It can be hard to tell a ‘wild goose chase’ from a ‘flash of insight to the mysteries’.
Sometimes they look nearly the same. Sometimes some bits ARE the same, but a few bits don’t quite connect.
This posting is one of those. Somethings that sure feel like they are connected, some how. But with just enough gap between them that I cannot bridge and say for sure which bits are the ‘flash of insight’ and which are the ‘wild goose chase’.
That also means I can’t lay things out in a nice neat package of who connects what to whom. So I’ll mostly just leave a trail of bread crumbs that others can look at to amuse their own pondering.
It all started with a comment from Simon Derricutt on the LENR Tungsten to Gold posting. He said:
For around the last 6 months I have not been following LENR as closely, having been diverted into helping to revive the Papp engine. I think this has some common ground with LENR, and has the possibility of some sort of fusion energy being relatively easily available. It is certainly a crackpot project, but to me it looks to have enough grounding in truth to be worth the work.
What’s a Papp engine? I wonder…
So the game is afoot and the hunt begins.
Many a strange adventure begins with “What’s a FOO?”…
Turns out it is a ‘whacky’ engine of the ‘free energy’ genre that might not be a ‘free energy’ device after all. The story unfolds with the usual crank / eccentric inventor and extreme claims. Moves on to a death and explosion in a demonstration with Richard Feynman in attendance (yes, that Feynman) and ends with modern claims of reproduction (but unwilling to explain how or have full demonstration). Along the way, some odd clues turn up and then the Left Turn into “Wha?” land.
I’ll not repeat the details, as you can get them from the links. First off, what’s this engine? It is a lot like a regular internal combustion engine in some ways. Mostly different for what is left out. Cooling. Fuel intake and exhaust. The pistons and cylinders and heads remain. Along with a spark plug, of extreme sort. And a filling of ‘inert gas’ (but maybe with some air or hydrogen added). The exact mix in the fuel is the MacGuffin in this story.
A bit of searching turned up this relatively short description of the history and story, but from a ‘sure it worked’ point of view.
The Mystery and Legacy of Joseph Papp’s Noble Gas Engine
Eugene F. Mallove
If you thought that the saga of cold fusion was bizarre, labyrinthian, and astonishing with its mother-lode of unexpected findings— from nuclear-scale excess heat to the rebirth of alchemy in low-energy nuclear transmutation, discoveries alternately persecuted or ignored by the scientific establishment— the cold fusion adventure doesn’t hold a nuclear candle to the story of Joseph Papp and his noble gas engine. The Papp engine saga seems to have had its roots in the 1950s, but it only came into public view in 1968. And, strangely enough, there may well be an underlying physics that links elements of the two stories and their profoundly heretical science. Pathological skeptics of cold fusion— and perhaps some cold fusion researchers— may laugh at or recoil from this synthesis, but they will be treading on thin ice.
One of the best overviews of the Papp story appeared in California’s San Jose Mercury News newspaper on August 27, 1989. We have reprinted David Ansley’s exemplary account, which was triggered by the cold fusion announcement some four months earlier (p. 14).
Hey, I was here then… but having a child on the way not reading the paper. Still, a vague memory of some ‘magic engine’ and explosion, murmurs: “it’s not all made up…”
Skipping the early history part…
Two Explosions, One Death
Apart from the intense contemporary work to resurrect the Papp engine in its full cycling functionality and the independent certification test in 1983 (see p. 9), what other proof is there that Papp’s engine was for real? Sad to say, this evidence is the death of one person and the severe injury of three others at a public demonstration of the engine on November 18, 1968 in Gardena, California. At that event, the engine exploded with an evident energy release that no internal combustion engine could touch.
Feynman’s Mistakes and the Recovery
But at the public meeting the next month at which the fatality occurred (see the local newspaper account of the fatality and injuries-p. 30) was Caltech physicist Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988), who had worked on the Manhattan atomic bomb project in World War II. Before even arriving at the demonstration, Feynman assumed that the Papp engine, whose operation he was about to witness, had to be part of an elaborate hoax. We know this because he recounted his reactions during the episode in his widely circulated internet account touted by the “skeptic” community (see “Mr. Papf’s (sic) Perpetual Motion Machine,” p. 29).
