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192) Oriani solid effect at my lab

Ludwik Kowalski (December 1, 2004)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043


One can consider this to be a continuation of my unit #188. It is an open electronic logbook to tell what I am doing in trying to observe Oriani-solid effect for the third time. Part of the experiment is to be performed at my home (electrolysis) and part at Montclair State University (where the microscope is located). Here is what I have done so far.

1) CR-39 detectors were put in contact with everything to be used (for 7 days) in the cell: (Ni foil, glass tube, O-ring, powdered Li2SO4, water and platinum.) I will etch these detectors tomorrow . But will not waste time on counting tracks until this becomes important.

2) The cell was assembled (as illustrated in Figure 1 of the unit #188) and I used water to make sure there is no leak. The Pt wire (0.5 mm diameter is rigid enough to be used without a stopper. About 13 cm of the wire was enough to make a horizontal spiral and the vertical lead with a hook). The hook goes over the rim of the upper tube; that keeps the cathode in a fixed position. The horizontal spiral, anode. is 13 mm above the nickel foil (cathode). The amount of electrolyte above the cathode is about 4 cm.

3) The experiment started at 23:30 today (December 1, 2004). To get the current of 0.10 A I had to raise the potential difference across the cell to 7.5 V. That is how the cell is running now. At the very beginning I checked how the current depends on the voltage; the cell needs 16.5 V to have the current of 0.30 A. The cell does not behave as a linear resistor. I noticed that it is not very stable. Each time I return to the same current I need a slightly different voltage. I guess this has to do with the fluctuating number of bubbles. The electrolyte of milky, as it was in Minneapolis.

4) Four CR-39 detectors were positioned: one below the cathode and three along the outer walls of the upper tube. Oriani told me that he often detected particles in detectors facing the tube. Note that the upper tube is open and that the detector placed below the Ni cathode (in the air) is only 1.5 mm away. In that way the geometry of exposing the cathode to CR-39 will be essentially the same during the electrolysis and after the electrolysis.

5) More tomorrow; it has been a busy day (the day on which the DOE report was finally released).

December 2, 2004

6) It is hard to sleep when a decisive experiment is running. The voltage needed to keep the cell current at the 0.10 A level is now very steady; it is 7.0 V. It was 7.5 V when I went to sleep. Also bubbling is much less intense. I suppose that the bubbles seen during the beginning of the electrolysis were mostly air. (P.S. some water evaporated. I ˇrestored the level of electrolyte by adding about ten drops of water. This was done with a pipette while the cell was running. In this way the concentration of the electrolyte was restored. The voltage needed for 0.1 A is again close to 7.5 V. The volume of the electrolyte in my cell is 9 cc; most of it is in the column above the anode.)

7) I think that I should place a fresh CR-39 chip below the cathode when I double the current. I can easily do this without turning the current off. Why not? If particles I expect to detect are as numerous as they were in Minnesota then my track density after 24 hours is much higher, because my detector is nearly in contact with the cathode. And I might see particles that would be filtered by 1.5 cm of air.

8) The volts-amps relation for my cell (Ni cathode and Pt anode separated by 13 mm) is not linear. Why? The electrolyte was made by dissolving 2.36 grams of Li2OH4 in 100 cc of H2O. Does it imply avalanching of ions? Keep in mind that this open electronic logbook Kis for those who are interested in details and, perhaps, performing the experiment at the same time. I hope some of them will answer my question (by sending a message to me at , or comment on what I am doing.

9) Richard Oriani who I asked about the voltage needed by cell seems to be larger than that needed by his cell, wrote: “A voltage of 7.5 volts is perfectly acceptable. You must remember that most of the voltage is used to overcome the resistance in the electrolyte. Apply whatever voltage is necessary to get the current that you want.” But then he added. “I hope that you etched and counted preexisting tracks before the electrolysis.” No I did not do this; I have a control chip, several meters away from the cell. It will give me the background to subtract. Oriani’s approach is essential when one dIeals with situations in which the signal is only several times larger than the noise (background). The success for me, in this first experiment would be a signal similar to that we had from two experiments in Minnesota. Repeatable strong effect is needed to convince skeptics. Yes, I know that even this is likely to be “not enough.” What motivates me, at this stage, is confidence in scientific ways (as opposed to bureaucratic ways) of solving controversies in natural sciences.

10) It would be so much easier to work with an electronic (surface barrier) detector. Instead of waiting days I would know what happens each hour. I hope that somebody with that instrument, after reading this logbook, will construct a similar cell to study Oriani-solid effect. Please send them to me and I will be happy to post them in a dedicated unit.

Figure 1

11) Pictures showing my cell. Figure 2 is the operating cell. Note the three CR-39 detectors (two very small and one much larger) facing the upper tube. The detector below the cathode is not visible, only its pedestal. The screws pressing the flange joints toward each other are also the legs on which my open cell is standing. Figure 3 shows the cell and its spiral platinum wire (before the unused part of it was cut). The HCl (1 N water solution) was used to wash platinum (for 24 hrs) to remove possible dirt introduced by my fingers (in making the spiral cathode). That what Oriani does.

