Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Fusion is a dish best served cold

This post was earlier cross-posted at Leonid Schneider's site, hence the unfrivolous tone. The version there is improved by Leonid's editing and frame story

... there are no longer any batches of the palladium used by Fleischmann and Pons (because the supplier now uses a different manufacturing process),[148]...
This is a familiar experience in chemistry, where reagents are always undergoing strange irreproducible transformations from the alchemy of time or some unknown contaminant, so that later batches from the same supplier no longer effect the same outcome and Mr Hyde cannot change back into Dr Jeckyll. It must be a tradition, or an old charter or something. The palladium electrodes are the electrochemical equivalent, and because the suppliers in their foolishness changed the process of manufacture, the secret of Cold Fusion is lost forever.

Which leads us to 1989, and to Fleischmann and Pons. F & P had the notion that when they electrolyzed heavy water, encouraging O2- ions to congregate around the anode and D+ ions around the cathode, the deuterium nuclei would infiltrate the palladium where the metallic lattice would force them into close propinquity. Deuterium nuclei do not like to be in one another's company (on account of the electrostatic repulsion between same-charged particles, increasing as the inverse square of distance) and in the universe of mainstream physics, to bring them into sufficient proximity to overlap and fuse into a single helium nucleus requires an environment of pressure and temperature that have many zeros after them... as found in the neighbourhood of a fission waterhead or when you set the controls for the heart of the sun. F & P were able to inform the world that their one clever palladium-electrode trick was enough, according to their estimates of electrolysis-cell temperature.

Any observations of a phenomenon (plus the new physics introduced to explain it) are flawed, somewhere, if they predict the non-existence of the observer. In this case, the reported heat output should have been accompanied by a large neutron flux, incompatible with the continued metabolic activity of F & P. Some credulity was required.

In their defense, 'exotic routes to fusion' was part of the Zeitgeist then and not just a Prog-Rock album by Caravan or Pentangle. Muon-catalyzed and quark-catalyzed fusion found their way into popular culture in the course of the 1970s and 1980s, and even 'monopole catalysis' (for values of 'popular culture' that include 'engineering-porn science fiction). As evidence for this assertion I adduce the inside art and the splendidly lurid cover of the 1976 serialisation of 'Minotaur in a Mushroom Maze'.

Now these are tricky experiments to conduct, because energy is flowing into the cell anyway (the electrolysis current). Also because packing nuclei into a metal lattice is a kind of battery, storing up energy from that current and requiring little excuse to release it again in a surge. So it seems in retrospect that F & P were all wrong about the physics but physicists were reluctant to dismiss their work because they must have known what they were doing with the electrochemistry, while chemists were reluctant to dismiss their work (even through they were all wrong about the electrochemistry) because they must have known what they were doing with the physics.

Anyway, replications were reported and retracted, and a glorious saga ensured. It was a saga with much to teach about the sociology of Pathological Science, and the individual psychology of self-deception. There were patent lawyers, and experimental conditions left unspecified, and obstinance in the face of non-replication, and straw-clutching at any random anomaly. One single but consistent anomaly counts for a lot even if the theories around it are contradictory and incoherent; while conversely, a coherent new paradigm of physics can count for a lot even if the observations it explains are fragmentary and unreliable... but you do need one or the other.

The subculture of Cold Fusion True Believers share a radiant vision of a world transformed by limitless, decentralised energy sources (a vision prefigured by Jack Williamson's 'The Equalizer', of a neo-agrarian Libertarian utopia that awaits once the nuclear-energy monopoly crumbles and the cities are abandoned, though with the added appeal of flying cars and the Climate Crisis dispelled). The vision keeps them going, even after thirty years of the saga -- publishing their own on-line journals (notably the J. of Nuclear Physics, and the J. of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science for those who prefer to be labelled with 'CMNS') and meeting at regular Cold Fusion Conferences.

