Is LENR real?

Yesterday, on, THHuxley wrote:

As someone who tends to be a debunker I can answer that [question about why people argue so much on lenr-forum]. Internet sites like this tend to be fan sites, where the object is admired. In this case people here would believe or hope LENR exists and come to see what new proofs and applications have been found.

I introduce here evidence for the reality of LENR.

THH is a pseudonym for someone who apparently posted for a long time with his real name. He has academic credentials. I have previously seen critics of LENR who feared personal repercussions if it were known that they even talked about LENR. I first encountered that in 2009, on Wikipedia. This is diagnostic of a major rejection cascade, this kind of effect occurs in many fields where a “scientific consensus” forms as a social phenomenon rather than a scientific one. It can cause massive harm. Many journals will not publish research that contradicts such a “scientific consensus.” The social scientists who have studied what happened with cold fusion are quite clear about this not being a matter of science, but of social pressures and reactions.

For any normal technology the question of existence is not at issue, however how good the tech is, or whether commercially it will ever be successful.

Cold fusion is not “normal technology,” that’s obvious. It is not understood. There are two separate issues: reality and practicality, and they tend to get confused. For example, a skeptic may argue for unreality, then, if evidence for reality is presented, the skeptic will assert that nevertheless it would never be practical, so we should not even be talking about it. Obviously, this puts the cart before the horse. If cold fusion is real, making it practical will require a massive effort, it is not a slam-dunk. Sometimes the lack of practical applications is cited as evidence for unreality: if it were real, the thinking is, surely someone would have found a practical application. Because research is limited, because it is quite possible that creating practical applications might fail with even a billion dollars invested, the argument fails. Nobody has put a billion dollars into cold fusion research.

Hot fusion is real, and a billion dollars a year in research funding, for, what, thirty years?, has not brought us much closer, if at all, to practical application. It’s basically a dumb argument. Research to establish reality will not cost a billion dollars. I will claim that this research has already been done, but there is a program under way, well-funded at about $12 million, which should settle the reality issue in short order, by repeating what has been done with increased precision. There remain many basic issues requiring modest research before major investment is warranted, my opinion.

That work is, of course, measuring the heat/helium ratio in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment or palladium deuteride analogs. This is direct evidence for reality, confirming the heat and confirming that the reaction is nuclear in nature, independently of any more detailed “explanation” than that “deuterium is being converted to helium and heat.”

In the case of LENR that existence is at issue, were it 100% clear (or even 50% clear) vast scientific effort in universities and industry throughout the world would be given to it.

No, that’s simply not so. It’s a idealized imagination about how science works, and the world. Consider the record with cold fusion. In 1989, the conclusion that it had not been shown that “cold fusion” was real was quite reasonable, because that review was premature, rushed, and necessarily incomplete. It called for more research, which recommendation the U.S. Department of Energy proceeded to ignore. That review was apparently created as a political move to get rid of the threat to the hot fusion research program as quickly as possible. But the conclusion, as far as it went, I agree with, as to what was known then. Quickly, that situation changed, but the ERAB Panel set up no process for watching it, and the review was widely interpreted as a debunking, which it was not.

In 2004, a new panel was convened, set up by a political friend of a supporter of LENR. The review process proposed was inadequate from the start. But Peter Hagelstein, who was apparently coordinating this, believed that it was the best that could be obtained, so he accepted the process. In my opinion, that was a tactical error; Peter was naive politically, being untrained and unskilled in that field.

So the process was that a review paper, with Peter as lead author, was presented with a pile of 130 papers to consider, and then there was a one-day meeting to hear talks. The talks included Steven Jones talking about radiation from TiDx experiments which would confuse the hell out of anyone. Single-report claims were mixed with more conclusive work, and, no surprise, the reviewers were confused, from the reviews we have — hosted on — and the anonymous summarizing bureaucrat as well, radically misunderstood — and misstated — the strongest evidence for LENR, the heat/helium ratio.

Yet with all that, half of the 18-member panel considered the evidence for a heat anomaly to be real, “conclusive.” There is your 50%. What happened? A rush to explore? Not.

