Posts Tagged ‘ David French ’

Review of Cold Fusion Patents – Widom and Larsen

The following is the a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

August 27, 2011 –In the previous posting in this series we identified the two PCT patent applications filed by Francesco Piantelli. In this posting, we will review a US patent filing by Lewis Larsen and Alan Widom for the Generation of Ultra Low Momentum Neutrons.  (For links in this posting to work it may be necessary to switch from the e-mail version to the Cold Fusion Now web site – here.)

Rejection of a “Cold Fusion” US patent application

– Widom & Larsen 2005-06 filing –

Today we’re going to examine an example of a rejection of a US patent application directed to a Cold Fusion application based on an examiner’s allegation that the application did not teach how to deliver the benefits of the invention.

On April 28, 2006 Lewis Larsen and Alan (also spelled Allan) Widom effectively filed a US patent application by making a Patent Cooperation Treaty filing entitled: “Apparatus and Method for Generation of Ultra Low Momentum Neutrons”.  Access to this application on the USPTO database can be obtained here.

Actually, access to any US patent application can be obtained by starting at the USPTO homepage at To save readers from having to navigate through several pages containing far too many words, the best direct link to start searching is at:

On this page are links to almost everything you need in order to access pending US applications since 2001 and issued US patents dating back to 1976. Today we’re going to examine the pending application which was abandoned on April 9, 2010 by the applicants for failure to reply to an examiner’s request that the applicants file evidence confirming that the invention as alleged in the patent disclosure actually produces the result as promised.

Here’s the procedure you should follow.

On the page  , on the right-hand side are links to access pending applications. Click on “Quick Search”. This will bring you to a page that offers you two terms to search as well as the ability to select from a large number of fields for each term. The default field is: “All Fields”.

The best way to locate a patent is to provide the name of an inventor, correctly spelled, whom you know is involved in the patent. In this case, enter as term 1 “Lewis” and as term 2 “Larsen”. Be sure to spell it as Larsen and not Larson. If you try the search now without adjusting the fields, you will get on the order of 1485 hits. This is far too many to review. Go back to the screen with the two terms and set the field in each case to “Inventor Name”.

Now, when you search you will obtain four or five hits three of which relate to “Lewis Larsen”. The one we are interested in has the title: “Apparatus and Method for Generation of Ultra Low Momentum Neutrons”. This has a publication number 20080232532 above the letters: “A1″. (The code “A1″ is an internationally agreed code for the first publication of an application. Often it appears after a publication number but it is not part of the publication number.)  We are going to use the publication number for the next step.

Before proceeding, you may wish to take this occasion to read the specification set out in respect of this published application. The text where you are presently located is written in HTML making it suitable for copying. The link above, “Images”, will allow you to see a TIF image of the printed published pages plus the drawings, if you have a TIF reader within your computer. If you don’t have a TIF reader, you can obtain one by using the “Help” link in red along the right-hand side of the orange bar at the top of the blank Images screen. Or you can carry the publication number to a fresh browser and visit At that site by entering the publication number you can access and download a free PDF copy of the patent which will then allow you to view the drawings.

We will discuss on a future occasion the layout and content of a patent disclosure or specification.

Now you can step back several screens to the basic search screen, or you can open another browser link to arrive at the same screen. You may find this latter option preferable. On the basic search screen, in the center column, click on “Public Pair”. There you will have to enter two words that are hard to read. This is to prove that you’re not a computer search engine. If you have difficulty reading the two words, click on the two arrows chasing each other in a circle and an alternate pair of words will be presented.

Here’s another way to access this page. Go to: and then click on “Public PAIR”.

Once you get past this gate you will be presented with a screen that reads “Search for Application”. The default field for the application you’re going to search is its serial number. You have to change this selection by choosing the Publication Number button. Reset the selected category to the publication number and paste-in the number that you copied from the earlier patent specification screen. If you have dropped the number, here it is: 20080232532.

Now you will be presented with an index to documents in the US patent office records respecting this specific filing. The last entry at the top shows the date when this application became abandoned for failure to respond to the examiner. The next entry below gives a status date for that event: April 8, 2010.

Above the title block “Bibliographic Data” are a series of links and the fourth one in reads “Image File Wrapper”. Click on that link. It will bring you to PDF images of all of the correspondence between the applicant and the examiner.

This is useful information.  It contains all of the correspondence between the inventor and the patent examiner.  You are able to watch the arguments, citations and amendments included in the back and forth exchanges between the inventor and the patent examiner over the time that the patent application is pending.

The second entry dated October 5, 2009 is entitled: “Non-Final Rejection”. This document has 16 pages. On the right-hand side you can enter a checkoff in the square box under the column headed “PDF”. Now you have a choice. You can click on “Non-Final Rejection” to read the examiner’s office action page by page. Or you can go up to the link “PDF” and click on it in order to either open or save the examiner’s entire 16 page letter. I recommend the latter as it will be easier to read this document once it’s been saved to your computer. Or you can open it to read it on the screen and save it later. Be sure to keep track as to where you are saving it.

The first four pages of the examiner’s “office action” document are standard. The fourth page, titled “page 3″ at the top right-hand corner, is where it starts to get interesting. Starting halfway down on this page the examiner explains the principles of 35 USC 112. This is the section in the US Patent Act that requires that a patent filing must disclose how to build something that works. Then on the next three pages ending on the sheet with “page 6″ at the top, the examiner gets to the critical issue:

“Based on the above eight (8) (in re Wands) factors, it is concluded that the specification fails to enable the claimed invention.

“Because the of the (sic) lack of credibility of the existence of neutrons produced through the method as disclosed or claimed, the method is deemed inoperative.”

While this is a rejection, the applicant was given an opportunity to file evidence demonstrating to the examiner that this conclusion was wrong. This could be done in the form of affidavits or declarations of persons who have observed experiments where the promised results of the patent disclosure have been achieved. No such evidence was filed. Instead, the applicants allowed the application to go abandoned.

This is not an indication that the applicants agreed with the examiner. The applicants may very well have had in their possession evidence of an arrangement that did produce low energy neutrons in a crystal lattice as represented in the disclosure. However, the applicants would have been quoted considerable amounts of money in terms of attorneys fees to support further submissions, and they would have been told that their evidence had better be pretty thorough. Furthermore, this rejection may have encouraged the applicants to reread their disclosure to see if they had made representations which were not in fact justified, which could be deleted, and whether they had mentioned everything necessary in order to make the invention work. This is often where a patent disclosure falls down. When the original specification was finally filed, it was supposed to contain all necessary instructions. If it didn’t, then this particular application was doomed to failure in all events.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this scenario? The reasoning of the US Patent Office presented in this examiner’s office action argues that, in this particular case, the results promised by the specification cannot be assumed to be valid without evidence being filed that would demonstrate the promises of the application to be true. In an area where considerable doubt exists as to the consistent reproducibility of an effect, such as in the field of “cold fusion”, it’s not unreasonable for an examiner to ask for such evidence.

If appropriate evidence had been filed, and if the application otherwise passed the tests for patentability, e.g. novelty, inventive step in terms of not claiming an obvious configuration, clarity of claim language and adequacy of disclosure, then a patent would have issued. After all, that’s all it takes in order to obtain a patent.

Persons wishing to make comments on this posting are invited to visit the Cold Fusion Now website where this article is posted.

David French interview on Ca$h flow: Unlikely a single company will control cold fusion

David J. French, a Canadian patent attorney with 35 years experience, now focusing on patent issues related to cold fusion, spoke with James Martinez on his Ca$h Flowshow Tuesday, September 6.

To listen, download the .mp3 from the Cold Fusion Radio page.

These are excerpts from the hour-long interview:

JM First and foremost, what is the procedure when applying for an patent?

DF “I strongly recommend that people do really in-depth research before filing for a patent. You have to do it individually in each country. You have to file a description of how to build something that works, but then you have to define what it is about what you’re doing that’s new.

A large number of people spend large amounts of money filing for patents only to find out that what they say they want to control, what they want to patent – it isn’t new, and the patent office is supposed to do their own searches and
in many cases, the examiner knows the field very well and will give you the bad news, sorry it isn’t new.

But even if your patent issues, it can be cancelled by a judge in a court if the person you’re suing says ‘Hey this has been done before. So your invention has to have a feature that’s new.”

JM Would you say that’s the first mistake people make, presuming that their invention is unique, and then finding out its not?

DF “You know I have a three-part test for a successful patent. The first two parts don’t relate to patents.

The first part is you’ve got to have an invention people want to use. Presumably in the field of cold fusion that will be met.

Then you’re going to want to have something that other people aren’t already supplying, something that’s equal.

The third one is that your patent has to be like a gate that goes all the way across the road. If you have a situation where your gate goes only halfway across the road, then other people are going to sell things that are just as good.

So it takes these three components: a good invention, a good market situation, and a good patent opportunity before you have a valuable patent.”

