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Old 04-08-2009, 08:08 AM   #1
Dr. Drib
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Cold Fusion - To Be Or Not To Be

A pipedream?

There was an experiment last May, in Japan. Does anyone have any follow-up on that experiment that took place?

Here's the webpage referencing that experiment:

http://www.physorg.com/news131101595.html

Cold Fusion was very controversial 20 years ago (and remains sporadically so today), when Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons said they had achieved a cold fusion reaction.

The following is an excerpt taken from this webpage: http://www.tech-faq.com/cold-fusion.shtml

"The term "cold fusion" became popular in 1989 when two scientists (Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons) announced that they were able to achieve a cold fusion reaction - something previously thought impossible given scientific theory.

"The initial euphoria over the achievement of turned to controversy when other scientists claimed they were unable to replicate the test results. This led to charges that the two scientists had either doctored their data or became embroiled in wishful thinking. The controversy, which was widely reported in scientific publications and the media, ended with both scientists in disgrace.

"In the years since, however, various scientists have achieved cold fusion reactions using a variety of approaches. Scientists at UCLA, for example, used a small lithium tantalite crystal (a pyroelectric substance that forms an electric charge when heated) placed within a hydrogen-filled chamber. When they warmed the crystal (from -30 F to 45 F), a 100,000-volt electrical field formed across the small crystal. A metal wire placed near the crystal discharged the electrical charge at a single point - and the hydrogen atoms in the chamber started smacking into other hydrogen atoms. The scientists noted the creation of helium nuclei, the release of high-energy radiation and free neutrons - all signs of fusion reaction. Similar results, using other methods, have been reported at various scientific installations.

"Unfortunately, cold fusion as a cheap, reliable energy source is still currently unlikely. While the above experiments appear to prove the feasibility of fusion reactions without the need for gigantic equipment or massive amounts of energy, power output generated is still way below the amount of actual energy used."



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Old 04-08-2009, 09:56 AM   #2
Steven Lyle Jordan
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I always suspected that Fleischmann and Pons managed to misinterpret the results they obtained as what they called "cold fusion"... I believe that what they witnessed was some other previously unknown effect entirely, not a CF reaction.

However, I also suspect the reaction they witnessed may indeed be useful... the details must be cracked first. But almost limitless clean power? Not quite.
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Old 04-09-2009, 02:21 PM   #3
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Following from a recent Scientific American Blog:

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has announced that the world's biggest laser is ready to start blasting away after 12 years in the making. The $3.5-billion stadium-size National Ignition Facility (NIF), housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, Calif., consists of 192 separate beams, each of which stands as the most energetic ever built, says LLNL spokesperson Bob Hirschfeld. Very much like the Death Star, the gigantic space station
in the movie series Star Wars (“That’s no moon,” speaketh Obi Wan Kenobi), the beams will focus on a single point to unleash their full, joint potential. The
target: a BB-size pellet of frozen hydrogen in the center of a 33-foot- (10-meter-) diameter chamber. The ultraviolet lasers should heat the pellet to hundreds of millions of degrees, forcing nuclear fusion to occur—the same superhigh heat and pressure atomic reaction that fuels the stars.

Scientists have long hailed fusion as the ultimate clean energy source—hydrogen is abundant, though producing
and storing it remains economically unattractive. Unit for unit, though, the amount of energy that could be generated via fusion with even a tiny bit of hydrogen fuel
is astronomical (think: E=mc2) compared to any other power-making scheme in operation today. Crucially, the lab expects to generate a net amount of energy, reaching the milestone that has plagued other laboratory attempts at developing fusion as a future energy source, according to Hirschfeld. A fusion reaction requires an immense amount of energy to get going, robbing its potential power output, and harvesting and storing that energy is another task altogether.

Currently, NIF’s lasers cannot fire anywhere near quickly enough to sustainedly produce energy, Hirschfeld says, noting that not one watt of energy for commercial
purposes will come out of NIF, which stands as a proof of principle experiment. Beyond gunning for fusion, NIF could also one day focus its lasers on burning up some of the spent nuclear fuel from power plants that now sits in on-site pools or cement casks. For years, the U.S. and other nations have grappled with what to
do with this radioactive waste. (The Obama administration recently canned long-standing plans to bury it in Nevada's Yucca Mountain.) NIF, or a facility
based on its technology, could use these leftover fissile materials in place of the hydrogen pellet to generate power, while getting rid of volatile nuclear material.
Other NIF missions include updating supercomputer simulations of the nation’s aging nuclear stockpile, which cannot be tested due to a 1992 moratorium.

Astrophysics work on the fusion in stars and materials science will also take place at NIF. ("We'll be squeezing materials harder than they have ever been squeezed,” Hirschfeld says.) Despite any Darth Vader–like urges to the contrary, though, the NIF lasers will not see service in blowing up rebellious planets.
Inside the targeting chamber at NIF. The target positioner extends from the right. Laser Bay 2 (of two) where the lasers are generated at NIF
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:34 PM   #4
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Unlike cold fusion, I can well believe more conventional fusion has a chance at success. But the engineering hurdles required to produce enough useful power to pump back into the system and maintain the reaction, and still have plenty of power for output to commercial use, are still huge.

