NASA

This is a subpage of Widom-Larsen theory/Reactions

On New Energy Times, “Third Party References” to W-L theory include two connected with NASA, by Dennis Bushnell (2008) [slide 37] and J. M. Zawodny (2009) (slide 12, date is October 19, 2010, not 2009 as shown by Krivit).

What can be seen in the Zawodny presentation is a researcher who is not familiar with LENR evidence, overall, nor with the broad scope of existing LENR theory, but who has accepted the straw man arguments of WL theorists and Krivit, about other theories, and who treats WL theory as truth without clear verification. NASA proceeded to put about $1 million into LENR research, with no publications coming out of it, at least not associated with WL theory. They did file a patent, and that will be another story.

By 2013, all was not well in the relationship between NASA and Larsen.

To summarize, NASA appears to have spent about a million dollars looking into Widom-Larsen theory, and did not find it adequate for their purposes, nor did they develop, it seems, publishable data in support (or in disconfirmation) of the theory. In 2012, they were still bullish on the idea, but apparently out of steam. Krivit turns this into a conspiracy to deprive Lattice Energy of profit from their “proprietary technology,” which Lattice had not disclosed to NASA. I doubt there is any such technology of any significant value.

NASA’s LENR Article “Nuclear Reactor in Your Basement”

[NET linked to that article, and also to another copy. They are dead links, like many old NET links; NET has moved or removed many pages it cites, and the search function does not find them. But this page, I found with Google on phys.org. 

Now, in the Feb. 12, 2013, article, NASA suggests that it does not understand the Widom-Larsen theory well. However, Larsen spent significant time training Zawodny on it. Zawodny also understood the theory well enough to be a co-author on a chapter about the Widom-Larsen theory in the 2011 Wiley Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia. He understood it well enough to give a detailed, technical presentation on it at NASA’s Glenn Research Center on Sept. 22, 2011.

It simply does not occur to Krivit that perhaps NASA found the theory useless. Zawodny was a newcomer to LENR, it’s obvious. Krivit was managing that Wiley encyclopedia. The “technical presentation” linked contains numerous errors that someone familiar with the field would be unlikely to make — unless they were careless. For example, Pons and Fleischmann did not claim “2H + 2H -> 4He.” Zawodny notes that high electric fields will be required for electrons “heavy” enough to form neutrons, but misses that these must operate over unphysical distances, for an unphysical accumulation of energy, and misses all the observable consequences.

In general, as we can see from early reactions to WL Theory, simply to review and understand a paper like those of Widom and Larsen requires study and time, in addition to the followup work to confirm a new theory. WL theory was designed by a physicist (Widom, Larsen is not a physicist but an entrepreneur) to seem plausible on casual review.

To actually understand the theory and its viability, one needs expertise in two fields: physics and the experimental findings in Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (mostly chemistry). That combination is not common. So a physicist can look at the theory papers and think, “plausible,” but not see the discrepancies, which are massive, with the experimental evidence. They will only see the “hits,” i.e., as a great example, the plot showing correspondence between WL prediction and Miley data. They will not know that (1) Miley’s results are unconfirmed (2) they will not realize that other theories might make similar predictions. Physicists may be thrilled to have a LENR theory that is “not fusion,” not noticing that WL theory actually requires higher energies than are needed for ordinary hot fusion.

Also from the page cited:

New Energy Times spoke with Larsen on Feb. 21, 2013, to learn more about what happened with NASA.

“Zawodny contacted me in mid-2008 and said he wanted to learn about the theory,” Larsen said. “He also dangled a carrot in front of me and said that NASA might be able to offer funding as well as give us their Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Larsen has, for years, been attempting to position himself as a consultant on all things LENR. It wouldn’t take much to attract Larsen.

“So I tutored Zawodny for about half a year and taught him the basics. I did not teach him how to implement the theory to create heat, but I offered to teach them how to use it to make transmutations because technical information about reliable heat production is part of our proprietary know-how.

