Josh Hall gave a talk on the history of Cold Fusion

Josh Hall [J Storrs Hall] gave a recent talk and went into the history of cold fusion at a level of detail that most people are not familiar with. For example: he recounted how when Fleischmann and Pons were experimenting with their device they had been using .75 amps for over a month to load the Palladium with Deuterium, and when nothing appeared to be happening they doubled the amperage to 1.5 and left it overnight. When they came in the next morning the device had not only melted through the tabletop, leaving a hole about a foot in diameter, but also melted about four inches into the concrete floor beneath the table. He went on the recount some of the sordid details about the ensuing politics which forced F&P to rush into a press conference before they were actually ready to report anything.

Josh mentioned Steven E. Jones work with muon-catalyzed fusion at about the same time as being a factor in that haste. The quote he used to sum up that whole scene was particularly apt: “If you’re not taking flak — you’re not over the target”. He then went into the subsequent history of the field, mentioning researchers like Huizenga & Ramsey, SRI, SPAWAR, Mizuno, Energetics Inc in Israel (fractal waveform solution), and many others. He continued with a “State of the Art” section which included a kind of wish-list of characteristics like: reproducibility on demand, a COP of over 100, and controllability of codeposition, temperature, pressure, magnetic fields, etc. The two leading theorists in his opinion are Peter Hagelstein and Widom-Larsen. He then mentioned the half dozen or more companies on the verge of commercialization, like: Clean Planet (Mizuno), Jet Energy, Brillouin, Industrial Heat (Rossi), Mitsubishi, Toyota, Defkalion, etc.

After Josh Hall described the Fleischmann/Pons “meltdown” (foot-sized hole in lab bench, 4-inch hole in concrete floor), it turns out that there was a retired professor in the audience who had been at the University at the time and had actually seen it.

The Meltdown incident was well described by Charles Beaudette in his book “Excess Heat”, in Chapter 3. Starting on page 35

An early experiment consisted of a one-centimeter cube of palladium suspended in a flask of heavy water containing dissolved lithium metal. Pons’s son Joey, who did not have technical training, was a quick, intelligent helper, and he worked for his father as a sort of sorcerer’s apprentice. By the late fall of 1984, the experiment had been running continuously for several months. At one point, Pons raised the current from its nominal rate of 0.75 amperes to 1.5 amperes, and at the end of the day, sent Joey to turn off the current. They left the laboratory for the night.

Joey came in the next morning and found the experiment in a shambles. Fleischmann and Pons reported in their Preliminary Note, “. . . a substantial portion of the [palladium] fused (melting point 1,554C), part of it vapourised, and the cell and contents and a part of the fume cupboard housing the experiment were destroyed.”

Kevin Ashley was a graduate student of Pons in the chemistry department. He witnessed the scene the morning after the meltdown. “This one morning I walk in, the door is open and Pons and Fleischmann are in the room with Joey. The lab is a mess and there is particulate dust in the air. On this lab bench are the remnants of an experiment. The bench was one of those black top benches that was made of very, very hard material. There were cabinets under one end of the bench, but the experiment was near the middle where there was nothing underneath. I was astonished that there was a hole through the thing. The hole was about a foot in diameter. Under the hole was a pretty good sized pit in the concrete floor. It may have been as much as four inches deep.

“What really surprised me,” Ashley continued, “was that Stan and Martin Fleischmann had these looks on their faces as though they were the cat that had just swallowed the canary. They were clearly not displeased with this mess. They were happy about what had happened. I was rather surprised by this; very surprised by this.” Ashley was also able to identify the room in which the event took place as Room 1113 in the north Henry Eyring Building (HEB).

Other persons who were members of the chemistry department during these years have helped to identify the time at which it happened. The building of the south HEB was sufficiently completed during 1984 that the chemistry department was able to move its offices and laboratories over the Christmas holiday season of 1984 which ran from December 7 to January 2 that year. At that time, the cold fusion laboratory was moved into Room 1113. The “meltdown” occurred sometime during the next two months.

Fleischmann and Pons were both elated and chagrined by this event. They knew well how to compute the energy content in hydrogen escaping from palladium. The energy released was much too great to be accounted for by that phenomenon. If it was not a chemical effect then where could so much energy come from? They had succeeded with their little experiment; they also realized the risk they had inadvertently taken. They say they scanned the area with some sort of detector device to see if a dangerous level of radioactivity was present. They thought they saw some increase above the usual background levels, but they concluded that the nuclear process that delivered such high levels of energy was largely without radioactivity. That lack of evident radioactivity was parallel to their later claim of only a few neutrons.

SOURCES – Ecatworld, LENR-Forum, tsinghua.edu.cn

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