JM I feel intuitively that there’s a big block in terms of getting patents for cold fusion, and based on interviews with people in the field, they don’t understand entirely the process, and also, the technology is so disruptive, there’s entities within the patent office and within government who don’t want this to even happen at all. Would you agree with that?

DF “I don’t really have an opinion on this conspiracy aspect. There might be some truth to it, but I’m not going to say I believe it. I do have confidence that the Patent Office will issue a patent for something which is directed to cold fusion if the correct procedures are followed.

Let me explain. The examiner reads your disclosure. Normally they assume that everything you say in it is true. Your disclosure has to describe how to build it. Then you have to say what it is you think is new.

In the case of cold fusion, they treat it similarly to perpetual motion. Somebody says I have something that is perpetual motion, they say prove it, file affidavits saying that it works. Tell us that other people confirm that they followed your instruction, and it works. That’s the way they handle cold fusion.

They read your text and if they say this sounds like maybe it might not work – it’s not just cold fusion that ‘s vulnerable in this respect, anything which they consider to be potentially unbelievable or hard to understand, they can always ask for evidence that it works, and so far, in many cases, they have asked for that kind of evidence, and people have not filed the evidence.

In other cases, patents have issued not necessarily for cold fusion itself, Windom and Larsen have gotten a patent on shielding against gamma rays. Well, that’s part of their theory of how cold fusion works. They got a patent on shielding against gamma rays. The examiner took them at their word that they were achieving a useful result.

So I don’t know that I subscribe to the conspiracy theory, I just know that the patent office wants you to give the story on how to build it so that it will work as a condition to getting a patent.”

JM Who happens to own the US Patent Office?

DF “The US Patent Office is part of the Department of [Commerce], the US federal government, and the Constitution says that if Congress authorizes it, then certificates can be issued to individuals and the public that give them exclusive rights. There’s no real ownership of the Patent Office, it’s really an agency of the federal government.”

JM Are other patent offices in other countries similar in nature in terms of how they proceed to give somebody a patent?

DF “All around the world, patent offices are agencies of the government and the idea is, if you’ve invented something that’s useful and new, and you file a description that works, and you identify correctly what it is that’s new, you get a monopoly, for almost every country now, for 20 years from when you file.

They don’t follow it afterwards, they don’t evaluate whether its a good idea. Just because you get a patent doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. They just test it for have you told the story on how to make it and you have stipulated what’s new.”

JM As a patent attorney yourself, I’m sure you’ve seen alot of stuff that was a complete waste of time, or they didn’t know what they were doing when they acquired the patent, and they probably spent alot of time and effort and it got nowhere. Is that very common?

DF “I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve gotten patents where I’ve known that this wasn’t going to go anywhere, and I think a large number of patent attorneys operate on that basis. A patent’s not going to go somewhere if the public isn’t going to care. Let’s say you’ve got a new way of closing a garden gate, and it makes your wife happy. You want to get a patent on it. But the world may not care.

Or you may invent a better way of cutting the lawn with a lawn mower with three wheels instead of four, but there’s lawnmowers out there that do the job, so there’s something that it may be an OK idea, but there’s other things that are just as good.

So in those cases getting a patent really is a waste of money. You can actually get a valid patent for something that has no commercial worth.”

JM What are the costs to get a patent?

DF “There’s two parts, there’s preparing the story which has to be filed, and there’s paying the processing fees in individual countries. On the average, your processing fees over the world might be on the order of $5000 a country. Some might be less, some might be more, particularly if there’s translations into Japanese or Korean.

But the preparing of the story itself, I used to quote 4, 5, 6, 7 thousand dollars, I now really rough it, I say ten-twenty thousand dollars, sometimes less, sometimes more.

If the subject is complicated, you’ve got to expect your patent attorney will spend alot of time working on it because part of his job is to understand what’s going on. He may have to spend a long time working with you, and that runs up the bill.”

JM In other words, if you can’t convince you’re own patent attorney of what you’re doing and how it works and functions, then you’re wasting your time and and your money.

DF “Yes, but I have to to tell you that many patent agents, when they have somebody that brings them something, they may try and understand it, but if it isn’t working, rather than spend another $25 or $100 working on it, they simply say to the client, you know I don’t know whether this works or not, but I’m gonna write it up so it looks like a patent. You tell me that it’s good, and I’ll file it.

And so the inventor gets his patent application on file, and then it turns out that the examiner either says look this doesn’t work, or, it goes through the patent office and it’s never tested because nobody ever wants to buy it anyway.

So patent attorneys will file patent applications when they don’t fully understand what’s going on.”

JM I see. Now, the terminology “patent pending”, what exactly does that mean?

DF “You know, patent pending is sort of like publicity. Sure, as soon as you file at the patent office and pay your fee, for a small company under 500 employees, the fee is $500 in the US, so as soon as you’ve paid that fee, you’ve got a patent application that’s pending. You don’t have any rights, but you’re telling people there might be a train on the train-track that’s coming, so be prepared to move in case the train arrives. The train arrives when the patent is granted.

But the examiner may make you jump through hoops. He may say ‘No, I won’t give you what you’re asking for, you have to change it.’ He won’t give you very much coaching, but your attorney will say ‘you know the examiner ‘s right, he found this , he found that, our invention has shrunk, we have to ask for something smaller’ and very often patents shrink considerably while their pending, and when they issue, well people look at them and say OK, I won’t do it that way, I’ll find another way to do it.”

JM Suppose a scientist comes to you with a patent for cold fusion and says OK, I want my patent, and I’m going to give you full disclosure on how it works, but I don’t want anybody else to know about it. Are trade secrets protected under a patent, or do you have to give full disclosure on what the trade secret is.

DF “A trade secret is totally incompatible with a patent. The purpose of a patent is to encourage you to tell the whole story so that people can build the invention after the patent expires. You cannot have both a trade secret and a patent.

If you’re going the patent route, you have to tell the full story. If you go the trade secret route, if someone else thinks of it on their own, they’re entitled to use it, so the trade secret route is very risky.”

JM For instance Coca-Cola, they have a trade secret formula, but if they had patented it, that means people could look it up, and they’ll have to pay to use the formula, but they could see what the formula is.

DF “That’s right, and alot of that is marketing sizzle. When they say they have a secret formula, there’s alot of cola beverages out there that many people say I don’t care if its Coca-Cola, just give me a cola. So their secret may be a pinch more of pepper or something like that they just throw in there at the last minute. But some people believe the advertising and say that they prefer Coca-Cola.”

JM The key is if you have an invention, and it fits the parameters of demand from the public, and you’ve got full disclosure, it’s way smarter just to get the patent rather than do any trade secrets because you’re going to lose if you have trade secrets.

DF “If you’re going to put it on the market and people can see what the secret is from what you’re selling, there’s no reason to keep it a trade secret, because the secret will evaporate.

The background rule is that everyone is entitled to copy unless there’s a patent, or a registered design, or a trademark, or a copyright. So the background rule is that there’s freedom to copy. If you are going to put it on the market, anyone can copy you unless you get appropriate protection.”

JM Have you dealt with scientists one-on-one in the cold fusion field?

DF “I have spoken with some of the important people in this field about the work that they’re doing on cold fusion. I won’t list some of the names because they are confidential. But I am not an expert in the technology of cold fusion, so I can’t provide you with any sort of authoritative opinion as to what is going to work.

Rossi has his hydrogen and nickel configuration, and his published patent application says that he has a secret catalyst that’s included, so we don’t know what that is, but I can’t evaluate whether his story and his patent application is valid.”

JM Like for instance, what happens when an attorney doesn’t have the scientific knowledge to understand the process, because you can’t know everything about everything, yet they come to you to acquire a patent. Your job is to evaluate the applications, the demand from the public, make sure the paperwork is done correctly, perhaps reproduce the effect before you. So they essentially have to pass your gate to get a patent.

DF “I’m a different attorney than I was during my 35-year career. During my 35-year career, like most attorneys, it’s the responsibility of the inventor to decide whether there’s a market for his product and its the responsibility of the inventor to realize that there’s other people that are already making something that he has to compete against.

A normal attorney whose acting as an attorney, all they represent to the client is ‘I will try and get you a patent that is valid and is as big and as broad as the prior art permits.’ So I’m going to get you a valid patent.

But the the normal attorney doesn’t coach you or tell you whether you patent is meaningful. Now what does meaningful mean. ‘Meaningful’ means that it is an exclusive right that prevents anybody else from getting close to you.

The Bell patent on the telephone back in 1876 was a meaningful patent because it really controlled the market for 17 years. Now that doesn’t happen very often. And I’m not sure that its going to happen in the case of cold fusion. I don’t know that there will be a controlling patent that will issue for cold fusion.”

JM Why is that?

DF “Well there’s so many people with so many ideas that have expressed themselves in the last twenty years, it may be that out there somebody has already spilled the secret and not fully understood it. A patent can’t issue for anything that’s been disclosed in the literature. A patent can always issue for something new.

