Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Transmutations observed from pressure cycling palladium (sciencedirect.com)
79 points by ogcricket 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 71 comments

The anomalous heating is very difficult to measure and it is not going to convince anyone.

The new elements they got, are much more interesting. The problem is that:

* Cooper and Zinc that are the parts of brass.

* Iron, Chrome and Manganese that are common in stainless steel.

So the most simple explanation is contamination from the surrounding vessel and plumbing.

It is also very strange that they didn't get Cadmium and Indium that are the direct product of fusion of Palladium and Silver with Hydrogen, Deuterium and Helium. It is like if there was a fusion and then the new atom split into smaller atoms like all the ones I listed before. It is strange.

Shouldn't there be some kind of radiation detectable if fusion did occur?

It could easily be that the radiation is well below the noise floor for background radiation or cosmic rays. The experiment doesn’t allow for selecting the type of radiation, and if the fusion is different from normal then the signature could be strange.

Detecting elements can be done for incredibly small amounts, but instead the problem is avoiding contamination.

It's a characteristic of this stuff claiming to be doing nuclear physics that you actually avoid real nuclear physics (gamma and neutron detection) and possibly hand-wave it away like that. I used to study sub-barrier fusion reactions with palladium and sensitive detectors, and all this business was risible from the start.

There's a non zero chance that the transmutations would also be due to cosmic rays.

The odds that cold fusion has been discovered are 0.

Lattice assisted nuclear reactions exist. They just don't generate usable amounts of power.

> Lattice assisted nuclear reactions exist.

"Lattice assisted nuclear reactions" is just another name for "cold fusion" (or perhaps a branch of "cold fusion"). All the papers published about this have been unconvincing.

> They just don't generate usable amounts of power.

All the papers I remember report an small excess of heat. The problem is that heat is very difficult to measure accurately (the different parts of the equipment have different temperatures, estimating the heat transported in convection is a mess, some chemical parts may react, ...)

There are strong theoretical grounds for lattice assisted fusion. The metal lattice acts to screen the deuterium atoms, and the lattice increases the overall cross section.


Unfortunately no practical mechanism for creating a self sustaining reaction has been proposed. Although the theoretical benefit has been demonstrated by heating the fuel via hot neutron bombardment.


The articles are interesting, but in both case it is not enough the 400°C that they used in this experiment.

I think that "cold fusion" is not theoretically impossible. For comparison, "high temperature superconductivity" is also weird, and in 1985 any result about it would have been received with a big dose od skepticism. The problem is that "cold fusion" has a very bad track record in the last years.

I really think cold fusion is a prank. Like when my dad would send me out to buy "headlight fluid" just to mess with me.

I think it's like trying to prove P = NP. Maybe it's technically possible, but no one in their right mind thinks it's going to happen.

As far as I can tell, the only reason cold fusion is even a thing is because someone published a paper that has never been reproduced. P=NP is at least possible: it has to be true or untrue. I'm not even sure if our current understand of physics even supports cold fusion.

I guess maybe it does seeing as how I got downvoted? Presumably by amazing scientists who have developed cold fusion technology? Or at least have a theory of how it could happen in our universe?

Muon-catalyzed fusion is beloved to be physically possible at room temperature though as the catalyst has a half life of ~ 2.2 microseconds that’s not practical. But as far as we know cold fusion as described in the original paper is simply a mistake in the original experiment.

Fwiw, P=NP could be independent from our current commonly used axioms; it doesn't have to be purely true or false.

My understanding is it's necessarily either true or false, but may not be provably true or false. This could allow us to actually have an algorithm that solves all NP problems in P time, but ZFC can't prove it works for all inputs.

Edit: So in that case, what would it mean to add an axiom that P=NP? See https://mathoverflow.net/questions/50023/independence-of-p-n... especially the answer by Andreas Blass. Basically, you could add axioms that change the meaning of 'Turing machine' (ie 'computation') by changing the meaning of 'natural number' resulting in an algorithm witnessing P=NP that maybe can't be run on physical computers.

Way off topic...

Agreed, definitely off topic. Fun to consider anyway :)

Without considering many facts specific to P=NP, it could be feasible for it to neither true nor false in ZFC (i.e., some model of ZFC has P=NP, and some other has P!=NP), in which case you could take P=NP as another axiom. Other statements that work this way include the continuum hypothesis.

If I'm not mistaken (and misstatements regarding P=NP are common, so don't take this blindly), P=NP has a substantial amount of additional structure to it due to it being a low-complexity arithmetical statement. In particular, I believe you're correct that in ZFC it is actually either true or false in all models, but not necessarily provably so from within ZFC. In this case you could try to take it as an axiom (e.g. ZFC+PNP), but you'd either wind up with ZFC itself or an inconsistent axiom set.

