TABLE OF CONTENTS
Letter to the President Juan D. Perón
Report about the experiments of Dr. R. Richter
Suplementary Information: Personal Opinions
Report on the replies of Dr. Richter
Report of Ing. Mario Báncora
The following pages contain the report submitted by Dr. Jose Antonio Balseiro to the President of Argentina, as a result of his participation in the commission which inspected the Laboratories at Huemul island. The commission also included Ing. (Engineer) Mario Bancora, Capt. Beninson, Ing. Otto Gamba and Pbo. (presbitero, Catholic priest) Juan Bussolini, from San Miguel observatory.
One of the conditions set out for the inspection was that the reports should be submitted individually. Without doubt, Balseiro's report was very complete and technically well supported. The outcome of this inspection was the decision by the government to put an end to the project.
At the time of writing, Balseiro was thirty two years old, and had to interrupt, due to the summons of the Government to inspect Huemul island, a visit to England where he was studying Nuclear Physics, in his first contact with the international scientific community.
We think it is important not only that the public gets to know the solid technical arguments of Balseiro, but also that it gets a more immediate vision of the personality of this exceptional builder. A young, unknown scientist had to inform the Nation's President that he had been cheated: his personal assessment of Richter is so precise and deep as the technical report and at the same time gives a revealing and fascinating image of Balseiro.
Report of Dr. José Antonio Balseiro referring to the inspection carried out in Isla Huemul in September 1952.
To : The Exmo.(Excelentísimo) President of the Nation
General of the ArmyGeneral D. (Don) Juan D. (Domingo) Perón.
I have the honor of presenting for the consideration of his Excellency the President, the report that has been requested from me about the experiments witnessed during the visit carried out between 5 to 8 September of the current year (1952) to the Atomic Energy Plant of the Isla Huemul.
I declare before His Excellency the President that the facts contained in this report are exactly as observed, that the interpretations and opinions rendered are faithful expressions of my honest understanding and knowledge, being expressed after detailed reflection and study.
I salute his Excellency the President with my highest esteem
José A. Balseiro
Buenos Aires 15 September 1952.
Report about the experiments of Dr. R. Richter, according to what was witnessed by me during the visit made to the atomic energy plant at isla Huemul, from 5 to 8 September 1952.
1. About the physical principles of Dr. Richter's experiments
The basis upon which Dr. Richter's experiments rest are the two known nuclear reactions
Li7 + H = 2 He4 + Q Q = 17.28 Mev
H2 + H2 = H3 + Q + n Q = 3.18 Mev
Because Dr. Richter has generally referred to the first reaction, I will take this as an example in the following, with respect to the numerical values involved.
The 7Li and H reaction has been observed with a minimum value of about 20 KeV with respect to the kinetic energy, referred to the center of mass of both nuclei. This value, represents the lower limit of the reaction, for reasons to be explained at the end of this section.
If a Li -H mixture is maintained at a high enough temperature, some of the nuclei may react, if the kinetic energy of some of them reaches the value of 20 KeV. If these sporadic reactions are enough in number, the temperature of the mixture becomes higher, and the reaction accelerates, reaching a state of equilibrium when
3/2 kT > 20 Kev,
k: Boltzmann's constant,
T: absolute temperature,
This gives a value for the temperature T
T > 150 x 106 °K.
It is true that to start the reaction, the extremely high temperature of 150 million degrees is not necessary, because, according to the Maxwell-Boltzmann law, at temperatures significantly lower than this, some protons with enough energy do exist. The figure mentioned by Dr. Richter is that it would be sufficient that between 1% and 2 % of the nuclei have the necessary energy to start the reaction. In spite of this, the necessary temperature to obtain this percentage is, as is shown in the following, extremely high.
The Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution is:
N: number of nuclei present,
dN: number with energy between E E and E+dE,
k: Boltzmann's constant,
T: absolute temperature.