Let’s say that Arata or somebody in Japan has proposed doing this and the micro-, nano-size scale of the nickel is an important issue. Well you can’t patent what’s already been disclosed publicly, but, you can find an improvement, or a way to make it more effective, and there’s many, many opportunities for the technology, to make the process work better.

The same thing happened with the Bell telephone. The first phone prepared by Alexander Graham Bell, it wasn’t very good, it didn’t work well. But as they accumulated more and more inventions, they eventually had a winning product, and then they had a stack of four or five, six patents that covered all these improvements, so individually these improvements can make a difference.

I don’t know if whether there’s going to be a master patent on cold fusion. My intuition is – that’s not likely to happen.”

JM Hmm. That in itself is a very interesting statement you just said and I hope people listen to that very carefully.

DF “Can I make another observation about a master patent? All governments around the world have a March-in Right to use inventions. They may have to pay the inventor. But the government of the United States has the right to use a patent, certainly for defense purposes, and if they want to, they can pass legislation saying that they can use it for other purposes.

One of the problems of anybody who were to get a master patent in this field is that the government in the background would say ‘You’d better be reasonable or we’re going to use our March-in Rights.’

And there’s 135 countries around the world. A person whose patenting is not going to patent everywhere. So there will be countries where they neglect to patent, and then they’ll be four or five, six people in Taiwan who’ll be building cold fusion heaters for cabins, and so the technology will available in free markets in other countries. It’s unlikely that a single company will control cold fusion around the world.”

JM Well, we’re certainly at a historic point with what Dr. Andrea Rossi has done. I understand that in Florida he’s going to be unveiling the first showing of this technology on a mass level. It’s very interesting to see what’s going to unfold.

Tell us a little about the workshops you do. It’s important for people if they have an invention, you give these workshops to educate people, put a little bit of realism in the process, to make sure that what they have is suitable before they spend alot of money and go through the patent process.

DF “Many companies get a patent by taking a write-up of the invention and they throw it over the wall to a patent attorney, and he throws back a patent application and tells them to sign it and they have to write a check and pay for it. They don’t even know what they’re getting. The attorney is trying to get them the most valid that they’re entitled too.

But what they’re entitled to may not have any commercial market validity, there may be a loophole, it may be like a gate on a road that goes halfway across the road. So my first premise is that a company should at least have a minimum understanding of when a patent is meaningful. Someone in the organization has to get intellectual property smart to understand what’s being done and blow the whistle when there’s money being wasted.

The second thing is, if you get involved in the patenting process, you will make better inventions, because the invention will change over time, and being involved in the patenting process will help you make better inventions.

The third thing is that you should have the capacity to do commercial intelligence on the Internet using the patent system. Vast resources of valuable information are available.

Those are three key messages. I give morning, afternoon workshops, ideally two mornings back-to-back for people to have the afternoon to think about it. And then if they are interested, I will train an individual in their organization to be an intellectual property coordinator, and that’s my business.”

JM That sounds to me like one of the smartest things people could do if they so they don’t waste alot of money. It’s good to know that someone out there such as yourself is doing a good job educating people.

DF “Thank you. Did you want me to comment on the resources that are available through the patent system as they relate to Rossi?”

JM Absolutely, yes.

DF “If you went to the US Patent Office on the Internet, on the homepage, you have to go through about four or five links, you will come to a search page, and the one that I recommended is the structured Boolean search page which you can put in two terms.

You put in term one Andrea, and term two Rossi, and on the right you can choose a field, and it makes it work efficiently if you click off Name of the inventor in both cases, and there you’ll have, amongst two or three or four applications, one of them will be the application by Andrea Rossi before the United States Patent Office. You can actually read that whole application and decide for yourself whether the story is complete or not.

And there is a way which, in my article on Cold Fusion Now I demonstrated how you can use, I won’t explain it now, but you can get it from my article, how you can see the exchange between the examiner and the applicant, and the last time I checked, the examiner had not started commenting on Rossi’s application.

There’s also an application pending in the PCT system for Piantelli. Piantelli worked with Dr. Focardi back in 1995 when the first cold fusion experiments were done with hydrogen and nickel, and I think his name is Francesco Piantelli, and if you go to – I think its .org, [] check that out on google if you don’t get it – you get the Patent Cooperation Treaty website search screen, and if you insert the same way I just described the name of the inventor in the box where the inventor is supposed to be located, you’ll see Piantelli’s pending international application which shortly will be posted at the US Patent Office and you can judge for yourself whether he’s told a story that works.”

JM I know as soon as people hear this, they are going to pull that up on the web and start checking that out for themselves, so thanks for letting us know that. My other question is, of all the patents that you have dealt with, is there one in particular that has been by far the most practical and profitable for the individual that invented it?

DF “Well, I know a case where the inventors actually turned down a larger offer hoping to get paid royalties, and it turns out that they made over a million dollars but they would’ve made more if they’d taken the first offer. It was for a needle guard.

It was a teeny little device that’s on a needle. When a needle’s been used, and there’s a drop of blood on it, if a nurse scratches herself, she can get infected with HIV or other diseases, but this little thing when you slide it to the tip, it locks into place over the tip automatically, and nobody can get scratched. There was over a million dollars paid out on that.”

JM That sounds like a practical device for all over the world. I want to ask you about some other advanced technologies that we are on the brink of. People want to go green and they want to change the way we deal with energy overall. What are some of the other technologies, like for instance zero point energies and the invention of John Searl, have you dealt with those technologies as well?

DF “I haven’t dealt with them and I will tell you that without having any depth of knowledge that I am very skeptical. I believe in the basic laws of physics, and energy doesn’t come from nowhere. In fact, why the Patent Office is concerned about cold fusion, nobody knows where the excess heat is coming from, and that’s why they’re asking for evidence that it really works.

First of all, we’re living in a world where all over the world, if people knew that they could generate energy easily, somebody would do it. So I’m very skeptical that somebody has found the breakthrough and the story that they patented it, and it got bought up, it’s not true. All patents are published when they’re issued, so if there’s somebody out there whose had a breakthrough, it would be available at the Patent Office.

I’m very skeptical about inventions that people represent as the perfect solution for mankind, I ask them why isn’t it being used?

I do however believe that cold fusion is -”

JM -Is there a particular scientist or inventor who has the most patents?

DF “Well, Edison I think had over a thousand patents himself, and he had remarkably good patents. Studying the telephone as a little project that I’m doing here, the telephone really didn’t start to work, even though it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, until Edison invented the carbon microphone. They had to pick up the speech and turn it into electricity, and it was Edison and another man called Berliner, they competed to see who was entitled to the patent, they invented a compressed carbon with a little membrane over it and when you talked, the carbon got compressed and it caused an increase and a decrease in the flow of electricity. It was that technical advance that made the telephone practical.

Some small things can mean alot. You’ve got to have a difference that makes a difference, but then if you want a valuable patent, it has to be that that’s the only way to do it, and the carbon microphone was in use up until 1980. It was replaced by piezo- electric crystals, but that carbon microphone lasted for a hundred years. In terms of cost and what it delivered, that was the only way to do it. Oh, there were other ways to do it, but they were more costly.”

JM We’ve heard that ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. When an inventor comes to you, oftentimes they’re abruptly faced with a wall like, look pal, you’re not the first, somebody else had thought of this. That must happen all the time.

DF “You know, I like your expression, I think its from the Old Testament. In one aspect there’s nothing new, depending how you look at it. There are writing instruments, that’s not new. But how to prepare a writing instrument so it doesn’t dry out is got to be valuable for people that are going to be irritated by pens that dry out prematurely.

The problem is if you have a good idea and you do a search, good ideas are thought of by other people. Often the search will come back already been discussed, already been disclosed.

But, if you have a silly idea or a poor idea, and you do a search, it’s not going to come up in the search. So you file with the patent office, and the examiner says sure, we’ll give you a patent. We’re only marking you for being new, we’re not marking you for being good.”

JM It sounds like a remarkably complicated process for the inventor. If an inventor comes along to improve a device that already has a patent, are there alot of people that improve existing technologies, kind of wrapping themselves on top of it?

DF “You know, when Edison invented the improved microphone, he didn’t have the right to use it in a telephone system, he could use it in an auditorium, but not in a telephone system because Bell’s patent was still valid. If you invent an improvement and get a patent on it, it doesn’t mean you can violate someone else’s patent.

But the person who has the over-patent, the master patent, may look at what you’re doing, and say oh my god, I really need this because it will make my system work well. So then they negotiate with each other, and in this case, Bell paid Edison alot of money to use the microphone in his telephone system.

So when you get a patent on a bicycle and somebody invents a bicycle bell, the bicycle bell can’t go on the bicycle without permission from the patent owner, but the patent owner who owns the bicycle patent can’t put a bell on his bicycle without permission.”

JM Oh my gosh.

When’s the last time that you saw something come across your desk that was totally new and profitable for the inventor?

DF “There was a company outside of Montreal and this was quite long ago in my career, but it turned out to be important, they were called SNC Technologies and they made bullets. They were the old Canadian arsenals that had been taken over by a corporation SNC.