A third of the panel considered the evidence for a nuclear origin to be “convincing” (one member) or “somewhat convincing (the rest). Now, if you don’t think the heat is real, you arent’ going to assign it a nuclear origin!. So this is really two-thirds of those who accepted the reality of the heat, and this was with a poor and confusing explanation, not well-designed for purpose.

There was no back-and-forth, no opportunity to correct misimpressions, which commonly arise dealing with LENR (on all sides).  As a review with possibly enormous implications, I find that appallingly primitive. A less expensive process could have been much more conclusive. It’s hard to find good help!

Again, that report recommended modest research. Did that happen? Again, the report was read as a rejection, instead of partial acceptance as would be more accurate.

LENR advocates look for a bullet-proof repeatable way to show that what they have is something real and beyond chemical effects. No-one to my knowledge has yet found this silver bullet, though many hope to do so.

Well, prepare to expand your knowledge, THH. The work was done by 1991, by Miles. Huizenga noticed the importance in the second edition of his book:

The invited paper by Miles, Bush, et al, made the most spectacular claim at the [1991] conference. It was reported that,

The amount of helium (4He) detected correlated approximately with the amount of excess heat and was within an order of magnitude of the theoretical estimate of helium production based upon fusion of deuterium to for 4He.

This claim has been published elsewhere [cited, J. Electroanal. Chem] and I have commented on it previously (see p.136 and 212). If it were true that 4He was produced from room-temperature fusion in amounts nearly commensurate with excess heat, one of the great puzzles of cold fusion would be solved! However, as is the case with so many cold fusion claims, this one is unsubstantiated and conflicts with other well-established experimental findings….

Was this finding “substantiated,” i.e., confirmed? It was, by over a dozen research groups. There is no substantial contrary evidence. This approach cuts through the “reliability” noise, because non-heat-producing cells, “dead cells,” which are otherwise alike the heat-producing ones (except for some hidden variable, strongly suspected to be material nanostructure), serve as excellent controls.

Huizenga mentions “other well-established experimental findings.” He is confusing d-d fusion with what is being studied. The reaction is not what he is thinking it would be, that has been obvious since the beginning, though Pons and Fleischmann did not emphasize this adequately. At the beginning, it was an anomalous heat effect with some very minor “nuclear” signals, far too small for the reaction to be ordinary d-d fusion. Huizenga went on:

hence, it is highly likely that the 4He is a contaminant from the atmosphere.

Given that the otherwise identical controls did not show helium, this was extremely unlikely. The Miles protocol was quite effective at excluding helium by maintaining positive gas pressure inside the cells. There was leakage into the glass collection vessels during transport, and that was measured and considered. This was later addressed by using stainless steel vessels. Further, the ratio becomes an amazing coincidence (i.e., it is consistent with the d-d fusion energy release in the helium branch, which must be found regardless of mechanism, if the energy and ash all ends up as heat and helium, which appears to be the case), and this ratio persists across samples (and in later work, across different protocols with quite different equipment, and one study, Apicella et al, 2004, did not exclude atmospheric helium and measured elevation above ambient.) None of this would be expected from leakage.

In addition, if 4He is produced in the amount claimed, it must be accompanied by large intensities (in fact lethal doses) of the associated 23.8 MeV gamma ray. Only when the 23.8 MeV gamma rays are observed on-line, can one be sure that the 4He is produced by fusion and is not an experimental artifact. Finally, the 23.8 MeV gamma ray transfers essentially all the d+d -> 4He + gamma reaction energy outside the cell and destroys the relationship between the helium production and the excess heat based on the assumption that all the reaction energy stays inside the cell. More recently, Miles, Bush et al reported that they can produce neither excess power nor 4He from their electrolysis experiments.

The reaction does not produce those gammas. This gamma is necessary in the rare helium branch for d-d fusion, and also is found in muon-catalyzed fusion, when it produces helium, the same. Huizenga is making a common assumption, that if there is “cold fusion,” it would be d-d fusion. It’s easy to understand as a naive first thought, but, quite simply, obviously not correct. That fusion does not occur under CF conditions, and the reason why is obvious: the Coulomb barrier, ordinary conditions do not provide a means to overcome it, and even if it is overcome (as, say, by catalysis by muons or something similar), d-d fusion is obviously not occurring in any ordinary way, because the products are very different.

