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Is there a third route to produce nuclear energy?

Cold fusion has not been accepted by mainstream scientists


Occurrence of nuclear reactions at room temperatures has been confirmed

Condensed matter nuclear science promises decentralised, small, captive power packs


At a time when there is an intense debate going on in the country on the Indo-US nuclear deal, and the role of nuclear power in meeting our future energy needs, it may be worth taking note of the fact that nuclear fission reactors (and in a longer time frame thermo nuclear fusion) are not the only routes available to tap the immense energy locked in the atomic nucleus.

Controversial

A third route — cold fusion (CF) — does exist. The cold fusion approach was disclosed in 1989 by two electro-chemists — Fleischmann and Pons in the U.S.

The phenomenon, once known as cold fusion, but now more accurately regarded as low energy nuclear reactions, represents a significant paradigm shift in our understanding of nuclear phenomena. It is unfortunate that CF got embroiled in a worldwide controversy. And that is because according to our current understanding of nuclear physics the kind of low energy nuclear reactions apparently occurring in cold fusion devices cannot and should not happen.

Are we to believe the new experimental findings and change our theories or are we going to cling to our age old concepts and refuse to face facts? This is the dilemma facing nuclear physicists the world over. Immense resistance to accepting a paradigm shift is common to science. History is replete with such instances. During the last two decades, many dedicated groups comprising several hundreds of scientists in about a dozen countries have continued to pursue the subject to unravel the mystery behind what has now come to be re-christened as Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (CMNS).

There is an international professional society dedicated to the study of CMNS ( www.iscmns.org).

High loading

The experiments show that when deuterium (or at times even hydrogen) atoms are inserted (or loaded) inside a metal such as palladium, titanium, nickel etc, occupying interstitial lattice positions in sufficiently large numbers (we call it “high loading ratios”) and if the right ‘Nuclear Active Environment’ is created, a variety of nuclear reactions are found to occur involving not only the deuterium nuclei but also the host metal atoms.

In this process ‘excess energy’ is often found to be produced and in some cases nuclear particles such as neutrons, X-rays or even charged particles are released.

But increasingly it has been observed that new ‘transmutation’ elements not present prior to the commencement of the experiments have been detected.

The occurrence of such nuclear reactions at ‘room’ temperatures has been confirmed in diverse experimental conditions and configurations such as electrolysis experiments, glow discharge devices and even simple gas loading configurations.

Most of the scientific papers published to date in this fascinating and emergent area of research are available in the website www.lenr.org.

There are over a dozen books recording the CMNS story and the latest authored by Dr. Edmund Storms, formerly of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and titled ‘The Science of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions’ has just been published by World Scientific.

Stunning experiments

I would urge the sceptic nuclear physicists to study one of the most stunning experiments demonstrating low energy nuclear transmutations carried out by Iwamura et al of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan wherein four deuterium nuclei are absorbed simultaneously by a caesium nucleus to produce praseodymium during a simple gas permeation process. (Iwamura’s papers are downloadable from the lenr website given above.)

This writer attended the 13th International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF-13) held at Sochi, Russia in June 2007. Dr. Igor Goryachev of the prestigious Kurchatov Institute announced in the concluding session that he expects to have a 100 KW ‘alchemical reactor’ ready for demonstration at ICCF-14 to be held during August 2008!

It may be recalled that Kurchatov Institute is where the first Soviet hydrogen bomb was developed and the TOKAMAK fusion reactor concept was invented.

It is believed that the Russian alchemical reactor is probably based on the ‘cavitation heater’ concept. Such heaters are being sold commercially to heat homes during the intensely cold Siberian winters ( www.ahdynamics.ru or http:// akoil. ru/en). Condensed Matter Nuclear Science thus promises the potential development of decentralised, small, captive nuclear power packs heralding a new era of gridless electricity.

At a time when India’s economic might and intellectual prowess are growing, it is a most opportune moment for Indian science and industry to get into the fray. Interestingly unlike fission or hot-fusion research, CMNS research costs very little.

M. SRINIVASAN

Former Scientist, BARC ( chino37@gmail.com)

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