ARPA to Hold Low Energy Nuclear Workshop

October 19, 2021

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E):

Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions Workshop

October 21-22, 2021

The objective of this workshop is to explore compelling R&D opportunities in Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) [1], in support of developing metrics for a potential ARPA-E R&D program in LENR. Despite a large body of empirical evidence for LENR that has been reported internationally over the past 30+ years in both published and unpublished materials, as well as multiple books, there still does not exist a widely accepted, on-demand, repeatable LENR experiment nor a sound theoretical basis. This has led to a stalemate where adequate funding is not accessible to establish irrefutable evidence and understanding of LENR, and lack of the latter precludes the field from accessing adequate funding. Building on and leveraging the most promising recent developments in LENR research, ARPA-E envisions a potential two-phase approach toward breaking this stalemate:

  1. 1. Support targeted R&D toward establishing at least one on-demand, repeatable LENR experiment with diagnostic evidence that is convincing to the wider scientific community (focus of this workshop);
  2. 2. If phase 1 above is successful (metrics to be determined), support a broader range of R&D activities (to be defined later) toward better understanding of LENR and its potential for scale-up toward disruptive energy applications, thus setting up LENR for broader and more systematic support by both the public and private sectors.


For the presentations included or linked on this website, the views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Government or any agency thereof, or its contractors or subcontractors. The organization names used on this site or in the linked presentations are the trademarks of their respective holders. Reference or depiction herein to any specific organization, device, product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof or its contractors or subcontractors.

[1] For the purposes of this workshop, LENR is defined as a not-yet-understood process (or class of processes) characterized by system energy outputs characteristic of nuclear physics (typically >> 1 keV/amu/reaction) and energy inputs characteristic of chemistry (~eV/atom)


Cold fusion is a hypothesized type of nuclear reaction that would occur at, or near, room temperature. It would contrast starkly with the “hot” fusion that is known to take place naturally within stars and artificially in hydrogen bombs and prototype fusion reactors under immense pressure and at temperatures of millions of degrees, and be distinguished from muon-catalyzed fusion. There is currently no accepted theoretical model that would allow cold fusion to occur.

In 1989, two electrochemistsMartin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, reported that their apparatus had produced anomalous heat (“excess heat”) of a magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes.[1] They further reported measuring small amounts of nuclear reaction byproducts, including neutrons and tritium.[2] The small tabletop experiment involved electrolysis of heavy water on the surface of a palladium (Pd) electrode.[3] The reported results received wide media attention[3] and raised hopes of a cheap and abundant source of energy.[4]

Many scientists tried to replicate the experiment with the few details available. Hopes faded with the large number of negative replications, the withdrawal of many reported positive replications, the discovery of flaws and sources of experimental error in the original experiment, and finally the discovery that Fleischmann and Pons had not actually detected nuclear reaction byproducts.[5] By late 1989, most scientists considered cold fusion claims dead,[6][7] and cold fusion subsequently gained a reputation as pathological science.[8][9] In 1989 the United States Department of Energy (DOE) concluded that the reported results of excess heat did not present convincing evidence of a useful source of energy and decided against allocating funding specifically for cold fusion. A second DOE review in 2004, which looked at new research, reached similar conclusions and did not result in DOE funding of cold fusion.[10]Presently, since articles about cold fusion are rarely published in peer-reviewed mainstream scientific journals, they do not attract the level of scrutiny expected for mainstream scientific publications.[11]

Nevertheless, some interest in cold fusion has continued through the decades—for example, a Google-funded failed replication attempt was published in a 2019 issue of Nature.[12][13] A small community of researchers continues to investigate it,[6][14][15] often under the alternative designations low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or condensed matter nuclear science (CMNS).[16][17][18][19]

IEEESpectrum March 22, 2021:

After more than three decades of simmering debate in specialized physics groups and fringe research circles, the controversy over cold fusion (sometimes called low-energy nuclear reactions or LENRs) refuses to go away. On one hand, ardent supporters have lacked the consistent, reproducible results and the theoretical underpinning needed to court mainstream acceptance. On the other, vehement detractors cannot fully ignore the anomalous results that have continued to crop up, like the evidence for so-called “lattice-confinement fusion” adduced last year by a group at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

Scientists at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Divisionhave pulled together a group of Navy, Army, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) labs to try and settle the debate. Together, the labs will conduct experiments in an effort to establish if there’s really something to the cold fusion idea, if it’s just odd chemical interactions, or if some other phenomenon entirely is taking place in these controversial experiments.


13 Responses to “ARPA to Hold Low Energy Nuclear Workshop”

  1. When Richard Feynman won the Nobel prize for quantum electrodynamics, he actually shared the prize with two other physicist who each worked independently from each other. One of them was Julian Schwinger. Schwinger arguably killed his own career by taking an interest in cold fusion. John Ridgeway writes about it in a CliScep post that is critical of the much vaunted anonymous peer review process:

    Schwinger’s sin had been to suggest that the major objection usually made regarding the posited existence of cold fusion may not stand up to close scrutiny. He felt that he had a possible explanation for the absence of the by-products normally associated with fusion. He may or may not have had a valid point – I am not qualified to say [4]. However, I am qualified to agree with Schwinger that adjudication by anonymous referees who are not willing to allow a hypothesis made by a former Nobel Prize winner to see the light of day is hardly healthy. After all, Schwinger was only suggesting a possibility that was worthy of experimental investigation. As he put it:

    “’Cold Fusion: A Hypothesis’ was written to suggest several critical experiments, which is the function of hypothesis. The masked reviewers, to a person, ignored that, and complained that I had not proved the underlying assumptions. Has the knowledge that physics is an experimental science been totally lost?”

