Even from Germany it was near impossible not to catch some of the buzz around this year’s ACS Meeting in San Francisco, especially because there wasn’t just the usual stuff going on. Announcing in advance that “Cold fusion moves closer to the mainstream” was bound to get some extra attention, since most people still consider researchers in this field as being of the underwear-as-headgear variety. Even its supporters tend to agree that this line of research attracts a number of such types.
On the other hand the field has been successfully rebranded as LENR – low energy nuclear reactions – and there is a whole bunch of topics investigated now aside from what Pons and Fleischman originally claimed, so it certainly looks a lot less crackpotty than it did in the early years. The current ringing endorsement by ACS helps, of course.
I have my doubts though. During the last week I did some reading on the whole subject. This is of course way out of the reach of my personal expertise, but I can’t help getting the feeling that research is moving in circles. There are lots of people arguing what looks suspiciously like semantics, and there appear to be several different models out there for something that hasn’t yet been convincingly demonstrated. Sure, this goes for cosmology as well, but here we are talking about stuff that happens in beakers.
The strongest indication for this come from the meeting itself, where a new, allegedly extremely accurate calorimeter was presented. However, supporters of the field claim that there is already unanimous evidence for excess heat produced during deuterium reactions in crystal lattices – the original Fleischmann effect. In the comments to the post at In The Field someone claims that the effect is described in 153 peer-reviewed papers. So why another calorimeter?
I’m curious about some other abstracts, too, but I will withhold judgement at least until I read a few papers referenced there and elsewhere. My gut feeling, however, tells me that despite the latest publicity and all those near-breakthroughs reported, LENR isn’t going to go anywhere in the foreseeable future.