Evidence for Ultra Dense Deuterium

Almost all of the articles on ultra-dense deuterium currently are from Professor Leif Holmlid. In somewhat of a catch-22, the fact that there have been very few replication attempts to date is likely the reason that there is little interest in further investigating Holmlid’s claims.


As such, I want to mention all of the replication efforts I’m aware of.


The first item of note is not an experiment, but theory. The purpose of theory is to explain experimental evidence and anticipate the answer to future questions without the need for experimentation. As such, theory is tested by first issuing predictions, and then testing those predictions empirically. The only theorist to comment on Holmlids work is by Friedwardt Winterberg. Besides the fact that his theory was published in 2010, and is based on evidence that is now somewhat outdated, I don’t have much to say about it. Unfortunately, since it doesn’t make immediately testable predictions, and hasn’t been updated in 8 years, it doesn’t provide much support for Holmlid’s claims.


The next relevant work I’m aware of began in 2015, when two others, PhD candidate Sindre ZG, and his advisor, Professor Svienn Olafsson from the University of Iceland, began working with Leif Holmlid to replicate this work. Sveinn himself has published three articles on the matter as a co-author with Leif (Charged Particle Energy Spectra, Spontaneous Emissions, Muon Detection)  He also reported one (apparently non-replicable) piece of evidence at the ICCF-21 conference: with a 4-point conductivity probe measuring a platinum on magnesium oxide target, he claims to have detected sudden drops in resistivity of the surface after deposition of ultra-dense deuterium.


Sindre ZG also gave a talk at ICCF-21, and described his process trying to replicate Holmlid’s experiments. His general approach has been to test for laser-induced high-energy particle emissions from the ultra-dense deuterium.


The last person working the field (that I’m aware of) is Mike Taggett, an entrepreneur in Utah who has been working on ultra-dense deuterium off and on for about 6 years. When I talked to him recently, he described having visited over 20 physics departments to find someone willing to collaborate. While he said he found a couple leads at different points, most departments were scared away by the fear of cold-fusion-esque results.


I’ve reached out to all of these researchers to find out more details about their experiments, future plans, and those they’ve worked with.

Two Pathways for Partial Methane Oxidation

There are many ingenious methods people have come up with to carry out partial methane oxidation. For the most part, these methods rely on one of two pathways.

Direct Synthesis:

The first of these is to find clever ways to carry out the exact difficult process I described previously: abstract a single hydrogen, and replace it with a single oxygen atom, then stop the reaction.

Many ingenious methods have been devised to make this process more selective and efficient. One popular route is to use single-atom catalytic sites that are only able to remove single hydrogen before they become saturated. Another is to use specially engineered frameworks (known as zeolites) to act as artificial enzymes. These routes show promise but have their own drawbacks, such as being very difficult to synthesize at scale.

Syngas Pathway:

The second pathway takes place in two steps. While it isn’t as efficient as the first pathway, it requires a lot less precision. First, the methane is oxidized under low-oxygen conditions. This removes all the hydrogen, but rather than resulting in water and carbon dioxide, it produces a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide (or, depending on the specific conditions, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide). This mixture is commonly referred to as synthetic gas, or “syngas”, for short. In the next step, the two components of syngas are reacted together under different conditions to yield methanol.

While this second pathway is quite promising, it is made significantly more difficult by virtue of the two steps of the reaction occurring under totally different conditions. Whereas the first step only takes place at low pressure and low temperature, the second step takes place at high pressure and high temperature. This also presents an opportunity; because the first step is highly exothermic, and produces more gas than it starts with (the number of moles increases), it should theoretically be possible to use the energy released in the first step to power the second step. The question is how to make this work in practice.

The strategy we’re investigating right now is the construction of “nanoreactors”, tiny spheres of metal oxides filled with even smaller particles of metals known to catalyst different the steps of the syngas pathway. The hope is that by confining methane within these nano-reactors, it may be possible to maintain some of the heat and pressure created in the first reaction step to drive the second step.

There are many techniques we will need to develop to make these reactors, and it is unclear how strong an effect it will be possible to generate. However, even if this goal proves impractical, we also hope to use the controlled conditions of the nanoreactor to study the dynamics of the partial methane oxidation reaction and understand how to build more sinter resistant catalysts.

