1995, Edition No. 1 Copyright, 1995 Eugene F. Mallove and Jed Rothwell
Frequently Asked Questions
I thought cold fusion was dead - proved to be a mistake or a hoax. Is cold fusion research really still going on?
Cold fusion, the "miracle or mistake," that was announced at the University
of Utah by Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley
Pons in March 1989 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 research is now a world-wide activity in over a dozen countries.
What is "cold fusion"?
"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 acoustic energy, is required to provoke the "cold fusion" effects. Both
ordinary hydrogen and deuterium are abundant in ordinary water - whether fresh water, ocean water, ice, or snow - so the
process will help to end many of the world's energy concerns, if it can be developed commercially. Now this is all but certain.
(The deuterium form of hydrogen is present naturally as one out of every 7,000 hydrogen atoms and is easy to separate.)
Are there good sources of information about cold fusion?
If you would like to read about the evolution of this scientific controversy
and the impending technological revolution, please
read < (John Wiley & Sons, May, 1991), by Dr. Eugene F. Mallove. This work, which Arthur C. Clarke has called "the only
good book on the subject," covers the first two years of the cold fusion era. For more technical information, consult the
reference sections of this Resource Guide.
What is "hot" fusion?
Hot fusion is the kind of nuclear reaction that powers the Sun and the
stars. At temperatures of millions of degrees, the nuclei of
hydrogen atoms can overcome their natural tendency to repel one another and join or fuse to form helium nuclei. This releases
enormous energy. Fusion is the opposite of fission, which is the release of energy by splitting heavy uranium or plutonium nuclei.
What is the present status of "hot" fusion?
Scientists the world over have spent more than four decades and billions
of dollars (an estimated $15 billion in the U.S. alone)
to investigate the possibility of mimicking with devices here on Earth the fusion reactions of the stars. These are complex and
large machines that rely on high magnetic fields or powerful lasers to compress and heat fusion fuel - typically the isotopes of
hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. The controlled hot fusion program has made enormous strides, but all agree that the earliest
possible time when practical hot fusion devices might be available is about three decades away. Hot fusion is a very tough
engineering problem. Many engineers - even those favorable to hot fusion-suggest that the "tokamak" reactor approach being
followed by the U.S. Department of Energy will never result in commercially viable technology. The U.S. hot fusion people now
want to build a big, complex test reactor called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which might begin
to operate in 2005. A commercial hot fusion power plant would not be on-line until at least 2040. The annual budget for hot
fusion research in the U.S. schneide; page: 2 of 4 regularly exceeds $500 million, and the program now seek increased funding
for ITER and other experiments.
How does cold fusion differ from hot fusion?
Cold fusion releases enormous quantities of energy in the form of heat,
not radiation, as in hot fusion. This heat energy is
hundreds to thousands of times what ordinary chemical reactions could possibly yield. If "cold fusion" is a heretofore unknown
form of benign nuclear reaction-as many 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, albeit not yet without some difficulties. Cold fusion
reactions are not at all like conventional hot fusion reactions. If they were, cold fusion experimenters would have been killed by
massive flows of radiation-neutrons and gamma rays. The continuing wonder of cold fusion is that - whatever it is - it is
apparently a very clean reaction that gives very little of the radiation common to fission and fusion reactions.
Are there theories that can explain "cold fusion"?
Cold fusion researchers have attempted to find theoretical models to
explain the observed cold fusion effects - the large thermal
energy releases, the low-level nuclear phenomena, and the absence of massive harmful radiation and other conventional nuclear
effects. In cold fusion experiments, low-level neutrons, tritium, helium-4, and isotope shifts of metal elements have been seen.
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 - most likely in the next few years. It is very hard, however, 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
What is the main evidence for "cold fusion "?
The most important evidence for cold fusion is the excess heat energy
that comes from special electrochemical cells-much more
heat coming out than electrical energy being fed in. Competent and careful researchers have now confirmed that under the
proper conditions it is possible to obtain excess power output beyond input power anywhere from 10% beyond input to many
thousands of times the input power!
In fact, in experiments reported at the Fourth International Conference
on Cold Fusion (December, 1993), one researcher, Dr.
T. Mizuno of Hokkaido University, reported an output/input power 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.
When this power is added up to give kilowatt-hours, the inescapable conclusion is that much more energy is being released
than any possible chemical reaction (as we ordinarily understand such reactions) could yield.