F & P's specific technique and theories are generally repudiated, even as the believers take advantage of their main achievement of opening up territory for the Cold Rush. The acronym LENR (Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions) is preferred to the now-deprecated 'Cold Fusion'... or even CMNS (Condensed Matter Nuclear Science), deleting the very word 'fusion' in favour of 'Anomalous Heat Effect', a less-triggering and more deniable euphemism. Electrolysis cells are no longer a thing, with more extreme conditions and other metals like tungsten or nickel or copper/nickel/manganese alloy in the role of match-maker for the reluctant union of nuclei.

LENR might seem like a very dead horse indeed, yet it can now afford a better class of flogging. 'Ascoli65' alerted OcaSapiens to a windfall: €5.5mill of funds for 'CleanHME', a 14-country EU consortium
to develop a new, clean, safe, compact and very efficient energy source based on Hydrogen-Metal and plasma systems, which could be a breakthrough for both private use as well as for industrial applications. The new energy source could be employed both as a small mobile system or alternatively as a stand-alone heat and electricity generator.
Accompanied by €4mill for 'HERMES', a 6-country consortium, which cites the failure of similar research from Google as the rationale for trying other combinations of temperature and materials.
Breakthrough zero-emissions heat generation with hydrogen-metal systems
In pursuit of the cold fusion dream as a solution to the world's energy needs
This is not the subculture's only success in coaxing research grants, for funding bodies judge applications on the criterion of 'activity' (conferences and on-line journals) because weighing actual credibility is outside their core competencies. This is another factor that sustains researchers. Mainly, though, they are sustained by faked claims, for the field combines the worst of nanotechnology and perpetual motion, attracting fraudsters and conmen like ions attracted to a palladium electrode.

I will not try to summarize the full 30 years, enlivened though it is by the presence of Nobel Laureates like Carlo Rubbia, who took the original reports sufficiently convincing to commission a replication attempt (in his capacity as President of ENEA). Also of Emilio Del Giudice, maven of hand-wavy water-bending, a quantum physicist who had gone completely Emeritus and later teamed up with Montagnier to be stupid together. There is no room for any of that. I am only here to survey a few of the current players.
Del Giudice communicating with
the genetic memory of water

Do not think, by the way, that Italian researchers and funding bodies have a monopoly on cold-fusion gullibility. They are over-represented, though in the 'Fusion Freddo' archives at OcaSapiens, where science / skeptic blogger Sylvie Coyaud is custodian of the Buffalo Park.

In Shoreditch, the Church of St Leonard,
patron saint of Cold Fusion

1. We begin with the 'hydrino' narrative, invented by a Dr Randy Mills and commercialised through Brilliant Light Power Inc. This notion has progressed far beyond mere 'fusion' in the extravagance of its claims but it emerged from the same monetarised milieu, with Mills in his first 1991 press statement introducing hydrinos as the real explanation for F & P's results. He postulated that the 'hydrogen atoms' known to mainstream physicists are merely an unstable excited state... the real lowest-energy state of hydrogen is the hydrino, inert and nigh-unobservable (unless they are in fact the Cold Dark Matter of speculative cosmology). Arc-light plasma conditions suffice to collapse hydrogen into hydrinos and harvest the energy difference.

Physicists were unanimous in their hoots of derision. To Stephen Ritter, though, writing in 2016 on 25 years of the Cold Fusion Dream (in an editorial in Chemical & Engineering News, reprinted in Scientific American), hydrinos sounded perfectly plausible because physics already has room for exotic phenomena like Muonium. In addition, Chewbacca is not a Wookie yet he lives on Endor, which makes no sense, therefore you must acquit.

Evidently Mills is a perfectionist... at the end of each round of fund-raising, when a working prototype is unveiled, his dissatisfaction with its lingering inefficiency or aesthetic shortcomings prevents him from mass-producing generators and he sets out on another round of soliciting investment, with a revised design. Meanwhile, no-one involved in these projects is visibly worried about triggering a chain reaction of hydrogen collapse and turning Earth's oceans into a nova (leading, again, to the non-existence of any observers). They all know it's just a grift.

BLP was previously BlackLight Power, and before that, HydroCatalysis Inc, giving me an opportunity to link to a Shriekback video.

