LENR at Williamsburg
The first annual International Low Energy Nuclear Reactions Symposium (ILENRS-12) was held from July 1-3, 2012 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The authors of the book Terrestrial Nuclear Processes: Zero Momentum Light Element Reactors (John Wallace, Ganapati Myneni, Michael Wallace, Robert Pike, Glenn Westphal) organized the conference, the declared purpose of which was to “review LENR’s current theoretical and experimental status, including updating recent results. . .evaluate the present state of the art and define future directions, including establishment of criteria for creating university-based, state-of-the-art LENR research and development centers.”
Part of the inspiration for the conference was that John Wallace and his co-authors had never previously put together the research that they were doing on dissolved hydrogen properties found in niobium superconducting linear accelerator cavities with that of the work of Fleischmann and Pons. Their deep thought and willingness to be creative led to provocative areas for investigation. In an interview, Wallace described the sequence of events: “It started in October when we realized that treating a dissolved proton in metals requires it to be treated as a quantum particle not only for diffusion and magnetic properties but in any possible nuclear reactions. The original goal was set by Ganapati Myneni, who wanted to improve the Q of accelerator cavities to cut power usage. We felt that dissolved hydrogen was the culprit in limiting Q and removing hydrogen would improve Q along with allowing the surface to grow higher Tc epitaxial superconductors to improve the Q. A quantum mechanical model resulted from the work for the dissolved proton that could be extended to all the hydrogen isotopes. Then we ran across Rossi’s work with hydrogen in nickel. It looked like our picture of the dissolved proton in nickel allowed nuclear physics to be extended to the study of zero momentum hydrogen isotopes nuclei reacting on metal nuclei. This is in sharp contrast to how nuclei currently are treated in the solid state. Then we found numerous possible nuclear pathways that were energetically possible and prepared a short paper on possible nuclear pathways. These observations upset the management of the DOE-operated Jefferson Lab. The senior management held hearings stating such work should not contain any affiliations or it would ruin the reputation of the Jefferson Lab if published. We continued through five more drafts extending this quantum model for hydrogen isotopes and by the end of February decided to put the book together, which solved the publication problem and allowed us to cover the geophysical implications. We didn’t look closely at the background of material in the LENR field in preparing the book because simply completing the model was consuming most of our time. The only piece of data we used was that there was heat generated with little or no gamma radiation. We tried to figure how that fit in and regularly new insights about the process were incorporated. In the background research in nuclear physics there was some work from the Jefferson Lab which had been collecting for 15 years, on ‘short range correlations’ between proton-neutrons in stable nuclei. These couples can react very strongly and for short periods of time, changing the entire character of the quiescent ground state nucleus. These very fast processes may provide the nuclear mechanism that allow reactions to occur within stable nuclei that are radiation free and extremely fast.”
Wallace had some idea of the mechanism involved in their work, but looked forward to meeting with people in the LENR community to discuss the research. With a knack for following his nose and a creative and capable team, the group hoped to fund a university program and continue work in the field. The conference would be their start.
The symposium began on July 1 for some attendees, with a Colonial Williamsburg tour and an evening reception. Presentations began on Monday morning, July 2 with welcoming remarks from symposium chair Ganapati Myneni.
Peter Hagelstein, a professor in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, spoke of his collaboration with Dennis Letts and Dennis Cravens in a talk titled “The Two-Laser Experiment of Letts and Cravens and Proposed Interpretation,” with the second half concentrating on “Models Relevant to Excess Heat and Other Anomalies.”
First Hagelstein provided an overview of basic findings. There is excess heat, as shown by Fleischmann, and “it’s much bigger than chemical.” There is helium-4 correlated with energy production, as shown by many researchers. He said in an interview, “In nuclear physics, local energy and momentum conservation means that if energy is produced, then the reaction energy comes out as energetic particles. If so, then by measuring the energy of the He-4 (or alpha particle) we should be able to understand something about how the reaction works.” He said that the PdD in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment can be viewed as a detector, and it can be “calibrated” by making use of well known physics.
Hagelstein said, “We look at experiments where neutrons were measured during an excess heat burst, and from that we conclude that neutrons are uncorrelated with excess power, and the upper limit from experiment is about 1 neutron per 100 J of excess energy.” This is inconsistent with the Rutherford (billiard ball) picture of nuclear reactions. He asked, “If the energy produced is not going into making energetic particles, then where does it go?” The Letts two-laser experiment provides indirect evidence that the energy goes into optical phonon modes. Hagelstein said, “For this to work you need to fractionate the 24 MeV quantum for D2/4He transitions into a very large number of O (50 meV) quanta. We found that the lossy spin-boson model can do this. The donor and receiver model would describe excess heat, but it is a toy model, and doesn’t tell you how the interactions work.”