And there is more: In the past few years, there has also emerged a startling
body of experimental evidence that elements have
been transmuted in cold fusion experiments. Helium-4, for example, has been found by several laboratories, and low levels of
radioactive metal atoms, e.g. isotopes of silver and rhodium, have appeared in palladium electrodes from cold fusion cells
where no such atoms existed before the experiments began.
How can we be sure that the cold fusion heat-measuring experiments are not mistaken?
Many of these cold fusion experiments differ significantly from one
another in their approach and conditions. So there is no
chance that the various laboratories are all making the same systematic errors in all these experiments. The excess energy in
some of these experiments is proof that something very extraordinary and of enormous potential technological significance has
been discovered. In the early days of cold fusion research, when scientists were struggling and learning how to replicate the
effect, there were many poorly done experiments, and many mistakes. In the weeks following the 1989 announcement by Drs.
Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah, large numbers of scientists tried to replicate the phenomenon,
and failed-or thought they had failed, but actually might have obtained positive results but for various reasons falsely interpreted
and improperly reported their data. The experiment is considerably more complicated and difficult to perform than originally
reported in some scientific and popular news journals. The possible measurement error in many cold fusion experiments today
are much, much smaller than the huge effects being measured.
Are there other ways of getting excess energy in "cold fusion"?
The original cold fusion experiment of Drs. Fleischmann and Pons has
now been joined by many other schneide; page: 3 of 4
methods to obtain excess energy. This is the current (and growing) list of apparent "cold fusion" processes giving excess energy:
1. The Original Pons-Fleischmann Process
Heavy water solution with a current-carrying electrolyte such as lithium
deuteroxide (LiOD). Current is passed between
palladium-alloy cathode and a platinum anode.
2. Molten Salt Process
High-temperature molten electrolysis process involving typically lithium
chloride (LiCl) and potassium chloride (KCl) molten
solution saturated with lithium deuteride (LiD). Electrodes of palladium and aluminium.
3. The Randell Mills Process
Ordinary water solution with (typically) potassium carbonate (K2C03)
electrolyte. Electrodes: nickel cathode and platinum or
even nickel anode.
4. Deuterium Gas Discharge Process
Low voltage electrical discharge onto various metals through a deuterium gas atmosphere.
5. Ultrasonic Activation
Using ultrasonic frequencies, acoustic energy bombards palladium or
other metal submerged in heavy water, producing excess
energy and helium-4.
6. Ceramic Proton Conductors
Certain ceramic materials such as strontium-cerium-oxide and aluminum-lanthanum-oxide,
when very low current is passed
through them in a deuterium gas atmosphere, give significant excess energy.
7. Magnetic Field and Radio Frequency Stimulation
Magnetic fields and radio-frequency stimulation have now been proved
to enhance the excess energy from other cold fusion
processes, e.g. electrochemical cold fusion cells.
8. Turbulent Activation
A massive aluminum cylinder with a geometric hole pattern on its periphery
rotates at close tolerances within a steel casing.
Ordinary water is pumped through the interface and is heated or flashes to steam. The Hydrosonic Pump (of Hydro Dynamics,
Inc.) has now shown convincing evidence of massive excess power production. Similar devices have been reported by others.
9. Piantelli-Habel-Focardi Process
A nickel substrate is subjected to high temperatures in a hydrogen atmosphere.
Process details have not been released, but
evidence for massive excess energy production is clear.
Which laboratories are getting positive results?
Several hundred laboratories around the world have obtained positive
cold fusion results. A partial list, which appeared in Fire
from Ice in 1991, is already outdated.
In the spring of 1991, a conference in the former Soviet Union revealed
many more positive results; at the Second Annual
Conference on Cold Fusion held in Como, Italy, in July 1991, much more positive evidence for cold fusion emerged. At the
Third International Conference on Cold Fusion in October, 1992, the evidence became completely overwhelming. At the
Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion (Maui, December, 1993), the field blossomed in many new directions: new
methods of generating excess power, and new observations - especially the apparent transmutation of heavy elements at
low-energy. Research facilities reporting important cold fusion results include:
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)/Stanford Research Institute
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Naval Weapons Center at China Lake
Naval Research Laboratory
Naval Ocean Systems Center
Texas A&M University
California State Polytechnic University
ENECO, Salt Lake City
Hokkaido National University
National Institute for Nuclear Physics (Italy)
Osaka National University
National Institute for Fusion Science, Nagoya
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay, India
NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegraph company)
E-Quest Sciences (California)
Shell Recherche SA (France)
Tsinghua University (China)
University of Illinois at Urbana
Many other private research laboratories in the U. S. and abroad.