But here is the central problem with Feynman’s analysis (which has many other errors of fact and logic embedded in it): There was a court action against Feynman by Papp and his backer, Don Roser of Environetics, Inc., as a result of Feynman’s inept attempt to disprove the Papp engine with his unauthorized pulling of an electric control-circuit wire that Feynman egregiously imagined had to be powering the engine. It was unfortunate for Feynman that the wire’s gauge was far too thin even had there been a secret electric motor within the retrofit Volvo engine. Furthermore, as you will read, the engine kept running even after the flimsy wire was removed.
That was where the Feynman connection woke me up. So a bit more, found this link:
There’s a nice set of other things to chase down on that page, but the Feynman story in his words was there. Of particular interest is that what was called a too thin ‘control-circuit wire’ was in fact the power plug from the control circuits to the wall. Feynman (reasonably) figure wall power could be sent via that ‘control wires’ to an electrical driving motor.
So Papp gets distraught when Feynman won’t give him back power to the “control circuits”, then the damn thing blows up, kills one guy and injures two more… Feynman assert the machine was rigged to blow to avoid testing, others assert professional inspections showed no hint of explosives. Papp asserts (I think) that lack of control for too long a time let it go into runaway. Caltech settles out of court and pays something… Well.
The engine started to go around, and there was a bit of disappointment: the propeller of the fan went around quietly without the noise of an ordinary engine with powerful explosions in the cylinders, and everything — it looked very much like an electric motor.
Mr. Papp pulled the plug from the wall, and the fan propeller continued to turn. ‘You see, this cord has nothing to do with the engine; it’s only supplying power to the instruments,’ he said. Well, that was easy. He’s got a storage battery inside the engine. ‘Do you mind if I hold the plug?’ I asked? ‘Not at all,’ replied Mr. Papp, and he handed it to me.
It wasn’t very long before he asked me to give me back the plug. ‘I’d like to hold it a little longer,’ I said, figuring that if I stalled around enough, the damn thing would stop.
Pretty soon Mr. Papp was frantic, so I (Richard Feynman) gave him back the plug and he plugged it back into the wall. A few moments later there was a big explosion:
That, alone, is an interesting story. Yet I press on.
has a bunch of links, one of which leads to a patent paper:
That has a fairly in depth description of the engine. (Yet not the fuel. Nobody knows how to make the magic sauce… it’s the MacGuffin after all). But at least we get some clues. There is a central RF insertion electrode, a counterpoise ground in the piston crown, a cluster of what looks like 4 “spark plugs” that make a strong discharge / plasma forming event, and an iron piston vs magnetic coil sleeve surround that generates the electricity to power the discharge. “Somehow” the RF preheat / ionize followed by major spark discharge causes “something to go bang” in a small part of the noble gas / air / whatever in the cylinder. OK, got it. Some kind of ‘pinch / plasma / LENR’ is the hypothesis du jour.
If only we had the magic sauce…
So a bunch more digging… it’s some mix of noble gasses. They “explode”. There is mention elsewhere of some unknown lab experiments where noble gasses ‘explode’…
Along the way, I find these folks claiming to have it working again and ready for ‘investment’ to go to production:
They key to the operation is in the electronics that control the process. If I understand correctly, the gas is squeezed by an electromagnetic coil which pushes them toward a focal point where they are “jiggled” by a radio frequency, which creates an ionized form of the gas. A super-high voltage charge creates a plasma state in which the gases go through a transition during a temperature of 4000 times the surface of the sun that is achieved for a picosecond (billionth of a second); and this may involve a fusion process, intermingled with a chaotic fission process in which atoms come together then go apart again. A couple of atoms are fused each cycle.
Maybe that “coil” around the cylinder isn’t just to generate the spark… and if it is quasi stable, taking the control loops off of it could “be an issue” if left to free run too long.
Some various searches lead to this page, that reads a lot like Bafflegab, but gave me the idea of what search key to use, so gets a mention. Searching on noble gas cluster with or without explosion, leads to interesting things…
From: Axil Axil [mailto:janap…@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2013 12:47 AM
Subject: EXTERNAL: [Vo]:noble gase cluster explosion
To start out, noble gas clusters including Xenon clusters are formed when these noble gases are pre-ionized by RF radiation. The main design goal in the Papp reaction is to produce UV and X-rays. To do this, Papp used enhanced isotopic nuclear radiation to produce X-rays catalyzed by a high voltage spark discharge; however his spark was relatively weak in terms of current. But a strong enough high current spark discharge can generate this level and kind of EMF.
