Deuterium Powered Homes and the Return of Cold Fusion Hype

We’ve been sent this press release claiming a new kind of fusion reaction that works at small scales using an incredibly exotic fuel material: ultra-dense deuterium. We looked into it with an open mind, and if we’re being kind we’ll conclude that there’s a ten-year long research project being undertaken by [Leif Holmlid], a single scientist whose claims would win him one or two Nobel prizes if any of it were true.

If we drop the kindness and approach it rationally, this doesn’t smell right and can’t be believed until it has been reliably reproduced by someone not associated with the original research. Let’s delve into the claim of Deuterium powered reactions, and circle around on the cold-fusion hype we found so sadly entertaining back in the ’90s.

Ultra-Dense Deuterium

The press release claims: a “new type of nuclear fusion process”. Warning bells go off already. There hasn’t been a new type nuclear fusion process since a few seconds after the Big Bang. New techniques, new strategies at setting off or containing the same old nuclear fusion, sure, but a whole new type of fusion is a revolutionary claim. Maybe it’s a bad translation from the Swedish.

Further claims in the press release include a reaction that doesn’t use tritium atoms, which are expensive and radioactive, is viable on a small scale, and doesn’t emit harmful fusion byproducts like speeding neutrons. It sounds almost too good to be true.

ultra-dense-deuteriumSo we downloaded the paper which the press release is based on. The details on the experiment are sketchy but the authors claim that they’re getting more energy out than they’re putting in, including fusion byproducts, and all of this at room temperature.

The secret sauce seems to be ultra-dense deuterium, “D(0)” whatever that means. Looking through the author’s other papers, it looks like he’s claiming to have made metallic hydrogen, which would be a Nobel Prize right there. And it’s starting to look a little bit suspicious that no other labs have replicated the work in the intervening eight or ten years.

While metallic hydrogen probably exists inside the core of Jupiter, no lab on Earth has succeeded in making metallic hydrogen repeatably, although it’s been postulated to be possible since 1935 and many have tried. Teams at Cornell and the French Atomic Commission have both given it a shot, and failed with pressures as high as 3.2 million atmospheres.

Well, no labs except [Holmlid]’s. It must be true, though, because it’s on Wikipedia! It says right there that the [Holmlid] lab made metallic hydrogen using “Rydberg Matter”. We’d never heard of this stuff, so we followed that Wikipedia link down the rabbit hole, only to find some mumbo-jumbo that we didn’t understand and citations of papers nearly exclusively by, you guessed it, [Leif Holmlid].

We’re done with ultra-dense deuterium at this point, and the rest of the work with it. Why? Because science is based on consensus and reproducible results. Non-reproducible experimental results by a single investigator aren’t results — they’re anecdotes at best. Nope, what we’ve got here is a case of the cold fusions.

Cold Fusion and its Children

Cold-Fusion-observedThe cold fusion fiasco of 1989 was spectacular mostly because of its grand claims for clean and abundant energy produced essentially from salt water. Accounts differ as to why the press picked up on the story so readily, but part of the reason is certainly due to the fact that [Martin Fleischmann], one of the two co-authors, was a well-respected chemist at the time. Two early initial reports of confirmatory experiments stoked the fire, although both would later be retracted and the anomalies explained.

But what then followed was the normal, serious work of science. Many more labs tried to replicate the cold fusion results and failed. Instead of dismissing the claims summarily, the American Physical Society (APS) called a conference to gather together all of the experimental evidence on the topic. The overwhelming majority of the labs came together with further negative results, and the panel nearly unanimously declared the topic closed.

“Celebrating” cold fusion’s tenth anniversary, the New York Times, one of the first papers to critically question cold fusion, put together a nice summary timeline in 1999 of their articles on the topic at the time. Like many others, the Times writers were initially open-mindedly enthusiastic about the promise of endless energy. But over the course of a month, as negative evidence accumulated, they started to back off. When the APS nailed the cold fusion coffin shut, the Times followed suit.

There have been numerous small flare ups of cold-fusion-like results that come and go, but again nothing reproducible has come out of the work. Since the public trouncing of cold fusion, its proponents have just renamed their research agenda. Basically all of the neo-cold-fusion movements include something like “low energy” in their name to replace “cold”, and they’re very careful to avoid the words “fusion”. But what they all share is a belief in (nearly-)free energy, the original promise of cold fusion. Sadly, a US Navy group (SPAWAR) funds some of the last of the true believers (PDF, quackery). Your tax dollars at work!

What’s shocking is to see how frequently a keyword search for “ultra-dense deuterium” comes up with reports on this line of research that take it at its face value. We’d be as happy as anyone if there were free (or even cheap) clean energy. Wishing doesn’t make it so. At the same time we are in favor of funding responsible research that doesn’t predicate its funding requests on hype. It’s isn’t the pursuit of the a breakthrough, but rather the clouded presentation of “results” that ruffles our feathers.

