New Energy Research Laboratory Device
and Process Testing Update
Published in IE Volume 5, Issue #25
Conducted by Ed Wall and Gene Mallove
Les Case Catalytic Fusion Cell
A cell that is derived from the work of Les Case
has recently come into prominence. Russ George claims that it is
"a large improvement on the work of Les Case and others" who have
shown cold fusion evidence using catalytic type materials. In April,
Russ George of Saturna Technologies, Inc. released a report on what
may be one of the most important new cold fusion experiments ever
conducted. The experiment was performed at SRI International, but
SRI staff are not signatories to the report. The experiment reveals
a monotonically increasing 4He concentration over a 28-day
period in a cell modeled after that of Les Case (see IE No.
19 and following issues). The helium concentration rises to 11 ppm,
which is over twice the ambient atmospheric level of 5.22 ppm, thus
appearing to rule out external leakage contamination. This device
has palladium-doped activated carbon catalyst in a heated deuterium
atmosphere. The full paper may be obtained at: http://rsrch.com/saturna/APSpapers_1998_1999.htm
Readers are urged to read George's report, which shows
a control cell running concurrently with the active cell, showing
only background helium levels (<0.5 ppm).
We are further encouraged to learn why perhaps Earthtech
International's and our more limited attempt at replication have
not shown excess heat. ( Visit: http://www.eden.com/~little.)
As Vortex forum contributor Horace Heffner observed,
"It looks like George used good control means, so it is really an
issue of further replication at this point, I think." On Friday,
April 9, 1999, on a nationally broadcast program on NPR with
Russ George, hot fusion scientist Michael Schaffer of General Atomics
praised the Russ George experiment as worthy of replication by many
people. Indeed, replication is the key to acceptance of new energy
phenomena, as we believe that the proof already exists, just not
to everyone's satisfaction.
We initially obtained a small cell from Dr. Les Case,
made from a World War II surplus oxygen bottle, which was demonstrated
at NERL to produce excess temperature (see IE No. 19). Case's
mantle heater was used, which covers most of the cell, but it left
the top uncovered. Later on, in our efforts to perform accurate
calorimetry not just temperature measurement we placed
the same cell in the bottom of a large Dewar, and put a lid on the
top. We were able to get very stable thermocouple temperature readings
in the catalyst thermo-well and on the exterior of the cell. We
were able to vary these temperatures with different heater input
powers, which would make for credible calorimetry.
However, even after many tries, we saw only hints
of transient excess temperature in the heavy hydrogen run, compared
with an ordinary hydrogen (protium) test. We believe now that this
was a case of the measurement method destroying the process to be
measured. Also, the many heating cycles that the cell underwent
with hydrogen inside caused stress corrosion cracking of the cell
wall, making it useless for further experimentation. Dr. Case graciously
gave us another cell one that had not been modified to a reduced-size
chamber with a leak-prone perimeter weld.
In trying to reproduce the same conditions that Case
uses, we replaced an older, less capable vacuum pump with a newer
model; we used the same quantity of catalyst material; and we matched
the previous gas pressure and catalyst temperature. But we had not
yet worked with a thermal gradient across the catalyst. This Dewar
calorimetry method was not suitable for producing adequate thermal
gradients. So, we put these attempts on hold, until another idea
came along. Instead of putting the cell in a closed Dewar, we placed
the cell on its external heater in a chamber which had air temperature
tightly regulated. Of course, the heater had to run much hotter
than in the Dewar to get the same catalyst temperature. The thermal
gradient across the catalyst was much greater and with a fixed ambient
temperature, the wall and catalyst temperatures would be quite stable.
But something very strange was observed. The slight variation in
ambient air temperature seemed to be amplified in the catalyst temperatures.
Using ordinary hydrogen in the cell, the ambient temperature would
vary by 1°C over twenty-four hours and the catalyst would vary
4°C, tightly correlated with the ambient variation. A 4°C
variation in catalyst temperature is unacceptable if we are trying
to establish a credible DT excess temperature observed with deuterium
over that of protium.
Now we have returned to using the Dewar, without a
lid, much like what photos of Dr. Michael McKubre's (SRI International)
and Russ George's equipment show. This increases the "thermal mass"
of the system, so the time to steady state conditions is long, but
temperatures are more stable.
In another initiative, with the help of engineer Jeff
Driscoll of Quantum Energy Technology, a new design for a cell has
been developed that employs a ConFlat-type metal-on-metal seal.
The goal is to produce, at reasonable cost, a cell that can contain
helium for extended periods and will stand up well to hydrogen.
Stainless steel 316L or 318 are recommended; welding is not recommended.
Helium is notoriously difficult to contain, even worse than hydrogen.
If this design works out as a demonstration cell of the Case catalytic
process, investigators could employ certified labs to determine
helium concentration and 4He/3He isotope ratio
in a method that could achieve widespread replication.
Versatile Water Flow Calorimeter
Scott Little of Earthtech has developed a fairly
simple water flow calorimeter (VWFC), which does not require calibration
because it recovers virtually all of the heat generated by the device
under test (DUT). This first came under serious attention when we
were having problems using the water flow calorimeter provided with
the Cravens-Letts cell described in this column in IE No.
24. That calorimeter does not have reliably high heat recovery in
the water cooling loop. If modest excess heat were indicated, it
would be in doubt in part also from the issue of insulation
variation between adjustments, which proved to be very frustrating.
The as-received Cravens-Letts calorimeter had inadequate inlet water
temperature regulation, which could cause misleading data. We learned
that Dennis Letts was actually using Scott Little's water flow calorimeter
in studying his cell, because of its reliability and well-controlled
inlet water temperature regulation: http://www.eden.com/~little/vwfc/vwfc.html
Consequently, we decided it would be very worthwhile
to build a similar VWFC, which we thought would be fairly easy,
given the great advice that Scott Little has provided, but this
was not the case. Our HP 34970A data acquisition system comes with
proprietary software (in HP VEE) that will not allow the controlling
PC to be used for anything other than communicating with the data
acquisition system. This means that it cannot be used to control
the temperature regulation of the inlet water heater/cooler. Ed
Wall decided to attempt building an analog controller for regulating
the inlet water temperature. That also is proved more difficult
We anticipate that once we have a working VWFC with
good heat recovery, the measurement of heat from the Cravens-Letts
cell and the Case cell could be accomplished with great reliability
Plasma Discharge Electrolysis Cell, Continued
We are still fascinated by the high concentration
of calcium (229 mg/l) measured in the cell filtrate. We have now
had every cell component tested for calcium content, except the
commercially distilled water that was used in the apparatus. This
includes the potassium carbonate, the ceramic insulator used for
holding the carbon rod, and the PVC fixture, as well as the carbon
rod. None of these can account for the calcium in the filtrate.
We provided a calcium analysis of the carbon rods, the filtrate,
and the detritus in IE No. 24 p. 35. Going further, we had
an outside lab test the as-received K2CO3
powder and found it to contain Ca at only 6.1 mg per kilogram. The
ceramic insulator holding the carbon cathode was tested and found
to contain Ca at only 23 mg/kg.
We are planning to do a repeat series of runs using
deionized distilled water provided by the testing laboratory, taking
increased precautions against contamination. If we can achieve high
calcium concentration repeatably, and perhaps observe Ca concentration
build-up as a function of run time, this would be further evidence
toward establishing Ca as a transmutation product (perhaps from
the potassium in the electrolyte). Isotope assessment of the calcium
could help nail down this conclusion.