Who is funding cold fusion research and development?
Major financial support for cold fusion research comes from these sources:
The public announcement in December 1993 that ENECO, a Salt Lake City-based
corporation, had acquired world-wide
licensing rights to the University of Utah's cold fusion patents is further indication of the increasing corporate interest in cold
fusion R&D. ENECO has now become one of the top funders of cold fusion research in the United States and abroad.
The Ministry of Education, Government of Japan. Research is coordinated
through Japan's National Institute for Fusion
Science, in Nagoya, and conducted in National University Laboratories. The Ministry of Education spends $15 to $20 million
per year on cold fusion.
In the Autumn of 1991, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry
organized a research consortium of ten major Japanese
corporations to advance research in cold fusion. Prior to this, only the Ministry of Education was involved in this research. This
consortium is called "The New Hydrogen Energy Panel" (NHEP). In the spring of 1992, as the activities of the Panel became
widely known, Japanese newspapers reported that five other major Japanese corporations asked to be included.
In mid-1992, MITI announced a four-year, three billion yen ($24 million)
program to advance cold fusion research. This
money was to be spent on special expenses within the national laboratories, such as travel and extra equipment purchases
beyond the usual discretionary levels. That sum does not include the money, salaries and overhead, which come out of separate
budgets, and it does not count any research in the private sector, which we know to be substantial. In fact, the corporate
members are expected to contribute at least $4 million more to the fund, for a total of $28 million. Both MITI and NHEP
members emphasize that this fund is flexible, and can be expanded. The present annual expenditure in Japan on cold fusion is
estimated to approach $100 million. This will clearly rise dramatically as technological devices begin to emerge.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, CA., (the $500-million/year
research arm of the U.S. electric utility
industry) had spent as of the end of 1991 $6 million on cold fusion, and had budgeted as of January, 1992 $12 million. The
EPRI program continues to spend several million dollars per year. EPRI's sponsorship of the Fourth International Conference
on Cold Fusion (December, 1993) means that this powerful research organization is in the field to stay.
What about the ordinary water - non-heavy water - cold fusion experiments that I have heard about?
These ordinary water experiments were first reported in May, 1991 and
have since been widely reproduced - in Japan, India,
and in the United States. Dr. Randell Mills of Hydrocatalysis Power Corporation, of Lancaster, PA, whose heat-producing
experiments with cells with ordinary water, potassium carbonate electrolyte and nickel cathodes are increasingly highly
regarded in the cold fusion field. Dr. Mills made a presentation at the May 5, 1993 Congressional hearing before the House
Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Mills's opening remarks concisely summarized what the important Lancaster, PA
effort is all about:
Hydrocatalysis Power Corporation (HPC) has an extensive and experimental
research program of producing energy from
light-water electrolytic cells. HPC and Thermacore, Inc., Lancaster, PA are cooperating in developing a commercial product.
(Thermacore is a well-respected defense contractor and its expertise is in the field of heat transfer.). Presently, all of the
demonstration cells of HPC and Thermacore produce excess power immediately and continuously. Cells producing 50 watts of
excess power and greater have been in operation for more than one year. Some cells can produce 10 times more heat power
than the total electrical power input to the cell. A steam-producing prototype cell has been successfully tested ... The [original]
experiment has been scaled up by a factor of one-thousand, and the scaled-up heat cell results have been independently
confirmed by Thermacore, Inc. Patents covering the composition of matter, structures, and methods of the HydroCatalysis
process have been filed by HPC worldwide with a priority date of April 32, 1989. HPC and Thermacore are presently
fabricating a steam-producing demonstration cell.
What does Dr. Mills think is behind this ordinary water energy source?
Dr. Mills and his colleges believe that the energy source in their ordinary
water experiments is technologically extremely potent,
but they have adopted a radical theory to explain the excess heat. Dr. Mill says that the source of excess energy is related in a
catalytic process whereby the electron of the hydrogen atom is induced to undergo a transition to a lower electronic energy
level than the "ground state" as defined by the usual quantum-mechanical model of the atom. Thus, stored energy in the atoms is
catalytycally released. Mill views many of the nuclear effects in "cold fusion" to be real effects, which he thinks can be explained
by his theory.
