>Michael C. H. McKubre, Ph.D.
>Cold Fusion Research at SRI: past, present and prospective
>Dr. McKubre, Director of the Energy Research center, SRI International,
>has been involved with electrochemical kinetic studies of batteries,
>fuel cells and sensors since his arrival at SRI in 1978. Development
>of a hydrogen sensor using palladium wires led naturally to a study of
>cold fusion effects in 1989. Dr. McKubre's group at SRI has worked to
>demonstrate the existence of a heat effect in the palladium deuterium
>system occurring under well defined but difficult to produce conditions
>that exceeds the magnitude of chemical energy effects by several
>orders of magnitude. The origin of this effect has now been shown to
>be nuclear by measurement of the associated products: tritium,
>helium-3 and helium-4.
>Dr. McKubre will provide a brief overview of the cold fusion research
>at SRI, discuss recent results and try to explore possible future
>significance of this work.
Dr. McKubre began his talk by remarking on what a long winding road it had been from the original announcement by Fleischman and Pons that cold fusion could exist to the current state of understanding. He first got involved when SRI did a three month $30,000.00 project to study the process. From there it has been a long struggle to get to the point where his team understood what was going on in the reaction.
From the start the politics of the situation have been as difficult as anything else. The initial tentative reports that there might be something interesting going on were made more emphatic by editors who wanted reader interest. The people who have a large investment in making hot fusion work saw the project as competition for funding sources, and worked to discredit it. Despite all that, Dr. McKubre was able to find enough funding from sources like EPRI, DARPA, and the Japanese Government to study the problem in detail.
Dr. McKubre showed us an experimental chamber that was used to create a reaction that produced more electricity and heat than could be predicted from the chemical reactions alone. It consisted of a Palladium anode (with the right amount of impurities like Boron and Calcium) suspended in a vessel containing about 30 cc of heavy water and a Palladium cathode. The chamber was made Helium tight so that all of the products of the reaction could be measured. Also the temperature of the bath the container was kept in was kept constant so that every cause of the reaction could be identified. Specially designed calorimeters were used to measure heat output of the reactions.
What his team found was that sometimes after setting things up and running a current through the solution for a few hundred hours they did get an output that was not explainable on purely chemical reaction terms. Also, when this happened a significant amount of He3 and He4 was produced, which was the expected output of the nuclear reaction they thought was occurring. He had a "fairly simple" formula that did seem to match the observed results.
After questioning from the audience Dr. McKubre said that in his lab they had gotten about 5% more energy out of the equipment then they put in. He pointed out their focus had been figuring out how the reaction worked, not producing energy. He felt that designing equipment that did produce energy is possible, although the radioactive byproduct of He3 could turn out to be a problem. (The major product of the reaction is He4, which is chemically harmless and might be valuable.) Dr. McKubre is presently helping to establish a company to do this, but the market is so risk adverse at the moment that funding is difficult to come by.