Hot Fusion

1280px-Preamplifier_at_the_National_Ignition_FacilityIn stark contrast to the cold-fusion claims, there’s actual hot fusion. It’s messy, the temperatures and pressures are astronomical, but the actual science behind it isn’t hard to explain on some level: combining nuclei together releases a tremendous amount of energy.

Real fusion was theoretically predicted decades before the first hydrogen bomb prototype proved it could work in practice. In short, there’s no doubt on the science behind plain-old fusion. The rest is just (incredibly complicated) details.

And this is what separates quack science from real science. Quack science is get-rich-quick schemes; it’s all of the payoff without any of the work. It’s simple and easy. The National Ignition Facility, on the other hand, is the biggest laser in the world, built over nearly twenty years, involving countless millions of person-hours in its construction, and putting out 500 trillion watts (!) per shot. And yet these jokers still haven’t cracked fusion ignition.

But you know that if they could, for a few billion dollars less and in the comfort of a small laboratory, they would.

(Photo credit NIF Preamplifier: Damien Jemison/LLNL, CC-A-SA-3.0)

144 thoughts on “Deuterium Powered Homes and the Return of Cold Fusion Hype

        1. There’s a huge technical challenge in shielding the superconducting magnets from the radiation flux that would demagnetize them. That’s their biggest stumbling block.

          The thing would probably work if it was scaled up to ITER size, because then you could have a meter of lead against the neutron flux from the fusion.

      1. From my experience, Lockheed Martin doesn’t tend to make announcements about things they aren’t very confident in. As I understand it (I’m trying to remember when the story first dropped), they’ve developed the mathematical models that tend to show some feasibility and are now developing the engineering.

          1. The X-33 was never finished because of funding cuts and problems with the fuel tank. Lockheed says they had solved the fuel tank issue but the funding went to zero.
            As they said in the movies. No bucks no Buck Rogers.

  1. 100% of labs that received funding from the nuclear industry at the time reported failure. Labs with no real ties to the nuclear industry were split 50/50.

    SPAWAR were awarded a patent in 2012 for ColdFusion. For what was Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons exact experiment other than using a pulsed DC current.

    1. It must be added here that a patent does not mean the idea is working. It doesn’t matter for the patent. You can have a patent for any idea, including impossible ideas.

      A patent is just a claim that you are the first with that idea.
      It’s like writing “First!” on YouTube comments, except you will also get a certificate for your “First!” claim, you must pay for the certificate, and that is not a video on YouTube, but an idea floating around.

      :o)

      1. Except in their case they knew that they would come under fire so built a working prototype.

        What’s more interesting is that they are more interested in protecting it as a method of making rare elements, including gold.

        So as uncomfortable as it is, ColdFusion does exist and alchemy has returned to chemistry, well technically it’s electrochemistry….

        1. Cold Fusion is nothing but fairy tales and lies. If it worked people would use it. Claims of a nuclear industry cover up are simply false, because they would be the first to jump on the fusion bandwagon (If anything coal and gas plants would be the ones putting up the fight). Also, electrochemistry cannot convert elements to other elements. It’s simply not possible. Like HaD said: wishing doesn’t make it true.

          1. Steam power didn’t exist until someone invented it. The horseless carriage would be “fairy tales and lies” to some guy in the 1600s.

            It’s unlikely there is a cover-up, using the same explanation as the cure for the common cold, “we make more money NOT releasing it”. Although that said, companies have done that in the past. Admittedly for more minor things than cold fusion (no caps, and no bloody VersaCaps!).

            Where we are, is possibly at the beginning of the invention of cold fusion. The world of future science is divided into things that don’t exist yet, and things that never will exist. There’s no way of knowing which category something fits into until you invent it, then it goes into the first.

          2. ““we make more money NOT releasing it”.”

            What ton of money?

            The nuclear industry can’t get new contracts because governments don’t want more nuclear waste. If they had working fusion power, they’d fucking sell it.

          1. Just ignore the man behind the curtain! Lots of people refuse to look at good data that is out there. Sure there are some quacks and charlatans, but there is also some good work and some great work going on. If you really want to know what is happening follow the money. P&F’s announcement disrupted more than $200,000,000 that was about to be released to labs working on Hot Fusing. of course they were attacked mercilessly. That may be chump change in DC but it is the life blood of some big labs with close ties in DC.

    2. I still think some honest people reported an unusual phenomenon and as a result were publicly crucified. The original investigators had no upside to a false report, no business startup and no monetary advantage other than increased potential funding for research. Even that was wiped away when a score of others jumped into the spotlight.
      The whole thing has always “smelled” more like oppression of information than objective investigation.

        1. There is that… however inventing a new source of energy (or money) is how you become a big boss. The horse cartels couldn’t stop Henry Ford. For what you’re saying, you’d need such a huge conspiracy you may as well give up and enjoy your slavery.

        2. Some guys published how to do it. So the cat’s out of the bag. Difficult to put it back. If it was real, lots of people would be reproducing it and it is impossible to keep so many people quiet.