The new basic model describes coherent energy exchange with fractionalization. He said, “We have a new fundamental Hamiltonian based on a relativistic starting place that describes a new coupling between lattice vibrations and nuclear excitation.”
George Miley, Professor Emeritus in the Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering and Electrical/Computer Engineering Departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke of his recent work on gas loaded nanoparticles in his talk “LENR Reactions Using Clusters.” Miley said his meaning of “clusters” is an ultra dense state of a hundred to a thousand hydrogen or deuterium atoms formed in voids or dislocation loops. He described how he uses cyclic loading techniques to create these clusters, which in turn provide the nuclear active sites for LENRs.
Miley has been in the LENR field since the beginning. He had done some research with Steven Jones, Professor of Physics at BYU, on muon catalyzed fusion. He referenced a call he received from Jones a week before the Fleischmann-Pons announcement at the University of Utah, in which Jones proposed sending an article to him as editor of the journal Fusion Technology. Jones was doing a type of cold fusion in an effort to explain tritium coming out of volcanoes. This paper, which ended up in Nature, was one factor that caused Pons and Fleischmann to announce their work prematurely. Later, Miley testified at the first congressional hearing on cold fusion as “an open minded observer.” Miley recalled later working with Jim Patterson using light water and nickel in a unique flowing packed bed electrolytic cell (the famous “Patterson cell”) and how Patterson brought a unit to Illinois. Patterson, along with Dennis Cravens, showed Miley’s team how to use it. This ultimately resulted in their well known studies of transmutation products in the hydrogen-nickel system. Miley said all of this seemed very relevant now that the hydrogen-nickel system is receiving so much interest.
Miley showed slides of a Pd/Ni thin film cathode with a unique parallel anode and cathode such that ion flux is driven by the resulting electric field. He spoke of using CR-39 working with Andrei Lipson and how they recorded MeV protons and alpha particles coming out. He described quantitative measurements of transmuted products, such as copper and silver, at the end of runs producing excess heat with this configuration. Knowing these reaction products, he was able to do a mass balance and show that the difference in mass between products and reactants was consistent with the excess heat observed, within the limits of accuracy (large due to the difficulty in measuring the small difference involved) of the measurements. That is, Miley said, equivalent to the correlation of He-4 with excess heat reported by persons working on the traditional Pons-Fleischmann deuterium-palladium cells. He said that this correlation indicated that transmutation reactions were a major source of excess heat. The MeV charged particles recorded with CR-39 had too low a flux to account for much of the excess heat. During these experiments, the charged particles seemed to be coming out of small localized areas. Also the electrode had small melted spots, a volcanic type thing. These observations reinforced his thinking about LENR being due to localized reactions, and eventually led to the current effort to create more such regions via the cluster technique.
To study cluster creation, Miley has used thin Pd plates with Pd oxide layers on the surfaces. Repeated electrolytic loading and deloading was performed to create dislocation loops at the interfaces and near surface. The numbers of clusters and their density were studied using temperature controlled desorption and EM SQUID measurements. The SQUID measurement showed the cluster material was what amounted to a Class 2 superconductor, demonstrating near metallic density. More recently, Miley’s group has used a Petawatt laser to drive MeV deuterium beams out of foils containing deuterium clusters.
Miley said he was inspired to extend these thin film methods to nanoparticles when Rossi announced his gas loaded hydrogen-nickel nanoparticle power units. Nano materials have more surface area, thus have good ability to form abundant clusters. Clusters mainly form in pores close to the surface. To study this he worked on four different types of alloys—two that were Ni rich allow for hydrogen loading and two Pd rich alloys for D2 loading. To date he has mainly concentrated on D-Pd. Palladium is expensive, but he is studying ways to recycle palladium from “used” nanoparticles. He said that if they run six months or more before replacement, and recycling is used, the economics may not be so crucial.
Miley then presented results from a series of deuterium gas loaded nanoparticle experiments running at the 100-300 watt level. Results were shown where the energy gain (LENR/chemical) started at about 7 after a few minutes, but increased another order of magnitude over four hours. Longer runs had problems due to deterioration of the nanoparticles, attributed to sintering. They are now studying methods to overcome this problem, including increasing the layer oxide thickness on the nanoparticles and configurational changes to flatten and control the temperature profile. Changes in nanoparticle composition are also under study. The goal is to get a minimum of six months run time before replacing the nanoparticles. His belief is that this would lead to an economical system; he showed some conceptual designs for a modular 3 kW unit for home use plus larger 30 kW ones for industrial use. Both were intended for co-gen operation using thermoelectric energy conversion. A new company, LENUCO, has been founded in Champaign, Illinois that has the goal of commercializing this technology.
