Monday, May 4, 2009

More about Cold Fusion

My earlier blog on cold fusion stirred up a hornets' nest of anonymous bloggers. Contrary to some of their allegations, I have no financial interest in “hot” fusion, nor do I work for an oil company. Indeed, I am retired and, unlike the cold fusion proponents on 60-Minutes, I have no financial interest in any specific company or technology in this field. Nor am I “merely” an academic. While I have physics degrees from Caltech and Stanford and was on the faculty of Harvard, I spent most of my career developing practical applications of advanced technologies, such as medical equipment that has dramatically improved patient care. I am sincere in wanting the best for our society, which is why I blog using my real name rather than hiding behind an alias.

I would be thrilled if someone developed a real “silver bullet” that instantly solved our critical energy and environmental challenges. I would also be thrilled if someone cured cancer, but I’m not rushing to buy snake oil from those eager to cash in on an unsuspecting public desperate for an easy cure.

If cold deuterium fusion were real it would be easy to provide definitive scientific proof, and that technology would be rapidly adopted. What will stop these people is not what I or anyone else says but rather they will fail because what they claim is simply not true.

I’ve read their statements and do not doubt that heat is released by their chemical reactions – there is nothing remarkable about that; matches do that also. Nowhere do they address the fundamental scientific issue that the energies required to fuse nuclei are vastly greater than those in any chemical reaction. They provide no evidence that helium is produced by the deuterium fusion they claim to achieve. There is no confirmation by an independent group that doesn’t stand to make money on cold fusion. As an old TV commercial once said: “Where’s the beef?”

Very promising, real solutions to our energy and environmental challenges exist, including solar, wind, and true fusion. All of these need major investments and decades to develop and implement. Let’s not let false hope and self-promoters divert us from investing our resources to achieve real progress – conservation, pollution-reduction, and new scientifically sensible energy generation.


  1. You wrote:

    "I’ve read their statements and do not doubt that heat is released by their chemical reactions . . ."

    That is impossible. The reaction has produced 100 to 300 MJ from a few grams of metal in a cell with no chemical fuel, with no chemical transformations.

    Power levels sometimes range from 20 to 100 W, so there is no chance this is an error measuring heat. The reaction produces helium in the same ratio to the heat as plasma fusion, and tritium in varying ratios.

    The reaction has been confirmed in over 200 labs. The results have been carefully peer-reviewed. I have a collection of ~1,200 papers from peer-reviewed journals that I copied these paper from the library at Los Alamos.

    You will find a great deal of information on cold fusion here:

  2. Dr. Piccioni, you really should read about helium as measured in cold fusion experiments. Helium is famously difficult to measure at trace levels, because of helium background in the atmosphere, but there has, indeed, been very careful work done with this. I really recommend, if you are going to opine on the subject, doing a bit more review of the literature, which is massive. Jed Rothwell wasn't joking. To me, the most striking results re helium show clear correlation with helium detection and excess heat. Storms, in the Science of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, describes a series of 33 studies. In 12 studies, no excess energy was found, and no extra helium was found. In the other 21 studies, apparent excess heat was measured, and in 18, excess helium was measured with the amount in excess being consistent with the excess heat. Storms notes that of the three exceptions, one had a possible error in heat measurement, and the other two were studies using a Pd-Ce alloy. The association of excess heat and excess helium is very difficult to reconcile with the common hypotheses of calorimetry error for the heat and background contamination for the helium; further, there are reports of helium generated substantially above background, such that leaks couldn't explain the result. Because of the magnitude of the implications, it's easy to dismiss a few experiments. But there is a lot more than that.

    Really. Check it out. BTW, I was at Caltech, a freshman in 1961, sat through the Feynmann physics lectures both years.

  3. Bob, Nice to see that you're enjoying retirement. Isn't the internet wonderful!