New Report from Attendee of MIT Cold Fusion Seminar

I didn’t want this comment from ECW reader Frechette to get buried, so I thought it deserved its own post. Thanks so much Frechette for this very interesting report — coupled with Barry Simon’s earlier reports, it helps give us a nice picture of what went on at MIT.

From my point of view the MIT Seminar on LENR was well worth attending. It provided an excellent overview of LENR as well as progress that has been made by researchers at MIT and elsewhere since the original Pons and Fleischmann experiments were announced in 1989.

The attendees came from the US, Europe and even one from Japan. Folks I spoke with were all very pleased having taken the time to be a part of it. The backgrounds of the attendees ranged from engineers, scientists, and investment types.

Although my academic and working background is in Electrical Engineering I did take several courses in nuclear and condensed matter physics while in graduate school. This allowed me to follow to some extent Peter Hagelstein’s and Mitchel Swartz’s technical presentations. As you probably know Peter Hagelstein and Mitchel Swartz are theoretical and experimental physicists, respectively. Both are extremely competent in their fields. They were very forthcoming by answering all questions put to them by the audience and were also very open about their work.

The first four days were dedicated to a discussion of the anomalous heat effect observed in the Pons and Fleischmann electrolysis cell. The morning sessions covered the description of a physics model underlying excess heat. Prof. Hagelstein has been developing his model for the last 12 years. He is able to account many of the observations reported by experimentalists over the years.

The bottom line is no new physics is required nor does quantum theory need to be ditched to explain the experimentalists’ observations. Hagelstein’s model posits deuteron – deuteron fusion reactions based on the detection of He4 when excess heat is produced. This is a highly exothermic nuclear reaction which should also generate ~ 24 Mev gamma radiation. In the Pons Fleischmann experiments no such radiation nor neutrons were detected. The question naturally arose where is the missing gamma. Based on condensed matter physics Hagelstein is able to show that the radiation shows up as coherent phonon coupling of the palladium lattice. This is no small feat due to the high (24 Mev) quantum energy. His model also explains how the Coulomb force is overcome thus making deut eron fus ion possible.

The afternoon sessions were given by Prof. Swartz. They dealt primarily with experimental work he has done over the years. He has been able to work out the experimental conditions required for successful heat generation such as the degree of deuteron cathode loading, as well as, the optimum operating point (sweet spot) in terms of cathode current for maximum power output. The data presented for the experimental runs were carefully done with controls so that there can be little doubt about the validity of the measurements. The maximum COP shown in the presentation overheads reached 80.

His measurements demonstrated that excess heat was generated when the deuterium loading exceeded a well defined threshold. Typically it needed to be up around 90%. Mike McKubre at SRI had also shown this to be the case. One reason why many early experiments resulted in false negatives is due to this threshold behavior which was unknown to early experimenters. Prof. Swartz pointed out that loading to such high levels causes the palladium crystal lattice to expand which could result in surface damage if not carried out carefully. Therefore the loading has to be done at low cathode current density over a fairly long period of time measured in weeks. Again, not taking this into account would necessarily lead to false negatives.

Prof. Swartz also demonstrated on video a small Stirling engine powered by an LENR device. Again made use of a control. This video was quite impressive in my opinion. It’s a first for converting excess heat into mechanical energy.

On the final day, Friday, the topic changed to the nickel hydrogen system and nano powders. It was pointed out that the amount of hydrogen loading of nickel is much more difficult than is the case for palladium. In the case of nickel the hydrogen forms tight clusters. It does not occupy the voids in the lattice as in palladium. This may explain the higher temperatures which are observed with the Hot Cat. (my conjecture)