They decided they would make bullets that didn’t fire steel or lead, they would just fire plastic with paint, and the bullets when they went down the barrel of regular guns, just didn’t have any oomph, so they made the cartridge so that the cartridge popped, and got a little bit longer, and made the guns work. They became successful around the world.

All over the world people started buying these non-lethal bullets for use in training, and they had patents in thirteen countries, and they were just a couple years ago bought out by General Dynamics. As one of the big successes of the SNC conglomerate in Canada, this little division became world-known in that field because they had this invention of a light-weight paint-marking bullet that could be put in a regular rifle and used in training, because that was the purpose.

The inventor told me the core idea, he said David, over 99.9% of all bullets used by the police and military are used in training, they don’t have to go 5 or 6 kilometers. If they just go a couple a hundred meters or a couple of hundred yards, that’s good enough. And of course if you’re training you don’t want bullets that go 5 kilometers, you want bullets that go 500 meters. It made alot of money.”

JM Here’s the main issue that I wanted to address with you in the first place. Have you found yourself in a position where an investor’s come to you prior to investing, and you are involved in the financial negotiations so that the investor understands specifically what the patent is?

DF “All investors are likely to commission a law firm to do what is called a due diligence evaluation, but when a traditional due diligence evaluation is done, what the law firm verifies is that the patent applications were filed, the right fees were paid, the inventor’s signed the transfer documents transferring the documents over to another company that’s going to be invested in, and they do all of this technical evaluation and then they say, we didn’t find any flaws.

But the normal patent firm does not not tell you this is an invention that works, because it’s not within their capacity- they’re not engineers, and they’re not going to tell you this is an invention that will knock out competitors in the marketplace, because they’re not experts in the marketplace. So a due diligence evaluation is not a certification that a patent is going to deliver value.”

JM From an investors standpoint, it all comes down to the patent –

DF “-The patent doesn’t make the money; what makes the money is that you’re producing a product that people want to buy, and that your doing it at a price people are willing to pay, you have a successful product.

If you have a successful product, the patent will allow you to charge a higher price and make more money. So the patent doesn’t create the success, the patent enhances the profit if there is a success.

But any investor whose looking at a situation should ask, do we have a winning product here. And of course, if somebody were to produce what Andrea Rossi alleges he has, then of course we can see that it’s a winning product.

At that point it would be very important to sit down and say what other ways are there to do this? You should sit down and decide what are your competitors going to do if I do get a patent?

You should start thinking of all the ideas that they might turn to, and patent them as well. And that’s the way to build up a fortification which will protect you from competition.”

JM From an investor standpoint, they just want to get their initial investment money back, and make a profit as well. Let me ask you, have you been privileged to see Andrea Rossi’s technology?

DF “I only have been involved with the Rossi situation in terms of what’s publicly available. I don’t have any background or insider knowledge about what Rossi is doing.”

JM Would you want to see it?

DF “Oh well, I’m waiting, I’m the kind of person whose patient. I mean, I don’t fret. And I’m not even engaging in the exchanges and all the speculation going on. I’ll just wait and see what happens. I’m prepared to wait.

If I wanted to invest money in this, the most important thing to do, is form a team of three or four people, who go out and gather in all of the information that exists out there, the people that are doing things – Hagelstein and Mitchell Swartz and other people, I went to their colloquium recently – all over the world, there are people doing this, but if you were to draw all this information all together, you might be the person who sees the key feature that is going to be valuable, that is going to make cold fusion work, it may not be the basic [?] to create cold fusion, but it may be the way to exploit it.

And so you’ve got to gather in this information and discuss it among yourselves: is there something here that hasn’t been conceived of?

JM All of us on the verge of this big change coming, I respect your conservative opinion as an attorney.

DF “If cold fusion becomes a success, there will be a hundred years people will study why our society was so blind to the opportunity for twenty years. It will be a scandal.”

JM Do you recall where you were when you first heard about cold fusion?

DF “Well I was somewhere in Canada, and I certainly remember a friend of mine who phoned me up and he was very excited on the phone, and of course it was on the cover of Time magazine. I don’t remember the location where is was, but I do remember that phone call.”

JM Did you believe it?

DF “I’m one of these people that I would like to see it happen first before I say I believe it. I must say, I’m a scientist, I can suspend my judgement, my conclusion, until the evidence is in.”

JM Did Pons and Fleischmann file anything?

DF “Yes, I think so, and in fact, I haven’t gone back and looked at their original filings. In those days, they were not published on the Internet. So if you wanted to see their filings, if their patent was turned down, then it wouldn’t have been published. They changed the law in the 1990s.

First of all, there’s two stages, one was that your application became laid open to the public, I think that occurred around 1996. So even if you don’t get a patent, after 18 months anyone can read your story.

And the second thing is that in 2001 the US Patent Office put all the patent applications online over the Internet. So what happened with Pons and Fleischmann is not available directly over the Internet and I don’t know if their applications were published. But the story will come out one day.

And by the way, their applications may have flaws in them; they may not have understood what they were doing.”

JM Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss this important issue.

DF “It’s been a pleasure.”

You can read more about cold fusion-related patents from David J. French from his Cold Fusion Now Patents archive.

Related Links

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Patent Cooperation Treaty

Second Counsel

Profiting from the Coming Revolution Through Patents

The following is the a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

September 12, 2011 –On September 2, 2011 I was interviewed by James Martinez who provides audio podcasts on the Internet, particularly through the Internet radio website: Cash Flow!.  That radio interview event has now been posted here.  It was inspired by my previous postings on issues relating to cold fusion patents.

In the course of the conversation James remarked that he knew of investors who were looking for opportunities to invest in Cold Fusion. Where should they begin? This was a very legitimate question. James advised that these investors were at a loss because there seemed to be so much confusion in the field.

My first reaction during the interview was to observe that, in terms of patents, there may never be a “master patent” in the Cold Fusion field. A Master Patent is one that covers every way of accomplishing a result. Such a patent can only issue for a configuration that is new in the sense that it is the first to achieve the general result. It’s quite possible that in the last 20 years there have already been one or more descriptions of a working Cold Fusion system. If so, because of such a public disclosure, no one can ever patent the general concept of exploiting Cold Fusion at large.

But what can still be patented is a specific configuration for generating excess energy through Cold Fusion that works better than other systems. There are going to be numerous opportunities for identifying technical improvements that will reduce costs and make the basic invention more valuable.

In the course of the interview I gave the example of Alexander Graham Bell. Bell definitely invented a mechanism and system that could function as a telephone. Essentially, his idea was to use a voice pickup which operated on the basis of magnetic induction. This is the mechanism by which, when a wire is moved in a magnetic field, this forces a current flow within the wire. Conversely, when current flow creates a magnetic field, this field can create motion, as by moving an iron plate and thereby generating sound. Bell’s concept was to use the human voice to generate current at a source and then transfer the current to a receiver which also operated on the basis of magnetic induction. Bell’s original concept could be duplicated today by simply joining two loudspeakers, one a transmitting loudspeaker that serves as a microphone, and another that acts as a receiving loudspeaker. Talking into one loudspeaker will cause a change in the magnetic field within the transmitting loudspeaker which would generate a current which will carry down the wire and provide a reverse effect at the receiving end. This is what Bell invented.

However, with the technology of 1876, this invention would not have supported a practical telephone network. The reason is that the human voice does not provide very much energy for sending a signal down a wire. It was not until after six months from obtaining his US patent that Bell was able to send a very weak signal a distance of 18 miles, from the Cambridge to Salem Massachusetts. It took another in event to make the telephone system truly practical.

A year after Bell obtained his patent Thomas Edison filed to obtain a patent on a “carbon” microphone.    Another person, Emile Berliner also invented the same structure.    In both cases, powdered carbon was compacted and relaxed by pressure arising from a membrane into which people would speak. This would vary the resistance of the carbon and, with a large voltage applied across the entire circuit, send a substantial current down the wire that varied in accordance with the sound spoken into the microphone.  The carbon microphone “modulated” the current flow in step with the spoken words of the person speaking into the microphone.  This allowed the transmission of telephone signals to a more distant receiver. The carbon microphone made the telephone practical. Carbon microphones were in use in the standard telephone handset up until around 1980 when piezo-electric microphones came into more general use.

The same path for making progressive innovations is likely to apply in respect of Cold Fusion. Initially Cold Fusion may only generate energy as a trickle. The temperature may not be very high. The source of energy might be depleted quickly and have to be regenerated. Under these circumstances, there will always be creative individuals who will see opportunities to improve the delivery of Cold Fusion energy. In this future world there will be a race to make improvements to help make the basic idea work better.

As a consequence of my interview with James Martinez, I also came to a realization that surprised me. I suggested that any investor who wants to take advantage of the potential of this the future opportunity would be well advised to assemble now a team of individuals to study the situation. The first thing to do is to survey the literature. I suggest initially a team of four individuals.

