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120) Deuterium gas in Palladium

Ludwik Kowalski (12/22/2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

A paper published by Chinese Sciences (Xing Zhong Li et al, in J. Phys, D: Appl.Phys. 36 p 3095 to 3097, 2003) describes an experiment in which excess heat was generated when deuterium was diffusing through palladium. I heard about similar result from an American cold fusion researcher, Glen Schmidt from Albuquerque. I visited Glen’s metallurgical laboratory in October 2003 and spent several hours with him. His apparatus was very impressive. My plans of working with Glen did not materialize but he sent me several messages describing the results. My question, at the the time was: “can the excess heat be due to the Joule-Thomson effect?” Professor Li also asked this question at the end of the article. And he answered it negatively, at least for his high pressure and high temperature system.

The Chinese measurements were performed by a calorimeter able to detect heat generation rates as low as one microwatt. It is hard to make sense of what is displayed in Figure 2 without knowing the details. Why was the heating power nearly zero when the temperature was higher than 150 degrees? The heating rate, at the level of about 1 mW, was sustained for about 1.5 hours; it became zero when the temperature of the vessel decreased to 140 degrees. The issue of possible systematic, random and procedural errors was not addressed in the short article. Influenced by Kirk Shanahan ( see units #116 to #119) I was looking for a discussion of errors. Why not a single word was written about the calorimeter calibration? I also noticed that the phrase “cold fusion” was not mentioned neither in the article nor in the list of references. I suppose that this was done to make sure that the article is not rejected. The main point of the publication was the correlation between the flow rate of deuterium and the excess power attributed to an unspecified exothermic process. The title of the article, “Correlation between abnormal deuterium flux and heat flow in a D/Pd system,” emphasizes this point.

The library at contains 22 papers authored by Dr. Li, including the paper he presented at the 10th International Cold Fusion Conference. Dr. Li is a veteran of cold fusion research. His conference paper begins with this summary: “Great progress has been made after 14 year of experiments with the gas-loading D/Pd system. 6 watts of “excess heat” were generated in a gas-loaded D/Pd system for 9 hours continuously. This experiment has been repeated 6 times already in various configurations. The “excess power” density in the Pd disk is more than 100 W per cubic centimeter, which is about the power density in a fuel rod of a thermal neutron fission reactor.”

The best argument, as far as I can determine, that the observed effect is real is a demonstration that heat generated in palladium is much higher than heat generated in copper, under identical conditions. Unlike palladium, copper does not allow hydrogen to diffuse through it and no excess heat is generated in copper. This observation should rule out many parasitic effects, such calibration shift etc. At the end of his paper Dr. Li thanks Glenn Schmidt for fruitful cooperation. Another very convincing fact (see figure 6) was that the excess heat generation rate was comparable to the rate at which heat was supplied to keep the membrane hot. In other words the difference between the Pout and Pin was no longer a very small fraction of Pin, as in electrochemical experiments. In the middle of the run, for example, Pin was 25 W while the excess power was 7 W. In the last hour of the run the percentage of the excess heating power over the Pin was close to 50%. This is much higher than 3%, reported by E. Storms, and criticized by Kirk Shanahan (see my units #116, and #118).

At the very beginning of his cold fusion conference presentation Dr. Li said that gas loading of Pd has four advantages: “safety, sensitivity, low cost, and a higher operating temperature.” Four advantages with respect of what? Most likely with respect to electrochemical loading practiced by most cold fusion researchers. I do not know why the higher percentage of excess heat is not listed as one of the advantages. And once again I see that the phrase “cold fusion” is not even mentioned in the body of his paper. Dr. Li is certainly familiar with Karabut’s work in which deuterium gas was used induce a large number of effects, including excess heat generated at the level of 10%. Why is Karabut’s work not even mentioned? Why nothing is said about attempts to observed at least some of the effects reported by Karabut? It is hard to believe that attempts to observe such effects were not made by Dr. Li, or by some of his associates. Why don’t they say anything about this? I am sorry that I did not ask this question at the conference.

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