Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1141st General Monthly Meeting

"Cold fusion, the alchemist's dream?"

Annual General Meeting & Presidential Address by Professor Jak Kelly, President of the Society

Wednesday 5 April 2006, 6.30 for 7 pm
Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, City Road


A brief history of cold fusion and where it fits into conventional physics will be given, leading up to the most recent results. Cold fusion remains a controversial subject. There are more theories than theoreticians working in the field, none of which are universally accepted. The original objective of the field was the release of thermal energy by fusing hydrogen isotopes into helium with simple apparatus and without producing the dangerous amounts of radiation normally associated with conventional fusion and fission.

Many laboratories now routinely produce excess heat from cells developed from the original Fleishman and Pons cells at the University of Utah. One of the most interesting development is low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) in which elements are transmuted into other elements, the alchemist's dream. A potential application of LENR is the conversion of radioactive waste into nonradioactive isotopes.


Professor Jak Kelly is a former head of the School of Physics and Chairman of the Faculty of Science at UNSW. He is at present Honorary Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney and President of the Royal Society of NSW. A graduate of Sydney, he has a PhD from the University of Reading (UK) and a DSc from UNSW. He has been Professor of Electrical Engineering at Arizona State University, Professor of Applied Physics at the Technical University of Vienna, Senior Scientific Officer in Metallurgy at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment and Senior Research Fellow at Sussex University.

He is co-author of two books, on Ion Implantation and Defects in Solids, in addition to numerous publications on metals, ion optics, radiation damage, electron sputtering, thin films, channeling theory and cold fusion.

Report on the General Monthly Meeting

"Cold fusion: the alchemist's dream?" was the title of the Presidential Address, following the AGM. Professor Kelly gave a brief history of the developments in cold fusion since the Pons and Fleishman announcement in Utah in 1989. Many remain sceptical of the existence of such a fusion reaction, because of initial difficulties in reproducing their excess heat results and prolonged attacks on the field in the media and by the hot fusion community. Successful electrochemical anomalous heat experiments have however been carried out in many laboratories in numerous countries. Similar results have been obtained using different methods, such as diffusing deuterium through thin films of palladium and other metals. Tritium has been detected in many such experiments, clear evidence of a nuclear transition. There is still no universally accepted theory but there is now general agreement that CF is a near-surface phenomenon and the lack of the expected significant amounts of radiation is probably associated with slow resonance reactions. A more recent and surprising development is the detection of numerous other elements in the metal films used. They cannot be explained as impurities because their distribution is much different from that found in control experiments and in addition, some isotopes have been detected which differ from those found in the normal element. These low-energy nuclear reactions are under intense study in a number of laboratories and there is a trend towards calling the field LENR rather than the unfortunate name cold fusion, to which so much emotion is attached. There is, as yet, little promise of turning out significant amounts of gold, so the alchemist's dream remains a dream; however a more significant potential application of LENR is to the conversion of radioactive waste into more stable non-radioactive elements. This paper will be published in the next issue of our Journal.

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