And no, I don't think there's a "cold" equivalent. That's probably a good thing, though: If there were a workable "cold" fusion process, this planet probably would have stumbled upon it by some natural process, and blown this planet to Kingdom Come long ago...
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Old 04-09-2009, 05:53 PM   #5
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Go have a look at the "Should Google go Nuclear?" lecture. The process described there seems more promising than "cold fusion" at this point. And it would be relatively cheap to confirm (or rule out) whether or not it works -- 20-50 million dollars.

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Old 04-09-2009, 07:39 PM   #6
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That's really interesting Xenophon.
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Old 04-10-2009, 03:53 PM   #7
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One of the interesting things about it is that the late Dr. Bussard was anything but a kook. He was an extremely highly respected physicist. That doesn't mean that his device will work, just that it's probably worth pursuing.

And since the cost to pursue it would be a small percentage of the big-fusion folks' budget, why not?

Thoughts, anyone?

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Old 04-10-2009, 04:43 PM   #8
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I certainly hope it's "Not to be". Some technologies you want high barriers to entry. Imagine Ted Kaczynski with backpackable cold fusion warheads made from Radio Shack parts. Now imagine Hamas with them. RefPopCulture: a "The Outer Limits" episode.

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Old 04-10-2009, 05:07 PM   #9
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What exactly is cold fusion? Isn't the way a nuclear reactor generates energy by generating heat which heats water which turn steam turbines? What good is "cold" fusion going to do?

Current reactors use fission right?

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Old 04-10-2009, 05:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Tingle View Post
I certainly hope it's "Not to be". Some technologies you want high barriers to entry. Imagine Ted Kaczynski with backpackable cold fusion warheads made from Radio Shack parts. Now imagine Hamas with them. RefPopCulture: a "The Outer Limits" episode.

Regards,
Jack Tingle
The thing about fusion is that it does not react like fission, the chain-reaction that happens inside a nuclear bomb (or, yes, a nuclear plant). It's not even as effective as explosives to set off a fission reaction. So it's not likely that it could be used as a weapon in itself... though if it's portable enough, maybe it could provide the electric power for a good missile-felling laser...
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Old 04-10-2009, 05:50 PM   #11
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BOb,

My understanding is that current nuclear reactors work on the principle of fission, which could be described as 'cold fission'. Energy is released when fission occurs and you don't have to supply energy to create the fission process -- just amass enough fissionable material and the fission process will happen on its own. Fussion on the other hand takes a considerable amount of energy to initiate, but 'cold fussion' (if it worked) would be a process similar to fission in that no external energy (or very little) would be required to initiate the fusion process, which like fission releases a lot of energy.
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Old 04-10-2009, 05:52 PM   #12
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Ah thank you. So "cold" means like a cold start... no external energy is needed to start or sustain it. That make sense now.

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Old 04-10-2009, 07:11 PM   #13
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With so much global warming, I think cold fusion is becoming less likely.
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Old 04-10-2009, 08:31 PM   #14
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BOb,
-- just amass enough fissionable material and the fission process will happen on its own. Fussion on the other hand takes a considerable amount of energy to initiate
No, actually it's only a matter of scale, amass enough fusionable material and the fusion process will happen. It happens all the time inside stars.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the scale required is bigger that the Earth.
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Old 04-10-2009, 11:22 PM   #15
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What exactly is cold fusion? Isn't the way a nuclear reactor generates energy by generating heat which heats water which turn steam turbines? What good is "cold" fusion going to do?

Current reactors use fission right?

BOb
"Cold Fusion" is usually used to describe the mostly-discredited process in which Drs. Pons and Fleishman put a palladium electrode in a ??water?? ??heavy-water?? (I forget which) bath and thought that they got out more energy than they put in -- and also more energy than could be explained by simple chemical reactions.

It was "cold" because the apparent fusion was taking place at temperatures within a few 100 degrees C of room temperature. Traditional hydrogen fusion requires temperatures like those in the Sun (thus "hot").

I wrote "mostly-discredited" above because there's a ton of controversy over the whether the experiments "worked", the "science by press conference" approach whereby the possible breakthrough was announced to the press long before any other labs had the opportunity to attempt duplication, whether P&F measured what they thought they measured, whether or not P&F engaged in outright fraud, or ???

Many attempts at duplication failed completely. A few experiments produced results that were odd enough lead to continued (slow) work. "Physics letters" -- which had dumped the entire topic as bogus -- has been taking papers on similar processes again for the last five or six years.

The last word I got by asking a physicist was that there may or may not be some not-yet-fully-understood effect happening, but that it's not at all easy to pin down, and may never be useful. The same physicist also said that P&F were depending on calorimetry results -- and that calorimetry is one of the experimental techniques where it is easy to make subtle mistakes that destroy all hope of valid results.
Disclaimer for the last two paragraphs: Physics isn't my field. I got an explanation from a physicist that I trust, but I may have misremembered or misunderstood. Your mileage may vary; objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
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