REVIEW OF THE SIXTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON COLD FUSION (ICCF6)
By Jed Rothwell
Copyright Cold Fusion Technology 1996
November 13, 1996 Version
Here are some notes on ICCF6. Gene Mallove will write short reviews of some of the papers listed below, as noted. Longer, more detailed reviews with graphics will appear in Infinite Energy #10.
MY OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF ICCF6
Overall, my impression of the field of cold fusion as is represented in these big international physics conferences is . . . that it is going to hell in a hand basket. It is moribund, just as Morrison and others predicted it would be by now, but not for the reasons they predicted. The number of attendees has drastically declined to 175 people, the quality of the papers is down, and little progress has been made toward technologically useful devices. While some workers report large improvements, many others report no excess heat or any other sign of a CF reaction.
In my previous reviews of ICCF3, 4 and 5 I have described grave misgivings about the direction of the field. In my review of ICCF5 I wrote:
"Many of the papers were disappointing, because many workers are stuck in the rut of trying to replicate the 1989 simple palladium - heavy water electrolysis method. This requires high loading and other conditions which are nearly impossible to achieve. Why anyone would still be trying to use this method so many years after better methods have been invented is a mystery to me . . . [The majority of scientists in the field ignore these promising approaches and continue using only palladium. Instead of selecting the easiest and most successful methods, they insist on using the oldest, least effective, and most frustrating technology, as if they were computer scientists who insist on building a vacuum tube machine in the age of transistors . . . Six years of low level results have failed to convince mainstream scientists that CF is real. Six more years will not convince anyone either . . .
I can report that the situation is still like that, only worse. It turns out that even one more year of puny results was too much for the Japanese establishment. The whole program is in danger of being shut down, and cold fusion in Japan -- the last bastion of large scale research -- is in imminent danger of collapse. Frankly, if I were in charge at MITI, I would have shut down the main programs last year, and handed out the remaining funds to researchers who have achieved technologically significant results. If you are looking for the people to blame for the demise of cold fusion, in the U.S. you can point the finger at the pathological skeptics and the DOE. In Japan, you can blame the project managers and scientists at places like the NHE lab and IMRA Japan. The NHE did more than 50 experiments in a row with no success, and IMRA did 32 experiments without success. They have ignored the literature. They have ignored improved techniques and alternatives. They make the same mistakes year after year... These scientists seem to think they will be funded forever even if they produce no results, in a miniature version of the hot fusion program. Some even say this is how science is supposed to work, as if progress doesn't matter! Politics is partly to blame. Officially, the NHE was supposed to cooperate with the universities and with successful researchers elsewhere, but people outside the program tell me that the managers have scotched all cooperation. Whatever the causes, the outcome is tragic folly.
I wrote an open letter to the NHE directorate decrying the situation. In it, I cite 16 published papers and one private communication from Pons showing errors in the NHE experimental materials or technique. I circulated this Open Letter, and I am improving it thanks to valuable comments and suggestions from many people. I will translate it into Japanese and send copies to the NHE, MITI and to various Japanese newspapers and scientific journals.
...At this conference, the French Atomic Energy Agency described their successful replication Pons and Fleischmann's 1992 boil-off results. They followed the directions, used the proper materials, and they got repeated, large bursts of excess heat with a performance profile remarkably similar to the original experiment. SRI also made a concerted effort to replicate this experiment, and they reported similar success. So it can be done right.
FLEISCHMANN RETIRED, ALIENATED
Martin Fleischmann has retired from active research and returned to England. He was originally scheduled to give a one-hour keynote lecture at the conference, but this was canceled. I asked him why. He replied he "has already said everything there is to say." He feels alienated from mainstream research in the field, which he thinks is politicized. He feels that people have not listened to his advice and ideas. I told him that people do not understand him because his lectures are so technical and because he sometimes talks in riddles, like the Delphic Oracle. I said the message does not get through, so he should consider writing a paper in collaboration with someone who communicates in simpler, more understandable prose.
PLENTY OF GOOD NEWS TOO
I should not grouse too much. There was good news, and even some outstanding news. Here are some of the papers that impressed me. They are listed by Abstract number, principal author and title. Abstracts are numbered O (oral) 1 to 44, TS (transmutation session) 1 - 7, and P (poster) 1 - 79.
In my opinion the two best papers were from Miley and Pons.
O-019 G. Miley, "Experimental Observations of Massive Transmutations Occurring in Multilayer Thin-Film Microspheres After Electrolysis." [See Journal of New Energy, vol 1, no 3, for a similar report. - Ed.]
