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infinite energy
Issue 17


Issue 17
December 1997 - January 1998
Infinite Energy Magazine

Book Review

Nuclear Transmutation: the Reality of Cold Fusion

by Dr. Tadahiko Mizuno

1997, Kougakusha , Japan , 230 pages, 23 references

 

Review by Jed Rothwell

From Infinite Energy #17, December 1997/January 1998

 

 

nuclear transmutation

[This is a review of the Japanese version of the book, prior to its translation into English by Jed Rothwell and Infinite Energy. Following this review is a shorter review by Dr. George Miley of the English translation (publication information noted therein)]

 

Tadahiko Mizuno, one of Japan 's best cold fusion scientists, has written a short book about his work and his personal experiences. It is the best account yet written about the daily work of a cold fusion researcher. It gives you a sense of what the job feels like. The book is written in a breezy style for the general reader. A few sections have movie-script style dialog. (“You better get over here; we're seeing a new peak!”) Other sections are more technical, particularly a discussion of Conte's quantum mechanical theory of cold fusion. The book is primarily about experiments performed by Mizuno and Akimoto at the University of Hokkaido , but it covers other people's work, especially Oriani and Ohmori.               

 

The Prehistory of the Discovery

Mizuno has often talked about the prehistory of cold fusion. Most great discoveries are visited and revisited many times before someone stakes a permanent claim. People sometimes stumble over a new discovery without even realizing where they see. Mizuno did his graduate and post graduate work on corrosion using highly loaded metal hydrides. His experiments were almost exactly like those of cold fusion, but they were performed for a different purpose. In retrospect, he realized that he saw anomalous events that may have been cold fusion. At the time he could not determine the cause, he did not imagine it might be fusion, and he had to leave the mystery unsolved. No scientist has time to track down every anomaly. I expect many people saw and disregarded evidence for cold fusion over the years. Mizuno makes a provocative assertion. He says that long before 1989 he wondered whether the immense pressure of electrolysis might produce “some form of fusion.” He says, “This kind of hypothesis would occur to any researcher studying metal and hydrogen systems. It is not a particularly profound or outstanding idea. It never occurred to me to pursue the matter and research this further.” He appears to downplay the role of Pons and Fleischmann. Perhaps he exaggerates when he says “any researcher” would think of it, but on the other hand Paneth and Peters and others did investigate this topic. It has been floating around the literature for a long time. Pons and Fleischmann deserve credit because they did far more than speculate about it. They succeeded in doing the experiments to prove it. Perhaps cold fusion is self-evident in a way that many great discoveries are. An ordinary genius finds an obscure and difficult truth which remains obscure even after he publishes, except to other experts. A superlative genius makes a discovery that few other people imagined, yet which everyone later agrees is obvious in retrospect. When T. H. Huxley learned of evolution, he reportedly said: “why didn't I think of that?!?”

 

A Serious Experiment

Within days of the 1989 announcement Mizuno set to work on a “crude, preliminary” experiment. He built the cell in single afternoon, which is in itself astonishing. His purpose was to detect neutrons, which he along with everyone else in 1989 assumed would be the principal signature of the reaction. Months later it became clear that heat is the principal signature and neutrons appear sporadically. The neutron flux is a million times smaller in proportion to the heat than it is with hot fusion. His colleague Akimoto, an expert in neutron detection, soon convinced him that the instrumentation must be improved and the cell must be moved to a well-shielded location before meaningful results might be obtained. The underground laboratory housing the linear accelerator, right next door on campus, was the ideal spot for the experiment, but it is hardly an ideal place for people. It is dark, dank, and unheated in winter, as Mizuno well knew from years of doing graduate work there. After weeks of operation, the experiment showed slight signs generating 2.45 MeV neutrons. Mizuno decided to get serious.

 

And here we learn what a real scientist is made of. While the rest of the world rushed to judgement, Mizuno buckled down and began a second “serious” experiment. The preparations took eight months. Mizuno and a graduate student worked long days building and testing the cell, and preparing the anode, cathode, electrolyte, and controls. They planned to run at 100°C and 10 atmospheres of pressure, so they ran pressure tests at 150°C and 50 atmospheres, improving the seals and connections until they saw no significant pressure decline for days. Finally they were ready to begin the first test run. The hysteria was long past. The press and the establishment had dismissed cold fusion. Real experiments by people like Mizuno were getting underway. When these tests were finished and documented, a year or two later, they constituted definitive proof of tritium, excess heat, and transmutation. It is tempting to think that the tragedy of cold fusion boils down to . . . a short attention span. If only Nature and the newspapers, the DoE and the American Physical Society understood that you cannot do a research project in a few weeks, they would have withheld judgement until Mizuno, Fritz Will, Melvin Miles and others published in 1990 and 1991.