        3. I honestly don’t understand idiots like you. You have NO IDEA what you are talking about. You have allowed the internet to REPLACE your actual thinking rather than enhance it. You confuse Google Search ranking with accuracy. And then you blame the evil powers the be for your life being a TOTAL failure in every way. If this was real, EVERY government would jump on it. Because the first one that had it would IMMEDIATELY become the top world power. Even if that government was currently a third world power. I mean..my god…you are not even good at being a f***ing idiot. You are even lower than that.

          1. Sure genius, you know everything! Do you even know me enough to judge my comment? Do you know where I live? Thanks to the Internet, wimps like you get to talk crap, without getting their asses kicked . Your life must be perfect, hence the anger. Maybe you should watch documentaries such as Who Killed Electric Car…

    1. There’ hasn’t been any news in the past year that I can find. A broken reactor this spring, but no new data.
      All I can find are stories of interesting results, after which all reactor materials were collected and/or sent to Rossi. That’s like a stage magician asking for the deck back after they pull off a card miracle so they can remove the gaffed cards or use another sleight to destroy evidence of their trick.
      On top of suspicious behavior like this are criticisms by physicists that the measurement techniques are inappropriate or allow for introduced errors.

      So it sounds like there haven’t been any truly independent replications. Perhaps you found something I missed though.

      1. I wonder why people that know nothing of the subject comment on these threads. It isn’t just on LENR it is everywhere.
        Rossi’s Hot Cat has been independently replicated four times that I know of. The latest here:
        http://www.lenr-forum.com/forum/index.php/Attachment/393-ExcessHeatInLAH-Ni-Stepanov-English-pdf/?s=0e697ada0ba9928c88c2b660a7153500ed9f552d

        For a recent summary of LENR see this:
        http://www.lenr-forum.com/forum/index.php/Attachment/386-IEEE-brief-DeChiaro-9-2015-pdf/

        Industrial Heat’s commercial 1 MW LENR plant has been running well for half a year. The official report of the 350 day trial is due late February.

        1. According to your stated criteria *you* shouldn’t be commenting then ;-)

          Especially regarding Rossi’s on-going and pathetic e-cat fraud. It has indeed been “independently replicated” – by other frauds and by some retired cronies from Upsala University working with Rossi!

          It does says something about the level of scientific understanding amongst people that anyone can read this 27? page “report” where 7/8 of the space is dedicated to thermal modelling – because Rossi forbids(?) calorimeter tests – and swallow it. It’s ridiculous all the way through – they even have a picture of some crappy power meter showing “OL”, Come On! PhotoShop it, at least. Why cheat only half-hearted? Milena Penkowa did more work!

          1. How many times? I don’t know – Over the years, I have watched stage magicians cut a women in half hundreds of times. Still without being totally convinced that a woman is *actually* being halved and glued back together.

            Just a few solid scientific papers would do the trick. The “…. under the given (by Rossi?) assumptions, we conclude that excess energy is produced ….”-argumentation may “work” in politics and economics, but, that isn’t science!

        2. Yeah….A pdf hosted by a webpage about “unconventional science” doesn’t count as independent, or as ‘people that know anything’. And that’s before we get to the poor translating job, proof reading, ignoring the heat given off by LAH decomposition and/or interactions with nickel, possible sources of experimental error, &c.

          1. The last replication was by a group from Moscow State University. I doubt one can get much published in Russian in major journal over here. I’m not sure it is possible to have lower credibility than WIki in this field.

            Believe what gorup-think physicists say if you like. I am far from alone should you care to look at p5 & 6 on http://www.lenrproof.com.

        1. I would call it “job training”. I am an electrical engineer which has mutated into a project manager. The place I work have access to Engineering and Science Interns to do more “academic” work like thermal modelling, simulations of power distribution, maybe EMI / EMC measurements (when we get to it) – as long as we can align their work with the university requirements. Usually they are here for 3 months so it is not huge projects they do, but, I use them for the “good-to-know” mini-projects that should be done, but we don’t really have time / staff for. The students of course have to write their reports for university and they have to write engineering reports for me.

  2. Speaking as someone who briefly did some physics lab work in his youth, there appear to be a whole pile of not-necessarily-warranted assumptions in the measurement section of that paper. They’ve put in a bunch of reasons why their hypothesis might be right, but don’t seem to have done as well excluding reasons it might be wrong.

      1. Yeah but that says that dark matter and energy are probably wrong. They’re only there to make the maths work. Same way the Luminiferous Aether propped up Victorian science.

        1. Is it crank night at hackaday?

          You are so wrong that it’s not even funny, the more data that is gathered the more dark matter and dark energy are required. Compare that to aether – where closer examination made it unworkable.

    1. A way to quantify the number of hours and/or people it takes to complete a project.
      >>…built over nearly twenty years, involving countless millions of person-hours in its >>construction…
      It could be millions of people working 1 hour, or a few people working to the bone.

          1. I think the OP on this thread was either referring to the mythical man-month, or some tedious point about “political correctness gone mad”. Either way he did such a good job of it, nobody knew what he was talking about.

          2. Intentional mispellings?

            Not sure if person-hour is correct, but I’ve heard man-hours used before and assumed same thing upon reading. Is person-hour used because “man-hour” sounds exclusive of women?