For this law to be valid, it is necessary for the system to which it is applied be in thermodynamic equilibrium. This is not strictly the case when the temperature starts to rise, at the start of the reaction. However, when the number of sporadic reactions is not yet high enough, so that the reaction as a whole is started, the Maxwell-Boltzmann law represents a good approximation. Under these circumstances, it is of relevance to know the necessary temperature so that there is a percentage DN/N ~1% of nuclei with energy equal or above E0 = 20 Kev. This is given by
setting y = E/kT,
and the unknown xi = E0/kT, inserting the numerical value of pi:
and solving graphically for the value of xi, we find
xi = E0/kT ~5.8, T = 40 x 106 °K.
For 1% of the nuclei to have enough energy to start the reaction, we need therefore, an initial temperature of at least 40 millions of degrees Kelvin. As a comparison, it is of relevance to recall that the temperature in the hottest zone of a voltaic discharge arc does not reach higher than 4.000 K and that the highest instantaneous temperatures reached in the laboratory by Kapitza are of the order of 100.000 K.
The analysis made above, shows the impossibility, according to present knowledge, of achieving in the laboratory this type of nuclear reactions. Dr. Richter, however, claims on this point to have discovered a set of phenomena that make invalid the type of reasoning exposed above. Furthermore, he insists these new phenomena discovered by him, constitute the basic secret of the process of his thermonuclear reaction.
It is not possible to foresee to what class of phenomena Dr. Richter refers to, in particular because their existence cannot fail to contradict some of the basic knowledge which is accepted at present. In the first place, if the Li-H would occur at temperatures substantially below 20 KeV this would imply a fundamental change in our present knowledge of nuclear structure and quantum mechanics. Actually, the energy of repulsion between the proton and the Lithium nucleus
V = Ze2/r,
Z = 3, number of protons of the Li nucleus,
e = 4.8x10-10 esu elementary charge,
r = 10-13 cm, distance over which nuclear forces start to act ,
at distances of the order of the range of nuclear forces, V ~ 840 KeV. In spite of this, and according to what Gamov has shown and has been corroborated by experience, there exists a finite probability that this potential barrier can be penetrated by charged particles of substantially lower energy than the above calculated value. But the value of 20 KeV given represents the lower limit to the probability that both nuclei getting closer than the range of nuclear forces becomes zero. A second alternative is that , under certain conditions, the Maxwell-Boltzmann law is not valid, as would be implied by the fact that at the temperatures obtained in the laboratory there would be a large enough percentage of nuclei with the 20 KeV kinetic energy necessary to start the reaction An exception of this kind would mean that the well known kinetic theory of gases is wrong.
2. About the setup for controlling the reaction
Dr. Richter has stated that the control device of the thermonuclear device is based on the resonance obtained between the Larmor precession frequency- which originates in the interaction of the magnetic field acting on the intrinsic magnetic moment of the 7Li atom - and that of the oscillating magnetic field produced by a radio frequency generator. The figure given for the constant magnetic field intensity is 15000 Gauss. On the other hand the device used by Dr. Richter does not produce the nuclear reaction in a vacuum but at atmospheric pressure. Under these conditions, and with the value of magnetic field that has been given, it is possible to show, that the control mechanism, whatever its form, can not be achieved using the effect mentioned.
The Larmor precession frequency is given by:
wL = m H/(h/2pi)i,
m: magnetic moment of 7Li,
H: intensity of the (constant) magnetic field,
h: Planck's constant,
i: spin of the 7Li atom.
LThe necessary condition that must be fulfilled so that the resonance can take place is that the atom or nucleus of Li is not perturbed by thermal collisions due to the Nitrogen and Oxygen atoms present in air, for a time longer than 1/wL at least. In other words, that in this time not more than one collision occurs in average. It is enough to show that the number of collisions is much larger than this critical value using a simple, although approximate calculation that illustrates the point.
The mean free path of a molecule is given by:
sigma: molecular diameter,
eta: number of atoms or molecules per cubic centimeter,
At one atmosphere pressure, eta is given by:
eta = (N T0)/(V0 T),
N = 6.6x1023 atoms (Avogadro's number),
V0= 22 cm3 (molar volume),
T0 = 273 °C,
T ~3.000 °C (Temp voltaic arc)
The average velocity of the atoms or molecules is given by:
m: mass of the atom or molecule.
