If you read that article, it is probably because you are aware of recent announcements by commercial companies that Cold Fusion is ready for industrial usage. This first Part is addressing the basic question, whether Cold Fusion, now named LENR, is a validated scientific fact beyond any reasonable doubt, a probable phenomenon, a very doubtful, or beyond any reasonable doubt is non-existent.
The main story about Cold Fusion, alias LENR, starts in 1989 with an announcement by Dr Fleischmann (A leading electro-chemist of that time) who published results about heat production, beyond what chemistry would allow, during very long electrolysis (months) of heavy water with palladium electrodes, needing very tricky calorimetry. He also claimed neutron detection, but was advised by the administration of University of Utah not to publish results for He4 production. It attracted much media buzz, much hope for an energy revolution. However it also attracted some furor, because the neutron measure was an artifact, because some conflict on publication customs, because it appeared to be inconsistent with what is known for hot- fusion in plasma, and some say, because it was endangering the status-quo and, most of all, budgets.
Many experiments were quickly done, many failed, and few succeeded. Influential labs (MIT, Caltech,...) quickly ran experiments that failed, perhaps helped by some tweaking of the data (see Eugene Mallove), lack of patience, and lack of knowledge of the key conditions to trigger the reaction, and possibly by poor calorimetry (see Miles calorimetry paper at ICCF17),.
Finally a cascade formed with positive claims that Cold fusion is voodoo science, and errors, if not fraud.
Looking back, many criticisms were making unwarranted assumption, and logic errors. Those assumption and errors are clear today, but should have been identified easily from the beginning, especially for people having knowledge of past scientific history.
You can find a well constructed article by Edmund Storms that address those criticisms et continue with review of current results on cold Fusion, published in Naturwissenschaften in 2010 (Edmund Storm 2010). The consensus that he summarize is :
The first criticism is that "LENR is not allowed by today physics and quantum mechanics". Huizenga summarized that rebuttal with the concept of "three miracles of cold fusion": lack of neutrons, of gamma rays, and not enough energy to overcome the Coulomb barrier.The phenomenon called cold-fusion has been studied for the last 21 years since its discovery by Profs. Fleischmann and Pons in 1989. The discovery was met with considerable skepticism, but supporting evidence has accumulated, plausible theories have been suggested, and research is continuing in at least 8 countries. This paper provides a brief overview of the major discoveries and some of the attempts at an explanation. The evidence supports the claim that a nuclear reaction between deuterons to produce helium can occur in special materials without application of high energy. This reaction is found to produce clean energy at potentially useful levels without the harmful byproducts normally associated with a nuclear process. Various requirements of a model are examined.
This claim is simply erroneously applying the knowledge acquired in plasma science, inside an unknown condensed matter environment, maybe a lattice, maybe surface, maybe cracks... No doubt that the usual reaction happening in plasma is improbable. Observing how different is quantum mechanic in semiconductors or superconductors, should make experts modest about definitive claims.
What quantum mechanic and thermodynamic says is simply that global mass and energy have to be conserved, that global entropy cannot decrease, that quantum numbers and momentum have to be conserved, and Heisenberg inequality is respected... LENR as observed today may be some nuclear transmutation, yet what and how it happens is not understood. LENR mays also challenge the usual way physicists make approximate computation of quantum mechanics. Maybe we should abandon some assumption, like two-body independent computation, Born-Oppenheimer approximation, relativistic simplification...
Basically, today there is no theory, and we don't have even enough data to propose a precise mechanism, and to know how it challenge current physics. It should no be a problem to accept facts. After all, we accepted fire and cook food before understanding it.
The second criticism is even worse, since it is basic foundation of science, is that "if it is not systematically reproducible, it is non-existent". This reasoning is shocking for anyone knowing early development of technologies, like semiconductors or airplane. As usual for unknown phenomenon there was unknown required conditions, that were respected or not, leading to failures or successes. It looked simple, but it is not, as usual. The reproducibility, if not total, have greatly increased. Many of the criteria to trigger LENR have been found, and it includes need of higher than believed before loading of palladium, needed palladium impurities, nano-scale crystallographic structure, and many causes of failures are identifies like cracks or contamination... One cannot honestly ask for perfect reproducibility until all is undesrtood.
The third family of criticisms is that it is only measurement artifacts. It is right that early experiments were demanding very good job, but the calorimetric results of Fleischmann, one of the best experimentalists of his time, were letting no doubt. Problem was lack of reproducibility, not precision. It was an error to say that Cold Fusion was easy to experiment. Moreover Fleischmann did not disclose all the data, and it was impossible to make good experiments in short time. It was simply much less difficult than hot fusion. There have been some real criticisms, some retraction, but if you read the papers you see that many source of error have been addressed by better experiments. There are also many experiments where the anomalous heat was so great that there is no doubt, yet it was not reproducible. Some experiment also change of setup, like McKubre (McKubre/SRI) moving form isoperibolic calorimetry to isothermal calorimetry, and later to flow calorimetry. With increase of control, more and more experiment leave no doubt. To avoid being misled, one should focus on the best results, the best protocols, and not repeat the same old criticisms.