Are cold fusion experiments general/y reproducible?
Cold fusion effects have not always been easy to reproduce, but that
does not make them any less real. The difficulties with
reproducibility, however, are rapidly disappearing as researchers discover the conditions required to provoke the phenomena,
such as sufficient deuterium loading of metal lattices, specific metallurgical requirements, and peculiar triggering mechanisms.
Some experimenters now report very regular appearances of cold fusion phenomena, such as neutron bursts, tritium
production, and excess power as exhibited by heating and even boiling.
Critics of cold fusion research have regularly dismissed positive results
simply because the effects have not always been
repeatable. This is a remarkably naive view! Of course there are many natural phenomena that are highly erratic, not
repeatable, and definitely not predictable, such as meteorite falls, lightning strikes, earthquakes, and the elusive "ball lighting".
There are also a host of modern technical devices that will not function if subtle, sometimes poorly understood composition
parameters are asked; semiconductor electronic devices are good examples of this. It is nor surprising that the exotic cold
fusion phenomena are subject to similar difficulties.
What about the experiments of Caltech, MIT, and Harwell that supposedly
found no excess heat in 1989? Aren't these very
damning to the cause of cold fusion?
It is shocking but true, but in the case of three major research groups
that had supposedly negative results in the spring and
summer of 1989 - Caltech, the Harwell Laboratory in England, and MIT - there now appear to be significant questions about
their work, which have not been addressed by the scientific community. Three scientist have found simple algebraic and other
fundamental experimental errors in the Caltech work, which invalidate the paper's negative conclusions. These scientists wrote
many times to Nature magazine, but Nature refused to publish these corrections, so a critique was published in Fusion
Technology. In the MIT Plasma Fusion Center case, serious questions about the methods used to evaluate excess heat results
have arisen. The unpublished data appear to show indications of excess heat, but the published version does not show these
indications. Furthermore, analysis of the methodology employed by this group revealed fatal flaws - even if the data had
properly handled. A technical discussion of the 1989 MIT Plasma Fusion Center cold fusion calorimetry appeared in Fusion
Facts, August, 1992, authored by Dr. Mitchell R. Swartz. In the case of the widely-touted and supposedly completely
"negative" Harwell Laboratory (U.K.) calorimetry results, independent analysis of that laboratory's raw data show evidence of
excess heat production. The details of the Harwell Laboratory problems have now been published in both the Third and Fourth
International Conference on Cold Fusion Proceedings.
Do we need to understand cold fusion to begin to develop it commercially?
When conventional (low temperature) superconductivity was discovered
accidentally in 1911, there was no physical theory that
could explain it, nor was there any such theory for about the next half century. The much discussed high-temperature
superconductivity, which appeared in 1986-1987, still has no satisfactory theory to account for it. Yet industries and
governments are bent on developing and commercializing it. The same should be true for cold fusion. However, because cold
fusion seems to be an even more radical departure from conventional physics wisdom than thigh temperature superconductivity,
and because of the past reproducibility problems of cold fusion, the latter has not been accepted as readily as high-temperature
Is there a future of cold fusion?
Cold fusion research is not "Big Science" - it does not need massive
installations, just relatively small-scale dedicated work at
national laboratories, universities, and
in private industries, which are already beginning to enter the field
in the U.S., despite discouragement from officialdom. Cold
fusion does, however, require the talents of top scientists and engineers, combined with sophisticated analytical instrumentation.
The federal laboratories are well-equipped to support cold fusion research. They are floundering in search of a new mission.
Cold fusion research well become a major mission for scientists at these laboratories.
Cold fusion development 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. It is really possible that a revolutionary energy technology
has been inappropriately cast aside in the U.S? That is exactly what has happened, as scientific and engineering developments
will show. This need not be true any longer. For the economic and environment well-being of the nation and the world, every
citizen must become aware of the facts about cold fusion and help encourage funding for American and world-wide research.
Probably the most difficult hurdle in trying to come to terms with cold
fusion is that it 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 and allied discoveries will likely revolutionize the world in ways we can barely
begin to imagine. We believe that before the year 2000 there will be cold fusion powered automobiles, home heating systems,
small compact 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 to wonderful to be true".
Send a comment to Dr. Mallove, email@example.com