The number of collisions per second is given by:
Here, to simplify the calculation, it is possible to make approximations in the experimental data, these approximations do not affect significantly the validity of the results.
In the first place we are not dealing with a homogeneous gas, but with a mixture of N, O, H and Li. Supposing the extreme- and more favorable in the sense of reducing the number of collisions-- is that due to the temperature all the molecules are dissociated, one can assume an average value of m ~ 10 M, where M is the proton mass. With the assumption that all molecules are dissociated the value of sigma can be estimated as 10-7 cm.
With these numerical values one arrives at:
q = 3.7x1013 collisions per second.
On the other hand wL = g m0 H/(h/2pi)i (m/M),
m0= 9.3x10-21 ergs/Gauss (Bohr Magnetron),
g = 3.25 (magnetic moment of the Li atom),
H = 15.000 Gauss,
h/2pi = 6.6x10-27 erg/seg,
i = 3/2,
m/M = 1/1800,
it is obtained
wL~ 2 x 107 1/seg.
The number of collisions suffered by the Lithium atom in the time of a complete precession is then
q/wL ~ 1.5 x 106 collisions.
The approximations used for the numerical values of mass m and temperature T affect the result slightly, because they contribute to q with a power (mT)-1/2. Even when a much higher value of T is assigned, corresponding to the temperature of the arc discharge there would not be a noticeable modification of the result. The approximation which consists of assuming that all molecules are dissociated, tends to decrease considerably the number of collisions, because the assumption decreases the value of sigma2 significantly.
The result obtained is that the enormous number of hits that the atom of Li suffers at the operating conditions, makes impossible any sort of control mechanism based on the principle mentioned by Dr. Richter.
Apart from the theoretical arguments mentioned, it is necessary to add that even though a radio-frequency generator exists inside the reaction chamber, this has never been functional during the experimental demonstration. Furthermore, apart from the electromagnet generating the constant magnetic field, there is nowhere near the reaction area any device that could generate the oscillating magnetic field that might produce a resonance with the Larmor precession frequency as Dr. Richter proposes.
3. Experiments and checks performed
The nuclear reaction of Li and H produces two alfa particles with a mean energy of 8.5 MeV. Since the reaction takes place, according to the device shown by Dr. Richter, in air at atmospheric pressure and in the region of the voltaic arc, the alfa particles must be stopped in the air, because their penetrating power at 8.5 MeV is only a few centimeters. It would be then, very difficult to verify that the nuclear reaction is actually produced by trying to determine if alfa particles are present. A possibility for such verification consists in identifying the presence of soft gamma radiation coming from the acceleration irradiation (bremstrahlung) emitted when the alfa particles pass near the H and O nuclei. Dr. Richter relies on Geiger counters for this purpose. When the device operates, these counters do actually record a large quantity of pulses. However, in the experiment carried out on Friday, September 5, a monitoring counter which the Advisory Review Commission took to the site, did not register the presence of any gamma radiation.
When confronted with this fact Dr. Richter suggested on the Saturday afternoon that during Sunday he would make preparations so that on Monday morning he could perform the nuclear reaction 2H + 2H + 3He + n with the purpose of verifying the presence of neutron through the use of foils that could be radiologically activated by these neutrons. Once the experiment was performed, there was no way in which the reaction could be verified, none of the foils was activated.
In view of this result it was asked of Dr. Richter that he repeat the experiment of the 7Li and H reaction performed.
The Advisory Review Commission had taken equipment to perform independent checks. Some of them where made before this last experiment. It was confirmed:
a) That the Geiger Counters which Dr. Richter has in the reaction chamber, in the way in which they are installed, are not sensitive to the penetrating gamma radiation of a standard source of Radium.
b) Only after removing the protective shielding present do they show a weak activity before this standard sample.
c) The same source placed in the vicinity of the counters taken by the Review Commission produced a strong activity in them
d) That having the voltaic arc in operation while there were no Lithium salts or Hydrogen and therefore being no possibility of the nuclear reaction to occur, the counters used by Dr. Richter showed a large activity.
e) That with the device working under the conditions which Dr. Richter claims that produce the thermonuclear reaction, the response of the counters had the same characteristics than in the above case.
f) The counters of the Advisory Commission in the cases d) and e) showed a weak activity. This without doubt comes from a penetrating radiation, as indicated by the fact that they worked also in the case specified as d).