Others have claimed that Larsen is not hiding stuff. That is obviously false. What is effectively admitted here is that WL theory does not provide enough guidance to create heat, which is the main known effect in LENR, the most widely confirmed. Larsen was oh-so-quick to identify fraud with Rossi, but not fast enough — or too greedy — to consider it possible with Larsen. Larsen was claiming Lattice Energy was ready to produce practical devices for heat in 2003. He mentioned “patent pending, high-temperature electrode designs,” and “proprietary heat sources.” Here is the patent, perhaps. It does not mention heat nor any nuclear effect. Notice that if a patent does not provide adequate information to allow constructing a working device, it’s invalid. The patent referred to a prior Miley patent. first filed in 1997, which does mention transmutation. Both patents reference Patterson patents from as far back as 1990. There is another Miley patent filed in 2001 that has been assigned to Lattice.

“But then, on Jan. 22, 2009, Zawodny called me up. He said, ‘Sorry, bad news, we’re not going to be able to offer you any funding, but you’re welcome to advise us for free. We’re planning to conduct some experiments in-house in the next three to six months and publish them.’

“I asked Zawodny, ‘What are the objectives of the experiments?’ He answered, ‘We want to demonstrate excess heat.’

I remember that this is hearsay. However, it’s plausible. NASA would not be interested in transmutations, but rather has a declared interest in LENR for heat production for space missions. WL Theory made for decent cover (though it didn’t work, NASA still took flak for supporting Bad Science), but it provides no guidance — at all — for creating reliable effects. It simply attempts to “explain” known effects, in ways that create even more mysteries.

“I told Zawodny, ‘At this point, we’re not doing anything for free. I told you in the beginning that all I was going to do was teach you the basic physics and, if you wish, teach you how to make transmutations every time, but not how to design and fabricate LENR devices that would reliably make excess heat.’

And if Larsen knew how to do that, and could demonstrate it, there are investors lined up with easily a hundred million dollars to throw at it. What I’m reasonably sure of is that those investors have already looked at Lattice and concluded that there is no there there. Can Larsen show how to make transmutations every time? Maybe. That is not so difficult, though still not a slam-dunk.

“About six to nine months later, in mid-2009, Zawodny called me up and said, ‘Lew, you didn’t teach us how to implement this.’ To my amazement, he was still trying to get me to tell him how to reliably make excess heat.

See, Zawodny was interested in heat from the beginning, and the transmutation aspect of WL Theory was a side-issue. Krivit has presented WL Theory as a “non-fusion” explanation for LENR, and the interest in LENR, including Krivit’s interest, was about heat, consider the name of his blog (“New Energy”). But the WL papers hardly mention heat. Transmutations are generally a detail in LENR, the main reaction clearly makes heat and helium and very few transmuted elements by comparison. In the fourth WL paper, there is mention of heat, and in the conclusion, there is mention of “energy-producing devices.”

From a technological perspective, we note that energy must first be put into a given metallic hydride system in order to renormalize electron masses and reach the critical threshold values at which neutron production can occur.

This rules out gas-loading, where there is no input energy. This is entirely aside from the problem that neutron production requires very high energies, higher than hot fusion initiation energies.

Net excess energy, actually released and observed at the physical device level, is the result of a complex interplay between the percentage of total surface area having micron-scale E and B field strengths high enough to create neutrons and elemental isotopic composition of near-surface target nuclei exposed to local fluxes of readily captured ultra low momentum neutrons. In many respects, low temperature and pressure low energy nuclear reactions in condensed matter systems resemble r- and
s-process nucleosynthetic reactions in stars. Lastly, successful fabrication and operation of long lasting energy producing devices with high percentages of nuclear active surface areas will require nanoscale control over surface composition, geometry and local field strengths.

The situation is even worse with deuterium. This piece of the original W-L paper should have been seen as a red flag:

Since each deuterium electron capture yields two ultra low momentum neutrons, the nuclear catalytic reactions are somewhat more efficient for the case of deuterium.

The basic physics here is simple and easy to understand. Reactions can, in theory, run in reverse, and the energy that is released from fusion or fission is the same as the energy required to create the opposite effect, that’s a basic law of thermodynamics, I term “path independence.” So the energy that must be input to create a neutron from a proton and an electron is the same energy as is released from ordinary neutron decay (neutrons being unstable with a 15 minute half-life, decaying to a proton, electron, and a neutrino. Forget about the neutrino unless you want the real nitty gritty. The neutrino is not needed for the reverse reaction, apparently). 781 KeV.