2. Moving right along, meet piezonuclear reactions, the brainchild of Professori Alberto Carpinteri and Fabio Cardone. The premise here is that nuclear transmutations can occur simply from fracturing the right kind of rock. So again this is not cold fusion stricto sensu but it is too good to omit, as piezonuclear claims inspired some useful booty in Fallout. It also provides another link to OcaSapiens. Interested parties proposed to harness the Carpinteri / Cardone technology to "solve Italy’s economic crisis and the world’s energy crisis" by using rock-sourced neutrons to "burn" nuclear waste into inert elements and to "burn" €800 mill of waste money into inert piezonuclear reactors. Support came from neo-Fascists in politics and in the Italian armed forces.

Carpinteri's research interests are admirably diverse. He is active in the Sindonology community, contributing a theory that piezonuclear neutrons from a hypothetical earthquake in 33 CE were responsible for imprinting a human likeness onto a linen bedsheet from c. 1400 (and for invalidating carbon dating thereof). More relevantly here, he directed INRiM, the Italian National Institute of Metrological Research. His enthusiasm for investing that Institute's resources and the time of his colleagues in a quest to validate his piezonuclear notions led to ridicule and resistance, and eventually to a lawsuit for defamation against Sylvie Coyaud, which did not go entirely to plan.

3. Andrea Rossi's "E-cat" reactors are the keystone of the LENR arch. Rossi settled on nickel as the 'element of surprise', the surprise being that it does not merely catalyse (at least in the current explanations), but also undergoes transmutation into copper.

Rossi has been caught frauding again and again, so that even bothering to ridicule his claims is to commit dead-horse flagellation, but we must remember that the dead horse has already been buried repeatedly, each time clawing or hooving its way out of the grave to resume its zombie rampage. His career is the entire LENR history, in microcosm.

Some of these equine interments occurred in 2011, 2012, 2016: the semi-skeptics at New Energy Times have provided a helpful timeline. Fooled by a faked demonstration, the well-meaning but naive venture-capitalists at Industrial Heat gave Rossi $11 mill to begin mass production of reactors, which he invested in Florida real estate before pre-emptively suing IH for not giving him more. He licensed his technology to a Greek company, Defkalion Green Technologies, in a deal that went tits-up in an exchange of recriminatory accusatory law-suits when they tried to reverse-engineer what he was up do, and the eventual disappearance of Defkalion. Like Mills, Rossi moves from one prototype to the next, staking out new territory with the audacity of a Go Master without pausing to consolidate any given breakthrough by bringing that design into commercial production. He refuses to take 'Yes' for an answer.

Fortunately Rossi has enthusiastic supporters, who are determined to feature in documentaries about the 'Sunk-Cost Fallacy' and are always primed to accept excuses... the absence of the promised factory for mass-producing E-Cats merely showed that production had been outsourced to the US (for instance). One defender pointed out that the improbability that Rossi ie merely a con-man, maintaining his grift across decades. "The Sinking of the Cost Fallacy" would make a good tragic ballad, just saying.
"It seems unrealistic that Rossi could be weaving such an enormous web of lies: He would have to be a brilliant psychopath to perpetuate the story for so many years."
Rossi & friends, from Skeptical Inquirer
Those supporters include senior academics and physicists, whose laboratory experience did not prepare them to spot professional deception and misdirection (such as the use of doubled wires or the earth wire in a power cable to siphon in electricity from outside). For a time, another Nobel Laureate (Brian Josephson) was numbered among them. There were credulous journalists, notably Mats Lewan, and even the legendary cartoonist Matt Howarth (whose 'Changes' graphic novel was serialised in Heavy Metal in the 1970s / 80s), who lent his talents to illustrating a graphic-novel explanation of Cold Fusion.

So Rossi continues to inspire and dominate the field, with new designs and new calls for investment, much sought-after for the conferences. Before his ascension to the Cold Fusion accretion disk, Rossi was selling magic heat-to-electricity thermocouple generators to the US army, blaming their failure to function on a subcontractor who screwed up the manufacturing. Before that his income came from a scheme to magically convert industrial waste into clean green biofuel, which culminated in prison sentences for fraud and money-laundering, while other people received the bill for cleaning up his pollution.

