In Europe, a multinational team of scientists recently embarked upon yet another cold fusion investigation, the HERMES project, which will employ more advanced scientific techniques and tools developed in recent years.
"The purpose is to try to look for an experiment that would reproducibly produce some anomalous effects," says Pekka Peljo, in an email. He's the project's coordinator, and an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Turku in Finland. "We are revisiting some of the previous experiments. Also, we are going to study electrochemistry of palladium-hydrogen and palladium-deuterium systems in detail, utilizing well-controlled model systems such as palladium single crystals. So shortly, HERMES is a combination of fundamental studies on palladium-hydrogen system, repetition of some promising earlier experiments, and development of new approaches. For example, we are going to look at reactions at higher temperatures utilizing proton conductive solid oxides."
Even so, the researchers aren't necessarily expecting to find evidence of cold fusion.
"The majority of the scientific field think it was most likely experimental artifact, i.e., it is not real," Peljo explains. "Basically, when palladium metal is loaded with high amounts of deuterium, it seems that most of the time nothing unusual happens. But sometimes, for reasons not well understood, it seems that something strange can happen. Originally, Pons and Fleischmann observed excess heat, but there are reports of other anomalous effects, such as neutron radiation or helium production. But there are a lot of reproducibility issues. Most likely, these reactions are not actually fusion, but instead some other nuclear reactions taking place in the metal lattice."
The HERMES researchers won't try to recreate Pons' and Fleischmann's research, while Peljo says would be too time-consuming and difficult.
"Instead, we are focusing on nanosized materials, where the loading should be much faster, and stresses due to the volume change upon deuterium insertion should be much smaller," he explains. "One of our main focus is so-called co-electrodeposition experiments, where Pd-D is deposited electrochemically. This approach was developed by Dr. Stanislaw Szpak and Dr. Pamela Mosier-Boss in the U.S. Navy SPAWAR Systems Center in San Diego, California. The experiments are well-documented and their results have been published in multiple peer-reviewed scientific literature, so our first approach is to try to reproduce their results."
"This is a high-risk, high-reward project, i.e., there is a very high likelihood that we will not be able to observe anything anomalous," Peljo says. "On the other hand, if the project is successful, we will have a reproducible experiment to probe these reactions. According to modern physics, no such reactions should take place, so a new theory should be developed to explain these reactions. There is also the possibility of developing novel heat sources, as these reactions are claimed to be producing excess heat from electricity."
Information that the HERMES research gathers about the fundamental properties of palladium-hydrogen systems could also help with developing a better process for producing hydrogen for fuel cells to power automobiles, according to Peljo.