NASA Claims Cold Fusion Without Naming It

Do you remember in 1989 when two chemists announced they’d created a setup that created nuclear fusion at room temperature? Everyone was excited, but it eventually turned out to be very suspect. It wasn’t clear how they detected that fusion occurred and only a few of the many people who tried to replicate the experiment claimed success and they later retracted their reports. Since then, mentioning cold fusion is right up there with perpetual motion. Work does continue though, and NASA recently published several papers on lattice confinement fusion which is definitely not called cold fusion, although it sounds like it to us.

The idea of trapping atoms inside a metallic crystal lattice isn’t new, dating back to the 1920s. It sounds as though the NASA method uses erbium packed with deuterium. Photons cause some of the deuterium to fuse. Unlike earlier attempts, this method produces detectable neutron emissions characteristic of fusion.

This isn’t as seductive a proposition as having a beaker of heavy water and little else, though, because you do need a source of electrons to kick off the reaction. Still, this should point the way to future research and maybe even inspire some garage experiments.

Keep in mind there is a big difference between creating net positive energy via fusion and just fusing a few atoms together. We’ve seen a few fusors that can pull that off.

54 thoughts on “NASA Claims Cold Fusion Without Naming It

      1. U235 fission releases ~10MeV gamma rays, can’t you just mix a bit of this in (or some other gamma ray source if the exact energy needs to be matched) would it provide sufficient flux to keep the fusion happening regularly?

  1. “Everyone was excited” Speak for yourself.
    Is it photons or electrons that are needed? Or photos AND electrons? A little unclear and I can’t watch the video on my current machine.

    1. Photons. They blast the target with photons (gammas), which liberate hot neutrons from some of the deuterium ions in a process called bremsstrahlung photodissociation. These neutrons then locally heat other deuterons to the point that they can fuse. The main barrier to fusion is the coulomb repulsion of nuclei, and penetrating this so called coulomb barrier is made easier by an effect called electron screening, but that refers to electrons that are already in the lattice not ones being blasted onto it. This electron screening is the major novel effect they are taking advantage of.

        1. Nah, I can never remember how to spell bremsstrahlung. I had the journal article from NASA up side by side and copied it from there so I didn’t misspell it. I’ve got a PhD in nuclear engineering, but fusion is way outside my specialty so I just know enough to quickly summarize the article.

      1. Great summary. Am I right in thinking that the key difference in feasibility is this only needs to achieve positive efficiency once the deuterated lattice has been made? It’s a bit like solar panels on early space probes, it doesn’t matter how much energy they took to make on earth, they payback in space where there are no power sockets. As long as they generate positive output once made, and weigh less than the alternative, it is useful to NASA. To be the dream fusion power source the hurdle is much higher: the entire efficiency has to be positive and the power output per unit cost needs to be high too.

  2. “This isn’t as seductive a proposition as having a beaker of heavy water and little else, though, because you do need a source of electrons to kick off the reaction.”

    Gamma ray are not electrons but energetics photons. In the Stanley and Pons experiment, in 1989, it was electrons since it was electrolysis.

  3. Up to now no process was successful at generating positive gain of fusion energy (except for bombs) in spite all the money and efforts put into it. Will this process win the race, or be another fail after spending big money?

    If all money and effort put in fusion had been put in harvesting solar energy I think we would be in better climatic position by now.

    1. Really? I’d rather have the steady power of coal, gas, water, and nuclear myself, then dealing with rolling black/brown outs due to lack of power. Fusion would be a good addition if we could make it work. Obviously solar only works when the sun is shining and the sky isn’t cloudy. Not a good combination when our refrigerators need power. Or it is -40F outside during the winter months. Also it covers/shades a lot of land for the amount of energy you get from it. Last year we had several days where wind was calm across the state, and solar (none at night) was at a minimum during the day due to cloud cover. I guess we could all fire up our home gas/diesel generators to power our houses and wake up the neighborhood… And go back to wood burning which by the way is a renewable resource… Anyway, we need to continue to look for steady state power sources…. And not rely on costly unpredictable bird killing wind machines and solar. BTW, get enough wind mills going and I bet there is some climate changes in the area due to the energy being sucked out of the air…. Possibly same with solar. Unintended consequences of green energy if you go extreme….

      BTW, I am sure there is already lots of research trying to make solar more efficient…. That hasn’t stopped.