It has been recently discovered that noble gas clusters will explode when exposed to high intensity EMF in the UV and X-ray range.
Xenon clusters that range in size up to about 14 000-atoms will explode yielding extremely energetic ions with energies up to 1 MeV. By contrast, a chemical explosion involves chemical transition energies of only some tens of electron volts.
An explosion of noble gases can far surpass in power what a chemical explosive can deliver. The explosion of noble gas clusters including xenon clusters initiated by strong emf in the ultraviolet and the X-ray range provides an explanation of where all that power and all those electrons produced by the Papp engine come from.
So off to Cluster Explosions… that led to “Superatoms” that I didn’t know exist… and are interesting in their own right. Seems that sometimes, a bunch of atoms get together in a cluster and act like they are sharing all their electrons and acting like one big valance shell. Complete with magic stability numbers and all. This has me wondering if the nuclei might all be inside a shared bundle of most of the electrons (i.e. close to each other) and if Hydrogen can play too and if maybe, just maybe, that puts some nuclei close enough together that some lattice jiggling could get them stuck on each other, i.e. fusion. Just like we see in LENR and Cold Fusion where surfaces with lots of defects ( i.e. high cluster formation possibilities ) are more active.
Believe it or not, “There’s a wiki for that”:
The one on Aluminum gives an idea what is going on. Clusters act like they have one big valance shell and act like other positions in the periodic chart that have ‘that’ valance shell composition. I’d love to know where what parts of which atoms are located relative to the electron shells in all this… but then again, as they are really quantum probability distributions, it likely isn’t telling me all that much… We already know that the aggregate is a acting like one giant nucleus with one shared valence shell.
Certain aluminium clusters have superatom properties. These aluminium clusters are generated as anions (Aln− with n = 1, 2, 3, … ) in helium gas and reacted with a gas containing iodine. When analyzed by mass spectrometry one main reaction product turns out to be Al13I−. These clusters of 13 aluminium atoms with an extra electron added do not appear to react with oxygen when it is introduced in the same gas stream. Assuming each atom liberates its 3 valence electrons, this means that there are 40 electrons present, which is one of the magic numbers noted above for sodium, and implies that these numbers are a reflection of the noble gases. Calculations show that the additional electron is located in the aluminium cluster at the location directly opposite from the iodine atom. The cluster must therefore have a higher electron affinity for the electron than iodine and therefore the aluminium cluster is called a superhalogen. The cluster component in Al13I− ion is similar to an iodide ion or better still a bromide ion. The related Al13I2− cluster is expected to behave chemically like the triiodide ion.
Similarly it has been noted that Al14 clusters with 42 electrons (2 more than the magic numbers) appear to exhibit the properties of an alkaline earth metal which typically adopt +2 valence states. This is only known to occur when there are at least 3 iodine atoms attached to an Al14− cluster, Al14I3−. The anionic cluster has a total of 43 itinerant electrons, but the three Iodine atoms each remove one of the itinerant electrons to leave 40 electrons in the jellium shell.
It is particularly easy and reliable to study atomic clusters of inert gas atoms by computer simulation because interaction between two atoms can be approximated very well by the Lennard-Jones potential. Other methods are readily available and it has been established that the magic numbers are 13, 19, 23, 26, 29, 32, 34, 43, 46, 49, 55, etc.
Al7 = the property is similar to germanium atoms.
Al13 = the property is similar to halogen atoms, more specifically, chlorine.
Al13Ix−, where x = 1–13.
Al14 = the property is similar to alkaline earth metals.
Al14Ix−, where x = 1–14.
Now I happen to know that ammonium triiodide is explosive, so remind me not to mix any ammonia with that aluminum13 Iodine2- cluster.
I also note they have coined the term “jellium” for the combined electron shell cluster mush. Wonder if they will find a way to make a phosphorus boron version.
