In 1989, when B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced the results of their cold fusion experiments, I was a chemical engineering grad student at the University of Arizona. So I read with interest the article about the results obtained by Andrea Rossi with his Ni-based E-Cat system (C&EN, May 14, page 42). The original experiment has been worked over by the true believers until they have been able to detect neutrons flying away from some of their experiments some of the time. As of now, I don’t believe that there have been any sightings of any products of true fusion—alpha particles.
As a bit of a thought experiment, the concept of beta capture (the absorption of an electron by a proton to become a neutron) within the high-electron-density environment of the palladium cathode might be responsible for the observed particles. Although this is the easiest form of fusion, it would yield a negative energy output because of the large amount of work needed to be put into the apparatus to form a few very low energy neutrons. As for Rossi, if he hopes to demonstrate that he is turning nickel into copper, he had better be using something other than copper and brass plumbing supplies (as observed in the photograph) because of the contamination of everything in his lab by the copper fittings.
By Leonard R. Ochs