Figure 2

12) The voltage needed to keep the current constant changes from time to time. Sometimes it goes up or down by 10% or so. I suppose this has to do with changes occuring at the surface of the cathode. To keep the concentration of the electrolyte constant I add drops water, every several hours or so.

13) In the spirit of trying to reproduce the November 16 experiment in Minneapolis I decided not to change CR-39 detectors when I change currents, first to 0.20 A (tonight) and then to 0.30 A (tomorrow night). The third detector will remain in place for 24 hours (when I will be 0.3 A). Then the current will be cut off and the fourth detector will be used for about 24 hrs. This will be the first post-electrolysis exposure. It will be followed by the second and third exposures, for example, 24 hours each. Stay with me to share the excitment. I do not know if that excitment will come from a confirmation of the two effects or from the failure to confirm. The effects are: (a) emission of nuclear particles from the cathode during the electrolysis and (b) emission of such particles after the electrolysis.

14) An interesting observation. In watching the cell and the ammeter for about 15 minutes I noticed repetitive oscillations of the current. The current remains constant for about 3 minutes. During that time tiny bubbles are rising along the upper tube, like smoke in air. This must be oxygen and hydrogen. Then, for about one minute, the current starts decreasing monotonically (from 0.10 A to about 0.6 A). The tiny bubbles are rising as before. At one moment, however, I see a big bubble of gas (perhaps one cc) escaping through the tube. It is probably created below the cathode. Once this big bubble is out the current returns to 0.10 A and the cycle repeats itself. I suppose that the drop of current reflects the growth of the big bubble in the electrolyte between the cathode and the anode. (it changes the resistance). But can big bubbles be explained? I have no idea. If they are mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen then they are probably dangerous.

15) That is not what I observed after changing the current from 0.10 to 0.20 A (at 20:30 after using the current of 0.1 A for 21 hours). The intensity of tiny bobbles did increase, as expected, but big bubbles were popping up again, very regularly. This time I measured durations. After remaining constant for 43 seconds (I=0.20 A) the current started to go down to 0.12 A for 35 seconds. Then it jumped back to 0.20 A and the cycle repeated itself. Sudden returning to 0.20 A always coincided with big bubbles. Perhaps the shape of the anode could be designed to prevent this. On the other hand, the big bubbles may be growing on scratches Oriani said might play a role. In any case I observe a dynamic process that may somehow be responsible for a nuclear phenomenon. After all, some well known phenomena depend on the rate of change of current rsther than on the current itself. Yes, I know, such speculations are more poetic than scientific. I do not have a theory to guide me; this is a facts-gathering experiment. The task is to confirm, or to cotradict, a clame made by Oriani. The claim is that an electrochemical process induces emission of nuclear particles.

16) Aha; by watching at a proper angle (through the conical part of the flange joint) and after optimizing the illumination, I was able to observe growing of large bubbles. This happens below the spiral anode, at a point there the cathode and the inner surface of the tube touch each other. Just before escaping the layer of gas covers abour 1/4 of the surface of the anode. I guess the diameter of my spiral anode should have been slightly smaller, and spaces beteen the widings a little larger. Then there would be no current fluctuations due to big bubbles.I guess the diameter of my spiral anode should have been slightly smaller. Then there would be no bubbles, I think. The temperature of the electrolyte, at 0.20 A, is 28 degrees C (measured by inserting a mercury thermometer for about two minutes).

December 3, 2004

17) So far the current was 0.10 A during the first 21 hours and 0.20 A during the next 24 hours. I just changed it to 0.30 A. The big bubbles now come every 40 seconds; During that time the current changes from 0.30 A to 0.1.80 A. My average current is thus close to 0.24 A but I will call 0.30. In the same way the so-called 0.20 A was actually a little bit smaller.

18) Before changing the current I removed one of the two small CR-39 detectors that were positioned next to the glass tube in air. A fresh Cr-39 detector was placed into the same position. I want to know if the higher current produces more tracks per hour than the lower currents. I still have two detectors that will be been exposed to glass for the entire time of electrolysis. And the detector under the nickel cathode will be replaced only after the current is turned off.

19) It is clear that the water level goes down more rapidly than before. Water escapes after being decomposed into oxygen and hydrogen; its temperature is now 49 C. It takes about three hours to lower the level of water by one centimeter. I will have to add water more often now (to keep the concentration more or less stable), for example every two or three hours.

20) What is the etching time? I already know, form experience, that the NaOH, whose temperature and concentration are 65 C and 6.5 N, etches very well in about 6 hours. Etching times that are too short produce tracks that are too small (hard to distinguish from dirt). Too long etching times might destroy shallow tracks (by taking away the layer in which they reside). To decide the optimum etching time (CR-39 from two different suppliers) I irradiated small detectors with alpha particles and etched them for times of 2, 4, 7, 9.3, 12.5 and 14.5 hours. A similar task, for CR-39 from the third supplier, was assigned to a student working with me on something else (radon detection project). One CR-39 chip, from the material she is using, was etched for 5.5 hours.