4. I vacillate on whether to touch on Ruggero Maria Santilli, despite his own prominence in the magical transformation of industrial waste into clean green biofuel MagneGas. For although Santilli has sued Pepijn van Erp (for making fun of Santilli negative-optics telescopes for anti-matter astronomy) and sued erstwhile co-author Fabio Cardone (for having Alternative Physics theories that are too much like Santilli's), and sued other cold-fusion enthusiasts (for failing to promote his theories), he has not sued Sylvie Coyaud. Santilli's practical demonstrations of tool-shed nucleosynthesis go far beyond the picayune creation of helium, though it is not clear from the writings of his followers and sockpuppets whether the physics involves "neutroids" or "magnecular bonds".

5. Brillouin Energy, Brilliant Light wannabees. Their point of difference is to add "Q-pulse electrical stimulation" to the mix, which push the electrode-bound hydrogen atoms into their lower-energy state by merging electrons and nuclei into hydrinos neutroids neutrons. Having reported a four-fold return on energy input (comparable to a heat pump), the company triumphantly upgraded this to two-fold. The main evidence that Brillouin provide for the functionality of their heat sources consists of press releases about anonymous Pacific / Asian industrialists licensing the technology, revolutionising the world in 2013 and again in 2018.

A recent communiqué explained the lack of progress. Previous success proved to be contingent on a crucial material, strange irreproducible transformations from the alchemy of time, a change in manufacturing process, supply exhausted. It was that old tradition again.
Sometimes things get worse before they get better. We tried for years to find a way to use existing commercially available materials to make catalyst rods that meat commercial requirements. The best results of that search were still not up to commercial requirements. We know that the technology can be made commercially useful. Years ago we had made a catalyst rod with leftovers of a sample of material that was more than a decade old and was never produced in volume. We know what the properties of the applied material are and why it produced the extremely powerful results that it did. It also meshes with the underlying physics as we understand it. We are now working on developing our own material in house. We are making good progress but extremely slowly due to a lack of funds. I invite you and or anyone you know to invest in Brillouin Energy.
6. How could the Cold Fusion belief system be enriched even further? Why, by combining it with discredited magical-thinking COVID-19 cures, for added maverickrolling.

The Martin Fleischman Memorial Project (MFMP), a.k.a. Quantum Heat, is a collaboration of enthusiasts whose social-media output alternates between Cold Fusion communiqués and dispatches about treating COVID with hydroxychloroquine (or Ivermectin, or both), flirting along the way with far-right white supremacists. All punctuated by invocatory appeals to 'the New Fire' - a shibboleth or symbol of the transformational dream trademarked by our man Rossi, though it sounds ominous to me, with its eschatological, Pentacostal undertones.

The MPMF have a FaceBorg page and a Twiddle account. Also a company, incorporated in October 2012, and a manifesto from the same year, espousing their vision of an Live Open Science framework for removing the inconsistencies and unreliability that had held back LENR for so long.
Narrator: Rossi and Defkalion were revealed as scams

The idea was for citizen-scientists around the world to use the same specification and assemble their own Celani Cells for grass-roots replication - Francesco Celani's design being most robust in terms of results, and most reproducible. Enthusiasts could vary parameters and zero in on what works and what doesn't, reporting their findings and suggestions for further experiments in comment threads at, for total transparency and an end to proprietorial secrecy.
In order to get rid of the persistent criticism of the traditional physics of this phenomenon, we are doing everything we can to carry out the project as transparently and understandably as possible. We want to create a project by people for all of humanity. For this reason, we will publish all relevant information about the process, the construction plans, the current data and the results here.
I wanted to offer the suggestion that an important parameter to vary is the strength of Crank Magnetism, except that in an unusual display of totally transparent respect for the contributors, the website closed down a few weeks ago and all those archives were scrubbed from the Intertubes (with backed-up pages at as the only trace) was unavailable but came back.