Liviu Popa-Simil, President of LAVM LLC, spoke of a possible “Roadmap to Fusion Battery” and demonstrated mechanisms from which they might be derived. “Many types of materials are capable of interacting with lighter elements,” he declared, adding that “new physics are coming from the study of new reactions.” Popa-Simil suggested that a fusion battery relies on a process that converts fusion energy into electricity, is more compact and resembles an aluminum air battery.
Popa-Simil presented the history of work done in Romania in nuclear anomalies research. In his own work on the fusion battery, he has generated nuclear reactions like transmutation, fusion and fission. He wrote, “The power sources we may produce using this process will place mankind in a new, more friendly relationship with nature, and we may become a cosmic civilization, having solved the problem of energy and resources, because with enough energy all other resources may be had.” He emphasized the need for a systematic research program in the U.S.
Before the morning break, a lively group discussion and summary of the morning session occurred. The discussion evolved into a group participation/think tank on the topic of the evolution and application of Hagelstein’s new model. Duncan referred to Hagelstein’s model as “something different from what has been explored in the last decades, which can give a unified picture to address so many experimental results.”
“Most experimenters who talk to me get on my Dear Santa wish list,” Hagelstein said, referring to how his theoretical work evolves from collaborations with experimenters. He mentioned that Dennis Letts has a list of 25 things to measure regarding laser and co-deposition experiments, and Mike McKubre has a list regarding simulations at SRI.
Michael McKubre’s talk, “Calorimetric Studies of the Destructive Stimulation of Palladium and Nickel Fine Wires Loaded with Hydrogen and Deuterium,” offered a historic overview of LENR research. He showed a graph of the Fleischmann-Pons work in their first patent application, and said, “Clearly something had happened which might convince you of an anomalous heat effect with the deuterium-palladium system. Their claim that deuterium electrochemically asserted into Pd to a sufficient degree (causing a lot of confusion about the amount) revealed a source of heat inconsistent with known chemical or lattice energy storage effects.” These were, he continued, major parts of the field then and now.
Other areas of progress, McKubre continued, involved evolutions in calorimetry. As presented to the 2004 DOE review panel, the threshold nature of this phenomenon occurs with heavy, not light, water. Other revelations, he recalled, were that researchers don’t produce excess heat until loading to .9 or more. He also recounted that historically it had been discovered that metallurgy is critically important and without important work, such as that done by Vittorio Violante and his team at ENEA, progress would have been slower.
Declaring that “electrochemistry is an art form,” McKubre counted milestones in the evolution of work in that area. “We have measured energy densities 20,000 times chemistry—it could be 20 million. The need to have flux and loading is electrochemically in conflict. . .Electrochemically loading is non-linear. We lose on the downside more than the upside.” Questions his team at SRI considered included the issue of decoupling loading and stimulation. He said that the experiments themselves were a commitment, the nature of which revealed itself over time. “FP experiments,” he stated, “take weeks or months. . .We learned one thing a month.” He recalled NRL’s David Kidwell typifying the experiments as “Looking for a lab rat—an experiment the running and results of which were repeatable, rapid and unambiguous.” Recounting this quest, McKubre traced a history of experiments, ticking off work with calorimetry, how they had never seen excess heat from light water experiments at SRI; they abandoned this line of research in the mid-1990s. Interested in the nickel-hydrogen systems that Andrea Rossi and Defkalion Green Technologies were working with, McKubre said, “Peter [Hagelstein] engaged my thinking about Piantelli. . .We mounted an expedition to deepest Tuscany. . .We then did new experiments at SRI and saw excess energy from light or natural water experiments.” Piantelli, McKubre stated, was the father of the Ni-light hydrogen systems. “He takes bulk material and textures the surface and until he gets the right texture he doesn’t get the effect.”
McKubre fielded a question about the loading of palladium and overall energy balance. He said, “At the rate of heat release, excess power is always above the base line. The anomaly is always positive. You don’t see pulses, the integral amount is related to input. The question is how much? Energetics have results of 28.5 times more energy coming out than integrated power coming in.”
Another question regarded how McKubre loaded a nickel-hydrogen system differently than a palladium system. McKubre responded, “We have an in situ method for measuring the loading of Pd, but we don’t have it for Ni. We don’t have a good calibration for how the resistance changes for loading nickel. Ni is also slower. The times taken may not have loaded bulk nickel but you are dealing with 50 micron wires. . .We load and co-deposit nickel on structure. I expect the nickel is loaded in a co-deposited system. I have been reluctant to study nickel, as I don’t know it as well as palladium.”
Dennis Bushnell asked about the role of surfaces in loading. McKubre responded that SRI had looked into what are successful characteristics as opposed to unsuccessful: “We believe we need a degree of surface roughness. At ENEA we characterize it using a variety of laser tools to characterize morphology.” He spoke of other work including researcher Patterson’s particles: “Our experience so far is you need a nano texture where experiments run for hours, fatiguing material at the surface. You need something at resonant frequencies in the range of these surface asperities.”