Likewise, the fusion of a proton and a neutron to make a deuteron releases a prompt gamma ray at 2.22 MeV. So to fission the deuteron back to a proton and a neutron requires energy input of 2.22 MeV, and then to convert the proton to another neutron requires another 0.78 MeV, so the total energy required is 3.00 MeV. What Widom and Larsen did was neglect the binding energy of the deuteron, a basic error in basic physics, and I haven’t seen that this has been caught by anyone else. But it’s so obvious, once seen, that I’m surprised and I will be looking for it.

Bottom line, then, WL theory fails badly with pure deuterium fuel and thus is not an explanation for the FP Heat Effect, the most common and most widely confirmed LENR. Again, the word “hoax” comes to mind. Larsen went on:

I said, ‘Joe, I’m not that stupid. I told you before, I’m only going to teach you the basics, and I’m not going to teach you how to make heat. Nothing’s changed. What did you expect?’”

Maybe he expected not to be treated like a mushroom.

Larsen told New Energy Times that NASA’s stated intent to prove his theory is not consistent with its behavior since then.

Many government scientists were excited by WL Theory. As a supposed “not fusion” theory, it appeared to sidestep the mainstream objection to “cold fusion.” So, yes, NASA wanted to test the theory (“prove” is not a word used commonly by scientists), because if it could be validated, funding floodgates might open. That did not happen. NASA spent about a million dollars and came up with, apparently, practically nothing.

“Not only is there published experimental data that spans one hundred years which supports our theory,” Larsen said, “but if NASA does experiments that produce excess heat, that data will tell them nothing about our theory, but a transmutation experiment, on the other hand, will.

Ah, I will use that image from NET again:

Transmutations have been reported since very early after the FP announcement, and they reported, in fact, tritum and helium, though not convincingly. With one possible exception I will be looking at later, transmutation has never been correlated with heat. (nor has tritium, only helium has been found and confirmed to be correlated). Finding low levels of transmuted products has often gotten LENR researchers excited, but this has never been able to overcome common skepticism. Only helium, through correlation with heat, has been able to do that (when skeptics took the time to study the evidence, and most won’t.)

Finding some transmutations would not prove WL theory. First of all, it is possible that there is more than one LENR effect (and, as “effect” might be described, it is clear there is more than one). Secondly, other theories also provide transmutation pathways.

“The theory says that ultra-low-momentum neutrons are produced and captured and you make transmutation products. Although heat can be a product of transmutations, by itself it’s not a direct confirmation of our theory. But, in fact, they weren’t interested in doing transmutations; they were only interested in commercially relevant information related to heat production.

Heat is palpable, transmutations are not necessarily so. As well, the analytical work to study transmutations is expensive. Why would NASA invest money in verifying transmutation products, if not in association with heat? From the levels of transmutations found and the likely precursors, heat should be predictable. No, Larsen was looking out for his own business interests, and he can “sell” transmutation with little risk. Selling heat could be much riskier, if he doesn’t actually have a technology. Correlations would be a direct confirmation, far more powerful than the anecdotal evidence alleged. At this point, there is no experimental confirmation of WL theory, in spite of it having been published in 2005. The neutron report cited by Widom in one of his “refutations” — and he was a co-author of that report — actually contradicts WL Theory.

Of course, that report could be showing that some of the neutrons are not ultra-low momentum, and some could then escape the heavy electron patch, but the same, then, would cause prompt gammas to be detected, in addition to the other problem that is solved-by-ignoring-it: delayed gammas from radioactive transmuted isotopes. WL Theory is a house of cards that actually never stood, but it seemed like a good idea at the time! Larsen continued:

“What proves that is that NASA filed a competing patent on top of ours in March 2010, with Zawodny as the inventor.

The NASA initial patent application is clear about the underlying concept (Larsen’s) and the intentions of NASA. Line [25] from NASA’s patent application says, “Once established, SPP [surface plasmon polariton] resonance will be self-sustaining so that large power output-to-input ratios will be possible from [the] device.” This shows that the art embodied in this patent application is aimed toward securing intellectual property rights on LENR heat production.