As a related (maybe equivalent?) statement, P=NP has the property that if A is an axiom independent from ZF and P=NP (resp P!=NP) is provable in ZF+A then P=NP (resp P!=NP) is provable in ZF, again due to its nature as a low-complexity arithmetical statement, so either P=NP is unprovable in any meaningful extension of ZF, or it's provable in all of them.

The weird thing about the field is that a negative result should REDUCE the estimate of how likely something is. And yet, after P&F, people took it more seriously.


Pons and Fleischmann.

Detecting the presence of these transmuted elements should be much easier to replicate than trying to characterize "excess" heat, right? And the next step would be to try and find out what isotope of the transmuted elements was? Anyone know how much deuterium costs?


It depends. The transmuted elements could be viewed as contaminants while it'd be hard to explain away excess heat. There are so many sources of potential contamination. Random heat signatures not so much.

It's the opposite.

Heat is notoriously difficult to measure accurately, especially when small amounts are being produced or if the experiment runs over a long time.

Heat can also have many sources, some of which aren't expected by even highly experienced experimenters.

For example, hydrogen has spin isomers, and the conversion of orthohydrogen into parahydrogen releases energy.

Metals like palladium can also release surprising amounts of energy due to lattice or adsorption effects.

Graphite absorbs neutrons in reactors and can store sufficient energy in the lattice structure defects that it's a hazard if released too quickly.

Electrical interference can produce currents that are absorbed in the metal. Residual magnetic fields release energy if the metal is demagnetised. Etc...

Meanwhile, measuring the production of new elements is trivial, even in tiny amounts, and cannot possibly occur via only chemical processes. Crystal structure, phase transitions, external fields, etc... have no effect on this measurement. It is a simple, reliable, accurate measurement.

If you see a scientist insisting that you pay attention to the unreliable metric and waves his hands to explain why you should ignore the reliable metric then it's a safe bet that he's either fooling you, or he fooled himself.

Yeah but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Right now the easiest explanation is contamination, ordinary and easy to explain.

No. Claims Require Evidence. Maybe it's contamination. Maybe it is something interesting. Ordinary evidence will reveal which.

Demanding extraordinary evidence is just defending turf, and not science.

The level of evidence required increases with the audacity of the claim. That's because outrageous new physics is almost never the case, for the same reason that miracles or aliens are almost never (or just never) the explanation for something.

"Extraordinary evidence" is usually interpreted, nowadays, as unobtainable evidence, with the effect that any discovery incompatible with current consensus is reflexively discounted.

This is less often harmful in cases where the current consensus is based more on actual evidence than on groupthink and conformity. So, in physics, there is actual evidence for most things observable.

But there are plenty of fields where fashion prevails. Without citing current problem children, geology until quite recently forbade mention of catastrophic events like bolide strikes, and psychology filtered all hypotheses through behaviorism.

It's evidence so incontrovertible and ironcland that the chance it is wrong (or faked) is less than the chance the outrageous claim is true.

This could be close to unobtainable, for sufficiently outrageous claims. The argument I am making goes all the way back to Hume's "Of Miracles".

In the specific case of Cold Fusion and the like, the evidence is further impeached by the lack of progress. What's happening looks just like a pseudoscientific study of nothing that spits out bad results that never goes anywhere.

That presupposes a correct probability, implicitly assuming the consensus model is correct. That begs the question, a fundamental cognitive mistake.

The current consensus model does not deserve any privilege over any other model that also accounts for the same body of evidence. The degree of privilege afforded to it is exactly the inertia that prevents progress.

Science does not need for there to be a consensus model. Nature doesn't have one. Insistance on a single model when more than one meets requirements is purely human pigheadedness, and a primary impediment to progress.

None of this means that low-energy fusion happens, or doesn't. But the vociferous attacks on reports of what looks like it are the absolute antithesis of science. Science says only, "Try it again, more carefully."

Ordinary evidence.

The sort of scientific nihilism you are advocating there is obviously unworkable. Decisions have to be made based on SOMETHING. Science encodes the condensed wisdom of experience, so if you say don't use what we know, what process do you propose to use to decide what is worthy of investigation?

Cold Fusion requires not just one "miracle", but a stack of multiple miracles, all in contravention of existing knowledge. It requires that fusion can occur when QM calculations show it can't. It requires that excited nuclei not emit gamma radiation. It requires that energy go not into energetic charged particles (which would produce detectable secondary radiation) but somehow immediately go into the lattice of a solid, spread over large numbers of atoms.