Nanoreactor Design


In this post, I want to describe the three ideas we’re investigating to synthesize nanoreactors right now and the general methodology of nanoreactor design.

The key characteristics of a nanoreactor are:

  1. A closed vessel that can confine metal nanoparticles
  2. Allows limited diffusion of gas through their walls
  3. A scale on the order of tens to thousands of nanometers
  4. Robust enough to withstand harsh reaction conditions
  5. Uniform geometry – all reactors should be a similar size and shape

The first three requirements are necessary for the dynamics we aim to create within the reactors. The fourth requirement ensures that the catalysts we make will not degrade as we perform tests, and will be useful under industrial conditions. The last requirement is not as important but allows us to more easily characterize the performance of nanoreactors, understand them mechanistically, and ensure that multiple batches of nanoreactors will behave similarly.

Mesoporous metal oxides satisfy the first, second, and fourth requirements right off the bat. They are fairly strong materials, resistant to both physical stress and high temperature, are frequently used as inert supports for metal catalysts, and have a complex network of interconnected pores that allow gasses to slowly diffuse through them.


The question then is how to manufacture metal oxide nano-geometries consistently. There is a well-known method to produce uniformly sized beads from silicon dioxide, known as the Stöber process. If a solution of a silicon-containing molecule (tetraethylorthosilicate) is reacted with a solution containing water under basic conditions, it forms silicon dioxide. If this hydrolysis is performed in a well-mixed solution of carefully balanced ethanol and water, it is possible to produce silica spheres of a controlled size, typically on the scale of hundreds of nanometers.


From here, the final challenge is to produce a cavity and insert the catalyst particles that we intend to use. While there are some methods to selectively etch metal oxides, it is only possible under very tightly controlled conditions, and even then is often only possible when the silica is crystalline, rather than amorphous (as is the result of this process). Instead, it is easier to build a new layer on top of the silica sphere, then dissolve the sphere.


This is the general approach we are taking: by adhering the catalyst particles to the surface of the silica, then using a similar approach of hydrolyzing an organo-metallic precursor molecule, we can form a thin film of zirconium or titanium oxide on the surface of the silica spheres, coating the spheres and catalyst. We can then use sodium hydroxide to remove the silica from the inside. Right now, we’re just beginning to test how reliable this coating process is, and whether it is possible to control the thickness, porosity, and other properties of the coating.

Introduction to Partial Methane Oxidation

I just started my internship in the Carngello chemical engineering lab today. The project I’ll be helping with (at least, to start) is designing catalysts for “Partial Methane Oxidation” or PMO. The PMO process is used to convert methane gas (CH4, commonly referred to as “natural gas”) into methanol (CH3OH, also known as wood alcohol).


Methane has found widespread use as a heating gas, but it has two properties that make it unfavourable. The first is that, as a gas with a very low boiling point, it takes a great deal of energy to transport it. To transport it as a gas requires very large vessels, and to hold any appreciable quantity of methane also requires the gas to be pressurized. The more you pressurize it, the more you can store in a container of the same volume (up until it becomes a liquid); however, this also increases the amount of energy you need to expend (pressurization can take up to xx% of the energy you get from burning the methane) and requires thicker containers to hold it (not to mention an increased risk of explosion). In the end, you get ships that look like this designed for transporting methane:


Image result for liquid natural gas ship

(Credit: Fortune Magazine)


This is fine on an industrial scale, but the high infrastructure costs mean that methane extraction is only practical on a large scale. Often, methane occurs in smaller deposits and is accidentally discovered when drilling for oil or minerals. Because of the high cost of liquefying methane, much of it is flared or released, contributing to climate change. Moreover, even when it is being liquefied, some escapes through small leaks in the system.


The other problem that caps methane’s potential is the difficulty of turning it into other chemicals. While we often think of methane as relative because it can be burned, it takes a great amount of energy to start the oxidation process and keep it going. This is part of the reason why methane only combusts at very specific ratios of methane: oxygen.



Converting methane into methanol (a substantially more reactive liquid), solves both of these issues. In order to convert methane into methanol – either for shipping or as a stepping stone towards other industrially useful products – we need to break one of the high-strength carbon-hydrogen bonds and replace it with oxygen.


