A panel of cold fusion researchers also spoke at a tutorial class on Saturday at the university.
Saturday’s panel comprised Michael Melich (research professor with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School), Nagel, Yasuhiro Iwamura (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), Vladimir Vysotskii (Kiev University), and Andrew Meulenberg (a “cold fusion” theorist).
A second colloquium is scheduled for this afternoon at IITM. Nagel will present “Cold Fusion: An Emerging Energy Technology?” and Melich will present “Cold Fusion: Future Prospects.”
McKubre’s Explanation for Stigma
On Saturday, McKubre spoke about experiments performed 22 years ago by Bell Labs, MIT and Caltech that, he said, convinced the world that “cold fusion” was not real.
He explained to the audience that he now understands why those labs failed to replicate “cold fusion.” McKubre suggested that he now knows how to make “cold fusion” reproducibly, though he seemed pessimistic about its future.
“There is no irreproducibility of these experiments,” McKubre said, “There is only irreproducibility of the conditions.”
“I don’t know if cold fusion or low-energy [nuclear] reactions will ever turn into developed applications,” he said.
McKubre said that “cold fusion” papers don’t get published because of unfair treatment by journals.
He proposed that researchers in the field just “skip the science and go directly to engineering.”
McKubre said that the Department of Energy was not providing funding for the research. He discussed the stigma, which continues to be a thorn in the side of researchers.
Instead of the scientific route, McKubre suggested that using the media, specifically social media, would help the field gain recognition.
“How do we get this field recognized?” McKubre asked. “The other tool we have is social pressure, to engage the public, which has a vested interest in a new source of energy. The CBS ‘60 Minutes’ program was an attempt to engage the public.”
Deeper Explanation for Stigma
At the press conference, Srinivasan said the problem is much deeper than funding or irreproducibility.
“The problem is not funding. Funding is not the issue; it is one of perception,” Srinivasan said. “Maybe it’s due to the U.S. Department of Energy, which came to the conclusion that the phenomenon is not real.”
He referred to the 1989 Department of Energy panel that dismissed the idea outright. Mainstream scientists working on that panel dismissed the theory of “cold fusion” because it conflicts with well-established aspects of nuclear physics: 1) the lack of strong neutron emissions, 2) the mystery of how the Coulomb barrier is penetrated, and 3) the lack of strong emission of gamma or x-rays.
Ever since the Department of Energy rejected the theory of “cold fusion,” a group comprising mostly the same researchers has been attempting to get outsiders to accept that the theory of “cold fusion” is real.
Part of the difficulty has been the lack of experimental evidence for “cold fusion” – as fusion. There is also no credible theory to explain “cold fusion.” However, there is abundant evidence for another kind of low-energy nuclear reaction and production of nuclear products such as helium, tritium, transmutations and neutrons.
In spite of the stigma, lack of evidence and a viable theory, the leading researchers continue to favor using the term “cold fusion,” rather than low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR,) a term and concept which does not presume or assert “cold fusion,” though allows for its remote possibility.
A New Explanation: But It’s Not
Now, researchers are beginning to see “cold fusion” in a new light, possibly based on weak interactions. Srinivasan explained this at the press conference.
“What seems to be occurring is other nuclear reactions which don’t fall into the categories of fission or fusion,” he said. “All kinds of nuclear phenomena seem to be happening at room temperature.
“Something in the solid state seems to be catalyzing all kinds of nuclear reactions, with the beautiful difference that there is very little radiation. When we talk of nuclear reactions, we always associate them with nuclear radiation.”
“Now there seems to be a mechanism that happens with very little radiation,” Srinivasan said. “It’s almost a [completely] clean source of energy. … Somehow, the excess energy seems to be transferred directly to the lattice without emitting radiation.”
“One of the very interesting theories is from Srivastava, Widom and [Larsen], which tries to explain [LENR] in terms of the weak interaction and production of [ultra-low-momentum] neutrons. I think it’s a very interesting theory,” Srinivasan said. “I think we should take note of it.”
The group’s groundbreaking theory, published in the European Physics Journal C in 2005, suggests how energy may be released but gamma radiation suppressed. It proposes not fusion but a combination of weak interactions and neutron capture and requires no “new physics.”
The paper is called “Ultra-Low-Momentum Neutron-Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metallic Hydride Surfaces.” Its authors are Lewis Larsen and Allan Widom. The duo also performed further work with a third researcher, Indian-born scientist Yogendra Srivastava, who now works in Italy. The trio recently published another peer-reviewed paper, this time in Pramana – Journal of Physics. [Download paper]
On Tuesday, Larsen, who was not at the conference, told New Energy Times that LENR can “potentially represent an ideal new low-cost, carbon-free energy source for mankind.”
He said that, until his group’s first paper published in May 2005, experimental results involving phenomena erroneously called “cold fusion” were theoretically inexplicable.