Sunday, April 29, 2012

Challenges for neutron production

Any explanation for cold fusion that involves neutrons will run into a number of objections.  Edmond Storms sets out several of these objections in section 8.2.1 of his invaluable book, The Science of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction.  (I highly recommend this book to anyone exploring cold fusion.)  In that section there is a numbered list of considerations, and considerations 2 and 4 seem to involve in part a lack of observed beta particle emission.  I wrote Dr Storms and asked him about these two considerations, specifically, and the basis for concluding that beta particle emission is missing.  I wondered whether this conclusion was based on the CR-39 evidence, which involves detecting tracks left in a kind of plastic that is used in sunglasses.  This plastic is typically inserted directly into the electrolyte.  A method of detection along these lines is necessary because beta particles cannot pass through the walls of the closed systems that are used in the cold fusion experiments.

In his helpful reply, Dr Storms seemed to indicate that these considerations were getting at something else in addition to the lack of beta particle emission.  Here is the gist of what he said:
  1. Occasionally neutrons are seen, but their levels are very low and their source unknown and unrelated to heat production.
  2. The radioactivity expected when neutrons interact with their surroundings is easy to detect using a cheap Geiger-Muller counter and has been sought and rarely seen.
  3. Neutrons are short-lived, with a half-life of ~ 16 minutes, so they must be constantly replenished in a sustained reaction.  This is not possible in ordinary materials.
Storms' points have obviously been given some thought, and I hope to learn more about each of them.  I understand that he discusses the low levels of neutrons that are occasionally seen in his "Student's Guide" and offers a possible explanation, so I will read that paper first before drawing any conclusions in the present connection.

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