As I envisage it, the team would include one very experienced physicist. This would be a person who understands and can distinguish good physics from bad physics. This person would provide guidance to the team to differentiate between hot leads and the dead ends.

The second person on the team would be a journalist. This journalist would initially be responsible to guide the search for and examination of the literature that exists worldwide on the subject of Cold Fusion. The object of the team will be to garner-in all of the wisdom that has accumulated to date on this subject. The challenge will be to separate the kernels of truth from the mountain of chaff that already exists. A journalist will have the skill and enthusiasm to labor through all of the literature in search of the truth and guide other members of the team in this exercise.

As a further individual on this team, I would suggest a graduate student, possibly somebody working towards their PhD. This person would assist the journalist and work under the tutelage of the physicist in analyzing concepts. Indeed, it may be appropriate that there be two such individuals on the team. These individuals will provide youth and energy, creativity and imagination, to the group. They will also support other members of the team in doing the work. It will be an invigorating experience for them, quite possibly the experience of a lifetime.

The last individual on the team could, on reflection, be a patent attorney. I confess that I am a patent attorney myself, so perhaps I am prejudiced in making this suggestion. But a patent attorney would bring rigor to the analysis of the group, establishing standards for accurately and concisely recording ideas and thoughts. A good patent attorney is able to judge whether the technology being presented is valid or not. A good patent attorney will always ask the question: “What other ways are there to obtain this result?” Having a patent attorney on the team will complement the skills of the other individuals. And he will be able sniff-out patenting opportunities when they arise.

I envisage such a team as being egalitarian. That is there would be, amongst team members, no leader. They would meet and decide amongst themselves how each individual is to spend their time. In case of disagreements that cannot be resolved, there should be someone outside the team who can arbitrate issues. But so long as the team is able to guide its own efforts, there would be no leader. The object would be for everyone to learn the skills of the other members, and working together, get the job done.

And what would that job be? One job would be to understand who out there is already in the lead and is getting it right. From the direction that this apparent winner is heading, their job would be to look for consequences, secondary and tertiary consequences that would flow from eventual success. Then investments could be made that are directed to such secondary and tertiary consequences. For example, it may be that Cold Fusion will be ideally suited as the energy source for a Stirling engine. In such event, investors may wish to support existing Stirling engine fabricators.

Another role for this team would be to become inventors themselves. Having become knowledgeable in the field, they could identify bottlenecks, and brainstorm as to how to best overcome the bottlenecks. Breakthroughs would not be certain. But if they were to occur, they, like the carbon microphone, may prove to be of immense value.

Those were my thoughts after the interview ended. However I also had a further thought. Perhaps teams like these have already been formed. Indeed, they may have been formed in distant countries where governments are more foresighted and recognize that, when a technology of stupendous importance is at stake, it’s highly desirable to make an investment in understanding what’s going on, just in case.

Review of NASA/Zawodny US patent application published October 20,2011

The following is a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

November 21, 2011 –The National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA has taken the initiative to file a patent application at the US Patent Office relating to Cold Fusion.  This application was filed in Washington on March 24, 2011 claiming priority from an earlier U.S. Provisional Patent Application filed March 25, 2010.  Publication of this application occurred in pursuance of the standard rule that applications are laid open for public examination as of 18 months from their earliest priority/filing date.  This rule does not always apply.  The Patent Office can, if an invention relates to defense or matters of national interest, withhold applications from publication in the normal course.

Viewing the patent application

The US publication number is 20110255645 and the application can be viewed at the following link (here).  A TIFF reader is required to view the images.  TIFF software can be downloaded from the US PTO Images webpage.  Alternately, the publication number can be transferred to  where a PDF image with the drawings can be downloaded.

The sole named inventor on this application is Joseph (Joe) M Zawodny.  Googling this name leads to this link, (here).

and this link, a review of a book on (here)

and this link, on PeakYou (here).

I will let the readers chase-down other biographic information on this inventor.

The title of the patent application is: “Method for Producing Heavy Electrons” and the Abstract reads as follows:

“A method for producing heavy electrons is based on a material system that includes an electrically-conductive material is selected. The material system has a resonant frequency associated therewith for a given operational environment. A structure is formed that includes a non-electrically-conductive material and the material system. The structure incorporates the electrically-conductive material at least at a surface thereof. The geometry of the structure supports propagation of surface plasmon polaritons at a selected frequency that is approximately equal to the resonant frequency of the material system. As a result, heavy electrons are produced at the electrically-conductive material as the surface plasmon polaritons propagate along the structure. “

More significant is claim 1 which is the 1st of 3 independent claims (the others being claims 12 and 19).  Claim 1 is analyzed in detail further below.

One Key Requirement for validity

For this claim to be valid, it must not describe or “read-on” anything that was available in a printed publication anywhere in the world prior to March 25, 2009.  Further, it must not describe any public use or offer for sale occurring in the United States prior to that date.

In this respect, this application explicitly acknowledges in paragraph [0006] that the theory of Widom and Larsen that “heavy electrons” have been linked to LENR activity.  This is described in the application as follows:

“Briefly, this theory put forth by Widom and Larsen states that the initiation of LENR activity is due to the coupling of “surface plasmon polaritons” (SPPs) to a proton or deuteron resonance in the lattice of a metal hydride. The theory goes on to describe the production of heavy electrons that undergo electron capture by a proton. This activity produces a neutron that is subsequently captured by a nearby atom transmuting it into a new element and releasing positive net energy in the process.”

Readers should appreciate that statements made in patent applications and issued patents are not necessarily true.

The patent application acknowledges the article by A. Widom et al. “Ultra Low Momentum Neutron Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metallic Hydride Surface,”  European Physical Journal C-Particles and Fields, 46, pp. 107-112, 2006, and U.S. Pat. No. 7,893,414 issued to Larsen et al, published September 15, 2007, as being prior art which cannot be covered by a claim in the present application.  The application goes on to premise that, as of the priority date, heavy electron production has only occurred in small random regions or patches of sample materials/devices, limiting the capacity of this phenomenon to support a device in an efficient energy generation application.

This inventor himself premises the legitimacy of LENR as a potential source of energy generation.  The fact that NASA has supported this application by paying for the patent filing provides further modest endorsement of this premise, at least as a prospective possibility.  But this filing does not commit the US government to acknowledge that LENR is a significant phenomenon of great potential importance.  This initiative may merely be the whim of a NASA supervisor.

Classification of invention

This application has been assigned to US patent class 376/108.  A link to this class including further links to other applications and patents in the same class and subclass may be found (here).

Highlighting and clicking on the description of the sub-class on this page will lead to a class definition.  That class definition includes systems which aspire to achieve nuclear fusion in the most general sense of yielding, after a reaction, a nucleus of greater mass, whether successful or not.  It includes cases where neutrons are used to cause a fission reaction.

Classification in this subclass does not necessarily define what is really happening.  It is really just a 1st guess and it is further subject to the possibility/likelihood that the subclasses in this classification system are not fully up to date with latest developments.

From the link to US patent class 376/108 further hyperlinks to pending patent applications and issued US patents in the same subclass may be effected by activating the links “A” and “P“.

Claim 1

A better understanding of claim 1 can be achieved by parsing it as follows:

1. A method of producing heavy electrons, comprising the steps of:

selecting a material system that includes an electrically-conductive material, said material system having a resonant frequency associated therewith for a given operational environment; and

forming a structure having a surface, said structure comprising a non-electrically-conductive material and said material system, said structure incorporating said electrically-conductive material at least at said surface of said structure,

wherein a geometry of said structure supports propagation of surface plasmon polaritons at a selected frequency that is approximately equal to said resonant frequency of said material system, and producing heavy electrons at said electrically-conductive material as said surface plasmon polaritons propagate along said structure.

This claim is very broad and may have to be narrowed to achieve the approval of the US examiner.  The applicant must not only establish that the claim qualifies as covering only to novel, nonobvious, methods in view of what was before March 25, 2009, but also the examiner must be satisfied that the disclosure is free of uncertainties and contains sufficient information to enable the replication of the invention once the patent expires.  This application may be vulnerable on both counts.

This could turn out to be a remarkably broad claim if it is upheld.  Readers may be able to supply examples of prior art that fall within its scope.  Regarding uncertainty, the meaning of this claim will depend upon understanding what is meant by the word “propagation”, as in the phrase “supports propagation”.  This could mean increasing in quantity, or advancing in space.  Contrast: a propagation of new species (after a massive extinction) versus propagating in space (radio waves). The 2nd use of propagation at the end of the claim is in the latter sense.  In the circumstances, we may look to the general “story” of the disclosure to clarify the meaning of words used in a claim. We must also examine the disclosure to determine if it is “enabling”.

Disclosure of the invention

The Summary of the Invention portion of the disclosure is clearly written by a patent attorney.  The rich use of “may” rather than “is” is a clear indication of this conclusion.  Attorneys never wish to commit themselves if they can avoid it.  The 1st paragraph in this section also contains some strange passages:

“The structure may include a solid matrix material with the electrically-conductive material mixed therein. The structure may exist in a state selected from the group consisting of a gas, a liquid, and a plasma. The electrically-conductive material may be mixed in the structure.”