            I wonder where the line is when it comes to being unnecessarily-politically-correct

    2. It is the same as the more correct “shit hour” where “shit” is the new preferred universal pronoun meaning “she-he-it”, which has been officially adopted by the University of California system.

      1. And – in my opinion – “shit” is also the correct term for the overwhelming abundance of Newspeak (aka. political correctness) these days.
        Things don’t change just because we avoid some words (starting e.g. with “N” or “F” ) just to avoid censorship.

  3. I was in high school in 1989 when the initial Cold Fusion hype-bomb exploded. It was Sci-fi come to real life and the age of cheap energy had finally come. I read everything there was to know in every periodical and by every crank on the internet for years after. I even bought a VHS Cold Fusion: Fire From Water narrated by James Doohan (still have it somewhere in the garage). I wanted to believe then and I want to believe now. But I do not, and I will not until a working model is shown to a dumbstruck Bill Nye. Words are wind.

          1. Nothing against engineers except they do things like brag about never solving an integral after graduation. Physicists write the books for educating engineers. A nuclear engineer would be credible in this case. I think they are easier to find (primarily due to the U.S. Navy) than physicists who are working with nuclear power problems. But for a fusion problem, plus the instrumentation needed to accurately find all the energy in and energy out, needs a good experimental physicist, someone with nuclear experience, and probably some good theory work as well. To avoid missing something obvious you need a small team of very sharp people.

          1. Prior to “Bill Nye: The Science Guy” On PBS Bill Nye did stand up and sketch comedy in his freetime. IIRC “The Science Guy” was a semi-regular character on the sketch comedy show ‘Almost live!’ doing basically what he did on the children’s show.

        1. there was request for mythbuster to do it, but they declined. It’s not really their area of expertise (no explosive involved…) would have sucked anyway.

          Don’t know if it’s true but they say that the major problem with the 1989 experiment was that it was made by electro-chemist, and examined by physicist (not their specialty).

  4. Fifty years ago physics were forecasting fusion reactor 50 years in the future. We are there and it is still forecasted 50 years in the future…

    Nature at atomic and sub-atomic level is a big unknown. So don’t throw away cold fusion yet.

    1. Yes, there are unknowns in nuclear physics. But the existence of unknowns is not license to believe whatever you wish. Believe in things for which there is evidence; there is more evidence for unicorns than there is for cold fusion.

      Or believe in unicorns. Whatever. If you’re not one of my nuclear physics students I guess I really shouldn’t care. :-)

      1. How does fairy tales have anything to do with the theory of fusion at room-temperature? Are you going to say now too that room-temperature super-conductors are fairy tales as well? I’ll remind you the same was said for all physics, and all experiments that were beyond what people wanted to “believe”. So in reality your actually rebuking and reproofing yourself in your own assertion. $100 says you think science(interaction/observation) disproves God(agency).

  5. An interesting discussion on the history and current state of research of ‘cold fusion’

    http://www.dotnetrocks.com/default.aspx?ShowNum=1037

    The most interesting part is that there is legitimate research on the subject, and some real results from big name companies like Mitsubishi. However, note that none of the reactions currently known have any practical use, and I don’t think any produce usable energy. They basically show that its possible to ‘transmute’ certain elements at low energies.

    1. Even cold fusion that produces less energy than it uses is very worthwhile research. Might just be a matter of tweaking. Might work as a catalyst or stage in a more complex above-unity device. Pure research isn’t obliged to bring practical results anyway, but it’s worth doing on this subject for many reasons. Even just to learn more about the behaviour of atoms and fusion.

        1. You’re not thinking of poor old Tesla are you?

          The man was unconventional and didn’t care for restrictions, but he wasn’t an idiot, and understood science, as it was known then, very well. Unlike almost all of the poor bloke’s posthumous supporters.

          1. The dude didn’t even believe in electrons, and disagreed with Einstein. How well do you think he knew the science of his time?

            He was a self-taught experimenter who had a good intuitive grasp of electricity, but little mathematical or scientific rigor, especially in his later years when he went mad.

          2. Tesla was also an accomplished Showman – Many of Tesla’s “big” ideas were the dot.com hype of the 1930’es and they are still selling to this day.

          3. I see this often actually, people talking about Tesla giving out “free electricity” and I can’t resist thinking about it. Assuming he would be sending energy over radio or microwaves or some other wireless technology, where the hell would he get all the power to run the transmitter? Wouldn’t such a system, even if it worked, have HUGE losses between emitting / collecting the power? Wouldn’t running cables ALWAYS be more efficient? Who would pay to run the transmitter for this free electricity? Where would the money come from?

            Even if he gave out “free” electricity using his wireless technology, and even if the government did fund it, the government just gets their money from…. everyone. It wouldn’t be “free” when people are paying for it through taxes.

            While a cool idea, I don’t think it would have been practical. Next time you see a “tesla wanted to give people free power” argument just sit down and think about it.

