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Sunday, June 01, 2008 12:50 AM

Cold Fusion Fact Or Fantasy?

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Reports are out: Scientist Creates Cold Fusion For the First Time In Decades.

Yoshiaki Arata, a highly respected physicist in Japan, demonstrated a low-energy nuclear reaction at Osaka University on Thursday. In front of a live audience, including reporters from six major newspapers and two TV studios, Arata and a co-professor Yue-Chang Zhang, produced excess heat and helium atoms from deuterium gas.

Arata used pressure to force deuterium gas into an evacuated cell that contained a palladium and zirconium oxide mix (ZrO2-Pd). Arata said that the mix caused the deuterium's nuclei to fuse, raising the temperature in the cell and keeping the center of the cell warm for 50 hours.

Arata's experiment would mark the first time anyone has witnessed cold fusion since 1989, when Martin Fleishmann and Stanely Pons supposedly observed excess heat during electrolysis of heavy water with palladium electrodes. When they and other researchers were unable to make it work again, cold fusion became synonymous with bad science.

But the method Arata showed was "highly reproducible," according to eye witnesses of the event. If nobody calls this demonstration out as a sham, Arata might have finally found the holy grail of cheap and abundant energy—nuclear power, without its destructive heat.
Cold-fusion demonstration "a success"

PhysicsWorld is reporting Cold-fusion demonstration "a success".
These days the mainstream science media wouldn't touch cold-fusion experiments with a barge pole. They have learnt their lesson from 1989, and now treat "cold fusion" as a byword for bad science. Most scientists agree, and some even go so far as to brand cold fusion a "pathological science" — science that is plagued by falsehood but practiced nonetheless.

There is a reasonable chance that the naysayers are (to some extent) right and that cold fusion experiments in their current form will not amount to anything. But it's too easy to be drawn in by the crowd and overlook a genuine breakthrough, which is why I'd like to let you know that one of the handful of diligent cold-fusion practitioners has started waving his arms again. His name is Yoshiaki Arata, a retired (now emeritus) physics professor at Osaka University, Japan. Yesterday, Arata performed a demonstration at Osaka of one his cold-fusion experiments.

So, did this method work yesterday? Here's an email I received from Akito Takahashi, a colleague of Arata's, this morning:

"Arata's demonstration...was successfully done. There came about 60 people from universities and companies in Japan and few foreign people. Six major newspapers and two TV [stations] (Asahi, Nikkei, Mainichi, NHK, et al.) were there...Demonstrated live data looked just similar to the data they reported in [the] papers...This showed the method highly reproducible. Arata's lecture and Q&A were also attractive and active."

I also received a detailed account from Jed Rothwell, who is editor of the US site LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions) and who has long thought that cold-fusion research shows promise. He said that, after Arata had started the injection of gas, the temperature rose to about 70 °C, which according to Arata was due to both chemical and nuclear reactions. When the gas was shut off, the temperature in the centre of the cell remained significantly warmer than the cell wall for 50 hours. This, according to Arata, was due solely to nuclear fusion.

Rothwell also pointed out that Arata performed three other control experiments: hydrogen with the ZrO2–Pd sample (no lasting heat); deuterium with no ZrO2–Pd sample (no heating at all); and hydrogen with no ZrO2–Pd sample (again, no heating). Nevertheless, Rothwell added that Arata neglected to mention certain details, such as the method of calibration.
Google Translation From Japanese

Here is a translation of the experiment held before a live audience.

Flashback to a Flashback

Dateline March 1, 1999

Whatever happened to cold fusion?
First announced ten years ago, cold fusion has been largely dismissed by the scientific community.

Most physicists can probably remember where they were when they first heard of Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. On 23 March 1989 the two electrochemists grabbed the world's attention by announcing at a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, that they had observed controlled nuclear fusion in a glass jar. The excess heat measured in the experiment offered the promise of a new power source for the planet, as well as huge financial rewards.

However, it is clear that world energy production has not been affected in any way by cold fusion. No experiment has so far convinced the sceptics that cold fusion is real, and most of the big funding sources, which threw money at quick experiments in the early days of cold fusion, have pulled out. Retired particle physicist Douglas Morrison, one of the more persistent critics of cold fusion, says that after ten years there is "less science, fewer scientists, fewer funds, [although there are] more potential investors".

But cold fusion is not dead and buried. A dedicated circle of enthusiasts has kept the flame alive to varying degrees, carrying out jury-rigged experiments in garages and basements, and one or two more conventional institutions still have an interest. Although governments such as those of the US and Japan have officially pulled out, the cold-fusion faithful say that several government agencies are still giving money to the field, including the US Department of Defense. And the Italian and French governments are still supporting research in a small number of labs, according to one cold-fusion insider.

Cold fusion: the culture

Cold fusion may have been written off by the scientific community at large, but it has entered cultural consciousness in interesting ways. Hollywood embraced the subject in 1997 in the action movie The Saint.

Cold fusion has even been turned into a game. Trevor Pinch of the Science and Technology Studies Department at Cornell University created a hypertext game in which you pretend to be an experimenter trying to replicate the Pons and Fleischmann experiment. Depending on what choices you make, you end up either with your reputation intact or a career in tatters.

Cold fusion ten years on

What has become of the original protagonists? Martin Fleischmann apparently had a nasty falling out with Stanley Pons over the direction of research at IMRA and returned to Southampton in1995, where he is still working on theoretical models of cold fusion. In a recent phone interview, Fleischmann told Physics World that he just got fed up with his ideas being ignored.
Could This Device be a Real Mr. Fusion?

The Atomic Motor Blog is asking Could This Device be a Real Mr. Fusion?
As a nuclear engineer with a strong interest in nanotechnology for many years, there aren't many cold fusion devices that I've seen and read about over the years that excite me as much as the potential of Dr. Yoshiaki Arata's solid state fusion reactor which uses Palladium nanoparticles to help initiate his cold fusion reaction process, which creates He4, the gas found in children's balloons from Deuterium gas (a readily available hydrogen isotope). What is also released in the process is heat energy from fusion. No small accomplishment as any physicist would tell you, because this process should be impossible according to the known laws of nuclear physics and chemistry.

What is also significant besides excess heat generated [ awaiting confirmation according to latest news update], is that if his process could somehow be scaled up in large volumes, perhaps ...just perhaps it may be a way to replace Helium supplies someday, which according to the latest reports is becoming a scarce non-renewable resource, often times released to the atmosphere as natural gas is collected along with fossil fuels. The US strategic Helium reserves are also known to be a finite supply, and despite this are now being sold off to meet supply needs of the scientific and commercial sectors.

If any cold fusion fans have read Dr. Arata's earlier important papers on this device, first published in 2006 in a very reputable Italian journal found here, then you would probably agree that an announcement like this is significant from the standpoint that it shows for the first time his actual prototype laboratory device and that he is now demonstrating it in public as also reported here in an interview by New Energy Times.

The Atomic Motor would like to send out an atomic guitar hero award to Dr. Arata and other fellow scientists who diligently keep trying and making significant progress against all odds in keeping the clean energy cold fusion spirit alive.
There are some neat atomic diagrams that will appeal to scientific nerds in the above link. If nuclear engineers find this credible and someone of Arata's stature is willing to stick his neck on the line than I do not think it can be dismissed outright.

So.... Is this the real deal or another flash in the pan to be disgraced for 20 more years? Even if it is the real deal (and I hope it is), how long before there are practical applications to the technology? I do not pretend to know the answers. What I do know is that if is the real deal, at some point in the future there is likely to be incalculable benefits.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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