Warming towards cold fusion

In Fusion Runs Hot and Cold, Jonah Messinger, the Breakthrough Institute’s Senior Energy Analysist, provides a comprehensive overview of the state of the science of low energy nuclear reactions (LENR), a field once known as “Cold Fusion.”  Although long castigated as a pseudoscience, the field has attracted a growing number of credible experts, recent DOE funding, and has produced a growing body of empirical evidence for a phenomena that is becoming increasingly understood as a third type of nuclear power.

Cold fusion has long been widely misunderstood, beginning with its flawed introduction by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, electrochemists at the University of Utah, as far back as 1989. They claimed to have induced fusion reactions of deuterium nuclei in a palladium foil by applying a current to drive electrolysis. Their electrolysis experiments—inspired by older anomalous reports of cold-fusion-like experiments in the 1920s—caused several sharp, multi-day bursts in thermal power output from their cells well above the electrical power of the input current or the total potential energy stored in the chemical bonds of the electrolyte.

There were multiple problems with Fleishmann and Pons’ work, which were revisited by Jonah Messinger, not least of which was a lack of both reproducibility and a lack of a theoretical explanation. According to this review, not five weeks after the initial claims—the field was proclaimed dead by speakers at the influential American Physical Society (APS), among which was a mocking rebuttal by Steven Koonin, then a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech—now notorious for his dismissal of climate change impacts.

Although at that time, the DOE’s panel to evaluate cold fusion opted against funding cold fusion research (despite evidence of neutron and tritium production that could not be explained), the body of scientific evidence since then has grown such that even the DOE has finally agreed to fund research. Catch up on the current state of scientific understandings about what is now far more widely believed to be a highly complex, multi-body, low energy nuclear reaction with this article from the Breakthrough Institute.

Read more at Breakthrough’s Fusion Runs Hot and Cold, by Jonah Messinger, May 18, 2023. Also see the Nature.com article, Revisiting the cold case of cold fusion by Ross Koningstein, David Fork, Matt Trevithick and others, from May 19, 2019.