I will examine all these chips tomorrow. But how do I know that what is best for alpha particles (my Am-241 source was removed from an ionization fire alarm) is also best for the unknown particles coming out of the cathode? That is the dilemma. Without knowing what these particles are one has to be lucky to make the best compromise. It is possible that the numbers of tracks counted by Oriani were due to a small fraction of particles that were actually intercepted by the detector. Some of his observations (not yet published) are consistent with this. That is why I decided to position my detector only 1 mm from the cathode (rather than 15 mm as we had in Minneapolis) two weeks ago. No harm can result from bringing the detector closer.

December 4, 2004

21) Today I measured diameters of pits (tracks) made in CR-39 by alpha particles emitted from my Am-241. Etching times were from 2 hours (the shortest) to 14.5 hours (the longest). I used the NaOH of 6.5 N and 65 C; the chips were from Landauer. (see item #184). Tracks become visible after 2 hours, but their diameters were too small (about one micron). Such tracks are hard to recognize because other small dots (dirt, and surface deffects) are also present. At four hours the track sizes are close to 3 microns. Then their sizes grow linearly with up to about 14 microns for the etching time of 14.5 hours. I would not be surprised to see a different curve for 2 MeV because their tracks are shallower. I will etch my detectors for ten hours; this produces pits which are easy to recognize, even when the surface of the detector has scratches and dirt. Cr-39 from two other suppliers (see item #184) produced essentially the same track diameters as those from Landauer after the etching time of 5.5 hours.

My advise to those who want to study CANA phenomena (Chemically Assisted Nuclear Activity) with CR-39 detectors should always produce a chip irradiated by alpha particles. That chip should be etched together with other experimental detectors. In that way one can always be sure that etching conditions were satisfactory. Trivial mistakes, such as wrong concentration of NaOH, or using a plastic chip that is not CR-39, would be immediately recognized.

22) I changed my mind, after writing the above. I will etch my chips twice, first for 6 hours and then for another 6 hours. This will give me a chance to examine the chips twice; I do not want to miss a chance of seeing tracks that might disappear after 10 hours of etching.

23) I will end the electrolysis tonight. For some reason the current is no longer oscillating; the big bubbles stopped popping up. perhaps the room temperature, or pressure, is not the same as yesterday. Yes, I know that a pathological skeptic might say: “Your experimental results can not be taken seriously because you are not controlling all parameters.” But s/he would say this only if a lot of nuclear particles were detected; the failure to confirm Oriani’s discovery would be applauded. Why wasn’t scientific methodology used by scientists appointed by the DOE to reevaluate cold fusion claims? Instead of trying to replicate selected experiments, such as generation of helium or emission of protons, they asked for written reports. Then they wrote what they think about the reports. I would prefer them to be investigators, nor jurors.

Scientific disputes should be addressed scientifically. The Oriani effect I am investigating (with nickel and ordinary water) can not be “cold fusion.” I never met a scientist who thinks that “cold fusion,” a reaction in which two isolated deuterium ions fuse at ordinary temperatures, is possible. Was the effect Oriani effect examined by the DOE jury? What did the jurors know about it? One day before the DOE review report was published -- what a coincidence -- I sent an e-mail massage to the DOE investigators (via Dr. Decker). It was a reference to my already-posted unit #188. This was too late to influence the outcome of the DOE report. But was my message delivered to them? I do not know.

27) The current of 0.30 A has been flowing through the cell for nearly 25 hours; it will soon be cut off. Before doing this I want to describe what I am going to do next.

a) Removing the Pt anode and applying a detector to it.

b) Emptying the electrolyte into a small beaker and dropping a detector into it.

c) Removing the upper tube and applying four detectors to the nickel cathode, on the side that was wet during the electrolysis. Each of these four detectors has the area of one square centimeter, just enough to cover the entire foil (including the areas that were not in contact with the electrolyte).

d) Removing the detector that was below the nickel foil during the electrolysis and replacing it with a fresh detector. The counting geometry will be exactly the same as during the electrolysis. All fresh detectors will remain in place till tomorrow. After that they will be removed and replaced by fresh detectors. Then the removed detectors will all be etched and examined.

The name of the game is good labeling and good documentation. Preliminary results of observations will be posted here, probably not later than on Monday. Further plans will depend on these results. My wife said that since the effect is known to be only 60% reproducible, and since I was lucky to see it twice, then “it is about time” for a failure. She said this laughingly, of course.

28) All went as anticipated. The current during the electrolysis was 0.10 A during the first 21 hours, 0.2 during the next 24 hours and 0.30 in the remaining 25.5 hours. The end of the electrolysis was at 22:00 on 12/4/04. That will be called “zero time” for the rest of the experiment (in case particles are emitted after the end of electrolysis), as they were in Minneapolis.

