I’ve mentioned before (here and here) one of the main challenges of explaining cold fusion. In conventional nuclear fusion, nuclear energy is transformed into the kinetic energy of a few (usually 2 or 3) very-fast-moving particles. But if cold fusion is a real thing, then the nuclear energy would seem to be transformed into something else. The reason we know this is, very-fast-moving particles create radiation (I mean neutrons, gamma-rays, etc.), and people have looked for it and found that there is very little of it (see here). For example, some people have been doing cold fusion experiments for many years, without dying of radiation poisoning. Well, I mean, I’m not an expert, but they don’t look dead. So, this is the mystery of the missing radiation. The mystery has been approached in sensible ways and in nonsense ways, and in this post I’ll give some examples of both. Edmund Storms’s “hydroton theory” will be my nonsense example.
Overview. Palladium-deuteride cold fusion, if it exists it all, almost certainly proceeds along the following lines:
Nuclear fusion releases energy → ???? → Energy is now heat
In traditional nuclear physics, liberated nuclear energy turns into only one thing: Kinetic energy of a few particles (2 or 3 usually). (For gamma-rays, replace “kinetic energy” by just “energy”.) But it seems that the “????” must be something else. What? No one knows. But people are working on it. Here are some examples:
Sensible approach 1: “Fractionation”
Peter Hagelstein’s idea is that the “????” is an intense crystal vibration, amounting to billions of phonons. These phonons are supposed to be made directly and simultaneously during the fusion process. Since quantum mechanics relates energy to frequency, this is a type of “subharmonic generation”, where a signal at frequency f sets off another vibration at frequency f/2 or f/3 or (in this case) f/1000000000.
Subharmonic generation only happens under unusual circumstances and I doubt that this theory could actually work, but I don’t want to say anything for sure until I understand the arguments better. But anyway, I call this a “sensible approach” to solving the mystery of the missing radiation because there is no law of physics that obviously rules it out, and if it’s true, it would explain the mystery.
Sensible approach 2: Weird SRIM loophole
The arguments I summarized on this page all say that we know that thus-and-such energetic particle is not present because if it were, it would create a certain amount and kind of radiation which is absent in experiments. These kinds of arguments are based on models of how energetic particles move through solids, e.g. SRIM (“Stopping and Range of Ions in Matter”).
What assumptions are there underlying these calculations? Is there a loophole? Could there be some weird circumstance that allows the fast-moving particles to slow down while creating much less observable radiation?
Well, I don’t think this is very likely. But it would be a sensible thing to look into.
A nonsense approach: Hydroton theory
Edmund Storms imagines a line of deuterium atoms that oscillates like in this animation:
Here’s an excerpt from the description of his “hydroton theory” of cold fusion.
Once coherent vibration starts, mass-energy emission starts…. This vibration causes two nuclei to get closer for a brief time while the opposite nuclei get further away, as shown in Fig. 86. As the structure resonates, two photons of equal energy and opposite spin are ejected in opposite directions, with each photon being ejected from each of two nuclei as they approach each other. Each approach removes a small amount of mass-energy from each hydrogen nuclei while spin and momentum are conserved. … The energy of each emitted photon is determined by how long this close approach lasts, which is determined by the frequency of resonance. Eventually, the resonance cycle moves the two nuclei apart again before additional mass-energy can be lost. This process is repeated as each deuteron approaches the opposite nuclei. Again, a photon is emitted …. This process continues until most mass-energy resulting from helium formation has been lost by emission of many low-energy photons. –“The Explanation of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (book) by Edmund Storms, p222-4. [Text is not available online, I actually bought a copy, crazy!]
I’m not ready to say that everything in this passage is pure nonsense, maybe it has a kernel of truth. (And there are other aspects to hydroton theory beyond what’s in that quote.) But let’s read this passage narrowly as a proposed explanation of the mystery of the missing radiation. In that respect, if I’m understanding it right, then it’s a complete failure.
Remember, when you have two protons and two neutrons, they have 24 MeV more energy in the form of deuterium + deuterium then they do as a helium-4. But there’s essentially nothing in between those two states. There is no such thing as a half-fused helium-4 with 12 MeV extra energy. There is no such thing as a deuteron with less rest mass than normal. So the idea that the system can emit two real X-ray photons at a time to gradually lose energy is absurd. There are no configurations of matter that have 1MeV, 2MeV, 3MeV, … less energy than how it started.
This is why, in Hagelstein’s “fractionation” proposal above, the billion phonons are all emitted in a single coherent quantum process. As implausible as this proposal may be, it’s not nearly as bad as saying that there is a ladder of real states spanning the gap between fused and unfused energies.
So I would suggest that Storms forget about nonsense like “remov[ing] a small amount of mass-energy from each hydrogen nucle[us]”, and say instead that the fusion energy turns into 10,000 x-ray photons all at once, in a “fractionation” process, a la Peter Hagelstein’s theory mentioned above. That would at least be a step in the right direction.
Cold fusion is at this point a mystery as to mechanism. From the heat/helium evidence (reproducible and widely confirmed), deuterium is being converted to helium, but the pathway is not known, only the result: helium at about the right ratio to heat, if there is no radiation leakage and all the helium is captured.
I’m sure you are aware of the “Hagelstein limit,” which is a damned nuisance for most cold fusion theories.