Stack on top of that another coincidence: that despite P&F's initial results being shown to be shit, that somehow there was a pony in there somewhere anyway.

The simplest and cleanest explanation for all this LENR work is that it's nonsense driven by some combination of almost pathologic wishful thinking, incompetence, and even outright fraud.

I don't understand what is supposed to be nihilistic about treating evidence as evidence. If it's fraud, the evidence will say so. If it's nonsense, the evidence will say so. Sometimes the evidence is fine, but is being misinterpreted, and sometimes then indicates something more interesting than had been guessed. Guessing wrong is not fraud. Reporting exactly the results you got is what is supposed to be expected, whatever the results suggest.

It took much longer than it should have to converge on the unit charge, just because everyone after Millikan was afraid to report a result too far from his.

> I don't understand what is supposed to be nihilistic about treating evidence as evidence.

What is nihilistic is your ignoring all the previous evidence, the evidence that, as I told you, gets encoded into known physical laws. That's the problem with radical changes: they require repudiation of all that evidence, in favor of the comparatively razor thin evidence that has caught your fancy.

Right, but the simple, reliable measurement is the nuclear radiation if someone is claiming a nuclear process.

No, background radiation makes nuclear radiation a noisy and ambiguous signal.

The unambiguous result is the presence of fusion by-products, but unfortunately they're not seen here.

In particular, there should be detectable amounts of He-3, lithium, beryllium, etc, none of which seem to have been found.

All the listed elements are common cross-metal contaminants and should be present in far lower ratio than He, Li, Be et al.

> No, background radiation makes nuclear radiation a noisy and ambiguous signal.

You make a decent measurement -- my former speciality. That's not waving a Geiger counter surrounded by concrete or granite. (It just wouldn't have been worth the effort at the time of the original cold fusion nonsense.) Sure, about atomic reaction products if you can analyse their appearance as well as neutrons and gamma rays.

Tests showing similar results were presented at the 2012 LENR conference, and probably before.

I really wish they hadn’t been discounted as erroneous without attempts to replicate by the larger scientific community. We’d be much farther along by now, in capturing this extremely interesting result!

But what about a control experiment? How about letting the PdAg sit in a vacuum for the same amount of time under similar conditions and see what develops? How do they rule out contamination, such as by cosmic rays?

If I read the abstract right, they did in fact have a control. They had the exact same palladium/silver mix in it, but didn't cycle D2, H2, or He in and out. It wound up with much fewer of the surprising elements.

Couldn't that be explained by the cycling introducing contamination (ie: along with the D2, H2, He it also brought in a few other atoms from the plumping or whatever)?


But the "control" wasn't. It was a different coil, and they didn't characterise either of the coils' metallurgy prior to the experiment.

The addition of deuterium will open new avenues for reactions by cosmic rays.

>> I really wish they hadn’t been discounted as erroneous without attempts to replicate by the larger scientific community.

Sure. But what if LENR is real? They may be opening pandoras box.

The experiment took place over several months which increases the chances of contamination.

And all the newly found elements are elements that you'd find in a gas regulator and are at levels close to detection limit. It's all so reminiscent of polywater.

Yes that would have been my initial thought as well

From the article:

"Examining the exposed Pd25Ag tube reveals a scattering of anomalies on the surface of the tube. Large areas of Cu were observed as well as an area of Zn separate from the Cu, which may indicate that no CueZn alloy is present, removing the possibility of brass contamination. "

Zinc plating and copper plating? But that's not really the point, we are wondering about all sorts of contamination that could easily be ruled out through proper experiment design. Other people have discussed that.

I just read through the paper.

TL;DR: They compared the metallurgy of two different samples, which IMHO totally invalidates the result.

The setup revolves primarily around "Johnson-Matthey purifiers", which are made by a manufacturer for industrial hydrogen gas purification. It isn't designed to have calibrated or consistent metallurgy for this kind of scientific experiment.

They're essentially a long Pd-Ag tube sealed in a stainless steel pressure vessel and also the tubes have supporting stainless steel springs inside them.

The experimenters had only two(!) of these filters, both sealed in the factory. They had to cut them open to access the Pd-Ag tubes inside for analysis.

A) This is a destructive test, so they had no way to run the experiment on one tube for longer and longer periods to demonstrate a steady increase in the contaminants.

B) They didn't take a control measurement of either tube before commencing the experiment.

c) They have no reason to assume that the metal purity of the tubes is anywhere near consistent enough to compare two different tubes, which are likely to have been manufactured on different dates from different metal sources and hence would not be consistent enough for this kind of experiment.