      1. If you put your solar cells floating on lakes that are used for public water supplies, where no fishing/boating is allowed, you don’t take up any useful land at all, and you reduce evaporation losses. There is far more surface area of water used in public water supplies and cooling ponds for existing power stations, than the surface area of solar cells needed to supply the entire US with solar power.
        Wind generators kill about 250,000 birds a year. Collisions with windows kill about 10M birds a year. Cats kill two billion birds a year. I’m sure you are 8,000 times more concerned about cats than you are about wind turbines, right?

        1. Put the same solar modules out in a miniscule portion of a handful of deserts and they’ll produce more power be cheaper to install and be even less in the way. The recent power disks in California were not primarily caused by having to high of a portion of our power coming from solar. The primary problem was that in a historic heat wave that covered the whole region, there just want enough power generating capacity here, even during peak solar production and no neighboring states could sell us enough to cover the gap. Also, really very few people lost power. The state being on fire was a MUCH bigger problem.

          Would more hydro or nuclear capacity have helped? Sure, but more solar or wind power would have helped too. Current proportions of intermittent power just aren’t that big a deal with a little excess production capacity and a robust transmission grid.

      2. fusion is also going to have a huge problem with thermal pollution, because any thermodynamic cycle produces waste heat. you start powering the whole world with it and things will heat up.

        you kind of want all the technology. renewables (especially hydro), geothermal (not a renewable), fusion, fission, huge energy storage installations and yes even fossil fuels. why limit ourselves to one kind of power system?

        1. The direct heating from our energy usage is trivial compared to the heat absorbed from the sun. Greenhouse gases cause a small percentage imbalance between heat absorbed by the planet and hear radiated by it. This is just enormously more signification t than the relatively trivial amounts of power we use or the waste hear from generation of that power.

    2. How long / much investment did it take to create a flying machine? After all Da Vinci was already ‘working’ on it.
      Solar (and/or wind) will never provide as solid a solution as fusion can. So there is good reason to keep researching. Of course how much, and whose money is debatable. I would prefer inventors taking the financial risks, but to give some perspective: my country takes part in ITER, but spends nearly 4 times the entire yearly ITER budget on ‘green’-policies. Policies that plenty of times turn out to be poorly conceived. So to day truckloads of money are wasted on fusion research… not where I live.

    3. The sad fact is that even if we started 20 years ago with today’s tech, we would still be behind climate-wise because we simply can’t produce panels fast enough to cover the energy we need, and that’s not taking into account the environmental costs that the manufacture of solar panels entails. If we had started ramping up nuclear 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be having any of these discussions about solar because we can do in 5 year what it takes 20 years for solar to accomplish, and we could start right now and build enough reactors to make it nearly impossible for solar to catch up for 100 years. I’m not saying I don’t want solar, I’m merely saying that if we’d have had far less resistance to nuclear, we would be able to smoothly transition to solar without climate change being a big concern to us. Instead now we’ve got people who want to fix climate change who will be the first to protest something that could actually be a pathway to fix it. We can bicker, or we can act.

      1. What are you comparing the apparently dreadful environmental costs of making solar panels to? Coal burning? Yeah that kills tens of thousands of people a year, whoe solar doesn’t. Hydroelectric dams? Nope. Solar is cleaner. Combined cycle gas plants? Nope. Solar is still cleaner. Even if you didn’t care about greenhouse gases, solar and wind wood still be clear than pretty much anything short of magic unicorn farts. 🦄💨

    4. tokamaks only need a couple orders of magnitude more q for engineering breakeven. jet did q=0.67. scientific breakeven is q=1 and engineering breakeven is q=10. sounds like a lot, but fusion has come a long way. its because of real scientists doing real science.

      i don’t think any fringe fusion concept has anywhere near that much q. that’s no reason not to fund them mind you as some of those concepts are good. and tokamak based power plants aren’t going to solve all our energy problems. there’s still a lot of work towards miniaturization (and tokamaks always want to be bigger) and cost reduction once these things are working. and that’s why some of the fringe projects are important. just don’t trade the cow for the magic beans just yet.

  4. ok serious question…
    long ago, I was told “cold fusion” was basically getting the temps down from a few thousand to a few hundred degrees..

    then suddenly, it’s room temp (that would be max of say 70c…?) . when did that change…?