December 5, 2004

29) Five Cr-39 chips are being etched now:

(A) was below the nickel cathode (1 mm away in air). 
(B) was several meters away to measure the background. 
(C) was in contact with glass (outside the tube) at all three currents.
(D) was in contact with glass (outside the tube) only at I =0.1 A and 0.2 A.
(E) was in contact with glass (outside the tube) only at I =0.3 A.
The first post-electrolysis accumulation of tracks (on chips listed below) will continue. For how long? It depends what I will see on the chip (A) after 6 hrs of etching (in about an hour). If I see a lot of tracks then I will stop the accumulation at once and will start another one with fresh detectors. Otherwise I will wait another day or two.
(F1, F2, F3, F4) are in contact with the cathode (on the side that was wet).
(G) is in contact with the cathode (side that was dry during the electrolysis).
(H) is in contact with the platinum anode (on the surface that was facing the cathode).
(I) is in contact with the electorolyte (floating on top of in a beaker). 
(J) is in contact with the inner wall of the upper tube.
(K) is outside to measure the background.
30) I did stop etching after 6 hours and examined the chip (A). I did not see any obvious tracks. Therefore I decided to etch all five chips (from A to E, as above) for another six or seven hours. I would have to wait till tomorrow to know if the expected effect was confirmed in another attempt to replicate it. If it is not confirmed then I will repeat the experiment two or three more times. Failure to confirm several times could be an indication that the cell used in Minneapolis was somehow contaminated with an alpha radioactive substance. One does not need a lot of thorium, or uranium, to generate several alpha particles per hour. On the other hand, the idea of contamination seems to be conflict with the fact that Oriani often fails to observe the effects in his cell. A contaminated cell would always produce excessive tracks, not only 60% of the time.

31) The following message from Oriani, received last night, might provide another explanation of my anticipated failure. Richard wrote;” . . . In view of our ignorance of what concentration is best for the nuclear effect it is probably wise to let the concentration vary over a large range by letting the electrolyte volume decrease a great deal before adding water to replenish the solution. . . .” By adding water frequently (to keep the level of the electrolyte constant) I was not allowing the concentration to change. In other words, my first experiment at home might have missed the necessary concentration. Another explanation might be in water. Trying to follow Richard’s footsteps I used tap water. But who said that water in New Jersey contains same impurities as water in Minnesota? The secret might be in the impurities.

I have to wait till tomorrow, and examine other chips, before recognizing failure to confirm the effect in this particular experiment. Well, I should not speculate too early. Perhaps I will see tracks tomorrow, or in the next experiment.

32) Yes, I do have to wait till tomorrow but I already know what to expect. After the end of the second etching, this afternoon, I examined two CR-39 chips: the one that was exposed to alpha particles from Am-241 and (A) that was below the nickel cathode during the electrolysis. I saw a lot of alpha tracks on the first chip, as usual, but only some tracks on (A). The (A) chip was etched for 6+6 =12 hours but the alpha particle chip was etched for the last 6 hours only. (Unfortunately, I forgot to use an alpha irradiated chip to show that etching was normal during the first 6 hours.). It will be a matter of counting tracks on the (A) and (B) chips. Is the track density on (A=signal) significantly larger than on (B=noise)? I will know tomorrow. The situation reminds me the analysis of the TiDx foil from Steven Jones; it is definitely not comparable with what was observed from the Pd613 or Pd616 cathodes sent to me by Dennis Letts.

Why didn’t I see tracks on (A) after the first 6 hours of etching? Perhaps the temperature went down after it was initially setting it to 65 C. I was not adjusting it all the time, as during the second etching. To compensate for the possibly too low temperature the second etching was at performed at 68 V. Or perhaps an error was made in the preparation of NaOH (imposing a concentration that was lower than 6.5 N). I will never know because I forgot to etch an alpha irradiated chip.

December 6, 2004
33) Yes, today I have the bad news and the good news to share. But before doing this let me ask you for a favor. If you are among those who read this logbook from day to day -- I suppose there are such people -- then please send me an Emil note at: And I would very much like to hear from those who are trying to replicate Oriani solid effect, as I am. This experiment should not be performed by students without supervision. Chemicals are dangerous, especially hot and concentrated NaOH used for etching. I am sure that many teachers would be happy to supervise student experiments, if you ask.

Using the Internet to share an ongoing experiment, and receiving feedback (criticism, advise, comments), is something I did not do before. Yes, it does take some extra time. I want to know if this time is worth spending. That is why I want to hear from you. Please let me know what you think about the “lab over the Internet” idea. I think that a project in which several people perform the same experiment at the same time and communicate constantly (which did not materialize this time), is worth trying.

