Rethinking Cold Fusion Physics: An Essay
Published in Infinite Energy Magazine, Issue 120, March/April, 2015
Daniel S. Szumski1
1Independent Scholar, 513 F Street, Davis, CA 95616, USA, email@example.com
Cold fusion theory is at a critical juncture. Technological development of commercially viable units has outstripped
theoretical understanding. It now appears that commercialization will proceed without patent protection, thereby slowing
our energy revolution in its finest moment. And as you know, patent protection is being denied simply because we
cannot tell the US Patent Office or the PTO how our cold fusion devices work.
What do we do?
A. A Practical View of the Cold Fusion Process
The theorist's 25 year record suggests that a very different approach is needed. Existing science appears to have
exhausted its relavence, leaving us no choice but to consider new theoretical foundations for the cold fusion model. Just
how far we may have to depart from existing theory in our quest for alternative science is unknown, but I believe that
the path must be one where we 'fill in' the existing science, most importantly, regarding our theory of heat. Specifically,
the two existing theories: that for the heat of molecular motion in an ideal gas, and that for the spectral distribution
of radiant energy emittance, are limited to equilibrium conditions, and are not interconnected in any single theoretical
framework. And yet, the simplest thought experiments make it clear that these processes are connected because of the way
that non-equilibrium heat conditions evolve. What are we missing? This seems like a productive direction for discovering
the new science that we need. After all, we are dealing with an unknown heat process.
The issue that has preoccupied our attention for 25 years is the coulomb barrier, and in particular, how it is overcome.
This has become a Gordion knot, obstructing theoretical discourse unless the theorist can first unravel it. At times it
becomes the sole condition for any further discusion. We have to get beyond this. Personally, I find it very satisfying
to simply adopt Gottfried Leibniz's principle of sufficient reason. Most broadly stated this principle holds that if the
coulomb barrier is somehow overcome (and this does seem to be the case in our experiments), then there is a sufficient
explanation (albeit unknown) for why this occurs. We need to get on with the more important issues; finding a candidate
theoretical framework. The coulomb barrier will fall into place when we find the proper theoretical framework.
Let's begin by taking a very practical view of where we are 25 years later. We continue to deny that we are talking
about a perpetual motion machine. However, if we were to stand by our gut feelings, even this would be a modest boast.
Perpetual motion only produces as much energy as it takes to operate it. Here, we appear to be producing far more energy
than we input. Let's begin by agreeing that it is not magic, or a process with teleological overtones. Let us also agree
that it is a heat process; a very far-from-equilibrium one. If indeed it is perpetual motion, or some variant thereof,
the only statement that we need to make about it is that it has to operate at the very limit of the Second Law of
Thermodynamics where all processes are thermodynamically reversible. To stop anywhere short of this limit leaves us
within the domain of irreversible thermodynamics, the comfort zone of most physicists, but the domain where physical
theory seems to have exhausted its relevance.
The equilibrium nature of the existing heat theories is unsatisfying and particularly limiting. By any measure that I
know, the cold fusion process is anything but an equilibrium state. Indeed, if we look at it from an entropy standpoint,
it seems to be best represented as a very low entropy condition, and consequently, one that is very, very
far-from-equilibrium. Here again, the underlying physics can best be described as a reversible thermodynamic state. I
respectfully submit that we should try using this alternative thermodynamic framework as we move forward.
The physicist in all of us bristles at this idea. Max Planck, the theorist responsible for our equilibrium heat
radiation theory, is often quoted in this regard: "Reversible processes have, however, the disadvantage that singly and
collectively they are only ideal: in actual nature there is no such thing as a reversible process." (Eight Lectures in
Theoretical Physics, 1915) Yet, Planck cites several reversible processes in his lectures, and goes on to state that in
the physics of the future the most important division of all physical theory will be into reversible and irreversible
processes, with the distinguishing characteristic: "In the differential equations of reversible processes the time
differential enters only as an even power, corresponding to the circumstance that the sign of time can be reversed."
(ibid, Planck, pg. 19). These are then, processes that are equally valid in both the positive and negative time
directions, or more accurately, processes that teeter at an apex where movement in either time direction is equally
probable. In fact, the theory says that at any point in time, the next step in any reversible process, can be completely
specified by the Principle of Least Action. [Planck's Lectures should become our reference when discussing reversible
thermodynamic processes.] But now I am getting ahead of myself.
I will conclude this introduction with my observation that nature will exploit all legitimate scientific nooks and
crannies. That's the way I view reversible thermodynamic processes, a 'secret' nook where nature can hide its most
marvelous works from our understanding simply because we 'know' that reversible process do not exist in nature. It is
ironic that one of the greatest theoretician in classical physical theory may be the person who impedes our progress
toward our quest for the unification of physics.
B. The Reversible Thermodynamic Process
Let's take a minute to look at the reversible thermodynamic state, but through the lense of another Max Planck quote.
"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Our argument begins in the domain of
irreversible thermodynamic processes where there is always some loss of energy into the domain of random molecular
motion. In electrical systems this manifests as dielectric loss to heat of motion. In chemical systems it's the
transformations to a higher entropy state and the loss of free energy to heat of motion. In gravitational systems it is
the irreversible conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy (motion). And in a photon system, it is the partial
conversion of photon energy to heat of motion.