 

A One-man R&D Program

In person, Mizuno is charming, self- depreciating, optimistic and brimming with ideas. In the book he describes the dark side of the story: the frustration, the boredom, the endless guerrilla war with scientists and journalists who want to stop the research, the fruitless battles to publish a paper or be heard at a physics conference. Research means years of hard work which must often be done in appalling circumstances: in an unheated underground laboratory, late at night, in Hokkaido's Siberian climate. Experiments must be tended to four times a day, from eight in the morning until eight at night, seven days a week, without a holiday or a weekend off. He describes these travails, but he does not dwell on them, or the controversy and politics. He revels in the fun parts of cold fusion: the discovery, the sense of wonder, the rewards. Mizuno does not mope or worry. He gets to work, he does experiments, he teaches and encourages students. The first 5,000 copy printing of this book sold out quickly. Mizuno was thrilled because, he told me, “undergrads are buying it, and calling me with questions.” He and I wanted to move ICCF-6  [October 1996] out of the isolated resort hotel, back to town, and into the grubby Student Union meeting hall on campus. We wanted to open up the conference free to any student. When the engineering and physics majors drift in and realize what we are up to, cold fusion will take off.

 

Despite all the troubles, Mizuno remains confident that we will succeed in the end. The research will be allowed, papers will be published, rapid progress will be made. Others, like Fleischmann, are deeply pessimistic. Some of the best scientists in this field, including Storms, are deeply discouraged with the constant struggle and expense. They sometimes tell me they are on the verge of quitting. But Mizuno has never flagged, has never doubted, and has never lost hope. As Storms says, “We must have hope, we have no other resources in this field.”

 

Mizuno wants to make practical devices. He wants to improve reproducibility and scale-up. He talks about the scientist’s obligation to give society something of value. He and Dr. Dennis Cravens are the only cold fusion scientists I know who say that. He succeeded in replicating the original Pons and Fleischmann palladium cold fusion in three experiments, but it was difficult and the reaction proved impossible to control, so he did not see much future in it. Instead of trying to improve the original experiment by repeating it many times with minor variations, the way McKubre, Kunimatsu and others have attempted, Mizuno decided to try other materials. He worked with proton conductors (solid state devices) for several years and made good progress. He is trying other materials and other approaches. He is a one-man R&D consortium. Some may criticize him for trying too many things and spreading himself too thin. As I see it, Mizuno is doing his share. The rest of the world is to blame for not following his lead. After all, he worked on proton conductors for years, he published detailed information in professional, full-length papers, and he assisted Prof. Oriani at the University of Minne-sota by fabricating a batch of proton conductors for him (a week of difficult labor on Oriani's behalf). No other scientist is as cooperative, willing to share data, and as willing to assist others replicate. If Mizuno has left jobs unfinished, others should have taken up these jobs.

 

Mizuno concentrates on the rewards, the progress, the heady sense of excitement, the breathtaking possibilities. If progress has been slow, it has been real, and the scope of the research has broadened immeasurably. In 1989 we thought we had stumbled on one isolated uncharted island. It turned out we have discovered a whole new continent. No wonder it is taking longer than we expected. Over the years I have asked many scientists where cold fusion may be taking us and how big the discovery might be. Only Martin Fleischmann has shown a deep understanding of how many ramifications it may have.

