Yeong E. Kim at Purdue and colleagues have proposed that, in cold-fusion experiments, the deuterons condense into a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC). In this state, he says, they can fuse, and then the energy is collectively absorbed by the BEC. (If you’re not familiar with BEC’s, here is a very simple introduction for non-physicists, and I’ll explain more as we go.) According to him, this theory meets all the theoretical challenges of explaining cold fusion.
To learn about the theory, the best place to start is Kim’s publications page, which lists all his papers on the topic, with links to the full text. There is also a newenergytimes portal page, but it is not terribly useful.
In the opposition-to-BEC-theory camp, my google search did not turn up too many resources. I found this one-paragraph argument against the theory by Ron Maimon, and this wikiversity message board discussion (especially the first paragraph) [EDIT – link is broken, but it’s available here, thanks!], and this rationalwiki message board (there are a few insightful criticisms scattered around this long page). The criticisms echo each other, and I agree with them too. Really, all I’m planning to do is explain these arguments in more detail, so that a broader audience can follow along.
The arguments against Kim’s theory fit into two categories:
- At room temperature, the deuterons cannot condense into a BEC.
- Even if the deuterons did condense into a BEC, they would not undergo nuclear fusion, for the same reason as usual: Because the Coulomb barrier prevents them from getting close enough.
If these are true—and I believe they are, as I’ll explain in future blog posts—then the theory really seems to have no value whatsoever!
Oh, and if that’s not enough, I might suggest a third category of arguments against the theory:
- Even if the deuterons did fuse while in a BEC, it would not be magical and special, it would just be a normal 2-body fusion process, creating neutrons, tritium etc. in quantities which would be easily detected in experiments because everyone in the room would die of radiation poisoning.
Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make this argument as well.
Obviously, in his dozens of papers, Kim presents specific arguments against #1, #2, and #3. I hope to explain those arguments and why they are not convincing. This is a time-consuming task because the arguments can be pretty nonsensical! It will probably take me a few blog posts. But the good news is, we will get to learn some cool physics on the way!! 😀