Cold Fusion: A War Story

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Copyright © Harold Aspden, 1998


I will begin this sorry tale by reminding you that in March 1989 two professors, Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah, stunned the nuclear world by revealing experimental data which indicated that what seemed to be a nuclear fusion reaction involving hydrogen isotopes could generate otherwise unaccountable amounts of heat by an electrochemical process operating at room temperature.

Nearly nine years later one has now to face the bewildering conflict of two basic facts:

Fact No. 1: From April 19-24, 1998 a conference named 'ICCF-7' is to be held in Vancouver. It is the seventh of a series of well-attended international conferences, billed as "The Best Ever" and it will bring together hundreds of scientists whose experiments provide supporting evidence to show that cold fusion is a technological reality, that the rival 'hot fusion' factions cannot ignore.

Fact No. 2: As one can read in the October 1997 issue of New Energy News:

ENECO, Salt Lake City - ENECO has now completely re-directed its business plan and internal development activities around its own "second generation" non-electric technology. In late May, we terminated our exclusive license agreement with the University of Utah regarding the original 1989 Pons-Fleischmann electrolytic patent applications. The timing of the decision to cancel the license was driven by the U.S. Patent Office's final rejection of the licensed applications. The only remaining recourse for ENECO, as the licensee, was to pursue an expensive appellate process at an estimated cost in excess of $1 million over the next two or three years. ENECO terminated the license, with its impending high legal costs and other technical difficulties, to devote full corporate resources towards its own proprietary technology that is believed to have a quicker route to commercial success.

These two facts tell their own story. Here was an invention which was recognized as patentable in Europe but which, for some 'mysterious' reason has been deemed unpatentable by the authorities administering the United States Patent Office. This, together with the hostile attitude of U.S. research funding agencies, has obstructed the development of a new technology which affords a prospective plentiful supply of heat energy without involving pollution. It is evident that those who benefit from research funding for 'hot fusion' projects have won the day by asserting their oppressive influence through political channels to break faith with the international patent treaty posture on what is, and what is not, patentable.

An invention that is new, not obvious, potentially useful and is in the industrial category we associate with manufacture and industrial processes, is deemed universally to be proper subject matter for patent grant. If the United States Patent Office is unwilling to grant patents relevant to cold fusion technology then the Commissioner of Patents and Tradmarks should have declared that as a policy position, to stem the wastage of time and money that has resulted since 1989. There should have been appropriate overtures made through the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva to bring the heads of other National Patent Offices on board with the reasons for that decision. Inventions in the energy field are important to mankind generally and it is unfair for U.S. corporations to be able to secure patents in other countries if the United States of America is not prepared to reciprocate.

There is no reason why I should venture as a spokesman for the University of Utah in respect of their rights to U.S. patent grant on the Fleischmann and Pons inventions or for the many hundreds of U.S. patent applicants hurt by this situation. I am a British citizen and all I can do is to tell my own story based on my efforts to secure grant of a U.S. patent on cold fusion. From what I have heard my experience is typical of that encountered by others who dare to seek such patents in U.S.A. Now retired, I happen to have a scientific interest in the subject but, careerwise, I was a European Patent Attorney in the employ of IBM. I was Director of IBM's European Patent Operations. Indeed, many years ago, when the draft of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (P.C.T.) was being discussed in Geneva, I recall being called upon to represent N.A.M., the National Association of Manufacturers at such a meeting. I could never have imagined that one day I would witness the situation that has now occurred in the examining division of the U.S. Patent Office that deals specifically with cold fusion patent applications.

However, what I have to say below I say as an applicant-inventor but I preface that with the general observation that, in the practical world of the corporate patent environment, when a patent has been on the books for 8 to 10 years, if it is not by then earning its keep by being licensed or by protecting something to be seen on the production line, then its days before it is allowed to lapse by non-payment of renewal fees are numbered. I am not surprised therefore to hear that ENECO in Utah has decided to cut their losses and withdraw from their contest with the U.S. Patent Office. Given then that the files of record in the Patent Office are not available for inspection by the public until a patent issues, it may be that the histories of the file record on cold fusion applications will remain a secret. However, I can here record a little part of that history by making this disclosure as a patent applicant.

It began in 1989

In March 1989 I was in my sixth year after retirement and in my sixth year as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of Soputhampton. I was in the Department of Electrical Engineering housed in the Faraday building close to the Department of Electrochemistry to which Martin Fleischmann belonged. There had been no reason for contact with Professor Fleischman, even though I had indulged in ideas concerned with protons, deuterons, and neutrons.

Indeed, some three years previously, in 1986, I had been very pleased to secure publication of a sequence of three papers, Papers 1, 2 and 3 in the Part 2 section of my 1996 book 'Aether Science Papers', and the first of these was entitled 'The Theoretical Nature of the Deuteron and the Neutron'. This paper explained how one could determine the proton/electron mass ratio, as being 1836.152, precisely in accord with its measured value. It further give similar precise account of the nature of the deuteron and the neutron. The theory told me that there is no neutron in the deuteron! (Keep in mind here that the Fleischmann and Pons experimental findings were later criticised because there was no evidence of neutron emission from what was ostensibly a deuteron fusion reaction.)