    1. Part of this is that temperature is a bulk material property. This process is creating local collisions that have enough kinetic energy that if you had a whole room of it you’d be well into the plasma range: thousands of degrees. But since it’s just an atom or two, they do their thing and burp out a tiny bit of heat and the bulk material doesn’t immediately incandesce and vaporize.
      Think of the gamma source as the band starting to play Free Bird and the erbium as a massive concert full of people who are all roughly at ambient temperature but holding these little point sources that are at a thousand degrees.

      1. Negative 40 is the same in both freedom and scientific units; and surprisingly a temperature that some parts of the USA hit on a pretty annual basis. Not just Alaska, the mid-west gets frigid when the jet stream turns south; just asking google Minnesota has hit -60F.

  5. You wrote: ” . . . and only a few of the many people who tried to replicate the experiment claimed success and they later retracted their reports. ” That is incorrect. Hundreds of scientists at over 180 major laboratories replicated cold fusion, and they published these replications in mainstream, peer reviewed physics and chemistry journals. See:

  6. When we figure out how to poke hole patterns in graphene to order (and produce it in bulk) then confinement in graphene lattices might be a goer for this, which will also have the potential of direct electricity extraction from the heat produced.

  7. im gonna wait for the peer review.

    i saw a video on this last night. and keep in mind i watch a lot of videos about fusion research. it seemed very hand wavy with a lot of dramatic synth effects. there are also a couple red flags, they blurred out the labels on their control panel, their lab looked like a dj booth, and they patented it. the comments were awash with youngins thinking they just witnessed a miracle (protip, science is not religion). these things are not good indicators of real science.

  8. this article is a nice theoretical concept , however cold fusion Muon-catalyzed fusion is a real thing , might not work on earth due to lack of muon concetrators but on the Moon or 80miles high it definitely “feasible” or “fusionable” ;) , as Muons are available by collision of high speed protons with air , or amplifiers can be made by added collision of solar/cosmic protons into a carbon or beryllium targets. since muons have high penetration power the smart guys has to do the hard work of moderating the beam my guess is that since they are 200 larger then electrons liquid Argon tanks will do just fine . so again the Moon is the best place for cold fusion .

  9. Nasa GRC is not new to LENR
    They discretely talk of it since long
    There is a nice presentation of thei as word done in 2012

    Thei first work is by Fralick in 89, who noticed heat anomaly in permeation experiments (PdD).
    It was later replicated by Liu 2004, Biberian 2005, again Nasa GRC 2008, and Fralick 2012 again… As always in LENR key is the material, and PdAg alloys used for hydrogen filters are best.
    Nest of best were the Johnson Mattey batch that Fleischman had in stock, but it was old from 1930s, and later remelted, thus destroyed… existing electrodes are reported to work well…

    It is a long story, but if there is no reasonable doubt LENr is a real phenomenon, it is a hell of materrial science and quantum nuclear physics in condensed matter…
    No theory, thus no replication.

    If you are interested in the domaine, start by reading:
    “Excess Heat” by Charles beaudette
    “The science of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction” by Edmund storms
    and many of his papers like “Status of cold fusion in NWS 2010), or his lates book “the explanations of LENR”…
    Most papers are on LENr-CANR org site…
    currently there is much enthusiaams around replication of Tadahiko Mizuno reactor by hackers, which is not an easy job… only replicated in Japan, and China… maybe elsewhere but discrete…

    Search for Brillouin…. they claim control with modest but credible results. Recenly they worked with TeraSpecra for imaging nano Pd, and this is for me the beast approach, to use modern instruments to understand what is happening…

    without a good theory, there is no hope to reproduce and controlle efficiently.

    There is a community in japan, formerly founded by NEDO, around Toyota/Techniva, Nissan, CleanPlanet, a handful of universities, using nanostructured components mixing Pd, Zr, Cu, Ni, O…

    much to study

    1. How much energy does it take to get the reaction? There is also the problem of scale. The way they talk about it it sounds to me they have made a “Mr Fusion” for the DeLorean from “Back To The Future”. Marty will be very interested in this.

  10. Basically back then it was politically named “cold fusion” to throw cold water on the concept of nuclear reactions occurring in such situations, as the thought was quantum physics as known then did not support it…to create a mindset that this was not going to produce net energy…however those in the “know” understand this is continuation of same kind of work, never mind the politics…the linear perturbation necessary to create the nonlinear interactions can be different in different situations, but the underlying science is the same, talking since 1984 (yes, 1984 on this)…

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