Navy researchers have reported matching the production of nuclear products with excess heat in cold fusion experiments similar to those of Utah scientists.
National Cold Fusion Institute Director Fritz Will said Friday the results produced by the team at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California are a "stunning finding."But John Huizenga, co-chairman of a U.S. Department of Energy cold-fusion committee and a cold fusion skeptic, said he found a number of inconsistencies in the Navy researchers' paper.
A team directed by Melvin Miles, a chemist at the Navy research facility, has written a paper that has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, said Ben Bush, a member of the team. Pre-prints are already being distributed widely.
The experiment involves heavy-water electrochemical cells similar to those of University of Utah researchers B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann.
Unlike Pons and Fleischmann, Miles' group captured the gas bubbling off the experiment as it apparently produced up to a half-watt of excess heat.
The gas samples were sent to another laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, where mass-spectrometry techniques determined the samples had approximately 100 trillion atoms of helium 4, an amount roughly comparable to the amount of heat generated if both the helium and heat were produced in the same nuclear fusion reaction.
"Apparently, the mechanism is cold fusion," Bush said Friday. The helium had to be produced in the cells, and only a nuclear fusion reaction could produce it, he said.
The group also ran light-water experiments in the same cells, and no excess heat or helium was reported.
"The finding of helium 4, and in addition the finding of helium 4 in the correct proportion, is an absolutely stunning finding," Will said.
He noted that one of the physics community's largest complaints about cold fusion has been the vast discrepancy between the relatively large amounts of heat produced and the tiny amounts of nuclear products found.
He said a team from the Utah-based Cold Fusion Institute, and likely several other researchers, have worked on techniques to capture the evolving gas for analysis, but "congratulations go to Dr. Miles for being the first to get such results."
Huizenga, however, said the paper offered few details explaining the setup of the cells and the heat measurements. The helium measurements, he said, likely were the result of atmospheric contamination.
The atmosphere contains approximately the same density of helium atoms as that found in the gas, and even Will acknowledged that atmospheric contamination could be a problem.
But Will noted that the light-water control experiments contained no helium, which he took as a sign that the experimenters were controlling the contamination.
"I think anyone would find it of a far lower quality than a lot of the other positive papers," Huizenga said.