Cold fusion is a mystery, and heat/helium only resolves one point: the fuel/ash relationship.

Huizenga, like many, applied analysis by analogy from ordinary d-d fusion, completely ignoring that Pons and Fleischmann claimed an “unknown nuclear reaction,” not d-d fusion, as such, but much of their discussion of this was confusing and confused. It was, as Huizenga termed it, a “fiasco.”

But Huizenga did notice the importance. Few did. Even within the field, when I began to study it, heat/helium was not commonly mentioned, and certainly not with the prominence that it deserves, as it is the only direct evidence that the FP Heat Effect is nuclear in nature. The rest of the nuclear evidence is circumstantial, though copious. Heat is circumstantial: it must be nuclear because we can’t think of anything else. That’s classic circumstantial evidence. The butler must have done it because nobody else could have.

My paper on heat/helium. Looking for a replicable experiment, most think of a reliable one. Set up X conditions, see Y heat. That is not necessarily obtainable. However, this is attainable: set up a series of experiments where seeing some XP is known to be possible (from prior work). Measure the heat and helium for controlled collection periods. The helium analysis should be blind. What is being tested is correlation across many results, not individual results. Is there a correlation? If so, how strong is it? What is the ratio?

There are difficulties in the work that I’m not describing here, but they are addressable. For example, in a Fleischmann-Pons experiment, as done by Miles, roughly 40% of the helium remains trapped in the palladium, so what is measured is only about 60% of the theoretical value for helium/heat. At least that explains the results. There are then two experiments where it appears that all the helium was captured and measured, using anodic erosion, i.e., reverse electrolysis, which will dissolve a thin layer of palladium. Those two experiments point to the ratio being on the money for deuterium conversion to helium, with a precision of about 10% (SRI M4) or 20% (Apicella et al, Laser-3).

Evidence for all this can be cited, I may come back and fill in citations. They are in the paper linked.

In this situation skeptical views are as valuable (in some ways more valuable, because rarer) as non-skeptics “maybe this will work” views. Whenever an apparent but false strong positive case (e.g. Rossi) is successfully debunked this allows those seeking true positives to concentrate on best evidence so far without being distracted by something that is plain wrong.

Skepticism is essential to science. However, “debunking” is a social motivation, and quite problematic. Truzzi regretted the takeover of CSICOP by debunkers. Debunking is contrary to normal scientific courtesty. There is a small example of debunking above in Huizenga’s comment about Miles, Bush, et al being unable to see heat, nor 4He. That was not negative, because no heat, no helium confirms the correlation.

That kind of fact — this was transient — is often cited to imply some sort of incompetence on the part of researchers. (Hah, hah, they can’t even get their own experiment to work!) In fact, the unreliability of the effect is so strong as a cold fusion characteristic that I am highly suspicious of any claim to very reliable heat results. Such reliability is more likely, ab initio, to be the result of a systematic artifact.

(But maybe, someday, someone will do it.)

(Sometimes in looking at this, people imagine that heat-producing experiments are “hotter” than non-heat producing ones and then think that a hotter cell is more likely to leak. That is a detail that depends on the specific protocol, it is not necessarily so, and in any case, the temperature difference between heat-producing and non-heat producing, even with a protocol that allows temperature to rise, is small, perhaps a degree or two C, it is definitely not large. This is not enough difference to have any observable effect on helium leakage.)

As for interest. Some people are interested in finding things out, resolving mysteries, without having a strong ulterior motive. Of course many people on sites like this do have an ulterior motive, they would only be interested in data showing LENR real, or only interested in data showing it false. But, while it remains unclear, you will also get people (like me) whose motivation is understanding things that don’t make sense. I guess that is not really open to people here without strong technical skills: but then a lot of the people here do have strong technical skills.

I trust that this is THH’s motivation. Now, if we can add more information to that mix, something quite interesting might happen. THH is welcome here, and we could create some interesting examinations of reports.

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Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


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