 

Circling in on the Answer

Mizuno describes few moments of epiphany. There are moments of excitement, but most of the triumphs are long expected, and a good result does not mean much until you make it happen again, and again after that. There are few revelations. The scientists do not suddenly grasp the answer. They gradually narrow down a set of possibilities. Often the same possibilities are examined, discounted, and then reconsidered years later. In recent years, Mizuno, and Prof. John Bockris and others have increasingly focused on so-called “host metal transmutations,” that is, nuclear reactions of the cathode metal itself. The cathode metal was inexplicably neglected for many years. The term “host metal” is misleading.  It was an unfortunate choice of words. It implies that the metal acts as a passive structure, holding the hydrogen in place, cramming the deuterons or protons together. The metal is a host, not a participant. The hydrogen does the work. Now, it appears the metal itself is as active as the hydrogen. The metal apparently fissions and fusions in complex reactions. Now the task is to think about the metal, and not just the hydrogen. Theory must explain how palladium can turn itself into copper with peculiar isotopes.

 

One of the few “Eureka!” events in this book is the moment when Mizuno and Ohmori saw the scanning electron microscope images of the beautiful lily-shaped eruptions on the surface of Ohmori's gold cathodes (see book cover photo). This was visual proof that a violent reaction takes place under the surface of the metal, vaporizing the metal and spewing it out. Later, these vaporized spots were found to be the locus of transmutation. Around them are gathered elements with an isotopic distribution that does not exist in nature. The only likely explanation is that these isotopes are the product of a nuclear transmutation.

 

Mizuno describes the wrong directions he has taken, the dead ends, the mistakes. For years he ignored the most important clue: the host metal transmutations. He did not check the composition of the used cathodes. After his first big success produced tritium and spectacular heat after death, he opened the cell to find the cathode was blackened by something. He thought it must be contamination, and he was disappointed that his painstaking efforts to exclude contamination had failed. After puzzling over it for a long time he scraped the black film off the cathode with glass, and prepared the cathode for another run. Years later that he realized that this black film was probably formed from microscopic erupted structures similar to those on Ohmori's cathodes. He says in retrospect he was throwing away treasure. Even Mizuno, an open-minded, observant, and perceptive scientist, has to be hit over the head with the same evidence many times before he realizes it is crucial. Other people are worse. Mizuno was blind for a long time; other cold fusion scientists remain blind to this day. They are unwilling to do simple tests that might reveal the nature of the reaction. IMRA, under the leadership of Stanley Pons is a sad example. Informed sources say IMRA has never performed an autoradiograph!

 

Money Problems

Mizuno describes how he frets and struggles to reduce expenses. He worries about the consumption of heavy water, at $8 or $10 per day. He does not reveal in the book why these expenses bother him so much: most of the money comes out of his own pocket. Over the years the research has cost him tens of thousands of dollars, which is a great deal of money for a middle class Japanese family. Cold fusion research consumes a constant flow of new equipment. The Japanese scientific establishment and the university barely tolerate this research. They allocate a small research budget. (Most U.S. universities and national laboratories would not allow the research at all.)

 

Mizuno describes the dank, underground laboratory, but he does not mention that his own laboratory is the size of a broom closet and so crammed with equipment you can barely fit in the door. The roof leaks. A large sheet of plastic is suspended over the corner of the room, funneling the rain water down the sink and away from the computers, meters, power supplies and complex, delicate, beautiful handcrafted experimental apparatus, made of aluminum, stainless steel, platinum, gold and silver.

 

Synopsis

The book has seven major sections:

 

1. Prologue

The First International Low Energy Nuclear Reactions Conference at Texas A&M. This conference was organized by Bockris and focused on transmutation of the host metal. This emerges as the theme of the book. In Mizuno's opinion it is the key to cold fusion.

 

2. The Curtain Rises on Cold Fusion

Mizuno’s background and his early experiments which, he realizes in retrospect, may have produced nuclear effects. At the time that possibility never occurred to him. He does not try to take credit for “discovering” cold fusion decades ahead of his time, like Paneth and Peters in the 1920s. He does show that major discoveries are, in a sense, there for the taking.

 

3. First Replication

The impact of the Pons-Fleischmann announcement. Soon after hearing the news in 1989, Mizuno puts together a “quickie” replication experiment. With help from his colleague Akimoto, an expert in neutron detection, he improves the neutron detection and moves the experiment to an underground laboratory to reduce background noise. Meanwhile, in the world at large “chaos ensues,” as hundreds of scientists attempt to replicate Pons and Fleischmann without adequate knowledge of the experiment or training in electrochemistry, and hundreds more attack it. The brouhaha spreads to the campus of Hokkaido University, where a pair of professors call a press conference behind Mizuno's back. They parade his preliminary data in front of the cameras, claiming that it “proves cold fusion does not exist.” Weeks later, the experiment apparently begins to produce neutrons.

 

4. A Serious Replication

Mizuno decides to do a real experiment, and we separate the men from the boys. While others continue to run around in a tizzy and the U.S. DoE rushes to judgement, Mizuno and a graduate student settle in for the long haul of doing a real experiment. Eight months later they finished fabrication, preparation, pressure testing, purifying the electrolyte, and all of the other tasks that Mizuno has been doing for twenty years. They are ready to begin their first serious cold fusion experiment. Over the next months it produces tritium, excess heat, massive heat after death, and —he learns years later—massive host metal transmutations: by isotope shifts and more of some elements than can be explained by contamination.

 

5. Experiments with Solid State Proton Conductors

After years of working with palladium and heavy water, Mizuno and others decide to try new materials and techniques. Inspired by a scientific supply catalog, Mizuno experiments with solid state proton conductors. He attracts the attention of Dr. Richard Oriani. They begin a fruitful collaboration. Mizuno supplies Oriani with proton conductors, which Oriani tests in a Seebeck calorimeter. Some valuable help from others. An expert in computers gives Mizuno a hand and speeds up the research tremendously. Mizuno discusses the vital need for more cooperation, more openness. Masao Araki, a top executive at one of Japan's largest corporations steps in to help the research.

 

6. New Developments

At the ICCF-4 conference Hawaii, Mizuno finds out that another scientist at Hokkaido, Dr. Ohmori, who has a laboratory in the building next door, is working on gold electrode-light water cold fusion. An academic will sometimes travel halfway around the world before he will talk to the professor next door. Mizuno and others gradually realize that the transmutations in the metal are the key to understanding cold fusion. The metal is not a passive lattice that supports reactions between the hydrogen atoms. It is an active participant.

 

7. What is the Cold Fusion Reaction

Mizuno speculates on the physics of the cold fusion reaction. He is impressed by a theory from Elio Conte, on quantum mechanics by biquarternions. He outlines some of the basics of quantum mechanics and shows that Conte's theory is a small departure from mainstream, conservative physics. This section includes a fascinating discussion of pressure from electrolysis. Mizuno cites a 1980 paper by Maoka & Enyo showing that the average pressure on a cathode is much lower than Pons and Fleischmann claimed in 1989, but microscopic areas on the cathode near dislocations and surface features can have much higher pressure. It may be as high as 10-23 atmospheres, easily as high as the pressure at the core of a neutron star.

 

Mizuno visits Russia and Korea, and reports on new trends from Russia and Ukraine.

 

In this section he describes the lily-shaped structures seen in the scanning electron microphotograph on the front of the book. The metal is vaporized, it erupts, and it is flash frozen. It contains gold plus platinum, iron and other elements believed to be the product of transmutations.

 

Scattered through the chapters in chronological order are brief reviews of the ICCF conferences. They begin to sound like a recurring bad dream: “[ICCF-4] was held on the Hawaiian island of Maui at the Lahina Hyatt Regency, a typical resort hotel. It lasted four days. .. Two hundred fifty people attended from some 13 countries and in its own way it was a sparkling success. But I got the impression that there were no truly outstanding results, and with no big changes from the previous meeting . . . It was clear that the major research groups, like Fleischmann and Pons, Jones, Fritz Will and Bockris, had nothing new to report, and they were merely repeating what they said at ICCF-2 and ICCF-3.” Repeat for ICCF-5 and 6.

 

The book includes a short description of the SRI accident and what caused it, and a variety of other background and historical information. It is copiously illustrated with many good photographs, including a group of 19 color photos and graphs. It has a short bibliography.

 

 

Book Review

Nuclear Transmutation: The Reality of Cold Fusion

by Tadahiko Mizuno

ISBN 1-892925-00-1, $32.95, Hardback, 151 pp.

Infinite Energy Press, 1998

 

Review by George Miley

From Infinite Energy #20, June/July 1998

 

 

This fascinating account by Prof. Tadahiko Mizuno of his personal experiences in cold fusion is “must” reading for researchers in the field and for all others who have an interest in it, either “pro” or “con.”  In the process of recounting his experiences and views, Dr. Mizuno provides an important glimpse into how research often evolves in practice and how the process can plunge into a chaotic maze in some cases like “cold fusion.”