In consequence, to read a triumphant report of the successful replication in 2016, we must take ourselves to one of Mats Lewan's websites.
Here "successful replication" takes on the meaning of "transient experimental glitch achieved with very non-Celani apparatus and 'fuel' rather than 'catalysis'." Celani's results were harder to replicate than expected, and there had been a roller-coaster ride of melt-downs set-backs and encouraging suggestions. But perhaps there is an explanation... those results, once again, were contingent on old materials, no longer obtainable, supply exhausted, it must be a tradition.
What we are aware of but that is not publically known to date, is that the wire he used in NI Week and ICCF-17 was 700 layers. We have discovered that the higher the number of layers, the faster the loading, the greater the R/R0 indicating hydrogen absorption and the higher the excess power. So why are we not using 700 layers? The simple answer is that there is not any, that wire was made with some old stock of ISOTAN44 - “Isabellehutte” from the 1970s who’s coating allowed 700 layers to be built on the wire as substrate. Modern stock does not allow this because the process that was making the material changed, with around 450 layers being the upper limit. It is our understanding that, since wires with around 400 layers is reproducible, appear to produce significant effects and there has not been the resources to explore what made the old stock so special, pursuit of recreating 700 layer wires on tight budgets has been unjustifiable.
7. With post titles like "The Genius of Celani", it should be clear that the MFMP group hold Francesco Celani in high regard, barely this side of idolatry. Celani in turn was an active collaborator, although his website glosses over "his previous participation in the Live Open Science (LOS) methodology" as a past indiscretion, confined to 2012.

Celani features often enough in Sylvie's Fusione Fredda posts to deserve his own tag. He is (or was) Vice President of the International Society for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, and is frequently compared to Galileo (or even Tesla), possibly even by non-Celani writers. Andrea Rossi declined Celani's offers of assistance, regarding him as a competitor rather than a collaborator. I hope he does not forget his old MFMP friends or disown them as an embarrassment, now that he has hit the big time as a member of the CleanHME consortium.

The more I read of Celani’s papers, the more he seems to be influenced by Jack Williamson and his literary invention of the Barstow Equalizer.
“Just a solenoid.” Cameron nodded. “But wound in a certain way, not helically, so that its field slightly alters the co-ordinates of space and slightly changes the interaction of mass and energy. The atomic particles of the solenoid are equalized, as your father termed the process. The converted energy appears as direct current in the wire."

First, I should mention the serendipitous discovery in 2000 of a new bacterial species (or maybe two), which lives in the heavy-water solvents of Celani’s cells and disrupts the hydrogen nucleochemistry on the wires, as one of the explanations when LENR fails to replicate. Celani started using alcohol in his solvents to deter the growth of the extremophile bacteria. The presence of concentrated alcohol goes a long way to explain the chaotic, unsafe conditions in Celani’s laboratory.
Cupriavidus metallidurans according to
bacterial taxonomists… repurposed by
Celani’s supporters to illustrate his claims
There was talk of harnessing Ralstonia detusculanense (which seems to be a rediscovery of Ralstonia metallidurans, later reclassified as Cupriavidus metallidurans) to bioremediate industrial sites contaminated with heavy metals, but nothing seemed to come of it.

After 25 years of paying for LENR research that went nowhere except for serendipitous bacteria and irreproducible anomalies, the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare and then ENEA stopped funding it. In 2015 INFN declined to extend Celani’s employment after retirement age, and assigned his laboratory to someone else – just when he was on the brink of success! – and there was GREAT AGITA within the fraternity (here, here and here).

Evidently this was persecution on a level with that time when the Inquisition imprisoned Galileo and showed him the instruments of torture, explaining why Celani and Galileo are so often mentioned together. It is not clear who fills the roles of Kepler and Tycho Brahe in this comparison.

One Umberto Dosselli, Director of the LNR branch of INFN, came in for odium, or perhaps opprobrium – I am never sure which is which. A letter from Celani was circulated, rebutting the so-called Ripani report (on the state of Celani’s laboratory and research) which preceded these tragic events, though he did not make the report itself available, so we cannot judge the thoroughness of the rebuttal.

Mustn’t forget the nomination of Francesco Celani and the MFMP for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, for inventing Open Science (which was totally not invented in 1998), read here, here and here. Celani informs us that they were nominated again in 2015. I cannot state with any certainty that the nominations were made by people recognised by the Nobel Committee as valid sources.