This sounds simple enough, and it is (it’s the same first step as burning methane). The tricky part is stopping the reaction from going too far, and turning the methane into carbon dioxide.


This is already a challenging task, but the chemistry of methane makes it even more difficult. The first C-H bond is the hardest to break (converting CH4 to CH3), and each successive bond becomes easier to pull apart (So CH3 à CH2 à CH à C). This means that if you have a catalyst that can efficiently “abstract” the first hydrogen, that catalyst is likely to pull off all the other hydrogens as well, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.

Cosmic Ray Detector

I mentioned previously that I’ll be trying to use a scintillation counter/cosmic ray detector to measure the high-energy charged particles that are supposedly emitted by ultra-dense deuterium. In this post, I want to describe how a cosmic ray detector works, and how I plan to build one.

The first thing to note is that cosmic rays (which you can read about in more detail on Wikipedia) are a type of ionizing radiation produced when high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Cosmic rays can be composed of a number of different types of particles, ranging from electrons to heavy nuclei cores, but are predominantly “muons”, which are heavier analogues of electrons.

These muons can interact with a detector in multiple ways. In a bubble chamber, the muon ionizes atoms in a tank of super-heated liquid hydrogen, causing it to boil along the trail traversed by the particle, and leaving a visible trace. This is similar to the function of cloud and spark chambers.

These chambers are quite useful but have significant drawbacks in that they are often difficult to set up and maintain, and are difficult to use when dealing with large quantities of particles (the traces must be counted by hand or with sophisticated computer vision, and disappear after a couple seconds). The commonly used alternative is a scintillation counter. When muons pass through a “scintillator” (which may be an inorganic salt crystal, a plastic, or even a liquid such as toluene) they excite electrons in the material. If the material is doped with a dye, it will release this energy as photons of a known wavelength. Importantly, the number of photons released as the particle passes through the material will be roughly proportional to the energy of the muon.

Because a handful of photons isn’t visible, some form of amplification is required to obtain a signal. Historically, this has been done with a “photomultiplier tube“, which use a series of highly charged plates. While photomultiplier tubes are highly sensitive (able to pick up individual photons) and have a low “dark-count” (rate of false signals), they have drawbacks of being moderately expensive, very fragile, and somewhat bulky (the charged plates need a minimum separation to prevent sparking).

As such, a more recent alternative, known as an avalanche photodiode, has gained some popularity. While avalanche photodiodes have no size constraint and are cheaper than photomultiplier tubes, they have a significant dark-count, and so more work is required to filter out false signals.

For my project, I’m going to be building two different scintillation counters, one using a photomultiplier tube (PMT), and one using an avalanche photodiode. The PMT detector will use two different scintillation paddles spaced about 2 meters apart and will allow me to determine the particle flux in a particular direction, but will only detect particles that make it through the thick steel walls of the vacuum chamber I’ll be using.

The photodiode-based detector will be palm-sized, based on a design by MIT graduate student Spencer Axani and it will be possible to fit it into the vacuum chamber, immediately adjacent to the emitter from which the ultra-dense deuterium should be produced.


My Project

Now that you have some background on D(0), what it is, and why it is an important area of research, I can explain in more depth what I plan to do.

My goal is to synthesize and detect D(0) by replication the work of Professor Holmlid as described in several publications. There are two components to my project, the first is to actually build a device capable of producing D(0), and the second is to build a scintillation counter to detect rare spontaneous fusion events in D(0).

In Efficient Source for the Production of Ultradense Deuterium Holmlid details the key components of the emitter that his group uses to create samples of D(0). The apparatus is quite simple, and pictured below (from the article):



This set-up exposes the deuterium to two different processes. As deuterium gas flows through the platinum tubing a small portion of it dissociates into individual atoms of hydrogen, known commonly as “atomic hydrogen” or “nascent hydrogen”. Platinum is a particularly effective metal for this purpose, it is used widely in chemistry as a hydrogenation catalyst precisely because it effectively dissociates hydrogen. The tube is heated by a copper current clamp to around 200 celsius, and this further aids the dissociation process.