To suggest that the structure can exist in the state of being a gas, liquid or a plasma seems to stretch the word “structure” too far.  But patents are to be read with a mind willing to understand.

Detailed description

The Detailed Description of the Invention portion of the disclosure is more often associated with the words of the inventor. In this section we nevertheless find text which is entirely predictive with no examples.  This portion of the disclosure is supposed to enable others to build and operate the invention.  In this case, the instructions are tied-to or expressed in terms of achieving the object of the exercise.  This is generally not considered to be sufficient to meet disclosure and enablement requirements.  Sample paragraphs that are somewhat indefinite are as follows:

“[0021] ….In general, device 10 includes a selected material system 12 that is incorporated onto/into a tuned structure 14 that supports propagation of SPPs and resulting heavy electron production that is sustained by device 10 across and/or through the entirety thereof.

[0022]….device 10 is made in such a way that it will establish a resonance in a SPP (e.g., via its inherent thermal energy for a given working environment, or via the application of energy to initiate SPP resonance) at a small region or portion of device 10.

[0023]….Regardless of the application, material system 12 will have a resonant frequency associated therewith for the working or operating environment of the application. Determination of this resonant frequency can be achieved by experimentation as would be understood in the art.  For example, the resonant frequency for metal hydride systems can be measured using neutron scattering. The resonant frequency for molecules (e.g., molecular films such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, hydrogenated/deuterated molecular structures such as graphane and its nanotube variants) can be determined for specific vibrational or rotational modes using spectroscopy. [Comment: earlier, it was suggested that resonance was to be formed in particles.  Why is resonance within molecules relevant?  Is there a distinction between the resonant response of a material system and the resonant response of “heavy electrons?]

[0025] With material system 12 being so-selected and its resonant frequency for a working environment being determined/known, tuned structure 14 incorporating material system 12 is formed. In accordance with the present invention, this is achieved by making the geometry of structure 14/material system 12 such that the SPP resonance thereof is established (i.e., either by inherent thermal energy of device 10 or application of energy thereto that initiates SPP resonance) at a frequency (i.e., the SPP resonant frequency) that is approximately equal to the above-described resonant frequency of material system 12.

Apparently, this text assumes that the geometry of structure 14/material system 12 can be chosen so that the displacement of surface plasmon polaritons – SPPs (also described as “heavy electrons”, but not otherwise defined) along the surfaces of the particles of structure can be pumped in their translational motion by applying energy intermittently from an external source, necessarily in synchronization with the presumed reversing travel of SPPs within the particles.  Since the disclosure premises that an external source can be: “a form of energy selected from the group consisting of electric energy, thermal energy, photonic energy, energy associated with an ion beam, and energy associated with a flow of gas” para [0007], there is a presumption that each of these energy sources can be modulated appropriately and will couple with the heavy electrons increasing their energy content or, presumably, their effective mass.

The objective of “propagating” the existence of “heavy electrons” is said to have utility because of their prospective role in:

“coupling…… to a proton or deuteron resonance in the lattice of a metal hydride (and) … undergo electron capture by a proton. This activity produces a neutron that is subsequently captured by a nearby atom transmuting it into a new element and releasing positive net energy in the process” (para [0006]).

Accordingly, this patent does not represent that it is establishing a process for producing energy based on an LENR or Cold Fusion process that arises from the formation and absorption of neutrons.  Rather, it accepts such process as a given and presumes to provide a method for enhancing the efficiency of neutron production.

Overall, the specification is speculative and suspect for lacking any data on actual procedures that have been carried out to successfully produce the results promised.

Results promised

And the disclosure runs the dangerous risk of making excessive promises:

“The present invention allows an entire device surface or volume to produce heavy electrons as opposed such production in small random regions of materials/devices. Thus, devices/systems constructed in accordance with the present invention will have performance that is predictable and maximize heavy electron production that results in, for example, maximum energy production for a given device/system or predictable efficiency and effectiveness of a gamma ray shield.” [0007]

It’s better not to make promises as to the degree of performance that can be achieved from the invention since, if such promises do not deliver, this is a grounds for questioning the validity of a patent.


In conclusion, this application seems to be as much the creation of a patent attorney who has received the advice that the resonant excitation of “heavy electrons” will improve their “propagation”.  It will be interesting to see how the examiner reacts when this filing is reviewed in 2 or 3 years.

Postscript: Apparently, no corresponding application was filed either under the Patent Cooperation Treaty or before the Canadian Patent Office.  This indicates that the relative importance thought to be associated with the patent filing by those paying the bill is modest.

Persons wishing to make comments on this posting are invited to visit the Cold Fusion Now website where this article is posted.

Why Cold Fusion/LENR has not been seized upon by private industry

The following is a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

In my last posting I started Part 1 of what was to be a two-part reference to the initiatives of Randall Mills  and Blacklight Power in respect of  producing energy through exploitation of a shrunken hydrogen atom, the “Hydrino”.   Part 2 will soon follow.  Meanwhile I wish to now address a consideration respecting what will be needed to make Cold Fusion a commercial success.

It’s been 23 years since Pons and Fleischmann made their initial announcements. Hundreds if not thousands of examples of unexplained excess heat have now been identified in the laboratories of heroic “cold fusion” researchers struggling around the world on very modest budgets. Yet industry has not picked-up the baton to join in the race. Why is this?

There are no doubt many reasons but this article addresses the issue of thermal efficiency. It is proposed that industry will not be interested in ColdFusion technology until energy gains well in advance of 3:1 are achieved. Something higher e.g., 6:1 or 8:1 is a minimum in order to activate commercial interest in the exploitation of the excess energy phenomena associated with condensed matter physics. It all starts with the Carnot cycle.

Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot (1 June 1796 — 24 August 1832) was a French military engineer who, in his 1824 book Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, gave the first successful theoretical account of heat engines, now known as the Carnot cycle. He is often described as the “Father of thermodynamics”, being responsible for such concepts as Carnot efficiency, Carnot theorem, the Carnot heat engine, and others.

The Carnot theorem applies to engines converting thermal energy to work. This is to be contrasted with fuel cells and batteries which convert chemical energy into work. The theorem states that the maximum efficiency that any heat engine can obtain depends on the difference between two hot and cold temperature reservoirs that are its “source” and its “sink”.

The principles behind Carnot’s theorem are as follows:

• there is a maximum limit to the efficiency by which work that can be extracted from heat;

• only an engine operating on the Carnot cycle can achieve the maximum efficiency possible in extracting energy from heat in order to produce work

• only a perfect, reversible, heat engine operating between a heat source and a heat sink can equal the efficiency of a Carnot engine operating between the same reservoirs

• all irreversible heat engines operating between two heat reservoirs are less efficient than a Carnot engine operating between the same reservoirs.

Generally, for an engine to operate “reversibly”, it has to function very slowly and have not heat loss through “leakage”. Virtually all practical heat engines are of the irreversible kind.

The formula for this maximum efficiency is:

Efficiency = 1 – T(cold)/T(hot)

where T(cold) is the absolute temperature of the cold reservoir, T(hot) is the absolute temperature of the hot reservoir, and the Efficiency is the ratio of the energy-value of the work done by the engine to the heat drawn out of the hot reservoir.

Using the above formula to demonstrate an example, and recalling that 0°C is 273° Kelvin, the ideal Carnot efficiency of a heat engine operating between 273°C and a block of ice at 0°C is 50% i.e. 1- 273°K/546°C. This is ideal. This is perfection. Typical gasoline automobile engines operate down in the range of 20% thermal efficiency. Power generation stations achieve typical thermal efficiencies of around 33% for coal and oil-fired plants, and up to 50% for combined-cycle gas-fired plants.

Using the above figure of 33 1/3%, it takes 3 barrels of oil to make one barrel of electricity in terms of heat value. This is a shocking thought for national planners who see citizens using electricity for heating. Nevertheless, electricity is an amazingly convenient energy source that is delivered apparently effortlessly to the door of the consumer and is available at the turning of a switch. Only the cost of electricity limits its consumption as a source of heat.

Because electricity is such a special form of energy, ready to do work directly with 98% efficiency through electric motors, it can be used in some applications to recover a portion of the heat value used to create it. And if you do not demand too much, it can provide even more. Heat pumps are designed to extract heat from the environment and raise the temperature of the extracted heat to certain modest target levels.

If the object is to heat a room with 30°C hot water, then this heat can be pumped out of the ground from a depth of 30, 40 or more feet, where the temperature is generally a constant 10° to 15°C. Heat pumps are rated based on their “coefficient of performance” – COP.  Depending on the temperature spread between the heat source and the heat sink, the co-efficiency of performance for an electrically driven heat pump can be higher than 3:1, for example 4.5:1. Thus it is possible to recover some of the heat value used to generate electricity if the object is to provide only a moderate boost in the temperature of the heat being pumped.