          4. @Dax, Your only partially true. He did disagree with Einstein, but he absolutely thought electricity was real, otherwise you can’t invent the radio, a/c, etc as he did. He also was a mathematical genius, had an Eidetic memory, was a polyglot, and possessed picture thinking. Equating genius with omniscience is a massive logical flaw, but one people seem to follow. Just like when Stephen Hawking comments on philosophy or theology, no one should believe him, because he’s ignorant in he field.

    1. So you believe this:
      If I’m a big bad energy company, I’d keep trying to stomp all research into the ground, instead of actually funding it and patenting the crap out of everything my well payed (and NDA “ensured”) scientists come up with.
      New discovery from a lab I do not own? Oh what should I do, risk the discovery slipping past my fingers by “pulling strings” OR just call the guy and say: “hey, I’ll give you as many $$$ as you weigh, just sign this agreement” and hoard everything like De Beers (they are suspected of hoarding diamonds in safes to keep the price high)?

      These conspiracy theories make no sense, they are just a pile of crap put together by bat-shit crazy people that have no understanding how things work.

        1. There is no such thing as a free energy once you put even a modicum of thought on the matter.

          Point in case: wind is free – it doesn’t cost you a cent. Do you think wind power is free?

          So suppose you can get “free power” out of some weird cold-fusion device that uses things like deuterium and nickel. Who’s gonna mine and refine the nickel, get the heavy water and separate the deuterium, and build the damn things? Do these devices and materials just pop out of the aether?

      1. Philo T. Farnsworth wouldn’t sell his all electronic television invention to RCA. So they tried to steal it by piling on with lawsuits and lies about having done it first. Only after closeting away a crack team told to make the RCA crap patent design work, and that team producing a device essentially identical to Farnsworth’s because it was the only way it could work – did RCA cave. For the first time in company history RCA licensed a patent instead of buying it outright or stealing it. ‘Course they had managed to drag it out so long they didn’t have to pay Farnsworth royalties for very long, so it was next best thing to stealing television from its inventor.

        For the rest of its existence, RCA claimed to have invented television. Farnsworth got a few statues around the USA and a posthumous award presented to his wife, Pem, at the 2002 Emmy Awards.

          1. Logie Baird’s television used mechanical scanning, not electronic. That’s the important difference. Baird’s mechanical TVs were gigantic, had huge big wheels full of spinning lenses, and gave small, crappy pictures. He eventually got it up to a semi-OK resolution, but that was probably the most you’d ever get from it. Farnsworth’s TV was in everybody’s living room up until flat panels were invented.

      2. Given that energy companies (and others) have had their hands both in overthrowing governments and the straight-up murder of people deemed “unfriendly” to business.

        Yes, based on past form, they would monopolise or stomp out anything that threatens profits. No conspiracy theories needed; it’s why they really hate us after all.

        So, if one is an inventor with a new energy source that actually works – the sure-fire way to fail is to patent or otherwise “proprietorize” the invention. Such a person is just setting himself for a full-spectrum rogering – most likely by corporate lawyers, perhaps the armed nutter, the accidental overdose, or even the “drug-bust gone wrong”.

        The only safe way out is Disseminate – fast and wide. Before anyone can react. Make your money on the “derivatives”; paid talks, shorting BP & Exxon stock, investing in whatever previously impractical tech that can now be made possible by your energy source.

        I don’t see that happening. I see lots of cranks openly pushing proprietary “inventions” that just need a little more investment to be complete – that is why I think that they have nothing. If they had, they wouldn’t be there on YouTube – one way or another.

  6. The NIFs primary purpose was never to create fusion, that was added to make it more palatable to congress and the public for funding. It was made for research on our nuke stockpile.

  7. Fake scientists often don’t know their units. So for G**s sake, get your units right.

    > 500 trillion watts per shot
    So that would be 10^15 Watts after two shots, and over 10^19 Watts after six hours of one shot per second, right? Bullshit! Probably Joules or something.

    1. Watts = Joules / s
      So when you’re talking on the scale of picoseconds (10E-12) a little bit of energy (~4MJ) becomes a big heaping pile of power. And only takes 112kWh to charge up the capactior bank. Or at least that’s how NIF does it..

    2. Nearly all of these insanely high laser powers you see reported are so high because the /t is so small. Discharge a few joules over a few seconds, you have a few watts. Discharge a few joules over a few milliseconds, you have a few megawatts.

    3. Even a tiny flashlamp powered Nd:AYG laser built out of ebay scap (search for SSY-1 rangefinder) and running off of 2xAA cells can do a pulse on the order of 10s to 100s (with a Q-switch) of kilowatts, but these pulses last less then a microsecond…after all they did use them for a time-of-flight rangefinder, and light “flies” pretty damn fast…

      The femtosecond lasers have even more peak power, but as the name suggests, the pulse is extremely short…

      1. You got that backwards… Power is Energy Integrated over time…

        The proper unit of energy for this discussion is Joules. Or if you must use watts, then watts per femtosecond etc.. Power is by definition Energy per unit time. A watt is by definition a unit of power.