I’d recommend you look at Takahashi’s Tetrahedral Symmetric Condensate theory. It is obviously incomplete, but shows the opposite approach to Storms.
There are, obviously, three times for energy release: before (or possibly during) fusion, at fusion or very quickly, and after fusion. Storms rejected all other possibilities than “before or during,” and came up with an idea of slow fusion, and, yes, to me, at least, it seems preposterous, because it requires those pesky intermediate below-ground states that don’t make sense. Wouldn’t the nuclei reach a point where the strong force would snap them in? Storms needs to get those nuclei down to below 20 KeV final fusion energy. As you have hinted, there is more to Storms’ theory, and, my opinion, he is mostly right as to matters like Nuclear Active Environment. I argued that he should “black box” the mechanism, but he preferred to barge ahead.
Takahashi had experimentally found enhanced (10^26) three-body fusion in PdD deuteron bombardment experiments, so he was looking at multibody fusion, normally considered, in a plasma, far too unlikely. But, of course, PdD is not a plasma, there are restricted degrees of freedom.
He started looking at possible configurations, using QED, as I understand it. (I’m not a physicist, but I did sit with Feynman in 1961-63). He found that a tetrahedral configuration of deuterium nuclei — with the electrons , this is really two deuterium molecules in confinement — would, if they have sufficiently low momentum, collapse and fuse to 8Be, through tunneling, within about a femtosecond. Problem, of course, 8Be would be expected to promptly fission to two alpha particles, with way too much energy for the Hagelstein limit. But two possibilities: something might be different if fusion takes place within a BEC, and there might be a halo state that can hold the energy long enough to allow it to be dissipated by a BOLEP (burst of low-energy photons), cascading down a ladder of nuclear excited states.)
Bottom line, though, cold fusion is a set of experimental results, not a theory. We flat-out don’t know enough yet to do much with theory.
Thanks for your blog. I just found it, and have listed it in the Blogroll on coldfusioncommunity.net. That blog is, among other things, developing resources where genuine and reasonable skepticism is explored (in the page structure, the blog is highly opinionated….)
Thanks for your comment! Quick question about Takahashi theory: Sorry if I have a math error here, but I’m finding that if you go D+D+D+D –> 8Be –> 4He + 4He, then ~95% of the energy is released in the first step and only ~5% in the second step. Do you agree? If so, is the BOLEP you’re talking about part of the first step? And are you quite sure that the second step (8Be –> 4He + 4He) is above the Hagelstein limit?
I see that I never replied. I had forgotten that I wrote this. I will be remedying that, I’m setting up to review all the pages here, which are certainly of high interest. Now, your question. No cold fusion theory is satisfactory, and your quest for one was more or less doomed from the start. Hagelstein is convinced, from experimental evidence, that there is a real effect, and so he is trying every idea he can think of. He changes theories like some people change underwear.
(Not a bad idea!)
It seems he may be getting close, but cold fusion is an extremely difficult problem. Hagelstein doesn’t give up, because nature doesn’t seem to care that it’s impossible.
Takahashi theory is not complete. First of all, the first step releases no energy, the fusion is to 8Be*, which is quite unstable, so it would be expected to fission. If that is all that happens, the 4He would have almost 24 MeV each, which we know doesn’t happen.
Yes, the BOLEP is what happens when 8Be is formed.
Takahashi’s idea is that the 8Be, perhaps because it is in a BEC when formed, perhaps this is allowed because of some exquisite balance (I don’t know what he could say, we could ask him), instead of immediately decaying, emits a BOLEP, burst of low-energy photons. I.e., the X-rays you wrote about when you looked at Storms’ unfortunate attempts, as a chemist, to solve a problem that has had many very competent physicists struggling for years to handle.
So he is looking at halo states, with the photons being from transitions down a ladder of them. There have to be a lot of rungs on that ladder. There are other possibilities. Takahashi proposes that the actual effect could be from fusion of more than four deuterons. He’s looked at six and eight, I think. (So the intermediate product would be carbon or oxygen.) It is a long shot, but sooner or later, someone will swish that basket.
As to the final step, the fission to two helium nuclei, the full energy (which would include electrons, I’d assume, perhaps) would be about 45 keV each, from the ground state of 8Be, if I have that right. That is above the Hagelstein limit, but not so far above that we must automatically reject the idea. As I say, generally, the theory may be incomplete. Maybe those electrons carry off most of the energy. Is that what could happen? Distributing energy within a BEC, maybe? 22 keV each, might meet the Hagelstein limit.
My full position is that we are not really ready for theory formation, we don’t know enough, though there are clues. Hagelstein predicted teraherz resonances that were actually confirmed in the dual-laser stimulation work of Dennis Letts. But curious people will try to solve the puzzle. I just would not be pouring much funding into theory at this time. Far more urgent is developing what we call a “lab rat,” a readily reproducible experiment. The exact requirements are usually stated as enough heat to be palpable, with sufficient reliability to demonstrate an effect most of the time. Bonus points for a clear nuclear effect. We break out the champagne or equivalent if the heat and a nuclear product are correlated at the mass conversion value.
We don’t have a lab rat. The difficult problem is in materials science. We have not solved that problem,l though it is possible now to make material that will “work” most of the time. A simple experiment that can be run thousands of times, with controlled variations, could then make it possible to gather data for understanding more what is actually happening.