If on the other hand, you aspire to re-create the furnace temperatures used when the oil or natural gas is combusted to create electricity in the first place, then a heat pump just won’t do the job.

Meanwhile, in the field of cold fusion, virtually all of the experimentation that has been going on has been using electricity as the source of heat to stimulate the low energy nuclear reaction, (if that’s what is occurring). On this basis, if the reaction does not produce a 300% output of heat for 100% input of electricity, then that technology has failed to achieve even a bare minimum recovery of the value that it has consumed. In addition, there are always system inefficiencies. That’s why a ColdFusion reactor is not really going to make sense until it has a gain, or coefficient of performance – COP, in excess of 6:1 and preferably 8:1 and more.

The original question posed was: Why has industry not picked-up the challenge to develop ColdFusion into a working industrial resource?  One reason is that a large number of experiments done around the world have not shown a COP of 6, 7 or 8. In fact, many of the scientific results have shown excess energy gains of 20%, 30%, etc. rather than the 600%, 700% or 800% that would make investors sit up and pay attention.

If an LENR reaction were to produce heat at the temperature of 500°C, or preferably 600-800°C and do so with a COP for the input electrical energy of even just 600%, then interest may suddenly arise. The Carnot efficiency, that is the ideal theoretical capacity to generate electricity from thermal energy for a source at a temperature of 850°C, relying on a cold-water sink at 27°C would be just under 67%.  Allowing for production losses, a thermal efficiency of 25-30% might be achievable for the production of electricity.

Electricity is like “White Gold”. It can be sold instantly. There is always a market for it. This removes one major uncertainty from the business case for investing in ColdFusion technology. You know that you will have something to sell that people will buy.

But this hasn’t happened. We still haven’t had a demonstration of the sustained production of high-grade heat for an extended period of time.

This is not to say that the production of steam, “wet” steam if it still contains water droplets and is only at a temperature of 100°C, is not valuable. It can be used for low temperature applications throughout our society. Heating homes is only just one application. Running air conditioners is another. Industry consumes a lot of hot water. And the desalination of water is a big application that will change the lives of hundreds of millions of human beings.

Let us hope that demonstrations at higher levels of COP will soon attract the interest of industry and provide the breakthrough that every fan of ColdFusion has been hoping for, for so long.

Cold Fusion Is Back! – CERN Webinar on Cold Fusion March 22, 2012

The following is a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

March 23, 2012 –One would think that the above title should be a headline in the newspapers following a live webcast originating from CERN in Geneva on March 22, 2012.  This CERN Colloquium entitled: “Overview of Theoretical and Experimental Progress in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions – LENR” was presented by Drs Francesco Celani and Yogendra Srivastava. Dr Celani is an Italian physicist at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Frascati National Laboratories, Italy and the Vice-President of the International Society of Condensed Matter. Dr Srivastava is an emeritus professor of physics at Indiana University in the U.S.

Program:  (slides and video at bottom of screen)

These two scientists have devoted their careers to studying the phenomena originally announced by Pons & Fleischmann in 1989 and discredited in the media and amongst the community of nuclear physicists in the years following.  But, as the speakers confirmed, there are still 1000 researchers around the world who have been studying the phenomena of: “unexplained excess heat” and they have produced results that irrefutably indicate that something real is happening.

Professor Srivastava addressed his preferred theory as to the source of the unexplained excess heat.  He was clear that it had to be nuclear and argued that it arose from a weak force effect.  Essentially, he supported the Widom & Larsen theory that neutrons can be formed in a solid matter matrix by the capture of an electron by a proton:

This presumably requires overcoming a 780 KeV energy barrier based on the mass difference between the neutron and the combined masses of a proton and an electron.  But once a neutron is formed, it’s available to carry-out all sorts of nuclear reactions, including transmutations of available background metals in the crystal lattice and the conversion of hydrogen or deuterium nuclei trapped in the crystal lattice into tritium, helium 3 or helium 4.  These processes result in the releasing of substantial amounts of heat.

Professor Srivastava did not address the alternate theory, originally proposed by Pons and Fleischmann, that the source of unexplained energy was arising from the fusion of two deuterium nuclei trapped in a metal lattice.  The prospect remains that this process may still be occurring.

“D-D fusion produces a 2.45 MeV neutron and helium-3 half of the time, and produces tritium and a proton but no neutron the other half of the time. D-3He fusion produces no neutron.”

Arguing against the proposition that D-D fusion is occurring deep in the host crystal lattice is the evidence that apparently indicates that the low energy nuclear reaction effect – LENR tends to occur on the surfaces of active metals such as Palladium and Nickel.

On the other hand, Professor Peter Hagelstein from MIT, who continues to defend the deuterium fusion concept, has argued, with some effect, that if helium is the resulting material that forms through fusion at critical vacancies in a metal lattice, then the accumulation of helium can choke-back the reaction by plugging the vacancies. However, helium formed near a surface has an opportunity to defuse out of the metal lattice, freeing up the vacancies in the same region to continue the LENR effect.  Hence even the deuterium fusion theory can fit with the observed phenomena that high surface area contributes to the production of excess heat.

The original experiments done by Pons and Fleischmann produced excess heat on the order of 10-20%.  That is, for every unit of electricity consumed in the electrolysis experiments that they were running, the driving of deuterium onto/into Palladium, an additional 20% of heat was appearing in the system.  A problem with results of this nature is that the measurement of an excess heat of only 20% requires careful instrumentation.  A great deal of criticism was made of the calorimetric procedures followed by Pons and Fleischmann.  However, Professor Celani produced data on experiments in the 20 years following 1989 that show heat gains in excess of 50% to 200% and, on occasion, infinite, in the sense that heat was produced even though no electricity was being run through the reaction vessel.

A lot of the objections to the demonstration of the production of excess heat would necessarily be met if it could be reliably shown that heat gains in excess of 100% are being achieved.  Errors in actually measuring the precise amount of excess heat would then be irrelevant.

There are a number of Golden Goals that one would like to see achieved if the LENR effect is to become the gift to humanity that many believers insist is possible.  The critical parameters are:

1. Gain. If electricity or another energy source is needed to precipitate an LENR effect, then gain has to be significant.  It costs 3 calories of thermal energy to generate 1 calorie of electrical energy.  This means that the gain, if electricity must be used, has to be at least 300%.  Gain is important.

2. Power. Power is important because if the phenomenon collapses at higher power rates, then this energy generation source will never be of service to mankind.  Instead, it will be a curiosity.  It is known that a pair of deuterium nuclei can be made to fuse by introducing a Muon in place of an electron in orbit around at least one of a pair of deuterium nuclei.  This is called a “muon catalyzed fusion“.

This produces heat by way of fusion.  But Muons are extremely difficult to generate and have a very short half-life.  The phenomenon is interesting but it’s not likely to be useful to produce power at any relevant level of interest to human society.  Test results shown by Professor Celani indicate results, by solid scientific researchers, in which energy is being generated at rates up to on the order of 20-50 W.  This is promising.  The claims by Andrea Rossi and Defkalion that they are producing energy at the rates in excess of 1 kW are suspect as they are not been scientifically evaluated and proven.  But more than trivial power has been produced. Power is important.

3. Temperature. Temperature is important because of the Carnot principle.  If you’re going to generate work using thermalized energy, then the Carnot theorem sets a limit on the proportion of thermal energy that can be converted to work.  Electricity is equivalent to work energy.  The Carnot formula depends on the temperature difference existing between a heat source and a heat sink.  Thus the maximum energy, the absolute theoretical maximum, that can be extracted from a heat source at 273°C using ice at 0°C as a sink is 50%.

Typical power generation stations that burn coal, gas or oil rely on temperatures in excess of 800°C and have difficulty achieving efficiencies in excess of 40%.  Many of the experimental tests done in the past were carried-out in electrolytic cells that contained water or heavywater.  Only modest temperature increases were being measured, and the presence of water set an upper limit on any temperature increase that could be created.  More recent experiments in the gas phase have actually been running at 300°C, 400°C and experiments have been attempted by Professor Celani at temperatures as high as 900°C.  Achieving high temperatures will be extremely relevant to providing mankind with inexpensive electrical power.  Temperature is important.

4. Duration. The duration of the unexplained excess energy effect has been the bane of most researchers.  Generally, it has taken a long time to turn-on an LENR effect. And then in most cases the effect has only lasted for a limited period of time, in some cases only minutes.  However, more recent tests have demonstrated a heat generation duration of many days, sometimes weeks.  To be an effective source of energy the active materials have to be able to continue to produce energy beyond a trivial short interval.  Accepting that a nuclear effect is the source of the energy, the prospects for extended periods of heat generation are theoretically possible.  The amount of heat that can be provided through nuclear effects is enormous. Technology must resolve the issue of how to sustain an LENR reaction over an extended period of time.  Duration is important.