        1. You’ve really made me scratching my head. Let me try once again:

          P – power, [watt]

          E- energy, [watt-hour] <-hint watt * hour

          You've got 100 watt bulb and you turn it on. Your electricity meter starts spinning. After 1 [hour] you find the bulb has eaten 0.1 [kWh] of energy (which is 0.36 [MJ]). 100 [W] = 100 [Wh] / 1 [h] which means

          P = dE / dt

          dE = P dt

          E = ∫Pdt

          Energy is power integrated over time.

          Referring to the laser.

          There “can” be 1 [GW] laser powered from a 1 [F] (1 [W] * 1 [s]/1[V]²) capacitor at 1 [V], provided that you discharge the capacitor in no more than 1 [ns] (and you don’t evaporate the leads). Go to 1 [ps] and you get 1 [TW].

          1. You basically can. Infinitesimals don’t entirely work as a concept but it basically does. Integrating power gives you energy in some form.

            “Work” vs. “energy” is like talking about “work” vs “heat” vs “energy.” It’s conceptual more than anything else – work is a method of imparting mechanical energy to a system. Heat is the flow of thermal energy in a system, etc. etc.

        2. Power is the derivative of energy over time, not the integral. Energy per unit time. Integrate power over time and you multiply the unit by seconds, so J/s becomes just J. Watts per femtosecond is not useful in this context, but you could I suppose measure the startup rate of a power plant in it for laughs. Joules per femotosecond is probably what you’re trying to say – but then, Joules/femtosecond is the unit more commonly known as “petawatt”.

  8. Since fusion’s going to basically save the world and bring a Star-Trek style post-scarcity economy, it’s certainly worth researching. And if it happens you’re gonna want to be the first people to report on it. That’s why journalists jump the gun I suppose. Well, that and utter pig-ignorance of the subject, for most journalists. That applies to many subjects.

    Daft really cos a “scoop” means nothing when there’s a dozen 24-hour news channels, so we’re all gonna catch it soon enough. If you could get a story a day before your fellow newspapers, that would lead to better sales, but now there’s only so much point. No economic incentive. Maybe that’s why “news” just re-hashes press releases now.

  9. And of course there are people commenting that the energy industry is just plotting to keep cold fusion out of our hands. But seriously, just as the best argument against moon landing conspiracies is “why didn’t the Soviets expose it?”, in this case the biggest hurdle in my eyes is “why doesn’t the military use it?”. There are so many borderline wacky things being researched for military purposes, just in case anything gives your home team an advantage, that I find it hard to believe that there is not a single state out there which suddenly has engines that last virtually forever and there like.

    But just for the sake of argument, what could one do if one were to observe something unusual, something that looks like cold fusion? If you would just start publishing papers claiming to have found cold fusion (or one of its synonyms), you probably would not get influential people to even try to reproduce your results. But still, you could try to publish it as the plain results that you have found, without instantly starting to make the ultimate claim of cold fusion. This would be similar to the experimenters that have recently reported the “Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly”. While the researchers were aware of the potential consequences of their initial results, they still published them to get input from the scientific community. They found the error in the end, but I am sure if their results would have been reproducible, the impact on physics would have been widespread.

    I find it totally possible that an industry tries to hinder the adoption of a new technology which would impact their current business model. However, withholding scientific results, especially ones that were initially claimed to be the result of a rather simple setup, is unlikely to say the least. Industry influence is much more easily introduced via a political vector.

    I found the Wikipedia article on “pathological science” very interesting, things like cold fusion happened in the past and will probably happen again and while scientists should always also question their skepticism, they should be aware of this phenomenon.

    1. Look for the discussion behind the cold fusion page, there is a so-called massive “edit war” going on.

      Anyway you are right about the military, Andrea Rossi first customer for the 1MW plant was “a secret military client” which many believe was U.S. navy.

      Another successful U.S. lab with replication of lenr experiment was the Los Alamos lab… ring a bell?

  10. Of course by “new type” of nuclear fusion they mean “known to mankind”, that’s sortof implicit in science, duh! No, some Swedish chap hasn’t claimed to have re-written the laws of Nature. He’d win every Nobel prize ever for that, as well as being literally a god. Maybe that comes across better in the Swedish.

    Of course, we need to wait til it’s reproduced. That’s science. At least in Sweden.

    The comparison with how difficult and enormous hot fusion is, is irrelevant. Yeah, we know. That’s WHY cold fusion would be such an amazing thing. Since the payoff is essentially infinite, and it’s not like the US Military isn’t wasting much more money on much stupider things, why not? At least it’s not killing any goats.

    If you don’t have any “journalists” who can do better than reading Wikipedia and going “Fuck me! I haven’t got a clue!”, then don’t bother with the article. That isn’t analysis, it isn’t informative.

    It might well be that this experiment fails. But if you’re going to criticise something, it has to be for valid reasons, or else you’re an idiot. It’s not enough just to bet on it being wrong, which it probably is, then throw garbage. Doesn’t make you right, or clever.

