What is cold fusion as we understand it today? The answer is: “nobody really knows.”
It is certainly not nuclear fusion as we understand it because the transmutation of elements as described by those who purport to have developed cold fusion reactors defies the laws of physics. Once the quest of medieval alchemists, transmutation of the elements sought a way to convert dross metals like lead and turn them into gold. Well it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work today, that is, unless you compress two chemical elements with such force that they fuse to create a new element and emit elementary particles, gamma rays and a ton of heat. But that is not cold fusion. That’s what processes in the Sun do, and what a tokamak reactor does. And that’s the force behind hydrogen bombs.
But nothing to date quite explains the anomalous excess heat that appears to be the outcome of the chemistry that goes on in low-energy nuclear reactors or LEN-Rs, the newer term for what Pons and Fleischmann initially called cold fusion. When they first announced they had discovered anomalous heat in their experiment they were using deuterium (heavy water) and palladium. The interaction between these two was reported by them to be fusion although they found no evidence of fusion having actually occurred. There were no elementary particles discharged. And certainly no transmutation of deuterium to another element. What they observed was anomalous heat.
But if fusion were occurring what would it look like? Two deuterium atoms fusing together could become Tritium, Helium 3 or Helium 4. In all three cases elementary particles and gamma rays would be byproducts. But Pons and Fleischmann never detected any of these three elements, nor the elementary particles, just anomalous heat.
That takes us to Andrea Rossi, who I have written about on several occasions in the past. He is the developer of the E-Cat which he describes as a low energy nuclear reactor or LEN-R. He claims that in combining powdered nickel and hydrogen and introducing a secret catalyst that the output is transmutation to copper with anomalous heat as the byproduct.
Rossi is seen by many to be a fraud. Recent tests of his E-Cat however indicated net power output six times greater than input. How could that be? Well one thing we don’t know about Rossi’s device is what’s under the covers. He calls it a catalyst and has declared it an industrial trade secret. When he has attempted to file patents for the device, however, they have been rejected. And the recent independent testing that has verified anomalous heat output did not get a peak inside to see what physically is happening. Not only that the testers reported “that the device was already in operation when the trial began,” that observation cameras and sensors were placed by Rossi and not the independent team, and that elements introduced into the device were not weighed prior to the test. Does this suggest a bit of larceny? Perhaps! One thing we do know, Rossi’s claim that what is happening, the transmutation of nickel and hydrogen to copper and heat, is not possible under any current known physical laws.
But what Rossi is peddling is not the same as what Pons and Fleischmann detected. And that remains a mystery that to-date no single theory explains. A simple explanation may be that we are witnessing spontaneous combustion occurring when two chemical elements in the presence of a third generate a catalytic heat response. To date 66 different theories have been propounded to explain what Pons and Fleischmann observed. But one thing for sure as an article published in Forbes yesterday stated, we know there is anomalous heat but the term “cold fusion” needs to go away so that the alchemy and magic is finally removed from the equation.