The Zawodny patent actually is classified as a “fusion reactor.” It cites the Larsen patent described below.

See A. Windom [sic] et al. “Ultra Low Momentum Neutron Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metallic Hydride Surface,” European Physical Journal C-Particles and Fields, 46, pp. 107-112, 2006, and U.S. Pat. No. 7,893,414 issued to Larsen et al. Unfortunately, such heavy electron production has only occurred in small random regions or patches of sample materials/devices. In terms of energy generation or gamma ray shielding, this limits the predictability and effectiveness of the device. Further, random-patch heavy electron production limits the amount of positive net energy that is produced to limit the efficiency of the device in an energy generation application.

They noticed. This patent is not the same as the Larsen patent. It looks like Zawodny may have invented a tweak, possibly necesssary for commercial power production.

The Larsen patent was granted in 2011, but was filed in 2006, and is for a gamma shield, which is apparently vaporware, as Larsen later admitted it couldn’t be tested.

I don’t see that Larsen has patented a heat-producing device.

“NASA is not behaving like a government agency that is trying to pursue basic science research for the public good. They’re acting like a commercial competitor,” Larsen said. “This becomes even more obvious when you consider that, in August 2012, a report surfaced revealing that NASA and Boeing were jointly looking at LENRs for space propulsion.” [See New Energy Times article “Boeing and NASA Look at LENRs for Green-Powered Aircraft.”]

I’m so reminded of Rossi’s reaction to the investment of Industrial Heat in standard LENR research in 2015. It was intolerable, allegedly supporting his “competitors.” In fact, in spite of efforts, Rossi was unable to find evidence that IH had shared Rossi secrets, and in hindsight, if Rossi actually had valuable secrets, he withheld them, violating the Agreement.

From NET coverage of the Boeing/NASA cooperation:

[Krivit had moved the page to make it accessible to subscribers only, to avoid “excessive” traffic, but the page was still available with a different URL. I archived it so that the link above won’t increase his traffic. It is a long document. If I find time, I will extract the pages of interest, PDF pages 38-40, 96-97]

The only questionable matter in the report is its mention of Leonardo Corp. and Defkalion as offering commercial LENR systems. In fact, the two companies have delivered no LENR technology. They have failed to provide any convincing scientific evidence and failed to show unambiguous demonstrations of their extraordinary claims. Click here to read New Energy Times’extensive original research and reporting on Andrea Rossi’s Leonardo Corp.

Defkalion is a Greek company that based its technology on Rossi’s claimed Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat) technology . . . Because Rossi apparently has no real technology, Defkalion is unlikely to have any technology, either.

What is actually in the report:

Technology Status:
Multiple coherent theories that explain LENR exist which use the standard Quantum Electrodynamics & Quantum Chromodynamics model. The Widom-Larson(10) theory appears to have the best current understanding, but it is far from being fully validated and applied to current prototype testing. Limited testing is ongoing by NASA and private contractors of nickel-hydrogen LENR systems. Two commercial companies (Leonardo Corp. & Defkalion) are reported to be offering commercial LENR systems. Those systems are advertised to run for 6 months with a single fueling cycle. Although data exists on all of these systems, the current data in each case is lacking in either definition or 3rd party verification. Thus, the current TRL assessment is low.
In this study the SUGAR Team has assumed, for the purposes of technology planning and establishing system requirements that the LENR technology will work. We have not conducted an independent technology feasibility assessment. The technology plan contained in this section merely identifies the steps that would need to take place to develop a propulsion system for aviation that utilizes LENR technology.

This report was issued in May 2012. The description of Leonardo, Defkalion, and WL theory were appropriate for that time. At that point, there was substantial more evidence supporting heat from Leonardo and Defkalion, but no true independent verification. Defkalion vanished in a cloud of bad smell, Leonardo was found to be highly deceptive at best. And WL theory also has, as they point out, no “definition” — as to energy applications — n nor 3rd party verification.