  11. OK, talk to me like I am a kid. I’ve got two atoms of deuterium and I want to squash them together into one atom of helium. How much energy do I need? To strip electrons off (I suppose that’s not very much)? To make the nuclei approach or hit each other (I expect it’s going to be more)? To make them hit so hard that they will stick together?

    1. You’re a really smart kid? Who took a little chemistry?

      Normal hydrogen has a proton for its nucleus, and one electron. Don’t worry about the electrons, they get “shared” between the atoms as things get hotter and denser (keyword “plasma”).

      There’s two forces that really matter here. The strong force only works over very short distances, but it’s really strong (hence the clever name). Electrostatic forces are weaker, but work over larger distances. So the trick is to get the two protons close enough together that the strong forces take over, even though their like charges repel electrostatically. Getting them close enough requires heat and pressure (“confinement”). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coulomb_barrier

      When the strong forces kick in, the protons and neutrons sitck together, and you end up with something that’s in a lower energy state, and so you get some extra energy out.

      Helium, what we’re aiming for, has two protons and two neutrons in its nucleus, so either of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium (one proton, one neutron in the nucleus) or tritium (one proton, two neutrons) is used. The neutrons are not charged and don’t contribute to the repellant electrostatic force, so they just come along for the ride.

      The tritium/deuterium reaction requires even less energy to fuse than deuterium/deuterium, so it’s the reaction of choice even though it gives off the one extra (nasty, high-energy) neutron.

      Did that work?

        1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion

          Using deuterium-tritium fuel, the resulting energy barrier is about 0.1 MeV. In comparison, the energy needed to remove an electron from hydrogen is 13.6 eV, about 7500 times less energy. The (intermediate) result of the fusion is an unstable 5He nucleus, which immediately ejects a neutron with 14.1 MeV. The recoil energy of the remaining 4He nucleus is 3.5 MeV, so the total energy liberated is 17.6 MeV. This is many times more than what was needed to overcome the energy barrier.

          No clue what temperatures, pressures, or particle velocities would equate to the above energy.

          1. Big. In fact if you do naive order-of-magnitude estimates you suddenly look and say “wait, what the hell, how is the Sun fusing hydrogen?” 0.1 MeV naively corresponds to O(1000) megakelvin (Boltzmann’s constant is like 86 eV/megakelvin), which is ridiculously above the temperature at the center of the Sun (~15 MK).

            But that’s because almost all nuclear fusion happens on the tail of the velocity distribution of a gas (so it happens at lower temperatures, just rarely) and via quantum tunneling (you don’t actually need 0.1 MeV of energy, just something close).

            So the “kid view” actually makes it look like there’s no way in hell you can fuse hydrogen – in truth you don’t need nearly that much energy, and actually calculating the *real* temperatures needed to fuse hydrogen is actually pretty hard.

            This is part of the reason why it’s hard to completely dismiss lattice-enabled nuclear reactions (cold fusion) – because it’s not *completely* nuts.

  12. The main article here DEUTERIUM POWERED HOMES AND THE RETURN OF COLD FUSION HYPE is not very correct. The publication in AIP Advances (a US journal) which describes the first ever above break-even fusion results is very detailed (not “The details on the experiment are sketchy”) and should be easy to read for anyone with some knowledge of experimental science. It is definitely not abour cold fusion, since the temperature measured in the plasma is 50-500 MK. The energy used for comparison to conclude break-even is the total laser power entering the apparatus, not the much smaller energy absorbed in the fuel or similar, which is sometimes used by other scientists. The paper in AIP Advances is open so anyone can read it, You do not have to trust the competence of the person writing the article DEUTERIUM POWERED HOMES AND THE RETURN OF COLD FUSION HYPE on this website.

    Most of the comments by Elliot Williams are not worth answering. One of his comments is (or appears to be) that all fusion reactions are known since long so that we cannot have observed a new type of fusion reaction. Well, since the fusion reactions that we observe generate large amounts of mesons and muons and such reactions are not known previously, it is very clear that we observe a new type of fusion reaction. Our results are already published in several scientific journals. Further, there are no known nuclear fusion processes simultaneously involving several nuclei, since such processes cannot be studied easily by large accelerators. So it is very clear that not all types of fusion reactions are known, and definitely not since long.

    The belief that the National Ignition Facility has the answer to nuclear fusion is certainly mainstream. Despite this, they have failed to reach break-even so far. How can that be? I have published an explanation for this in “Ultra-dense hydrogen H(-1) as the cause of instabilities in laser compression-based nuclear fusion” in J. Fusion Energy 33 (2014) 348-350 (DOI: 10.1007/s10894-014-9681-x). I also suggest there that ultra-dense deuterium should be used as the fuel in NIF which probably will give much better results. So I believe that it is good to be rational, and polite. Best regards, Leif Holmlid

    1. It’s a very interesting paper, probably too complex for the author and readers here.

      If I understood it right, you used potassium doped iron oxide to form a “Rydberg pattern” which condensate the Deuterium to Ultra dense Deuterium, which, I assume, has very big cross section. The Laser then create the plasma which lead to the fusion.