    In fact, anonymous censorship should play no role in science, as I’m sure Feynman would agree. Or maybe he was one of the ‘masked reviewers’. We will never know. And that is the shame of it.

    Pancreatic cancer killed the man in 1994, but I’d hasten to suggest that the genius was killed some years earlier – and the killer was consensus science. Science is not meant to be a popularity contest with secret adjudication, but for Feynman and Schwinger that is exactly what it turned out to be. Today, we can take on board that warning by listening to the ever-popular Feynman’s words. But we get to see the reality of it by observing the demise of his fellow Nobel Prize winner and undoubted equal: Julian Seymour Schwinger.

    How Consensus Killed the Genius

    • I love the way WordPress expands the links to WordPress blog posts.😊

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Right. The idea that science weeds out the kooky is evidence of (yet another) conspiracy. Brilliant.

      Meanwhile, back on Earth, this post is about exploring the possibility of cold fusion.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        You think the cold fusion coverup conspiracy among scientists is bad, you should see what they do to Intelligent Design, homeopathy and perpetual motion machines!

        • Things like plate tectonics, ulcers and quasi-crystals did not turn out that way.

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            For every Semmelweis in science history there are hundreds of cranks and aggrieved self-described geniuses certain that their models are right, and every journal editor knows that. It might be Schwinger got caught in the blowback from the Fleischman and Pons debacle (where a lot theoreticians embarrassed themselves by jumping too quickly on the bandwagon eager to create support), or that journal boards are chary of older Nobel Prize Winners’ opinions of themselves.

            In any case, I myself have dealt with people pulling out the old complaint about science being an exclusive, close-minded club being the reason that their pet pseudoscience was being gored (like Intelligent Design or homeopathy or various Flat/Expanding/Hollow Earth models).

            I note that in John Ridgway’s paean to Oppressed Genius Julian Schwinger, he goes on to defend an oppressed climate skeptic (ML Salby) who dismissed the gigatons of fossil fuels extracted and combusted by humans to propose some BS version of Henry’s Law to magically explain why the planet’s atmosphere’s amount of CO2 happened to be spiking at (geologically) high speed.

            It isn’t that consensus is “suppressing” all of these ideas, but when a very high percentage of experts agree on something and the group of people who disagree have mutually conflicting explanations among themselves there is good reason to ignore their idiosyncratic takes. (Add to that the “alternative explanations” hyped by industry lobbyists and it gets worse.)

      • Exploring the possibility of cold fusion is exactly what Schwinger was claiming for his rejected paper.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Oh, poor baby! Linus Pauling’s younger work did not protect him from being considered a kook based on his Vitamin C obsession.

      • Nobel laureates can certainly become full of themselves like, say Kary Mullis, but Schwinger had a formidable reputation. From Ridgway’s post:

        Despite matching achievements in physics, it is not Julian but Dickie who we all remember as the charismatic genius to whom we turn when we want a juicy scientific quote. It is Dickie who has the reputation as the man with the gift for explanation, despite the fact that even he had to concede that Schwinger delivered the better lectures [1]. Feynman would run a mile rather than take on a postgrad student, but Schwinger tutored 70 in his day, four of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize. And yet it is Feynman who we think of as the great educator.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Ridgway’s unnecessary personal crapping on Feynman (“Dickie”) to support Schwinger tells me has an axe to grind.

          BTW, Feynman’s interesting rep is because of how he interacted with the public in a non-nerdy way* rather than his classroom prowess. I don’t think people ever suggested otherwise. His social skills were unusual for a top-tier scientist at the time.
          *Including the major personality change with the bongos, etc., after his wife died.

          • I don’t see Ridgway as crapping on Feynman. He’s crapping on outfits like the APS for ignoring Schwinger while idealizing Feynman (referring to him as American colleagues in their poster). His real axe to grind is with anonymous peer review.

  2. John Oneill Says:

    The sun is hot, so we know fusion works. The core of the earth is hot, so we know fission works. Cold fusion ? Go ahead, but not with my dollar.

    • The account by John Ridgway merely says Schwinger was presenting a hypothesis and proposing experiments. Being a professor, Schwinger was already paid for the work of writing and submitting his paper. Evaluating whether these experiments are worth funding is a different matter.

      Ridgway’s post is mostly a slam at the anonymous aspect of peer review. Schwinger’s quote is very clear:

      “’Cold Fusion: A Hypothesis’ was written to suggest several critical experiments, which is the function of hypothesis. The masked reviewers, to a person, ignored that, and complained that I had not proved the underlying assumptions. Has the knowledge that physics is an experimental science been totally lost?”

      Was Schwinger just whining because the reviewers found his hypothesis not well formed or that his experiments were poorly designed or were the reviewers engaging in groupthink and defending a status quo? Did they have competing interests? Perhaps founding for Schwinger’s experiments would compete for resources for their own hobby horses. One thing my decade long interest in climate science has told me is that scientist can be very emotional, tribal and petty. The anonymous aspect of peer review looks to me like a way for the science establishment status quo to avoid accountability.

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