If two hydrogen atoms come into close proximity with each other they will recombine into regular molecular hydrogen, and for this reason, the hydrogen flow must be kept at fairly low pressure (also to limit the deuterium used and to keep as a high a vacuum as possible,

Now that some of the hydrogen has been converted into the monoatomic form it is passed through a small cylinder of potassium-doped iron oxide, specifically, a material known as S-105, which is used as a hydrogen abstraction catalyst. The when the hydrogen atoms leave (desorb from) the surface of the S-105 catalyst they are able to fall into the correct energy state to allow them to aggregate together to form D(0) clusters/chains.

After this, the D(0) clusters/chains should fall below onto a piece of metal foil, and very very rarely, one of them will have two deuterium atoms spontaneously come close enough to each other to fuse, and, though as-of-yet-unexplained mechanisms, produces mesons. These will rapidly decay into muons, which, if they exist, should pass through a block of plastic scintillator attached to the cosmic ray detector inside the container, and stimulate the plastic to produce blue photons. These photons will form a small electric signal in the avalanche photodiode, which will be picked up by the Arduino nano at the heart of the detector. If enough of these events are logged within a short period, it will provide evidence that ultra-dense deuterium has been created.



Properties and Applications of Ultra Dense Deuterium

In the previous post, I briefly mentioned that Ultra-Dense Deuterium (D(0)) has several remarkable properties in common with theorized properties of metallic hydrogen. It is important to keep in mind that these properties are difficult to confirm because D(0) has not been produced in bulk. Quantities that can be readily created are in the nanogram range.

The first property, from which it’s common name derives, is D(0)’s incredible density. Because of the inter-atomic bond distance of only ≈ 2.4 picometers, if a bulk sample of D(0) could be created its density is estimated to be in the range of 130-140 kg per cubic centimeter. This is more than 5 order of magnitude more dense than water, and roughly 1/10 th the density of a white dwarf star.

With this property, there is a caveat because the structure of ultra-dense deuterium is not known. There have been two possible proposals for the structure of D(0) and neither suggests a continuous lattice that many typical solids demonstrate (like metals or glass) a polymeric form (like plastics and wood) or even a stable periodic form (most other solids). As such it is most likely that a bulk-material would exhibit a less close-packed liquid or even gas-like form with a lower (though still astonishingly high) density.

This exceptional density means that D(0) is the more energy dense conventional (non-nuclear) material, because, being made of hydrogen, it can be burned in air. For this reason, it could prove to be a revolutionary rocket fuel.

The second property that Holmlid has reported in D(0) is superfluidity, a property previously observed only in very cold liquid helium. Superfluids are a form of matter with zero viscosity. This means that if one had a cup full of a superfluid, and stirred it in some direction, it would continue to spin in that direction indefinitely, implying that it effectively has zero friction. A truly frictionless surface has several obvious engineering applications, and would undoubtedly allow for the construction of more efficient machinery.

Having a cup of superfluid would be impossible because of another property of superfluids. Zero viscosity combined with a non-zero surface tension means that the meniscus of a superfluid is infinite, so it is able to escape from any container that it is contained within and flow to the lowest available point, even if blocked by a wall. This effect has been well demonstrated along with other remarkable properties of superfluids (such as the ability to create unpowered and continuously running fountains) using superfluid helium.

Another notable property of D(0), and perhaps the most potentially useful is superconductivity. A superconductor has zero resistance, meaning it is able to carry an electric current without the loss of any energy. The most obvious application of superconductors is for improving the efficiency of electronics and the electricty distribution system. Because loops of superconductors can carry an electric current in circles indefinitely it can also be used to create very strong permanent magnets and has been the basis of several proposals for “maglev” trains, and is already utilized for devices such as MRI which require exceptionally strong magnetic fields that can be turned on and off.

Many materials are superconductive, including many common metals and metal salts, however, this superconductivity can only manifest below materials’ “critical temperature”. Over the last few decades, there has been extensive work towards developing materials with higher critical temperatures, however, progress has been slow and sporadic. The materials with the highest critical temperature until recently have been the “cuprates”, which have a critical temperature above the temperature of liquid nitrogen. The highest recorded critical temperature is -135 celsius, and it is this low temperature of operation that hinders the large-scale application of superconductors. What makes D(0) remarkable is that it appears to be superconductive at standard temperature and pressure.