Yes, PB & Jellium ;-)
This may also help to explain some of the large clusters of various mixes of metals and silicon / oxygen in all the rock types we have. But I don’t have time right now for that track… so to the “someday” list for “superatoms in mineral formation chemistry”…
Several of these are metal. Hydrogen sometimes acts like a metal. Might there be… Yes, there’s a wiki for that:
A hydrogen molecular ion cluster or hydrogen cluster ion is a positively charged cluster of hydrogen molecules. The hydrogen molecular ion (H2+) and trihydrogen ion (H3+) are well defined molecular species. However hydrogen also forms singly charged clusters (Hn+) with n up to 120.
Oh Dear! Up to 120 in that Cluster Formation…
Hydrogen molecular ion clusters can be formed through different kinds of ionizing radiation. High energy electrons capable of ionizing the material can perform this task. When hydrogen dissolved in liquid helium is irradiated with electrons their energy must be sufficient to ionize helium to produce significant hydrogen clusters. Irradiation of solid hydrogen by gamma rays or X-rays also produces H6+.
Positive ion clusters are also formed when compressed hydrogen expands though a nozzle.
Nozzle eh? Kind of turbulent, like cavitation… Radiation, eh? Ionizing. Kind of like electric discharges that can make x-rays too. Wonder if the little buggers like Aluminum…
Hydrogen Storage For Fuel Cells – A Density Functional Theory Study of Hydrogen Adsorption on Aluminum Clusters
Researchers from Accelrys have carried out a study of hydrogen adsorption by Aluminum clusters, a promising candidate for fuel cell hydrogen storage devices.
The simulations revealed that a lot of H atoms can be adsorbed easily on the surface of the Al clusters.
On the surface? Or actively joining the cluster? And if actively joining the cluster, perhaps well inside the outer Jellium Shell of electrons, might added phonon energy slam one or two of the poor dears on into a metal nucleus in the cluster and cause a tiny fusion event? Given “Billions and Billions” of atoms in a small chunk of stuff, a one in a Billion Quantum Event gives a lot of fusions. Where any particle is, is a probability function after all…
So that’s where this little “Dig Here” ended.
I suspect, but can not show, that H (and maybe others like He and who knows what) joins up with heavier atoms to make “Jellium” or “Jellyspheres”. The small atoms end up inside most of the electrons that form a shared valence shell for the cluster. Then some phonon energy in the physical structure slams some of them just a bit too close together and the short range attractive force can suck them into one. Not often. Just often enough. For the gas phase, it looks like that excitation energy can be x-rays and strong EMF into a plasma (where the electrons are stripped off into a gas like phase anyway). I’d especially look at things where it forms a ‘noble gas’ shared electron shell structure.
In short, get the nuclei abnormally close, one way or the other, then slam them with some energy pulses.
I’m also now wondering just how often those simple solar-system model atoms we all learned are just not what is going on, and now often that “it is in THIS column in the periodic chart” is ignoring what happens when they get together in a gang and get rowdy and charged up. If aluminum can act like a halogen, what else can happen? Is there a whole world of slightly exotic chemistry we are ignoring, but that the rocks and life and maybe even stars are happy to play in?
Sure looks to me like ‘the science is settled’ isn’t quite right and that there are plenty of things we don’t understand just yet.
Does the Papp engine work?
I have no idea.
But I’m not seeing anything in what we know that prevents it. And I’m seeing a whole lot of stuff we are just starting to get to know exists, with plenty of potentials.
So, were I looking for things to cause low temperature fusion, I’d look for atoms that form clusters. Those that are prone to ‘absorbing’ a lot of hydrogen and / or helium. I’d look for ways to show that forms Jellium shells. I’d then ‘excite’ it in various ways. Make phonons in solids. Make small finely divided cluster sized dust. Expose it to high frequency RF, and cyclical pressure. Maybe even cavitation and EMF fields. Look for things just a tiny bit below the “Magic Number” stability numbers, where they really do want another proton or two in the nucleus. Then cram a lot of Hydrogen in under pressure and shake baby shake, irradiate baby irradiate. For gas phase, look for noble gases that are known to form clusters that can make explosions. Perhaps add a hydrogen or helium or two to the cluster and see what happens. I note that the Papp engine mentions air and noble gasses. Oxygen is just 2 short of Neon. So oxygen and helium mixed ‘has potential’. While lithium nitride might be interesting to explore.
I don’t know what would happen, but I’d bet it will be interesting…
“If I knew what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be an experiment.”
(To steal a quote…)