More than the simple increase of measurement quality there is also other phenomenon that have been studied. There are clear results about presence, and consumption, of tritium found in Indian BARC (eg, see BARC 1996 tritium report ), and in US. There are discussed He4 production evidences, less solid, but correlated (see Report41 by ENEA) to the produced heat. There have been some transmutation experiments by Iwamura for Mitsubishi (see Iwamura work), reproduced at Toyota (see Toyota replication). You can also see the claims by US navy SPAWAR team of high energy particle during electrolysis (see Spawar CR-39 story), which published. All those results are individually challenged. We can first notices that none of the challenger give any evidence of reality of the artifact they claim, that those artifact seems very hard to believe given the precaution of the experimentalist who are accustomed to permanent skepticism. Most of the experimental results, yet precise and clear when positive, are not perfectly reproducible. With time, the failures seem more and more justified by experimental conditions, and not by measurement protocol (see for example ENEA 2009 at ICCF15, or Dawn Dominguez of NRL at ICCF17). This is clear evidence that the result is linked to a real reaction and not to a measurement artifact.
Most of the criticism are in fact cognitive dissonance, not to tell publicly that they are convinces LENR experiments are frauds organized by fringe researchers. This conspiracy theory is probably required to explain inconvenient results,while LENR is assumed impossible "by law" . It looks today hard to believe, listing the various institutions, the various labs, the various researches, the new researchers entering LENR domain. The most funny is to observe that when looking about experimental quality, it is clear that early critical experiments were first loosely done (see Miles calorimetry paper at ICCF17, and CEA Grenoble paper 97), and then that there are strong suspicion of misconduct (see the furor of Eugene Mallove).
Another strong criticism against LENR is that there is no peer-reviewed paper. In fact that is already factually false. There are about a thousand of peer-reviewed papers published is recognized journals. To that fact, some answers that this was mostly published in chemistry journal. In fact it is even sounder since, in chemistry, peer-reviewers are more used with calorimetry than in physics journals. Big problem is more that often some claims in nuclear were made, which is not their domain.
Some criticisms are that the author are fringe scientist, this mean in fact people working on LENR. Some also claim that the journal were fringe, simply they were accepting LENR articles. This mental loophole would be funny on a conspiracy theory club, but have no room in science. More seriously, there is clear evidence of huge and unethical obstacle toward peer-review of a LENR paper (see report 41 blocked, Oriani paper blocked after positive peer-review), while some criticism on official sophism being ignored (see Nature refusing to reexamine Caltech loose experiment). Another problem, even deeper, is the tendency to reject papers because there were only experimental results and no theory.
A usual argument is that "LENR is so unbelievable that it should require extraordinary evidence to prove it". The first answer is that the extraordinary evidence are already there, published in peer review journal, validated in corporate reports (see EPRI, Shell/CNAM), replicated in many various way, cross-checked, with a global structure eliminating any reasonable possibility of experimental artifacts.
The second is that it is possible that LENR break no important part of current physics, maybe just our usual way to work with quantum mechanics. We just don't yet know if it shakes physics.
Finally the network of evidence is so large, so cross checked, so correlated that there is no reasonable doubt, until someone provide real evidence that it is artifact. The "extraordinary evidence" are required on the criticism side now, or else you can throw most of modern science to to the bin. Until now, no critic scientist have really challenged LENR results, without the problem being addressed (sometime accepted and causing retraction). Very few criticisms were simply looked real enough to be addressed, and most valuable criticisms were from LENR experts (like Edmund Storms).
A variation of that extraordinary requirement is the "tea kettle" motto. One again it is not scientific, since in science you don't need fact to be useful to be accepted as real. Many scientific facts started by being useless anomalies or funny phenomenons. It started that way for semiconductors, radioactivities, and waiting for some phenomenons to be useful is best way to prevent innovation.
One criticism used also, a bit desperate, is to remind that LENR have been supported by fringe science fans, the "free energy movement", fans on Tesla, of magnetic superunitary motors. For naive people this is a very efficient argument, since you don't trust a scientist if he is supported by people you judge crazy. More seriously some scientist have an open mind position on some fringe energy claims, which you can understand caused by the experience that rejecting a claim without looking is not scientific. All of that are in fact non-arguments. At most if those fringe fan were well funded you could expect a strong bias to get funding, but LENR is mostly a good way to ruin your career and lose your funding. On the opposite, when you see mainstream researcher like Duncan (see his story in University of Missouri), like Celani (see his story from CERN) or Dawn Dominguez (See her story at NRL), jump into LENR, you can be sure that they were following real results, and not hope of funding.