What is Ultra-Dense Deuterium?

Unless you happen to follow fusion news in exceptional depth, you’re probably wondering what “Ultra-Dense Deuterium” is and why would you want to make it.

Furthermore, if you don’t have a background in chemistry or physics you may simply be wondering what deuterium is.

One thing you should be familiar with is regular hydrogen, the first element of the periodic table, a single electron bound to a proton:


The properties of an atom are primarily determined by the number of protons and electrons it has; however, there is another component of atoms, the neutron. Atoms with the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons, are said to be different “isotopes” of the same element.

The most common isotope of hydrogen simply has a single proton and no neutrons. This form is sometimes referred to as “protium” but there are two other forms that exist in non-negligible quantities.

The isotope with 1 proton and 1 neutron is known as “deuterium”. On Earth, roughly 1 in every 6400 hydrogen atoms are the deuterium isotope. The most noticeable difference between deuterium and protium is the weight. Protons and neutrons each have a weight of about 1 atomic mass unit (AMU) while electrons have a negligible mass (<1/1600th that of a proton). As such, protium weights approx. 1 AMU, and deuterium weights about 2 AMU, which is why it is often referred to as “heavy hydrogen”.

Correspondingly, water that is made with deuterium instead of protium is known as “heavy water”. Because the weight of the oxygen atom in water is significantly higher than the density of the hydrogen heavy water is only around 11% higher than that of regular water. This is a sufficiently higher density that heavy ice will sink in regular water.

The third form of hydrogen, with 1 proton and 2 neutrons, is known as tritium. Unlike protium and deuterium, tritium is radioactive (with a half-life of around 12 years) and thus exists only in very small quantities on Earth. For this reason, tritium cannot be extracted from water, and can only be produced from the refinement of water that had been bombarded with neutrons, or directly produced from other nuclear reactions. The one application in which you may have encountered tritium in is exit signs or watches, where tubes of tritium gas coated in a phosphor layer glow without the need for electricity.

Now that we know what deuterium is, let’s get back to the first question. What is Ultra-Dense Deuterium?

In standard conditions, pure hydrogen (of any isotope) exists as a gas with two hydrogen atoms bound to each other, at a distance of 74 picometers (pm). All gasses can also be turned into “condensed” phases like liquid or solid. There are typically two ways to cause a gas to condense into a liquid or solid, either cool it down, apply pressure, or both.

Many other gasses, like nitrogen or carbon dioxide, can be condensed quite easily by cooling them, producing liquid nitrogen and “dry ice”, respectively. Alternatively, carbon dioxide can be turned into a liquid by heating dry ice in a sealed container, raising the pressure. Further heating and application of pressure can generate more exotic forms of matter, like the supercritical phase, which acts with properties intermediate a liquid and a gas.

Hydrogen molecules have very weak intermolecular forces, which means that it is very difficult to cause hydrogen gas to condense, requiring cooling to below 20 Kelvin. Turning hydrogen solid takes cooling to 14 kelvin, and solid hydrogen has a density of .08 grams/cm .

Just like applying pressure to solid carbon dioxide can turn it into a more exotic phase (the supercritical phase) it has been theorized that applying a great deal of pressure to solid hydrogen could turn it into a metallic phase, though no one has succeeded in synthesizing this metallic phase to date for prolonged periods of time. Metallic hydrogen is estimated to have a density >0.6 grams/cmand have several other remarkable properties, such as superconductivity, which will be discussed more in future posts.

Ultra-Dense Deuterium is another condensed form of hydrogen, and specifically the deuterium isotope, that does not require high pressures to synthesize and yet seems to have many of the remarkable properties of metallic hydrogen, with an even high density of approx. 140 kilograms/cm3, higher than that of any previously created material.





This is a blog tracking the progress of my efforts to replicate experiments performed by Professor Leif Holmlid of the University of Gothenburg to synthesize a new state of condensed hydrogen: Ultra-Dense Deuterium, also known as D(0).

I will be describing background about Ultra-Dense Deuterium and concepts related to it’s properties, as well as the steps involved in trying to synthesize and create it.