Now I mention this because I did, at the time reprints of these papers were available, send copies of all three to the relevant professor in the Department of Physics at the university. I explained that, though I was in the Department of Electrical Engineering, the fact that these three papers concerned theoretical physics might lead to enquiries directed to his function and, therefore, it was appropriate that he should see what I had written. I did know that he and his research staff were involved in a funded project involving analysis of particle data and it was the quantum chromodynamic theory that was supposed to account for proton creation. My simple derivation of the proton/electron mass ratio to within a fraction of part per million agreement with its measured value should have impressed him.

On the contrary, the professor was, dare I say, quite livid, so to speak, in his reaction, which came back in writing, with a copy to the head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. The letter expressed his outrage in the form of a declaration that these were the sort of ideas that he had been trying to stop his research students from voicing. He was not happy. I read this as meaning that my independent unfunded contribution to the understanding of the nature of the proton, deuteron and neutron, could conceivably impact his chances of securing continued funding for the particle research on which his group thrived. The head of my department expressed to me his dismay at the attitude his physics counterpart had taken. For my part, I wondered what was happening in the academic world if research students were not allowed some freedom to develop ideas of their own.

Was research funding so important that it had to be expended on using 'research students', virtually as slaves who sift through particle data at the crack of a whip from their professor, but could not be let loose as free-thinking individuals, albeit targetting their attentions at the common objective? Could it be that that professor was concerned in case his students actually saw my way of deriving the proton-electron mass ratio and he feared their revolt against the theoretical route he was advocating? If so, I hope one of those students will see these Web pages of mine and make his or her own judgement. Would it not have been prudent for that professor to show my papers to his students, given that he knew that they had an inclination towards such ideas themselves, and then explain to them in clear terms why what I was advocating had to be in error?

Well, that is water under the bridge, as they say, but it will, I hope, show why I was particularly interested when the University of Utah staged the Fleischmann and Pons announcement.

It certainly caused me to exercise my mind, because here was a claim that an excess of heat was being produced in an electrolytic cell in which the deuteron content of heavy water had been adsorbed into a palladium cathode. As I saw it, if the process involved really was a nuclear fusion process, then that could confirm views I had held for many years concerning the fallacy that the sun's power was dependent upon hot fusion.

I had discussed this subject in a book I wrote in 1972: 'Modern Aether Science'. On page 68 of that work I suggested that the energy released by stars was really coming from the aether. The aether is full of energy, primarily in the form of what are called 'heavy electrons' or mu-mesons or, to use another name, muons, but physicists see these as an enigma and wonder where they fit into Nature's pattern. Those muons create protons and one can begin to see how the aether can shed energy when such mysteries of Nature are deciphered in terms of an acceptance that the aether does exist.

My curiosity about the excess heat source of the Fleischmann and Pons cell had been aroused. I even wondered if it could be connected with something I had explored exerimentally myself, when I tried to set up electrodynamic forces between electric currents in two adjacent electrolytic cells containing a concentrated salt solution involving normal water.

To formulate a law of electrodynamics which accommodates to the form of the law of gravity but complies with the basic experimental observations, one is driven into a rather special situation. If two electric charges in general motion interact electrodynamically, but with their electrostatic interactions compensated, then there is a form of law which prescribes that, so long as their motions relative to the electromagnetic reference frame are mutually parallel or antiparallel, there will be an inverse square law of force acting between them directed between their centres of charge. However, should those motions not be of that form, there will be imbalance of action and reaction. This means that the aether itself or whatever it is that determines that electromagnetic frame of reference will shed energy as it tries to assure that balance of action and reaction.

My interest had focused on the electrodynamic interaction of electrons and heavy ions. In the cold fusion experiments I could see that here was a situation where heavy ions (deuterons) could move freely inside the metal body of a cathode in which there were electrical currents conveyed by electrons. The electrons had a short mean free path, but the deuterons might flow by meandering to avoid the positively charged base structure of the metal crystal and this I saw as a possible recipe for electrodynamic action leading to an anomalous acceleration of those deuterons powered by energy supplied by the aether. That would generate anomalous power in the form of heat.

I saw, on the other hand, that here might be a true cold fusion process if those deuterons were able to fuse by being driven into one another by those anomalous electrodynamic forces, which my theory indicated would be thousands of times greater than could expected from an electron-electron interaction.

Either way, it made sense, in my opinion to contemplate having an apparatus in which the cathode was part of a closed circuit path of very low resistance carrying a high current, meaning that this would involve very little heat injection by normal means. This, I reasoned, would enhance the activity in which those adsorbed deuterons were involved. One could have 100 amps circulating in a cathode and just a few amps traversing the electrolyte from anode to cathode. Inject heat to enhance the heat gain and do it by making the closed cathode circuit a secondary winding on a transformer fed with very little power input to its primary winding. That was my 'invention' as conceived a few days after I heard of the Fleischmann and Pons announcement.

I filed my patent application on April 15, 1989 at the British Patent Office.

So by this Lecture on my Web pages I introduce my own story of the saga I encountered once I took an interest in 'cold fusion'.

Harold Aspden
March 14, 1998

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