very careful to make sure that there was nothing to contaminate our data.

    People who have read the actual paper (Transactions of the American Nuclear Society, vol 95, p 736) would agree that the results published leave no room for doubt that the neutrons are caused by the collapsing bubbles in a deuterated fluid - the appropriate control experiments were performed - the statistics are significant.

    The controversy comes because several well respected and talented physicists have not been able to reproduce Dr. Taleyarkhan's results in their own labs. This has led several people (including an editor from Nature Magazine) to conclude that Dr. Taleyarkhan must be faking his data.

    I cannot explain why it has been so hard to reproduce the results in another lab except to say that null results are pretty easy to get in any sensitive experiment and it originally took Dr. Taleyarkhan several years to perfect his methods.

    I suspect that all that is needed is a little more time and we will hear about several labs who have confirmed this work completely independently. Of course we are working on that very thing here at LeTourneau University.

    Even if it takes some time to reproduce the results at another lab, having independent researchers come to Purdue and reproduce the experiments should be a big step in moving past the controversy.

    Dr. Ted Forringer
    Assistant Professor of Physics
    LeTourneau University
  • by forringer ( 635269 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:07PM (#18075760)
    > how close does this reaction come to break-even? Lets see ... we put about 10 watts of power in and got something less than 10,000 neutrons/second out. At 2.5 MeV per neutron, that is about 4e-9 Watts out. So, not close. > Does it look like the apparatus could be modified > to pass this point (i.e. is the limitation based > on physics or engineering)?" There is no physics limitation that I know of - it looks like a (hard) engineering question. Respectfully, Ted Forringer
  • by forringer ( 635269 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:15PM (#18075846)
    (sorry, I have fixed the formatting in the previous post)

    > how close does this reaction come to break-even?

    Lets see ... we put about 10 watts of power in and got something less than 10,000 neutrons/second out. At 2.5 MeV per neutron, that is about 4e-9 Watts out.

    So, not close.

    > Does it look like the apparatus could be modified
    > to pass this point (i.e. is the limitation based > on physics or engineering)?"

    There is no physics limitation that I know of - it looks like a (hard) engineering question.

    Ted Forringer

Memory fault -- brain fried