Krivit’s articles on Rossi and Leonardo were partly based on innuendo and inference; they had little effect on investment in the Rossi technology, because of the obvious yellow-journalist slant. Industrial Heat decided that they needed to know for sure, and did what it took to become certain, investing about $20 million in the effort. They knew, full well, it was very high-risk, and considered the possibly payoff so high, and the benefits to the environment so large, as to be worth that cost, even if it turned out that Rossi was a fraud. The claims were depressing LENR investment. Because they took that risk, Woodford Fund then gave them an additional $50 million for LENR research, and much of current research has been supported by Industrial Heat. Krivit has almost entirely missed this story. As to clear evidence on Rossi, it became public with the lawsuit, Rossi v. Darden and we have extensive coverage on that here. Krivit was right that Rossi was a fraud . . . but it is very different to claim that from appearances and to actually show it with evidence.

In the Feb. 12, 2013, NASA article, the author, Silberg, said, “But solving that problem can wait until the theory is better understood.”

He quoted Zawodny, who said, “’From my perspective, this is still a physics experiment. I’m interested in understanding whether the phenomenon is real, what it’s all about. Then the next step is to develop the rules for engineering. Once you have that, I’m going to let the engineers have all the fun.’”

In the article, Silberg said that, if the Widom-Larsen theory is shown to be correct, resources to support the necessary technological breakthroughs will come flooding in.

“’All we really need is that one bit of irrefutable, reproducible proof that we have a system that works,’ Zawodny said. ‘As soon as you have that, everybody is going to throw their assets at it. And then I want to buy one of these things and put it in my house.’”

Actually, what everyone says is that if anyone can show a reliable heat-producing device, that is independently confirmed, investment will pour in, and that’s obvious. With or without a “correct theory.” A plausible theory was simply nice cover to support some level of preliminary research. NASA was in no way prepared to do what it would take to create those conditions. It might take a billion dollars, unless money is spent with high efficiency, and pursuing a theory that falls apart when examined in detail was not efficient, at all.  NASA was led down the rosy path by Widom and Larsen and the pretense of “standard physics.” In fact, the NASA/Boeing report was far more sophisticated, pointing out other theories:

Multiple coherent theories that explain LENR exist which use the standard Quantum Electrodynamics & Quantum Chromodynamics model

As an example, Takahashi’s TSC theory. This is actually standard physics, as well, more so than WL theory, but is incomplete. No LENR theory is complete at this time.

There is one theory, I call it a Conjecture, that in the FP Heat Effect, deuterium is being converted to helium, mechanism unknown. This has extensive confirmed experimental evidence behind it, and is being supported by further research to improve precision,. It’s well enough funded, it appears.

Back on Jan. 12, 2012, NASA published a short promotional video in which it tried to tell the public that it thought of the idea behind Larsen and Widom’s theory, but it did not mention Widom and Larsen or their theory. At the time, New Energy Times sent an e-mail to Zawodny and asked him why he did not attribute the idea to Widom and Larsen.

“The intended audience is not interested in that level of detail,” Zawodny wrote.

The video was far outside the capacity of present technology, but treats LENR as a done deal, proven to produce clean energy. That’s hype, but Krivit’s only complaint is that they did not credit Widom and Larsen for the theory used. As if they own physics. After all, if that’s standard physics . . . .

(See our articles “LENR Gold Rush Begins — at NASA” and “NASA and Widom-Larsen Theory: Inside Story” for more details.)

The Gold Rush story tells the same tale of woe, implying that NASA scientists are motivated by the pursuit of wealth, whereas, in fact, the Zawodny patent simply protects the U.S. government.

The only thing that is clear is that NASA tries to attract funding to develop LENR. So does Larsen. It has massive physical and human resources. He is a small businessman and has the trade secret. Interesting times lie ahead.

I see no sign that they are continuing to seek funding. They were funded to do limited research. They found nothing worth publishing, apparently. Now, Krivit claims that Larsen has a “trade secret.” Remember, this is about heat, not transmutations. By the standards Krivit followed with Rossi, Larsen’s technology is bullshit. Krivit became a more embarrassing flack for Larsen than Mats Lewan became for Rossi. Why did he ask Zawodny why he didn’t credit Widom and Larsen for the physics in that video? It’s obvious. He’s serving as a public relations officer for Lattice Energy. Widom is the physics front. Krivit talks about a gold rush at NASA. How about at New Energy Times and with Widom, a “member” of Lattice Energy, and a named inventor in the useless gamma shield patent.