This was similar to Miley's lecture and paper given at the Second International Low Energy Nuclear Reactions Conference (ILENR2), discussed here, and published in Infinite Energy #9. Miley showed some additional data strengthening the observations of three zones of transmutation. He explained that zones are characteristic of fission reactions. He showed data for beads with glass cores. These produced little heat and only a small number of apparent transmutations, with large sections of the spectrum flat compared to the plastic core beads. In conversation, he explained that the make up of the beads was different in each of the twenty runs. Some came from CETI while others were fabricated at the University of Illinois. Some had multiple layers of nickel and palladium, some were nickel only, and thickness was varied. He said he sees no point in doing the same experiment over and over. He wants to explore a variety of materials and thin film configurations.
Several companion papers about the CETI device were scheduled for the same hour that Miley talked, but only one was delivered. The conference organizers had scheduled one hour for the CETI session, giving Miley only 15 minutes. Other papers apparently include vital information about the CETI cell, judging by the footnotes in the Miley paper and the titles of the missing papers: "Electrical Control of New Hydrogen Energy," "Design Considerations for Multilayer Thin-Film Patterson-Type Microspheres," "Producing Excess Enthalpy . . . with Near 100% Reliability" and so on. CETI did not explain these last minute cancellations and other sudden changes in their plans. They missed a good opportunity to get their message out and excite interest in their technology, but they made up for it a month later, at the American Nuclear Society meeting in Washington.
One other paper about the CETI cell was given, by McKubre: O-020 "Electrochemistry and Calorimetry in a Packed-Bed Flow-Through Electrochemical Cell." This was a sophisticated analysis of the electrochemistry of a Patterson-style cell. McKubre showed that the most active and highly-loaded beads are probably those at the top of the bead pack near the anode. He concluded that the best way to scale up a Patterson cell would be to increase the diameter, making a broad, flat bead pack with just a few layers of beads. Patterson himself has reached the opposite conclusion. Before McKubre's talk, I asked Patterson how he plans to scale up his cells. Patterson said he will make them long and thin, adding many layers of beads. McKubre and Patterson should get together and hash this out.
Paper summaries are given in the NEN for:
O-014 S. Pons, "The ICARUS 9 Calorimeter: Summary of Three Years Designing, Testing and Operation of this Device at the IMRA Europe Science Center."
O-001 P. L. Cignini, D. Gozzi, et al., "X-Ray, Heat Excess and 4He in the Electrochemical Confinement of Deuterium in Palladium."
O-005 E. Botta, "Further Measurements on 4He Production from PdD2 Systems in Gas Phase."
O-015 F. Celani, "High Power Microsecond Pulsed Electrolysis Using Long and Thin Pd Wires in Very Diluted LiOD-D2O Solution: Observations of Anomalous Excess Heat."
O-016 S. Storms, "Some Thoughts on the Nature of Nuclear-Active Regions in Palladium."
O-055 G. Lonchampt, "Reproduction of Fleischmann and Pons Experiment."
P-004 S. Crouch-Baker, "Mass Flow Calorimetric Studies Under Non-Steady State Conditions."
P-016 E. Ragland, "Triode Cell Experiments for Controlled Fleischmann/Pons Effect."
O-031 T. Claytor, "Tritium Production From Palladium and Palladium Alloys."
O-004 M. Miles, "Heat and Helium Measurements Using Palladium and Palladium Alloys in Heavy Water."
O-036 R. Oriani, "A Confirmation of Anomalous Thermal Power Generation from a Proton-Conducting Oxide."
O-035 T. Passell, "Search for Nuclear Reaction Products in Heat Producing Pd."
At the end of the conference, summaries were presented by Bressani, McKubre and Ikegami. I found them excruciating. ... These were carefully researched quality presentations. The experimental evidence mustered by Bressani and McKubre cannot be disputed. But it is only the tip of the iceberg.
[paragraphs deleted here...]
Bockris wrote to the NHE: "One last thing, a matter of common sense but doesn't seem to be realized, and that is to stop going on with experiments that don't succeed. I learned from reports I got from Tom Passell, that IMRA did 28 experiments with zero results. That is absurd. After six or seven experiments, of course the method should be changed."
McKubre cited some of the exciting new techniques reported at the conference, and said he wants to try some of them, particularly electromigration, which spurs a departure from the steady state. "The take home message from this conference, that I will act on immediately, is to reinvestigate, or re-re-re-investigate electromigration effects. We have started on this several times, found that it is very difficult to do, and given up." He said that Preparata's experiments with high voltage electromigration require courage. I asked him if he meant they take moral or physical courage. He said he thinks there is a distinct possibility that high voltage in such an electrochemically active cell will trigger an explosion, even without a large head space.
Ikegami concluded the conference by saying how pleased he is that these gatherings have "grown up to be normal scientific conferences."
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Dec. 21, 1996.