31) My own excess heat experiments

Ludwik Kowalski (January 8, 2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

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There was no evidence for “excess heat” in my experiments. That is the bottom line. And here are some details. Inspired by the paper of Jacques Dufour (see item #29) I decided to conduct my own search for excess heat. Is it conceivable that excess heat is more common than we think? How do we know that a TV set, for example, produces as much heat as the amount of electric energy it receives in any specified time interval? In principle this can be verified by measuring both the heat released, Wt and the electric energy received, We. But I doubt that anyone has ever bothered to accurately measure the Wt released from a TV set. We just know that it should be the same as We. The equality of Wt and We is often verified in an introductory physics laboratory by using the so-called electric calorimeter and a metallic resistor. I do not know of a similar test performed by using a resistor made from a composite material.

Such tests were probably performed many times. Instead of looking for a reference I conducted my own simple experiment. I took a radio resistor (nominally 10,000 ohms but in reality 9,720 ohms, at room temperature) and placed it into a common water-based student calorimeter. The resistance in water dropped immediately, indicating that some current was flowing through the water. To prevent this the metallic leads of the resistor were coated with a nonconductive glue. I was surprised to find that We and Wt were identical to within 0.1%; the accuracy of my measurements was at the level of about one or two percent. But, as fortune cookies tell us, one can be lucky on some days.

This made me think of a possible physics research project for a group of high school students. The topic can be introduced by saying that “scientists claim that excess heat can be generated in some electrical setups and that not all conceivable setups have been tested.” This would give students an opportunity to learn about the history of the so-called “cold fusion” and lead to more sophisticated experiments in which Wt is said to be larger that We. I know of one scientist who is working on a document describing elementary excess heat experiments. He said that laboratory instructions should be ready at the end of this month. Such materials would be of great value to us. I would be happy to post his pamphlet as an item on this web site for teachers interested in “cold fusion.”

I will, of course, try to perform the experiments myself. This would give me an opportunity to be in a much better position to argue about the non reality or reality of the so-called “anomalous energy.” If I am convinced, on the basis of my own measurements, that the excess heat is real then I would be more interested in theoretical explanations which are being offered to explain it. I would also become more optimistic about the prospect of using nuclear energy without producing dangerous nuclear waste products. Inspired by their own observations students are likely to think in the same way. And who knows, perhaps a biography of another Marie, in the next century, will begin by describing a high school physics project which inspired her. Will the scientist’s name be Marie or will it be Thomas?

Another conducting material tested for the hypothetical “excess heat’ was carbon-impregnated paper available from Pasco Scientific. That paper is often used by by students to model electrostatic fields. I allowed a direct current of about 50 mA to pass through a flat 3.2 kiloohms resistor inside a calorimeter for 40 minutes. The amount of heat released did not differ from the electric energy supplied by more than 3%; the expected sensitivity of the experiment. A student project of that kind can be very instructive.

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