NASA started telling the truth about the theory, that it’s not developed and unproven. Quoted on the Gold Rush page:

“Theories to explain the phenomenon have emerged,” Zawodny wrote, “but the majority have relied on flawed or new physics.

Not only did he fail to mention the Widom-Larsen theory, but he wrote that “a proven theory for the physics of LENR is required before the engineering of power systems can continue.”

Shocking. How dare they imply there is no proven theory? The other page, “Inside Story,” is highly repetitive. Given that Zadodny refused an interview, the “inside story” is told by Larsen.

In the May 23, 2012, video from NASA, Zawodny states that he and NASA are trying to perform a physics experiment to confirm the Widom-Larsen theory. He mentions nothing about the laboratory work that NASA may have performed in August 2011. Larsen told New Energy Times his opinion about this new video.

“NASA’s implication that their claimed experimental work or plans for such work might be in any way a definitive test of the Widom-Larsen theory is nonsense,” Larsen said.

It would be the first independent confirmation, if the test succeeded. Would it be “definitive”? Unlikely. That’s really difficult. Widom-Larsen theory is actually quite vague. It posits reactions that are hidden, gamma rays that are totally absorbed by transient heavy electron patches, which, by the way, would need to handle 2.2 MeV photons from the fusion of a neutron with a proton to form deuterium. But these patches are fleeting, so they can’t be tested. I have not seen specific proposed tests in WL papers. Larsen wanted them to test for transmutations, but transmutations at low levels are not definitive without much more work.  What NASA wanted to see was heat, and presumably heat correlated with nuclear products.

“The moment NASA filed a competing patent, it disqualified itself as a credible independent evaluator of the Widom-Larsen theory,” he said. “Lattice Energy is a small, privately held company in Chicago funded by insiders and two angel investors, and we have proprietary knowledge.

Not exactly. Sure, that would be a concern, except that this was a governmental patent, and was for a modification to the Larsen patent intended to create more reliable heat. Consider this: Larsen and Widom both have a financial interest in Lattice Energy, and so are not neutral parties in explaining the physics. If NASA found confirmation of LENR using a Widom-Larsen approach (I’m not sure what that would mean), it would definitely be credible! If they did not confirm, this would be quite like hundreds of negative studies in LENR. Nothing particularly new. Such never prove that an original report was wrong.

Cirillo, with Widom as co-author, claimed the detection of neutrons. Does Widom as a co-author discredit that report? To a degree, yes. (But the report did not mention Widom-Larsen theory.) Was that work supported by Lattice Energy?

“NASA offered us nothing, and now, backed by the nearly unlimited resources of the federal government, NASA is clearly eager to get into the LENR business any way it can.”

Nope. They spent about a million dollars, it appears, and filed a patent to protect that investment. There are no signs that they intend to spend more at this point.

New Energy Times asked Larsen for his thoughts about the potential outcome of any NASA experiment to test the theory, assuming details are ever released.

“NASA is behaving no differently than a private-sector commercial competitor,” Larsen said. “If NASA were a private-sector company, why would anyone believe anything that it says about a competitor?”

NASA’s behavior here does not remotely resemble a commercial actor. Notice that when NASA personnel said nice things about W-L theory, Krivit was eager to hype it. And when they merely hinted that the theory was just that, a theory, and unproven, suddenly their credibility is called into question.

Krivit is transparent.

Does he really think that if NASA found a working technology, ready to develop for their space flight applications, they would hide it because of “commercial” concerns. Ironically, the one who is openly concealing technology, if he isn’t simply lying, is Larsen. He has the right to do that, as Rossi had the right. Either one or both were lying, though. There is no gamma shield technology, but Larsen used the “proprietary” excuse to avoid disclosing evidence to Richard Garwin. And Krivit reframed that to make it appear that Garwin approved of WL Theory.

 

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