34) And now back to our project. Let me tell you what I did today.

a) Sample (A) --> 21 tracks (plus or minus 6) on the entire area of 0.7 cm2.

b) Sample (B) --> 28 tracks (plus or minus 10) on the entire area of 0.5 cm2.
In other words, the detector below the cathode registered nothing but the background. The effect observed in Minneapolis was not observed in Montclair. Perhaps the scratches I made on the nickel foil were not deep enough for the particles to come out. The “plus or minus,” by the way, refers to border cases; it is not always easy to decide which dark spots are tracks and which are not. i call this a threshold of rejection error. That error can be reduced to nearly nothing by using an approach invented by Oriani. He etches the chips before the experiments and after the experiment. After the first etching he photographs detector’s surfaces, field by field (through a microscope equipped with a digital camera). After the second etching he photographs the same fields. This gives him two pictures for each field. He compares them and counts only those tracks that were absent before the experiment. Such labor-intensive method is much better that my approach -- using one detector for the “signal” and another detector for the “noise.”

Expecting a strong signal, similar to that seen in Minneapolis, I decided to follow a much less labor-intensive approach.

c) Sample (C) --> 34 tracks (plus or minus 10) on the entire area of 0.6 cm2. In other words, one of the three CR-39 detectors that were in contact with the outer surface of the upper tube (during the electrolysis), registered nothing above the background.

d) Sample (D) --> 47 tracks (plus or minus 15) on the entire area of 0.6 cm2. A small excess of tracks, with respect to the background is not significant. In other words, the second CR-39 detectors that were in contact with the outer surface of the upper tube (during the electrolysis, when the current was 0.10 and 0.20 A), registered nothing significant above the background.

e) The big surprise came when I turned to the third detector (E) that was also exposed to the outer surface of the upper tube. But it was exposed only when the current was 0.30 A, not during the entire electrolysis time, as detector (C). Here I at once noticed a large number of tracks. At first I thought it was a very high background because tracks were present not only on the surface facing the tube but also on the surface facing the air in the room. All other detectors were from Landauer; the (E) detector, received from Oriani, was from Italy (see the unit #185). Its thickness was 1 mm. Before using this new CR-39 material I irradiated another chip with alpha particles and etched it for 5.5 hours. The pit diameters were essentially the same as in the material from Landauer.

Fortunately, the background for the new material could be determined by examining the other surface of the irradiated field. I did count background tracks; they turned out to be much less numerous (about a factor ten or so) than on surfaces of the (E) detector.
The average number of tracks (per field of observation) were:

11.1 for the surface of (E) that was facing the outer surface of the glass tube.
14.5 for the surface of (E) that facing the room air. 
The number of tracks on the first surface was 133 (12 typical fields) and the number of tracks on the second surface was 189 (13 typical fields). The work was done under low magnification of 40. The area of each field of observation, on the monitor connected to the digital camera, was 1.30 square millimeters. In other words, track densities were 850 and 1110 per square centimeter, per 25 hours (time during which the current was 0.30 A). That counting rate, about 40 per hour per square centimeter, is of the same order as reported, for a different setup, by Steven Jones (2).

35) The most surprising fact is the presence of tracks on two detector surfaces separated by one millimeter of plastic material. I think I know how this can be interpreted. Last year, in preparation for detection of protons from the TiDx foils, I often irradiated CR-39 chips by fast neutrons emitted by our Pu-Be source (no longer available). I always observed tracks on both surfaces, more on the second than on the first. Smaller tracks were interpreted as due to collisions between neutrons and protons; about two times larger tracks, much less common, were attributed to alpha particles from (n,a) reactions.

I think that tracks recorded in the (E) detector indicate emission of neutrons, from somewhere within the cell. But why were similar tracks not recorded in the (C) and (D) detectors? I do not know how to answer this question. One way to check if tracks are due to neutrons would be to etch the chip for a very long time (for example, till its thickness is reduced to 0.5 mm). Latent tracks due to neutrons must exist within the entire CR-39 volume. Therefore, new tracks would appear as the old tracks are etched away from exposed surfaces. In other words, visible tracks would be present, even after very long etching. Tracks due to a contamination of both surfaces, on the other hand, would disappear. I will perform this convincing test. Yes, I know, reading reports like this one is below the threshold of dignity of many scientists. The curse put on the entire field of CANA research will continue affecting attitudes toward it. By CANA I mean “chemically assisted nuclear activity.”

36) What Oriani and I have done, after the last conference, would be sufficient to publish a paper, and to apply for a research grant in any other field of natural science. But in the CANA field the only way to communicate with other scientists is the Internet. We know that most of them will not read our reports. And we will continue using our retirement money on research and traveling. That is not how serious research is conducted in other areas of science. Why should it be so? I expected the situation to change after the second DOE-sponsered investigation. But now I know that this will not happen very soon.

I wish I had access to a neutron detector. Another useful thing to do is to cover the entire tube with CR-39 detectors and then look for the distribution of tracks. This might help to localize the origin of neutrons. By the way, unlike the (C) detector, the (E) detector was on that side of the tube where the vertical part of the platinum wire was located inside the electrolyte. The wire was only 2 mm away from (E) but 20 mm away from (C). Can this be significant? But questions like that are for later. At present the most urgent task is convincing others that CANA phenomena are real. How can this be accomplished? I suppose that many researchers are now trying to answer this question. My answer is; “by finding one simple to perform experiment that is very reproducible and by offering it to students.” That what I am trying to do. The next step will be to etch the chips that have been applied to the cathode (and to other cell components) after the electrolysis. I will do this after two more days of exposure.

December 7, 2004
37) I decided not to rush with processing the post electrolysis CR-39 chips. Let them accumulate tracks (if any) for several more days. Being curious in not a good reason to start etching too early. I will accumulate for seven days.

38) In a message sent to me today Richard wrote:". . . Today I completed electrolysis, etching, and cursory examination of the chips. The one under the Ni cathode has plenty of tracks, and two of the chips in the vapor over the electrolyte also have goodly numbers of tracks. I have not yet done a careful examination. . . ." That is good news. i was less lucky in the first experiment at home. Is it possible that the reason for my failure was too short distance between the cathode and the CR-39 below? My distance was 1 mm while his distance was 15 mm, as before. This does not make much sense if track-creating particles come from nickel; I would see more of them, not less. But what if these particles are produced in air, due to something happening in the cell? In that case I would see practically no tracks. Next time I should return to the original distance of 15 mm.

In any other field the above mentioned tentative conclusion would be highly indicative. But in the field in which reproducibility can not be taken for granted everything is fluid. Nothing is really indicative to me here unless observed several time. And after that, as in the case of Oriani, one has to face hostility on the part of those who control publications in scientific journals. What a shame.

December 9, 2004
39) Nothing new to report, except that I found another teacher, over the Internet, who might be interested in replications of Oriani solid effect. I know, from frequent postings on the discussion list for teachers, that he is a very knowledgeable experimentalist and an excellent communicator. I will be happy to introduce him here, when he approves it. Working in parallel with several teachers is highly desirable, especially when phenomena are not 100% reproducible. The goal will be to develop a setup for student-oriented explorations. And, who knows, we may be able to discover something important.

B>December 13, 2004
My attempt to "popularize" Oriani cells (among teachers and students) by writing an article to The Physics Teacher failed. This is illustrated by the message from the editor of that journal (see below). It was a reply to my informal inquiry (see text qouted by the editor.)

Dear Professor Kowalski:
Our editorial staff has examined the discussion given at the URL provided in your message. While the materials required to conduct the Oriani (c) experiment might be accessible to schools, we believe that too few of our readers would consider the exercise to be appropriate for inclusion in their introductory-level physics courses. Because of space constraints, we are now able to publish fewer than one-third of the submissions we receive. We must therefore take care to select those which we believe would be of the greatest benefit to our readers. While we would be willing to review a completed manuscript of the sort you describe, we are not optimistic that it would be accepted for publication.
Ludwik Kowalski wrote:
> As you might recall (see the message quoted below) I wanted to publish > a paper "Cold Fusion 15 Years Later," several months ago. A that time > I was essentially an uncommitted observer of the field. My review paper > is still waiting to be modified after the DOE panel report, as you > suggested. The purpose of this message is to inform you that I have > recently replicated two "cold fusion" experiments of Dr. Oriani, at the > University of Minnesota. The label "cold fusion" is not appropriate > here because neither heavy water nor palladium were used in the setup. > And we do not believe that two isolated atomic nuclei could fuse at a > low temperature to produce an observable effect. The probability of > fusion, due to the tunneling effect, is too small for this. The only > link between the concept of "cold fusion" and what we observed is a > totally unexpected nuclear effect caused by chemical activity in an > experimental setup. The Oriani effect was replicated by me twice (out > of two attempt), as described at: > > http://blake.montclair.edu/~kowalskil/cf/188oriani.html > > I know that most nuclear physicists are convinced that chemical processes > cannot produce nuclear effects. But I also believe that experiments have > priority in Physics. A task of trying to prove, or disprove, a controversial > claim, made by a reputable scientist (such as Dr. Richard Oriani), can be > turned into an educational project. What can be a better way to expose > students to the excitement of scientific research? Please let me know > if we should submit a paper, based on the above webpage, for a possible > publication in The Physics Teacher. I am now trying to get ready for one > more experiment, with a totally new cell, with new chemicals and at our > university laboratory. The article will be submitted if the number of > tracks is again much larger than the background. > > The purpose would be to inform teachers about Oriani effects, and to > encourage them to test one of them. Many high schools and universities > are equipped to perform the simple experiment described in my webpage. > Hopefully, some of them will attempt to replicate it. Please reply as > soon as possible; we hope you will give our paper a chance of being > published in TPT. The cold fusion, and the controversy about it, will > not even be mentioned in our draft.
I am not happy; an anticipation of bringing Oriani’s experiments to the attention of teachers and students is part of my motivation. I should be able to accomplish this, eventually. Such experiments are indeed ideal for exposing students to the excitement of scientific research. They deserve to be developed; they deserve to be published. I will not give up.

A crown of etching hooks (made from the 0.038 mm nickel wire and attached to a thick copper wire ring) forces me to drill a tiny hole in each chip. This is a delicate operation. The hole is used to suspend the chip from the hook. Is this method, copied from Oriani, is really better than dropping all the chips into my constantly stirred electrolyte? The answer depends on whether or not one believes that occasional scratches, and other surface defects, can be produced on the chips in the whirling electrolyte. The new method is great for removing the chips and placing the crown into water, if desired, at the same time. In about an hour I will end the first 6 hours of etching and go to school to examine the chips. Then I might decide to etch for another 6 hours. The chips to examine have already been described in item 29 above. This time I did not forget to suspend a chip irradiated with alpha particles, my indicator of the quality of etching.

42) My “open letter” to scientists, who were chosen by the DOE to reevaluate cold fusion claims, was posted this morning; it is the unit #196. Will they be informed by somebody about my letter? Will they read it? Will some of them answer to my questions? I hope so.

43) I also nearly finished the self-imposed task of describing Fisher’s polyneutron hypothesis. The already posted draft is going to be corrected, if necessary, by John Fisher. He complemented me for this work. The only suggestion, so far, was to change the name of the “element # zero.” My choice for the name for the first element was Adamium (symbol A) but John prefers Neutrium (symbol Nt). He invented this element to explain the observed nuclear anomalies. The draft has already been posted as the unit #191. I will modify it after receiving Fisher’s recommendations. What a strange set of speculations! The theory is simple; that is its advantage.

44) I examined all the chips (after 6 hours of etching) and decided to etch for another 6 hours. This is going on right now. Nothing convincing (at least 10 times above the background) tracks but seem to have smaller diameters than tracks seen on the chip irradiated with Am-241. I do not expect anything spectacular tomorrow.

December 14, 2004
45) Learn by making mistakes is not unusual. That what happened last night and today. I was anticipating to stop etching at 10 p.m. But I forgot about this and came one hour later. Etching for 13 hours instead of 12 is not a big deal. But something else happened. The temperature of NaOH was 73 C (instead of 65 C) and the level of the liquid was at 175 cc (instead of 200 cc). In other word, the chips were over etched by time, by temperature and by concentration. They were still transparent but had dull surfaces. Looking through them was like looking through a light fog. For a moment I thought that all was lost.

Fortunately, the chip that was irradiated with alpha particles was also over etched. I examined that chip and found about as many tracks of alpha particles as after the first 6 hours of etching. The circles ware larger than before; they often touched each other. Then I look at other chips and saw more tracks than I was able to count before (after 6 hours of etching). Distinguishing tracks of nuclear particles from dirt and surface irregularities became much much easier. It seems that that over etching is good, at least for my purpose, counting alpha-looking tracks. The control chip (background) also had more tracks that I was able to recognize before.

46) The second thing I learned by mistake was that examining a wet chips might be desirable. This has to be verified later, perhaps by using a liquid that does not evaporate as quickly as water. I had some dirt on the chip and decided to wash it before reexamination. The chip was not totally dry when I placed it on the microscopic slide. My magnification was 40. The impression I had was that some surface irregularities nearly disappeared when water was there. Will tracks be more recognizable when chips are coated with a thin layer of oil? That is worth exploring, when time becomes available.

47) Here are the results of counting, after 13 hours of etching:
.....
.....
I went to school to count tracks. But, after spending several hours at the microscope I found nothing significantly higher than the background, except in the chip J.

The conclusion from this experiment is that the expected effect was not confirmed (chips A and G showed no tracks above the background). Each of the chips F1, F2, F3 and F4 recorded about two times more tracks on one surface than on the other (and about three times more than in the background) but I do not trust myself on this. Why not? Because these chips were from AlphaTracks. That is the material that became foggy after over-etching, as I wrote earlier. The chips from Landauer were also over-etched but they did not become foggy. I think that AlphaTrack chips are OK for detection of alpha particles but they are not good for me. In the next experiment I will be using fresh Fukovi chips; they were sent to me today from Japan.

The only interesting results are those from the E and J chips where I really see at least ten times more tracks than in the background. The chip E was exposed to the outside wall of the upper tube during the electrolysis and the chip J was exposed to outside wall of the upper tube after the electrolysis. Both chips were from the CR-39 that Oriani used before he switched to Fukovi chips. They came from Italy; each chip is 1 mm thick. When E and J chips were applied to the tube I expected to see tracks on the surface facing the tube only. The other side was to be used to measure the background. But now I know that excessive tracks appear on both sides of E and J. It means I did have a control sample for the background in that material. I am now etching another chip; it will be my control sample tomorrow.