All irreversible processes exist in two time dimensions: the forward direction that we experience in our everyday
lives, and where entropy always increases; and the opposite time direction which has the effect of reducing the rate of
forward time progression. Consider for example, the transformation of heat from its radiation domain (electro-magnetic
energy), to its heat of molecular motion domain. This is the forward direction of energy transformation because it is
the direction in which the entropy increases. Heat goes from the more ordered electro-magnetic radiation state to the
unordered state of random molecular motion.
It is however, possible to move this heat system in the opposite, or backward time direction by adjusting the
boundary conditions to favor a negative time displacement: from the domain of molecular motion, to the radiation domain.
This can be accomplished most simply by rubbing a block of wood on a rough surface thereby creating friction generated
heat of motion, some of which then partitions to the more ordered domain of heat radiation as the block achieves its
new equilibrium temperature. It is particularly noteworthy that regardless of how the heat is generated to arrive at a
new, higher equilibrium temperature, be it friction or exposure to a radiant heat source, the final equilibrium
condition is identical, and there is no way to determine by which route (forward or backward time displacement) the
heating took place.
What we have done in this example, is to move a portion of the input energy in the negative time direction, from its
less ordered to its more ordered state. In effect, we have changed the relative magnitude of the forward and backward
transformations. Another example will make this clearer.
Let's choose as an example, a chemical event, and in particular, the redox event:
where the forward velocity of
the reaction is , and
kf has the units per time, and vf, the forward velocity of the reaction, is measured
in moles5/time. However, this is only half of the overall reaction:
and , the true
equilibrium constant for the reaction. If we then set:
, and the apparent
equilibrium constant, Keq:
The positive value of log Keq indicates a reaction that is heavily favored in the forward time
direction. However, while the forward reaction may dominate, there is a small, but still significant reaction in what
we would see as the negative time direction. In other words, we see a chemical event that results in
H2O2 production in our positive time direction. But in looking more closely at the
process, this is the net event, where a portion of its overall structure occurs in negative time, or the direction of
entropy decrease. This hydrogen peroxide formation reaction is purely entropic. We will call it, the reaction's
normal entropic process.
In an idealized world, it should be possible to alter the reaction to make the backward direction more dominant. This
can be accomplished by altering either, or both velocities to make the difference between them smaller. This slows the
overall reaction, and effectively decreases its entropy production. Schrodinger would say (What is Life?, The Physical
Aspects of the Living Cell, 1946) that we have made the process move in the negative entropy direction, or more simply,
that it has become a negentropic process, a process where the net velocity is positive, but smaller than that of the
normal entropic process.
Now look what happens when we take this negentropic process to its limit; allowing the forward and backward reaction
rates to become identical. This special case, places the process at the very limit of what the Second Law allows.
Entropy production ceases, and the process is precisely balanced among all of its possible outcomes. There exists an
equal probability of evolving in the forward and backward time dimensions, and all mass/energy and energy conversion
outcomes that are thermodynamically feasible, are possible. Time appears to stand still. We call this limiting case of
the negentropic process, a reversible process. To an observer the process appears to have taken a huge negative entropy
step, and is by any measure very far from equilibrium. Does this sound familiar?
However, the importance of the reversible process in our quest for a cold fusion model lies beyond these
circumstances. This is because all reversible processes, regardless of their nature, be they mechanical,
electro-dynamical, chemical, or electromagnetic, have one additional constraint that bestows on them their very special
place in the sciences. It is the Principle of Least Action. And what makes it so indispensible, is the precision with
which it specifies from among all of the possible 'next steps' that the reversible process could evolve to, the one
'next step' that results in the least action. And if the process remains in its reversible state after this step,
there is again only one 'next step' that the process can evolve to, and it too, is determined by the Principle of Least
Action. In this way, we see how any process that remains in a reversible thermodynamic state, is firstly stepwise,
and secondly, must trace out a very specific temporal evolution that we might refer to as the Least Action Process. It
does not matter that the process' forcing functions are deterministic or stochastic. As long as the overall process evolves
within the framework of thermodynamic reversiblity, every 'next step' is precisely determined by the Least Action
Principle, and at least in theory, its complete temporal evolution is, in a sense, deterministic. With regard to the
process being stepwise, this is a huge benefit to the Least Action Nuclear Process. It cannot cascade in the way that
normal nuclear processes do, thereby eliminating the possibility of an explosive event.
Many contemporary physicists consider reversible processes to be rare and not very important in the real world.
However, when we consider our palladium or nickle cathode to be in a wholly reversible thermodynamic state, we add a
nuance of profound imporance that brings a precision and exactitude to cold fusion theory that rivals that which we
normally reserve to more traditional areas of physics.
C. How Does This Apply to Cold Fusion?
The above described treatment is allowed by the Second Law. But, it is not immediately apparent how net reaction
velocities approaching this zero limit are achieved. And yet, this awkward result where the forward and backward
progression of time become exactly equal, and where time appears to stand still, is effectively what I believe happens
in cold fusion electrodes. It is what gives cold fusion its very far-from-equilibrium character, and its equally
far-from-equilibrium product: excess heat.