D) Individual tubes could also have had point-to-point variations, which they claim is the result, not the error! That's insane.

E) This is a long-running experiment (months) with many actions taken on the filters. Connections and disconnections of gas sources, high temperature cycling, flushing with various gases, etc... It's entirely conceivable that a contaminant got into the tubes.

Essentially, the only scientific way to run an experiment like this is to manufacture a tube yourself, using either very high purity metals or a very well characterised and homogeneous alloy. Then you'd have to take samples at multiple points along the tube and at several different times during the experiment. You'd also want to make sure that the entire experiment is housed in a metal that is similarly well characterised. At least a dozen such setups would need to be run in parallel, using the exact same setup except for gases used.

They did none of this. They simply noticed a filter got hot, cut it open, and assumed that what they measured was an increase relative to a different unused filter they had lying around.

This is garbage science.

Yep, this is crap, contaminants is the most likely and easiest explanation. This whole pressure to publish at any cost is killing science.

I'm staring at a periodic table trying to make sense of how deuterium, silver, and/or palladium might even conceivable be transmuted into zinc, copper, or iron. I'm not seeing anything plausible.

Probably just contamination.

Old paper about excess Helium in D loaded Palladium - http://www.fusione.enea.it/pubblications/TR/2002/RT-2002-41-...

I don't understand why experts cannot accept the challenge. There is something happening that is unexpected (modulo some reproducibility issues)? Investigate, jeez

The experts don't have time to wade through an endless stream of bad science.

At some point, this will all go the same way as the Victorian fad of photographs of faeries.

In the absence of real nuclear physics data, the only thing available for experts to criticize if the lack of those data.

Absence is a bit of a stretch. Look at that paper, it's interesting

You'd have to help me on that one.

Hard not to be sceptical. We could indulge the "but what if its true" but the energy balance would be very unfavourable and, absent "yes we have no neutrons" (being the title of the cold fusion book of record), its not emitting energy in a way consistent with science as we understand it.

Please be true! Cold fusion :)

Interesting trivia: AuPd alloys are used for coating insulating surfaces with ~10 nm thick layer to make the surface conductive with small metallic grains to do high resolution scanning electron microscopy.


This particular % is not typically used (60/40 or 80/20 is), but it is close.

So one thing is was thinking about. The other day we saw a paper about room-temperature super conduction right? That field has a seen a long gradual progress.

But cold fusion "field" seems to be trying to go from nothing to everything in one step? Is there anyone who has been successful lowering the temperature required by even a single degree Celsius? And to make it even easier, let's include fusion that does not produce net energy.

Last week we got cold superconduction. What would the trifecta be? EM drive working probably.

Maybe the universe is trying to balance out the cosmic 2020 scale.

Cold superconduction is pretty familiar.

Ugh, that should have read warm.

Warm superconductors, cold fusion, next up would be EM drive.

But in high temperature superconductivity there has been an steady progress https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-temperature_superconducti... The trick is that since a few years the different groups are using an extremely high pressure.

So a combination of a material and pressure that shows superconductivity at room temperature is new, but not unexpected.

(A material that is a superconductor at room temperature and atmospheric pressure would be a more interesting and surprising. I'd wait until it is reproduced before throwing a party. )

"International Journey of Hydrogen Energy"? Is this a real thing?

Yes, it is an Elsevier journal. Specifically, it is not one of the citation mill fake journals which will publish anything.

This paper does them no credit, though. Cold fusion hs associated with the crazy fringe, and for very good reasons.

As long as it's good work by credible scientists and filled with caveats about being a work in progress and that it may turn out to be nothing, I don't see the issue.

This paper is just crap, a contamination problem sold as a breakthrough. It's worse in cold fusion, cold fusion in palladium is almost feasible, given the low energy barrier for D-D fusion. The setting is quite like the lifetime of the proton, a decaying proton would open up new avenues of theory, unfortunately the next prediction for the half-life is just outside experimental capabilities.

Anyway, first thing you do when you see a new paper is check what's journal it's in. If the journal has a crap reputation you skip it. This paper does nothing to improve the journal's standing, so the papers in there must be the usual "nothing new to see here, let's all move on" junk.

So cold fusion was real after all? They've got both transmutation of elements and excess heat.

As someone else pointed out, the transmuted elements are also what's common in the equipment they presumably used so could be just contamination. I believe they didn't find any elements you'd expect from these types of reactions but also wouldn't see in the equipment.

but what about gamma rays?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact