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Infinite Energy Device Update
Progress in Les Case's Catalytic
Published in IE Volume 4, Issue #23
by Gene Mallove
In the course of video-taping our forthcoming
documentary about cold fusion (Cold Fusion: Fire from Water), our
video team visited Dr. Michael McKubre this fall in his laboratory
at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. These are some of
his comments about the status of his group's experiments to verify
the work of Dr. Les Case in the United States and Drs. Arata-and
Zhang in Japan (see IE Issue No. 18 for Mike Carrell's summary of
the latter). Though understated and cautious, as befits one of the
field's foremost scientists, it is clear from what Dr. Mckubre says
that much progress is being made. EFM
Comments by Dr. Michael McKubre
The experimental apparatus here is really set
up to see whether or not helium can be produced by exposing a carbon
catalyst with palladium to deuterium at slightly elevated temperatures
and slightly elevated pressures.
This experiment very much follows along the thought
process of Les Case and behind me you see five different sets of
apparatus. The big vessel here is one of Les Case's, he calls them
"footballs," it's a stainless steel vessel on a heating mantle
set up in exactly the arrangement that Les Case himself is doing
in New Hampshire.
What we have behind me are four different generations
of the Case experiment. There's the original Case experiment in
this "football," as he describes it a cylindrical stainless steel
vessel on a heating mantle, a very simple experiment in which you
simply put deuterium gas in and monitor for helium production. The
first attempt that we had at SRI was formed in these vessels we
called "Vessel 1" and "Vessel 2," slightly more sophisticated vessels
which you can't see. They are concealed in the stainless steel dewars
for heat retention purposes. Originally we had Vessel 1 filled with
hydrogen and Vessel 2 filled with deuterium, so we could see whether
the helium we were observing was present in the deuterium cell or
the hydrogen cell. As it happened this cell Vessel 2 produced something
like 11 ppm of helium. Vessel 1 at no stage produced any helium,
suggesting that our helium determination process and our leak-tightness
was, in fact, satisfactory for this experiment.
The original experiment in Vessel 2, as I said, produced
11 ppm helium. The air that we are breathing in this laboratory
now is 5.22 ppm helium, so there is very little opportunity for
error. The helium in the vessel, apparently, was produced by some
source within the vessel and did not come from the air that we're
We're running now a second generation of this experiment
in these two vessels. It's early stages yet, but we're in the hopeful
that we'll be able to reproduce our own result which was, of course,
a replication of Les Case's result.
This is a more sophisticated experiment. The question
is, does the movement of the deuterium gas play any role in the
production of helium. Is convection an issue? Is temperature gradient
an issue? In this experiment, which, again, is concealed inside
this dewar flask and non-observable, we're simply recirculating
deuterium gas over a bed of Les Case's catalyst in a continuous
manner and sampling periodically for helium in the deuterium gas.
Behind the bullet-proof [transparent] polycarbonate wall here is
a high pressure experiment, and this is our most recent attempt
to see what the parameter space is for the production of helium
from deuterium and carbon catalyst. What is the pressure effect?
What is the temperature effect?
Les Case has already explored the temperature dependence
somewhat. He finds that the effect occurs in a range of 170°C
up to about 270 °C. We have not explored the temperature domain,
and until we get a lot more apparatus we won't do so. But we are
able to explore the pressure domain somewhat better than Les Case
is able to do because we have somewhat more sophisticated apparatus.
In the vessel on the floor, we have a high pressure
deuterium gas at intermediate temperature about 200°C. This
experiment, in fact, just started about two days ago. We have no
reason to expect helium production as yet, and the analysis reveals
none so far.
All of these experiments are connected to a common
gas manifold. What we are able to do is take a sample of the gas
from each of these cells periodically. Initially we did it daily,
but now we are doing it every two days, in fact three times a week,
so we submit a sample of gas from each of the cells for analysis
to the mass spectrometer, a high-resolving, low-mass mass spectrometer.
We're capable of separating the two masses of species, deuterium
D2 and helium-4. The sole purpose of this experiment,
the sole purpose of this apparatus, is to measure helium-4 in the
presence of deuterium D2.
On the monitor you see displayed, in fact, the mass
spectrum from one of these samples. This is a relatively high level
of helium-4. The peak here is the helium-4 peak, the deuterium peak
would normally appear here; it's completely absent. This particular
example shows 10.5 ppm helium. We compare the samples each day that
we perform the analysis, we compare the samples of gas from the
various active cells and blanks with a sample of room air, which
we have measured many, many times and know to be 5.22 ppm. And we
have some standards, which we typically use that is, gas samples
of helium in deuterium and argon which we submit to the mass spectrometer
for the purpose of calibration.
The mass spectrometer simply sweeps a mass from low
mass to high mass, in this case from 3.96 mass units to 4.06 mass
units, which encompasses the range in which helium is to be found.
In fact, this peak is helium, and deuterium D2 is to
be found which will be found somewhere in this region. We use a
liquid nitrogen cooled carbon trap in order to remove D2
so that we're able to see quite low levels of helium. We're accurate
to probably 0.1 ppm helium and we can clearly resolve the presence
of deuterium D2 and helium-4. This spectrum is, in fact,
the sum of a number of spectra that the mass spectrometer simply
sweeps for the period of time that we pre-program, and this is the
cumulative signal representing the integral of all helium which
was present in the sample when we submitted it for analysis. To
acquire this spectrum takes us about five minutes.
It's clearly not possible to produce helium from a
chemical process. If we observe helium in our experiments it's either
because it leaked in from the atmosphere we can rule that out by
the blanks that we do and the fact that the helium signal that we
have seen is larger than the helium in the ambient. It's possible
that the helium pre-existed in the sample and was simply released
to the gas phase with long term exposure. We can rule that out largely
because we've analyzed the catalyst that we're using and found that
it contains no measurable levels of helium.
The only possibility that remains, and remains to
be checked, is that the helium is produced by a nuclear process.
If the helium is produced by a nuclear process, then necessarily
there will be an associated release of heat. Although these experiments
were not initially set up to be rigorous calorimeters, we have monitored
them with a sufficient number of temperature sensors that we can
know, to some degree with some confidence, whether or not heat is
being produced and at what time heat is being produced.
From the best of my ability to analyze the thermal
record, it appears that, yes indeed, in the vessel that was producing
helium there was some evidence of excess heat and that the amount
of heat produced was approximately quantitatively correlated, that
is, the right amount of heat was produced compared to that of a
nuclear process involving deuteron-plus-deuteron producing one helium-4
nucleus which releases 23.8 meV.
I'd like to re-state that the calorimetry was largely
retrospective, this experiment was not set up as a calorimeter and,
therefore, the calorimetry is not rigorous, but the temperature
record quite clearly indicates in these experiments, as it does
in Les Case's experiments, that there is an unexplained source of
heat and the magnitude of that source of heat is approximately the
right value to account for the observed helium.
Part of this generation of experiments is to improve
the calorimetry and the central question in the cold fusion field
is: "Is there excess heat?" If "Yes," then, "Is that heat the result
of a nuclear process?" So the central question that we're all seeking
to answer is: "Is there a quantitative and temporal is there a
quantity-related and time-related correlation between the appearance
of anomalous excess heat and the appearance of the product of a
nuclear reaction such as helium-4?"
So the thrust of our work is very much to find the
heat and quantify it accurately and find the nuclear process and
quantify it accurately so we can correlate the appearance of these
We have determined that there is excess heat and we
have to do a better job of measuring it with accuracy. This laboratory
here is really set up to do highly accurate calorimetry. That work
has largely been associated with the electrochemical experiments,
such as Arata's experiments and our own experiments. So we are quite
capable and willing to do the calorimetry. We just haven't applied
those skills fully yet to the Case experiment, but this is obviously
One of the difficulties in the cold fusion field is
the apparent lack of replicability of experiments: many people performing
the same experiment get apparently different results; different
experiments performed in the same laboratory give apparently different
results. So it's obvious that if you do the same thing you must
always get the same result. What this is telling us is that there
are some important parameters of our experiments that are not under
our control. Some of them I know and understand, and still [we]
can't control some of these parameters we don't know about yet.
We just don't know what the process is that we are studying, so
we don't know what parameters we need to control in order to yield
a consistent result.
An experiment which always gives the same result can
be performed in several different laboratories to yield the same
result would be very valuable to us, in part in helping to convince
the remaining skeptical scientists in the world that there is a
phenomenon to observe. But, in fact, in order to use the scientific
method to observe scientific results, we have to be able to reproduce
the results of our own experiments so that we can see what the effects
of small changes are on these experiments.
The Arata-Zhang Experiment
One experiment which has been reported to produce consistent and
reproducible results is that of Professors Arata and Zhang, both
of them are very, very experienced and very well recognized scientists
in Japan. They performed a very careful experiment, reproduced it
apparently a number of times in their own laboratory producing
both anomalous excess heat in fairly significant levels and helium-4
and, perhaps more interestingly, helium-3. The helium-3 to helium-4
ratio that they observed in their experiments is different from
that in the air that we're breathing. [Editor's Note: This isotope
ratio is off by a huge factor see the Carrell review in IE Issue
No. 18. EFM]. Sufficiently different to indicate that there is
clearly an anomalous nuclear reaction occurring. The difficulty
only with Arata and Zhang's experiment is that it's only been performed
by them and only in their laboratory. What we're attempting to do
here is to produce their same results with their apparatus and with
their help. This is a collaborative effort between Arata and Zhang
and the SRI group, to produce in our laboratory the same results
as they have obtained repeatedly over the years, which would indicate
that we have some degree of mastery over the experiment.
The experiment that we have running here, in fact,
is relatively young; it hasn't been operating for very long. One
of the difficulties with Arata's experiment is that it requires
many, many months to produce a result, and quite literally we're
not very experienced with Arata's methods, so we've had some difficulty
getting his experiment set up and operational. Certainly, it's caused
me to have an increased level of respect for Arata and Zhang's technical
competence. They are very, very good scientists. Within a month
or two, we hope to have reproduced their experiment faithfully and
reproduced their result. And the benefit will be in part sociological.
We will demonstrate that an experiment can be transported from laboratory
to laboratory and yield the same result. It will also give us something
that we can do again ourselves and define somewhat the parameter
space in which these experiments yield excess heat and, apparently,
helium-3 and helium-4.
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