Now let's return to the question that brought us here: How do our cold fusion devices make the forward and backward
reaction velocities exactly equal without violating the Second Law? We begin by affirming that the velocities and time
scales that we have been talking about thus far are the averages, or most probable values resulting from large
ensembles of events. The laws governing such processes are statistical in nature, and are described by the laws of
Now let's do another thought experiment, and this time limit our inquiry to the reversible thermodynamic absorption
of deuterons at the surface of a nickel cathode. If this is to be a reversible thermodynamic absorption, none of the
energy in the reaction space can be energy of random motion. Random motion, a statistical quantity, is foreign to the
reversible state, where all events are exactly deterministic. This provides a means for describing our reversible
thermodynamic reaction space. In particular, the deuterons in the reactor's heavy water phase are highly mobile,
having kinetic energy. , while
the massive nickel electrode has zero kinetic energy. Absorption of a deuteron, regardless of the mechanism involved
in metal hydride formation, requires that the kinetic motion of the deuteron be 'quieted'...but not lost. The First
Law requires that the kinetic energy is conserved on absorption, and we might conjecture that this energy is passed to
the nickel hydride lattice where it is stored in a reversible thermodynamic way (i.e. without recouse to
post-absorption motion). Ultimately, this energy storage will reside as Mossbauer resonance between identical nuclei,
another reversible thermodynamic process.
Under these circumstances, immobilized deuterium exists without any loss of free energy to 'energy of motion',
and we understand this reaction to be in its thermodynamically reversible state. It has identical probability of going in
the entropic and neg-entropic time directions, and thus, its forward and backward reaction rates are identical. In
essence, we have taken the nickel hydride formation reaction out of the domain of statistical thermodynamics where
the kinetic energy of constituent parts contributes to uncertainty, and placed it entirely within the very precise
realm of determinism, where the Principle of Least Action alone determines the overall process' next step.
This state, where the forward and reverse directions of time passage are equal, places us at the very limit of the
Second Law, where processes are thermodynamically reversible, energy change is identically zero, and the apparent
entropy change is negative, even though entropy production has gone to zero. Relative to the rest of nature, this
process has taken a step backward in time. This is how cold fusion achieves neg-entropic character in a world of
My next essay will speak to the mechanisms that maintain a very far-from-equilibrium energy storage between nuclei
as Mossbauer Resonance, and describe how this energy accumulation achieves solar core temperatures in a cold fusion
D. Try This Exercise
My recent paper in the Journal of Condensed Matter Physics presents a cold fusion model based on reversible
thermodynamic principles and what I call the Least Action Nuclear Process (LANP). But more to the point, it presents
a calibration of the LANP model against nuclear transmutation data from Miley's nickel microsphere experiments. The
result show how the model successfully predicts transmutation products in 210 neuclear reactions, and it does so
without false positives. In other words, it does not predict anything that is not in Miley's final electrode.
Having spent hundreds of hours doing these calculations with a calculator, I understand the difficulty in
replicating my calibration, or the daunting task in repeating them for another electrode (the calculations are
electrode specific). Therefore, I have placed all of the relevant calculation sheets on the web so that the workings
of the Least Action Principle can be verified for these nuclear reactions. You might want to go through a few
calculations to see that it is the Principle of Least Action that correctly specifies the final transmutation
products in Miley's data. Table 10 in the web site that I talk about below, is a good place to see this.
My point in providing the data on-line is to show how transmutation products are unabiguously selected for by the
Least Action Principle. It is not a very long stretch from that point, to an understanding that this can only occur
if the underlying process is thermodynamically reversible. The calculations also show how time delays due to long
half-lives disappear, as do the concerns regarding multiple deuteron involvement in any reaction.
The model holds promise in several other important regards:
- It explains the mechanisms involved in experiments where no excess heat is measured.
- It provides a mechanism consistent with the laws of physics regarding the absence of radiation or radioactive
products in the experiments.
- It provides, at least a plausible, if unproven, mechanism to explain the absence of a coulomb barrier to nuclear
- It shows how both fission and fusion products are selected for by the Principle of Least Action.
- It provides a rationale for thermonuclear temperatures in a laboratory temperature device.
You might at least go through a few of the more improbable nuclear reactions (i.e. those that produce anomolous
isotope distributions, or fission products, or those involving multiple deuterons) to convince yourself that it is
indeed the Least Action Principle that unambigously selects for these products. The data and analysis can be found
Finally, Let me refer you to Planck's final word on this subject (A Survey of Physical Theory, 1925), and in
particular his discussion of how the Principle of Least Action involves only two quantities: energy and time. The
distance relationships, and in particular those involved in the coulomb repulsion, play no role in thermodynamically
reversible processes. As long as the next step in the reversible process is thermodynamically possible, it is a
candidate, subject only to the Least Action constraint. At ICCF-19 I will be pleased to talk to you about
temperature conditions within a metal hydride electrode, and the specific temperature conditions that allow
thermodynamically feasible nuclear reaction to occur.