Deuterium drama

Unforeseen chemistry challenges in cold fusion

Part of the Cold fusion (LENR) series
Thu, Jan 23, 2020

It was all going so well! Thanks to generous donations, I had the heavy water needed to make deuterium for my next set of cold fusion experiments and by 11th December 2019 my deuterium generator was cheerfully pumping out deuterium on demand 🥳.

Alas, I had not factored in some important chemistry that slowly clogged up my deutereium generator over the Christmas break 😫.

When you want to make hydrogen from regular water, you need what’s called an electrolyte - essentially an electrically conductive liquid. You usually just add Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) crystals to the water and you are good to go. You can make deutereium in a similar way, making the following substitutions:

  • Water → heavy water
  • Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) → Sodium deuteroxide (NaOD)

Only problem is the I didn’t have Sodium deuteroxide… and it’s expensive! So, I decided to make my own electrolyte using Lithium. The idea is to just add lithium to the heavy water to make Lithium deuteroxide (LiOD) in situ. You do lose some heavy water in the process because the reaction produces heavy steam but I was prepared to take the hit. I was not however prepared for the differences between sodium and lithium.

After visiting the “cold fusion farm” to get some help from Alan Smith, he noticed some white residue which he thinks are lithium carbonate. It turns out that, unlike sodium carbonate, lithium carbonate is insoluble in water. I now understand why no one talks about using LiOH for water electrolysis!

We partially solved the problems with citric acid (aka lemon juice). It’s not perfect but I think the generator has enough to get the job done.