One criticism of the same kind, it to say that LENR is "too good to be true". It is right that LENR is nuclear, yet clean, can be downsized easily, which looks like a dream for the energy sector. It is also true that scam artist usually sell dreams to victims, and that when someone propose you a dream that seems impossible, you should be careful. However here we are already careful, too careful in fact, and this heuristic is only a reason to follow scientific method. Since there are many experiment converging to a coherent reality, far from measurement artifact, you can dump that psychological argument.
Globally one classic method to raise criticisms against LENR is to repeat, like it is done on Wikipedia, the official position as published in 1989 : no replication, no peer-reviewed papers, no reproducibility. If reproducibility is still below 100% for most protocols, all the rest is factually false.
The second method, seen on Wikipedia, in Scientific American, or in nature is to refuse debate, forbid dissenters critics (ban some Internet site like LENR-CANR.org, some subjects because "having no room"), and reuse old criticisms, mostly armchair criticisms, on old experiments, refusing to update any data. This can look surprising but it seems common when a community is attacked, tired of answering criticisms for good or bad reasons. Some call that "circling the wagon". It is clear that there is no more any reasoning, nor scientific method when the wagon are circled.
It is the moment for who have to decide, real researchers, businessmen, citizen, to trust the data and no more the consensus. It is hard, since you might not have the required competence to judge the experiments. If scientist can do the experiment themselves, if businessmen can hire scientists, for citizen the best evidence is to avoid getting too deep in the tricky technical part, and focus more on behavioral and business evidences, which are clear today on LENR. It is also important to read the position and argument on all side. With LENR the criticisms are so weak, that it is more exhausting than challenging. This method is however unable to convince deniers who can selectively shutdown part of their brain on demand, or get deep in details so they can misinterpret them at will, or dodge any criticism by moving the target.
Once again, if you doubt or want to be comforted in your conviction, I advise you to read the review by Edmund Storms that address those criticisms, published in Naturwissenschaften in 2010 (Edmund Storm 2010). For the data, you can get most papers on LENR-CANR.org, the LENR free library maintained by Jed Rothwell. On LENR-Forum.com, I have gathered many stories and some explanations of key papers. Topics are classified with "tags", to help research.
This have to be repeated however that, even if LENR is validated, the usable level of energy production is not yet validated at the same level of evidence. Even the recent breakthrough in LENR with Nickel-Hydrogen, is much less cross-checked scientifically. It is not the question we address in that article. The only question is whether LENR is voodoo science requiring extraordinary evidences, or normal science for which normal level of evidence applies, or in-between.
It has to be repeated also that even if LENR is validated as a scientific fact, there is no accepted theory, not even a unique leading one. However there are among the many theories a group of theories that respect today quantum mechanic. No theory is explaining all and validated by refutable experiments. Anyway theory is not required to admit a fact. That is the basic of science methodology, and a challenge for today science establishment.
You might have noticed that I'm quite violent in the term I use about some arguments. I have to admit that it is understated. There is clear violation of ethic, clear scientific misconduct, huge sophism that would justify to fire a college student, abuse of power, unjustified public insult, apparent incompetence, clear denial, that would deserve much more violent terms that the one I use, if not legal pursuit by various party who have suffered from that tragedy.
I have the intimate conviction that no experiment can convince the deniers of LENR, like it is seen in conspiracy groups, or in corporate group delusion. Roland Benabou after gathering story of denial (see patterns of denial) propose a nice model of collective delusion (see this paper) that predict that with increasing level of evidence the violence of the attacks will grow, until final collapse.
Some are more optimistic and remind us that no really negative article is published anymore. There is more and more LENR review like the one of Ed Storms. I see that looking like the last months before the Berlin Wall did fall, when it was still officially standing, but nobody would battle to maintain it.
That is no more the problem, and after we are comforted that LENR is validated as a normal part of scientific knowledge, we should go further to make good usage of that knowledge. First good usage of that confidence in the data, is that we should use normal level of evidence to judge of industrial claims in that domain. That will be another chapter.
The match is over, and it is time to work, to build and to make money.
Next level, please.
Note: I'm preparing a sequence or articles to synthesize data and convictions acquired during my tech watch, emphasizing key point and key references ... I kindly ask readers to help me to fix the mistakes, the errors, the missing points, the questions, the typo and the language errors... Please report your criticisms on the forum.
Thanks to Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax, for review of this article with many criticisms. I've updated the article to follow most criticisms.
License: This article can be used by anyone, provided the reference to the source (LENR-Forum.com, LENRNews.eu), the author (alias or real name) is given, an URL is given to a version of the article, and the article is not modified substantially. It can be translated, summarized, cut, or restructured provided there is no misrepresentation of the author intent. Of course it can be quoted under usual fair use condition for the sake of demonstration, criticisms, parody.
NB: this article is published on LENRNews.eu.