The question to answer is: “How many tracks are there on each surface of E and J and how do these numbers compare to the background tracks. Only then will I start speculating about neutrons (as I did above). Unfortunately my notebook does not say which side of the CR-39 chip was facing the glass. I had a rule about this: “scratched symbols should be on the side opposite to where particles are expected.” But did I really follow that rule? I think I did, but am not sure. Tomorrow will be the last day of reporting, I hope.

December 15, 2004
OK, the experiment is over. I did not expect to turn a logbook for an experiment into a diary. But it was my first independently performed cold fusion experiment. I did not find what I was lookin for but an eqaully puzzling phenomenon was confirmed. A “nuclear signature”does come out of the lectrolytic cell but it comed through glass not through the nickel. Here are the results of today's counting.

Chop E: was in contact with the outside wall during the electrolysis (25 hours when the current was 0.30 A). The accessible surface area was about 0.45 square cm. The number of tracks on the side facing the tube was 580. Subtracting the background of 50 tracks (see below) one has the average detection rate of 47 tracks per hour, per square centimeter. The number of tracks on the opposite side (facing air in the room) was 48. This is the same as the background. In other words, my speculation about neutrons was not justified. But the anomalous tracks recorded by the detector E are real.

Chop J: was in contact with the inside wall after the electrolysis (175 hours). The accessible surface area was the same as for the chip E. The number of tracks on the side facing the tube was 169 This is only three times as much as the background. Taking the difference of 169 - 50 = 119 seriously, one finds the average detection rate of 1.5 tracks per hour, per square centimeter. It would be better, in this case, if I used Oriani.s method of subtracting the background. Is the emission of particles (from glass) after the electrolysis as real as during the electrolysis? I do not think so. My approach was too crude; I was looking for a strong effect. But I would probably have less trouble with 1.5 tracks per hour per cm2 from nickel because the CR-39 chip placed below the cathode was from Landauer. The limit of detectibility would probably be 0.5 tracks per hour per cm2

Chip Q: was my background for the same CR-39 as chips E and J (1 mm thick from an Italian supplier) and etched for 12 hours, as the other two chips (E and J). The number of tracks counted on one area was 53. The other area had a comparable number of tracks.

The bottom line is that the effect for which I was looking, nuclear particles in the detector placed below the nickel cathode, was not found. I used my best CR-39 (from Landauer) for the detector below the cathode, and for the measurement of the background. Other CR-39 chi were from two other suppliers. They were about as good as my better chips for the detection of alpha particles from 241Am. I checked that. But I was not familiar with the background in chips from other suppliers. The unfamiliar material was used on something that was added in the last moment.

My failure to confirm tracks in the air below the cathode contrast with successes Oriani had after my departure from Minneapolis. Is it possible that my failure is caused by the absence of something that tap water has in Minnesota but not in New Jersey? I know what a skeptic might say. S/he would remind me that, at very low concentrations, alpha radioactive substances are always present in everything. And s/he would speculate that they might migrate in the electrolytic cell concentrating, for example, on the nickel or glass. Then they diffuse and become emitters of what one observes. But negative results, as Oriani likes to say, confirm that this does not happen. A skeptic can be criticized for not being consistent. If only 100% reproducible results should be taken seriously then contamination should also not be taken seriously.

Here are the pictures I took this morning, through the microscope.

Figure 1 Alpha particles from a 241Am source (in a little corner of chip Q)


Figure 2 A typical background field (the other side of the chip Q). I suspect that most background tracks are due to cosmic protons, not radon. Detectors were protected from alpha particles in storage (by thin plastic covers).

Figure 3 Tracks on the more active side of the chip E

The areas seen under the magnification 40 were 0.91 square millimeters each. But I trimmed the pictures to reduce sizes of files.

December 23, 2004
I am now in the middle of another experiment. It is going to be described in unit #197. But before going there let me say that an attempt to detect tracks in a Cr-39 chip that was applied to the glass after the electrolysis produced the negative result. The chip was in contact with glass for 85 hours. The particles were present during the electrolysis but not after the electrolysis. The experiment described in the unit #197 is going to end in about three or four days. Then many days of etching and examining CR-39. The last experiment described in this unit differed from the experiment we conducted in Minneapolis in two significant ways; that may explain negative results, as far as the CR-39 below the cathode was concerned. the differences were:

a) Oriani allowed concentration of the electrolyte from very low (at the beginning) to several times stronger (when a lot of water was lost). I was keeping the water level constant by adding water very often. My concentration was very weak all the time.

b) My anode was at a distance of about 15 mm from the cathode, his was about 5 mm. Furthermore, I had pulsating current, due to the accumulation of gasses below the platinum disk. In the experiment described in the unit #197 The current was again pulsing because the diameter of the anode was still too large. Oriani said that this should not be tolerated. Therefore I had to turn the current off, remove the anode and reduce its size even more. At the same time the distance between the anode and the cathode was reduced to about 7 mm. The whole operation took only 10 minutes (without removing the electrolyte) and pulsating current was eliminated. But this is part of the next experiment.

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