5. Control.  From the beginning and even today, the turning-on of an LENR effect has been a sometimes proposition.  Apart from the extended delays that are required before the effect appears, it’s not even clear whether the effect is precipitated by:

– electric current passing through a host crystal LENR environment

– the presence of an electric field applied to the LENR environment

– oscillations in such an electric field

– magnetic fields, whether static or oscillating

– thermal energy present in the form of vibrations present in the host atom nuclei forming a crystal matrix; in electrons present in the crystal matrix, possibly in the conduction band or otherwise; or in protium/deuteron nuclei nesting at critical locations in the crystal matrix

All of these effects represent “handles” by which a low energy nuclear reaction might be controllable.  Ideally, controls should exist to not only turn-on an LENR event but also to adjust its rate, including preventing runaway, and allowing for shutdown.  Control is important.

Professor Celani indicated that in one of the experiments that had been carried-out a heat flux of 1500 W per gram of Palladium was achieved.  This compares favorably with the heat flux at the core of the sun:

“At the center of the sun, fusion power is estimated by model to be about 276.5 watts/m3, [2] a power production density which more nearly approximates reptile metabolic heat generation than it does a thermonuclear bomb. [3] Peak power production in the Sun’s center, per volume, has been compared to the volumetric heats generated in an active compost heap.”

A key comment in the presentation by Professor Celani addressed the effect of loading of the metal lattice.  It has been known that as hydrogen is forced into a nickel or palladium lattice, the electrical resistance of the lattice initially rises, but then falls after a loading ratio of approximately 0.7:1 is passed.  Thereafter, approaching a loading of approximately 1:1 the resistance can drop by 50% from its peak.  Information on the effects of loading beyond this limit is not readily available.  But Professor Celani did observe that the observation of the appearance of excess energy appears uniquely associated with loadings in this negative resistance region.

The suggestion is that loading is a critical parameter for these phenomena to occur.  Any technology which could generate high loadings and maintain high loadings over time could be key to a practical application of the LENR effect.

Post presentation questions

After the speakers had concluded their remarks, questions were invited from the audience.  One particularly persistent questioner insisted repeatedly that the numerous failed attempts by scientists to replicate the ColdFusion effect following the Pons and Fleischmann announcement in 1989 should be given as much weight as the more recent identification of concrete, incontrovertible, excess energy experiments from numerous sources around the world.  The relevance of this objection can be compared to the example of announcing to children at a birthday party that there is a special treasure source of gold foil covered chocolates to be found somewhere in the house.  The children proceed to effect an exhaustive treasure hunt throughout the house.  Many many children come back reporting that no such gold coin chocolates have been found.  But a few report that, while they didn’t find the treasure source itself, they did find some sample chocolate coins which they then place on the table.

Would it be appropriate to argue in these circumstances that a treasure source does not exist?  Unfortunately, the style of this questioner has predominated in the general physics community since 1989.

Watch Yogendra Srivastava video and slide presentation

Watch Antonio Celani video and slide presentation

New Kid On The Block? Brillouin Energy Corp

The following is a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.

April 23, 2012 –For some of us who have not been following the ColdFusion scene very carefully, Brillouin Energy Corp may seem like a new upstart. Actually, they have been around for some time. But they have now “come out” with a very complete and informative release that describes their initiatives, and reported “breakthrough” in the ColdFusion universe. Here is a summary description from Pure Energy Systems.  Their slogan is apparently: “Understanding how LENR works will enable us to be first!”

This website is very generous in explaining their theory for generating energy through a lattice assisted nuclear reaction – “LANR”. This theory is based upon electron capture with a twist. Coherent phonon waves within a host lattice created by pulsating electrical current provide energy levels in excess of the 782 KeV threshold needed to produce a neutron out of the combination of an electron and a proton. The accumulating neutrons eventually form 4H – “hydrogen 4″ which is an entity I had never heard about. It is an atom that contains one proton and three neutrons. Apparently, once created hydrogen 4 can convert to 4He – “helium 4″ with the emission of a beta particle and without releasing penetrating gamma ray radiation. Beta particles, high-speed electrons, are likely to be readily absorbed within a metal lattice and its surrounding containment; accordingly, they are not readily detected. They would certainly not represent a radiation hazard by themselves.

The website contains a generous dose of mathematics. I do not pretend to understand the physics, particularly the analysis of Hamiltonians. I am going to have to study that subject further. But there is a story in the patent applications that have been assigned to Brillouin at the US Patent Office, and in the corresponding applications filed elsewhere in the world.

Apparently, as early as December 29, 2005 the inventor Robert E. Godes initiated a first US Provisional patent application which has served as a priority document for a number of filings. The year later follow-on US non-provisional ran into trouble on the basis that it was directed to “Cold Fusion”. As is usual, the US Examiner issued a rejection which was subject to being withdrawn if the applicant could prove that the invention as described works, i.e. the invention delivers on its promise. Apparently Godes, then operating on behalf of Profusion Energy, Inc. of Alameda, California as the assignee/applicant, encountered continuing resistance. Fortunately, as this application was part of the US patent system, after having been rejected in this first application another filing was made in the form of a US “Continuation” application.

This procedure is virtually unique to US law. A properly-filed US Continuation application enjoys all of the filing dates of the earlier application upon which it is based. The consequence is that there is still a US patent application pending which dates back to 2005 and which, if supported by proof of utility, could have significant impact on the exploitation of LENR systems in America.

Meanwhile, the earlier US priority filing and the subsequent non-provisional application made a year later gave rise to a PCT filing. That PCT filing, in turn, has matured into filings in Europe, Japan and China. This PCT application probably contains “new matter” not included in the original priority filing, but at the same time probably parallels the content of the first and second US non-provisional filings. A comparison of the documents would have to be made to determine this issue properly.

Note that there are a large number of countries for which patents have not been filed for this technology. In all of these countries, the invention as described in the published US and PCT applications on or about September 6, 2007 is available for use without obligation. Publication has made this invention unpatentable in all countries where applications were not already pending.

There are actually two PCT filings that have been made naming Robert E. Godes as an inventor; only one apparently relating to cold fusion; the other apparently relates to solid-state electronics technology which may be collateral to cold fusion issues. This second application should also be checked to determine its relevance.

Note, this search summary of published applications focuses on cases naming Robert E. Godes as an inventor. It is possible that further Brillouin applications are pending in the names of other inventors. Also, one or more further filings by Godes could be pending but unpublished if they are still within the 18 month secrecy window.

Of the applications now in national entry status derived from the PCT filing, the European application is the one of most interest. Examination has been requested for this application but has not commenced.

Using the US claims as probably being exemplary of what this series of patents aspires to control, we can now examine Claim 1 to see what can and cannot be done, if and when a patent issues containing this claim, without seeking permission from Brillouin Energy Corp. Claim 1 reads as follows:

1. An apparatus for energy generation comprising:

a body, referred to as the core, of a material capable of phonon propagation;
a mechanism for introducing reactants into said core;
a source of current pulses for establishing current pulses through said core, said current pulses inducing phonons in said core so that reactants, when introduced into said core, undergo nuclear reactions; and
a closed loop control system, coupled to said mechanism

– for introducing reactants and to said source of current pulses,
– for specifying operating parameters of said mechanism for introducing reactants and of said source of current pulses,
– for sensing one or more operating conditions, and for modifying one or more operating parameters,

thereby controlling the number of nuclear reactions and the depth of the nuclear reactions in said core so as to provide a desired level of energy generation while allowing energy released due to the nuclear reactions to dissipate in a manner that substantially avoids destruction of said core.

One of the first observations that can be made is that this claim stipulates that the coherent sound waves, the phonons, are generated by establishing “current pulses through said core”. Apparently, sound waves created by a piezoelectric effect, magnetostriction and or applied electrostatic fields are not intended to be within the scope of these exclusive rights. This might get changed in the course of examination if the Brillouin patent attorneys reconsider this claim. But they can only enlarge its scope if there is support for the larger ideas in the final, non-provisional filing for this application. That is the way patent procedure works.

Otherwise the above claim is a pretty well-written claim. Notice that it does not rely on any sort of theory. It simply describes a procedure which the application represents will deliver a useful result. That is what patents and patent claims are all about. You do not patent a theory. You patent how to get to a useful result.

Nevertheless, the full disclosure in the patent document is very interesting as a source of guidance for a theory that might work. Even if the theory put forward in the application is not correct, the patent, and its claims, can still be valid if the instructions for producing a useful result are accurate.

This application has already gone through the US Patent Office once when it ran into trouble for failure to satisfy the Examiner that it describes how to achieve the useful result. On this second pass, a different outcome may occur, depending on the nature of the evidence that is filed to support the promises that are being made.

Special learning point: you should not promise much in a patent application. A patent disclosure is not a sales pitch. You should simply say, effectively: “The invention delivers some degree of useful result.”

In conclusion, the Pure Energy Systems article first referenced above contains an excellent outline of the theory that this company is apparently operating on. If they have managed to achieve reliable production of energy at the elevated temperatures that they represent in their website, they are going to have a breakthrough winner that should attract the attention of the world.