Thomas Claytor’s talk was on “The Search for Excess Heat and Tritium in Nickel Alloys Exposed to Pulsed Hydrogen Plasma.” He credited Malcolm Fowler, Dale Tuggle, Rick Cantwell and Matt McConnell of Coolescence as collaborators. His slides illustrated samples of wires, diffusion for wires and plasma electrodes. He explained, “These are spots where the palladium vaporized. Unfortunately, with Pd you have to highly load it, treat it right, have a surface morphology as McKubre illustrated.” He then showed post-plasma Pd surfaces showing distinct cone morphology. He mentioned that he is investigating the nickel crack theory of Ed Storms. “We are doing plasma experiments with a nickel alloy and getting reproducible but modest tritium results. Palladium sometimes gives you a big tritium result but we can’t reproduce it on demand.” Claytor showed a video of the plasma process saying, “This shows how the plasma attaches to the palladium electrode surface, the opposite of what hot fusion people do. They don’t want the plasma to attach to a wall and we do!”
Claytor showed the electron shielding results of Raiola et al. and mentioned that the material with the highest shielding is palladium. He offered, “We are now using a nickel alloy rather than pure Ni.” He then showed a table of tritium results from pure iron, silver, platinum, Pd, Fe-Ni, Ni and the Ni alloy. The highest tritium production rate was found with the Ni alloy but the rate varied. He asked the question, “Why did the tritium output rate vary if the runs are reproducible?” The answer is that they weren’t all run in the same conditions. Some experiments can go on for greater than 200 hours. He went on: “After a long run in the plasma you have a coating on the wall of nano particles. They can be scraped off the wall and we can count them with a SSB detector afterwards. On the average we get a slight increase of background with nickel alloy and with palladium.”
Claytor emphasized that the “Ni alloy is reproducible. Tritium can be several sigma over background. The effect can be obtained in 1 to 2 days. Excess heat is small but not inconsistent with He data.” He said that the parameter space, the effect of pressure, electrical driving conditions, temperature, etc. have only been partially explored. Claytor noted, “Given the fact Piantelli and Rossi have seen interesting effects, this is a good thing to replicate.”
Larry Forsley asked if they had seen neutrons during runs. “In these recent experiments we used a He-3 counter but did not see any neutron excess; to see any neutrons you probably have to run in a tunnel,” responded Tom Claytor. “I don’t think there are neutrons to be had.” Were they burning neutrons, Forsley wondered. “Only if 10-9 level” was the response.
George Miley wanted to know if they had done gas or plasma loading. Claytor responded that this work was with plasma loading. “When we started, many years ago, we used Pd powder and pressurized to 27 psi, we found we were arcing. We should go back to gas loading, but on the other hand there is plenty to do here. I’d rather not go back to Pd and stay with nickel alloy for reasons I have outlined here.”
Edward Miller, of Carbon Labs, presented “Fusion Experiments at the Nanoscale.” An independent inventor and researcher, Miller stated that his company’s intent was to understand the minimum input energy required to do fusion. If they saw neutrons from multiple detectors, he declared, they would know their experiments were a success. They work with high powered lasers to heat nanoscale cages filled with deuterium.
“It’s hard to manipulate plasma,” Miller stated in his presentation. “Don’t fight forces, use them, as Buckminster Fuller said. From my perspective it’s ridiculous to tear molecules apart.” His experiment used carbon-60 Buckyballs, which they allowed to cool to hold gas. Miller illustrated that they achieved a synthesis of deuterium and carbon-60, working with researchers at the University of Texas in Austin who use a Ghost laser.
In an interview, Miller stated, “Our goal is to figure out a way to do fusion efficiently. This set of experiments was to determine if the rapid superheating encapsulated deuterium would create an energetic advantage. It was a huge collaboration with a number of universities to get deuterium encapsulated within the fullerene. So it’s not totally independent invention/research. I’m just trying to pull the people together to do new experiments. We did 157 experiments over four days in May 2011. We shot multiple varieties of carbon and deuterium with 10,000x more energy than anyone previously—using six different detection methods.”
He said, “We’re trying to find techniques to help increase the efficiency of fusion. The area of quantum/nanoscale confinement of deuterium is entirely new and interesting.”
Other speakers presenting at ILENRS were: Brian Ahern, Beverly Barnhart, Jean-Paul Biberian, Dennis Bushnell, Nicolas Chauvin, Rob Duncan, Jim Dunn, David French, David Nagel, Robert Pike, Mahadeva Srinivasan, Edmund Storms, John Wallace, Michael Wallace.