R. M. Santilli says “Only two nominations? Pshaw! Beginners!” Santilli has been nominating himself for Chemistry and Physics Nobels (through various proxies and sock-puppets) since 1985. In 1987 his sockpuppetdrawer organised themselves as an “International Committee for the Nobel Prize Nomination of Prof. R. M. Santilli” to regularise the process, as an alternative to the nomination pathways recognised by the Nobel Committee per se. The website he set up to curate and showcase the nominations seems to have lapsed has been replaced.

In older not-news from 2019, Mats Lewin gave Rossi one last chance to front up with the evidence that buyers were lining up for his E-Cat and Hot-Cat heat generators - buyers who would vouch for their functionality. HA HA not really. In fact he proved that Rossi was legit and totally not a fraudster by inviting his loyal readers to answer an on-line poll.

Here to conclude is Figure 2.1, depicting a happy robot maintaining the magnets within an accelerator for neutrino-beam generation, from 'Neutrino exploration of the earth' (De Rújula, Glashow, Wilson & Charpak) - my favourite physics paper EVER. It is not at all relevant to the post but it shows that I was reading Physics Reports in 1983, just in case anyone questions my credentials.

Some early Tangerine Dream is also a nice way to finish.

UPDATE: Everything changed in 2015 when a holy relic was unearthed. A length of the irreplaceable palladium wire, which would finally make it possible to replicate the Pons-Fleischmann results [again].
The MFMP has been offerred something no one knew existed, something priceless and which could reveal critical secrets many in the LENR field have been seeking for over a quarter century.

Before Martin Fleischmann left the US, he personally gave a trusted friend an original pre-1989 Johnson Matthey palladium wire – the very same as used in experiments that led to that fateful announcement of a new primary energy source that came to be known as cold fusion.

He has held this secret all these years until now. We checked today with Mike McKubre, Vitorio Violante and Melvin Miles if there was any known public metallurgical and elemental / isotopic characterisation of this material, the answer was a resounding no.

It is known that the early attempts to replicate the Pons and Fleischmann effect mostly failed due to the purity and processing of ‘palladium’ used. In fact ENEA has been trying to establish what additives and structures are critical to creating the effect for more than 2 decades. Many of the principal research labs working in the field are trying to establish the correct crystal shapes, sizes, orientation etc. and chemistry.

In our own nickel powder / hydrogen research, we have tried to get the purest nickel possible – but have failed to see any excess heat. Now we know from our recent elemental analysis of Dr. Parkhomov’s Nickel, that there is high concentrations of Carbon and Oxygen on the surface, elements also found in Rossi’s fuels.

The unique opportunity we have been honoured with is profoundly important, and there is not a person we asked at the conference that were not falling over themselves to help in what ever way they could. Ultimately it is down to the current owner to decide exactly what happens but from the available piece, which is about the thickness of a toothpick and between 7 and 8 cm long, the current plan is to

Use 3 X 2mm samples to characterise structure, isotopic constitution etc. Run at least two 2cm segments in Pons and Fleischmann cells, copied from the original and/or use the original cell. Reserve remainder

We will auction the ownership rights of the post run, post analysis 2cm segments in a one of a kind, never to be repeated auction. This is an unrepeatable opportunity to own the only known samples of this historic precious metal.

This auction, along with the auction of the donated 1 ounce Pd 1989 “Cold Fusion” coins is design to raise enough money the help ensure a fully faithful replication that will be conducted by someone who is not currently a member of the MFMP and who is a very experienced experimentalist. The work will be conducted in France with the help of Jean-Paul Biberian and all data will public.

We must work with the best resources on the planet to ensure that this materials secrets are revealed for all. It is wonderful to be a part of something that will yield critical data for advancement of the field.

More information to be published about the Vindication program.

The name of the current owner and how he came to be entrusted with the electrode will be revealed in time, right now, given the incredible importance to maintain security, we have been asked to hold off on publishing that information.

We want to take this opportunity however, to publicly thank the donor and curator of this material for coming forward.

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