 

Dr. Mizuno has been involved in cold fusion research since its beginnings over nine years ago with the famous press conference held by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. Among his achievements were the first extensive reports of neutron measurements in Japan, pioneering work on loaded proton conductors, and key new studies of transmutation products. His book is not so much an account of these important achievements as it is an account of how he and colleagues approached and planned these experiments, about the politics involved in reporting results and obtaining support, about the response of colleagues, critics, news reporters, and others. His experiences mirror many of those encountered by others working in the field. Perhaps, as he states, “…science has progressed to the present day largely by trial and error.” This is certainly counter to the idealistic view of the delicate scientific process, but Mizuno's account certainly provides an interesting window on the working environment of a very productive modern day scientist struggling in the emotional and chaotic field of cold fusion.

 

Dr. Mizuno points out that a scientist's attitude in research is essential for success. Ideally, “…he (the scientist) must be sincerely interested and enthusiastic—(while) the university's job is to ensure an environment in which scientists can concentrate on their work…(to) return the benefits from their research to society.” Unfortunately, it is difficult to approach this ideal, and the difficulty is rapidly compounded in a highly visible area like cold fusion where pressures mount and human frailty and egos take over. Thus, Dr. Mizuno finds colleagues who are not personally doing research on cold fusion, but who still call news conferences to proclaim their views.  Other individuals engage in openly rude and insulting behavior as part of their automatic "questioning" of anyone daring to work in the field. Dr. Mizuno at one point asks the rhetorical question, "why?"—an unanswered question, but one that has received much speculation, including some by Dr. Mizuno.  Indeed, “why” applies to so many bizarre events and actions in this topsy-turvy and frequently “vicious” field of cold fusion. On the bright side, Dr. Mizuno recounts important help and encouragement he received from enlightened colleagues, administrators, and others in the field.

 

A theme brought out in the title of this book and pursued in later chapters is that cold fusion phenomena can be explained on the basis of nuclear transmutation reactions involving the metal lattice. While this is a tantalizing proposition, especially to someone like myself who has also studied such transmutations, I would suggest (and I suspect Dr. Mizuno would agree) that this conclusion may be premature. There are numerous issues yet to be investigated. For example, does the transmutation rate correlate with heat production? How do host metal transmutations fit with the preferential production of tritium reported in some experiments? How does it fit with 4He production and experiments that correlate that with heat? How does it correlate with heat bursts reported in others? One possible explanation for these varied observations is that there may be various reaction regimes (or channels) which favor different reactions and products.  In that case, the key question is whether or not there is a commonality involved through the initiating events. On a more detailed level, Dr. Mizuno stresses localized reaction site observations and “flower-petal” formations observed around deep holes formed at the electrode surface.  I would add that such patterns are not observed in my own transmutation experiments using thin-films sputtered onto surfaces. Thus, it appears that the metallic structure, defects, etc., play an important role and may cause localized reaction sites in some cases whereas more uniform coverage occurs in others. Also, Dr. Mizuno relies on Conti's electron capture theory as coming closest to explaining transmutation experiments.  Along these lines, I have placed stress on "signatures" from transmutation experiments, e.g. high yields of products in four or five relatively narrow mass number zones, lack of significant high-energy radiation but low-energy x-rays and betas, etc., as key aspects that theory must explain. Electron capture provides a possible initiation mechanism, but the subsequent process must be studied to benchmark theory against the key “signatures.” Indeed, there were several new theories presented at ICCF-7 in an attempt to explain these “signatures.” Thus again, as Dr. Mizuno states, research in this fascinating field of low energy reactions (LENRs) has “just begun to scratch the surface.”

 

In conclusion, I find this frank and open exposition by Dr. Mizuno to be the most thoughtful, the most interesting, and the most helpful scientifically, of all the books to date about “cold fusion.” Finally, I would take the liberty to add a personal note. Dr. Mizuno recalls that upon our first meeting at the Second International Conference on LENRs at Texas A&M, while I appeared deliberate and calm in my presentation, I also appeared to lack confidence. I would stress that this appearance was not due to a lack of confidence in the data, but due to my concern about which slides to eliminate in order to stay in the time limit for the talk.  Dr. Mizuno is not the only one to find himself struggling to cram things into a brief talk!



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