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"They said, 'There must be some other error that you're not including,' but I couldn't figure out what it might be and neither could they," Haldeman says. "This area is clearly not well understood. There's clearly incontrovertible evidence that there's something going on in the work of Mills and others that certainly deserves further study. It's a tragedy that the politics of cold fusion has prevented science from taking its course."
Michael Jacox, assistant director of Texas A&M's Commercial Space Center for Engineering and a nuclear engineer, says he felt compelled to study the Mills cell in relative secrecy when he was a research scientist for the Department of Energy. While at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Jacox says he read about the Mills cell and decided in 1991 to perform independent experiments along with electrochemical experts on staff in battery development.
"We actually purchased a total of three large electrolytic cells and conducted very controlled experiments," Jacox says. "We followed the protocols Randy suggested and followed his technique and we got the same results he had," Jacox says. "We were encouraged but we determined that what we had was probably not sufficient to break a news release, especially with [cold fusion] going sour so soon before."
The team began more thorough testing, Jacox says, including side-by-side comparisons of catalyzed cells and control cells, when his bosses suddenly balked.
"In the middle of that process there was a management decision that said we should pull the plug on the whole project and not disclose that we had been involved in the project at all," Jacox says. The team decided to instead investigate hydrino compounds in "almost a clandestine operation."
"We probably have hundreds of different projects going on at all times, and this isn't one I was aware was going on," says John Walsh, a spokesman for the Idaho lab.
Researchers at other well-known government labs also say they are afraid to speak on record about their interest in Mills's work. One said that he plans to visit BlackLight Power on his vacation time. Jacox says his team found in the materials "an anomaly that we could not explain with conventional theory but that we could explain with Randy Mills's theory. That does not necessarily validate the Mills theory, but gosh."
Jacox continued to be frustrated by the proscription against testing Mills cells, "so I left the lab in large measure because of that."
Applied scientists have a rigorous standard in their work that is sometimes referred to as the Kmart Test. In other words, can the research at hand lead to an off-the-shelf product? By this criterion, the materials wing of BlackLight Power has great potential. Energy is a messy thing to measure, but as Mills says, "the good thing about materials is that they exist, or they don't. There's no argument."
BlackLight Power's marketing people say they expect far more profits from compounds than from the energy released by hydrinos. The energy portion could even be seen as a mere spin-off of the chemical manufacturing that should simply be used, rather than wasted. Even the unpersuaded Professor Wilson of Harvard offers, "Maybe he hasn't found the gold of a grand unified theory, but there could be some silver there" in the hydrino compounds.
Tests at Lehigh University are interesting, confirms Dr. Alfred Miller, a senior research scientist there who has tested BlackLight Power's compounds. Miller probed the energy levels of the atoms by bombarding them with X rays and measuring the energy of the electrons leaving the atomsa technique called X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. "I try and exhaust all possibilities and there really aren't an enormous number of conventional explanations" for what he found.
Miller emphasizes that he didn't want his tests being interpreted as unequivocally confirming the hydrino theory, but "over the years I haven't really come across too many things that haven't been explainable. At least if you thought about it long enough and hard enough."
Because Mills has produced freely available physical materials and has been "incredibly more open in getting people to confirm what his hypothesis predicts . . . this is not the equivalent of cold fusion," Miller says. "He's serious and honest. . . . He may well have ventured upon something."
Ricerca Inc.'s lab east of Cleveland was similarly flummoxed by what it found when studying BlackLight Power's materials. "They were inorganic compounds that have organic properties. That is unusual," says Dr. Yong-Xi Li, manager of Ricerca's advanced mass spectrometry lab. "We totally don't know what's going on. The reason is that I've never seen before these kinds of properties in all my career. Probably we have to do more work."
The BlackLight Power research has excited the U.S. Navy, but the company isn't entirely thrilled with that. "It's kind of like letting a lion loose in the building," Mills remarks. "You have to remember that their goal is to find better ways of killing. But there are worse militaries [than that of the U.S.] out there."
Board members have another concern about getting too deeply involved with the armed forces. Some say they fear that the military could "black out" the project, making it a national security secret. That would deprive the company of other commercial prospects.