For those of you with memories that go back to 1989, the news that
cold fusion has not slinked off into the abyss might come as a bit of a
surprise. After all, the claim 20 years ago that atomic nuclei could be
induced to fuse at room temperatures (rather than the temperature of the
Sun, as happens in fusion reactors) and to emit measurable quantities
of heat was shown to be based on poor measurements, nonexistent controls
and nutty theory. But off in the dim, dark corners of physics, the
field—since renamed “low energy nuclear reactions”—continues apace,
albeit without quite shaking the stigma attached to the original claims, especially now that the world’s need for carbon-free energy sources has become even more desperate than it was 20 years ago.
A brilliant 2004 story in The Washington Post
by Sharon Weinberger chronicled cold-fusion progress (which I should
probably call “progress”) up until that year, and now comes news from
the American Chemical Society of “compelling new scientific evidence for
the existence of low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), the process once
called ‘cold fusion’ that may promise a new source of energy.” At ACS’s annual meeting this week, no fewer than 30 papers are being presented in sessions on “New Energy Technology,” including here, here and here.
A number of the scientists in this field work for the federal
government, which has quietly kept supporting cold fusion research
(though not under that name). For instance, analytical chemist Pamela
Mosier-Boss of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego
is presenting what she calls “the first scientific report of the
production of highly energetic neutrons from an LENR device.”
Mosier-Boss is no novice in this field, having unveiled tantalizing results before.
The neutrons, she and her team suggest, came from nuclear reactions,
perhaps from the fusing of deuterium nuclei. “People have always asked
‘Where’s the neutrons?’” Mosier-Boss says. “If you have fusion going on,
then you have to have neutrons. We now have evidence that there are
neutrons present in these LENR reactions.”
Other teams make similar claims. Tadahiko Mizuno
of Hokkaido University in Japan is reporting the production of excess
heat and gamma ray emissions from his own LENR device, for instance,
while Antonella De Ninno of New Technologies Energy and Environment
claims she and her team got both excess heat and helium gas (both
indications of nuclear reactions) from theirs.