      I do like, these efforts made in this direction, knowledge of meta-materials and their patterns will be our future.
      Thanks a lot.

    2. One hallmark of a crank these days is that they go around answering random obscure comment sections to defend their “findings”.

      In other words, whenever a crank or a fraud fails to impress the actual authorities on their subject, they go straight to the public who haven’t got the faculties to contest the claims.

      1. If he didn’t answer, he’d be accused of “Ah! THAT shut him up!”. Sure it’s not for the public to judge. You can’t say whether he’s right or not. Fortunately he’s not asking you or me for any money, so we can afford to wait.

  13. The reporting side of this story reminds me of scam crowdfunding campaigns: (insert invention here) gets press and hype because people want it to exist, and can’t / don’t want to technically scrutinize it to find out that it can’t exist. I get it that you need imagination to foster creative inventions, but you can’t imagine your way out of the laws of physics.

    But then again I don’t really know why people want a pen that writes in multiple colours, and I lose at least one pen a week :)

    1. For one, there’s a few orders of magnitude more hydrogen on Earth then Thorium. There’s also more energy out of it, lots more. If we ever want to go beyond the sphere of influence of Earth, we need practical fusion.
      So far the only practical use of nuclear fusion makes cities evaporate.

  14. Its certainly interesting, in fact I have a suspicion that ball lightning is in fact Rydberg matter or at least in some part.
    The basic idea is sound and in fact some theories link superconductivity and BL as both share a common theme ie a phase transition between different quantum states with some change in a variable.
    In the case of superconductivity it is a change in temperature and to a lesser degree in pressure, which depends on specific lattice structure to form a Mott insulator as host to the Cooper pairs.

    BL could be a similar phenomena ie some combination of atmospheric gases in a “forbidden” Rydberg state broadly similar to trapped electrons in a phosphorescent substance such as SrAl2EuO5.
    In this case the structure self confines as a borderline state between solid and liquid that exhibits the properties of both explaining its ability to squeeze through tiny gaps (ie window panes) and go from brightly luminescent to barely visible in fractions of a second, while also to some extent superconducting allowing metastability while enough of its bulk remains.

    1. Don’t know that the author said “consensus” but rather “reproducibility”. A discovery only counts if it’s repeatable.

      And still, it’s the folks who explain what’s going on who usually get the Nobels.

    2. Yeah but then they prove it, and then the consensus comes. You can always find a “scientist” who’ll back up some crazy theory. Judging the “proof” is the job for the consensus.

  15. Every time I read about cold fusion now the only thing I can think about is that one Outer Limits episode (Final Exam, I think) where a guy accidentally solves the problem :)

  16. it’s still difficult to judge here (lack of information).
    But… if they did manage to do it, what would be the consequences, and how would they protect themselves against opposing parties (energy buisiness.. governments, the entire world economy ) ?
    media manipulation, and discrediting the authors would be a first objective for those who’d want to hide /stop them.
    ‘Free’ and clean energy could very well collapse the world economy and most likely be a cause for a huge war…
    So yes, i can imagine that all theories, experiments and other stuff nescessary to develop cold fusion would be done without external testing/verification, not to raise red flags and endanger those who’re doing the research ( succesfully ).
    So instead of bashing these scientists, think about the consequences and risks if it’d be possible.
    I think claiming successful cold fusion can be a very dangerous thing (wether they’re for real or just scamming put aside).
    saying that a small group of researchers cant do what huge multi-trillion kabilion institutes/companies cannot either, is kinda hmm.. how to say that.. anti-hacker-mentality? ( likely true, but never impossible, right?)
    Most important inventions/discoveries came by accident… i hope they can prove and publicly publish their findings (making it possible for everyone to reproduce ) without all the possible negative consequences… now where’s my warp engine?

    1. “‘Free’ and clean energy could very well collapse the world economy and most likely be a cause for a huge war…”

      This makes no sense. Free and clean energy wouldn’t collapse the world economy. It would *energize* it. Yes, certain companies, if they don’t adapt, would go bankrupt. Entire other industries would pop up in their place, building reactors, systems to take homes off grids, replacing internal combustion engines, etc. All of those things would take time, so it wouldn’t be a shock to the system. And the sheer amount of things that could be improved means that you’d have a long and sustained economic boom. It’s the exact same thing as the revolution with computers/mobile technology. Certain technologies became obsolete. But the sheer amount of economic improvement possible far, far outweighed that.

      “i hope they can prove and publicly publish their findings (making it possible for everyone to reproduce”

      They have been publishing them. There are actually lots of guides out there as to how to reproduce it. The problem is that people, in general, just don’t believe them, because there’s far more risk than reward.

      Mainstream science breaks down like this occasionally. The solution’s simple – if they build something that works commercially, people will believe them. Until that happens, they’ll just be shouting in an empty auditorium.

  17. Any chance they’ll license this tech to the guys over at Skarp? I’m sure if given another few million dollars they can make it fit into the handle of the razor and you’ll never need batteries or blades again!

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