4. Dr. Richter showed a facility for the production of heavy water, which is in charge of Dr. Ehrenberg. He mentioned that in spite of its modest appearance great results have been obtained with it.
When Dr. Ehrenberg was asked how they verify the successive enrichment of ordinary to heavy water, he answered that up to the moment no determination of the enrichment has been made, because they do not have a mass spectrometer, and they have not made determinations by spectrographic methods or determined density variations.
Under these conditions it cannot be claimed that the setup actually functions for producing the enrichment of ordinary into heavy water.
5. Dr. Richter maintains that the thermonuclear reactor is a very powerful source of ultrasound. This is the reason he gave as an explanation for the 60 cm thickness of the walls of the projected great reactor, whose construction has been interrupted due to water leaks. Asked about what measurements have been made of the intensity and frequency spread of the ultrasonic flow when the reactor was working, he replied that none, because they do not have the measuring instruments for the task. The reason why he knows of the existence of this intense ultrasound is no other than the physiological effects of tiredness and neuralgias produced by it. It is evident that without careful measurements of the ultrasonic flow, it is impossible to make a project for the great reactor, since there is a risk that protection from the ultrasound is ineffectual, or else to incur in a waste of material.
In conclusion, the theoretical considerations and the facts available for judgment exposed above, allow us to extract the following conclusions:
a) That based on the knowledge possessed in the present time of nuclear reactions and in particular of the reactions 7Li + 1H and 2H + 2H and the kinetic theory of gases it is not possible that such reactions take place in the device shown by Dr. Richter. It is not possible on the other hand to glimpse any kind of phenomena, as claimed by Dr. Richter, which would invalidate well established laws of physics.
b) From what is developed in section 2), it follows than based of the principle indicated by Dr. Richter to obtain control of the thermonuclear reaction, it is not possible in any way to obtain the resonance effect which permits this control. This conclusion is completely independent of whatever is the nature of the control device and of the way the resonance effect is applied, because as has been exposed in 2) the resonance cannot be realized under the operating conditions.
c) From the checks made during the operation of the reactor it follows that there is no element of evidence that allows the assertion that a reaction of nuclear type has been really produced.
d ) The facts pointed out in sections 3), 4) and 5) show, according to my judgment, that the claims of Dr. Richter do not correspond to facts confirmed by scientific standards.
Complying with the wish expressed by the Minister of Technical Affairs, y will add to the attached technical report my personal opinion about the work that has been performed and about Dr. Richter's personality.
As has been expressed in the attached report I have no doubts with respect to the character of the work performed. The experiments witnessed cannot show in any way that a controlled thermonuclear reaction has been achieved, as Dr. Richter claims. All the phenomena observed there, bear no relationship to nuclear phenomena.
It is important to point out as well, that Dr. Richter's way of handling matters leaves much to be desired with regard to scientific method. In the attached report some examples have been mentioned to justify this opinion, however, they are not the only ones witnessed.
My experience with people trained in the scientific method and with academic qualifications suggests to my mind, that the attitudes of Dr. Richter are far removed fom what could be taken as the excentricities popularly attributed to men of science. To this I might add that in conversations with Dr. Richter over different subjects in physics he has shown either a suprising lack of knowledge for a person engaged in a project of such importance, or else very personal interpretations about well known and established physical phenomena.
Report on the replies of Dr. Richter
Dr. Richter claims that the general report (of this commission)is based on wrong assumptions when it affirms that the Proton-Lithium reaction can not be achieved when collision energies are well below 20 KeV. When we speak about a posibility of achieving a reaction, we understand, always, that the process has a reasonable statistical probability. For example, there exists the possibility that a book on a table might jump up, supposing that all the molecules move simultaneously upward due to their thermal agitation. This possibility exists, but its probability is so low that, without any restriction, the actual realization can be considered impossible.
The possibility in fact exists that the above mentioned reaction can be produced with an energy as low as 8 KeV (which in fact is not significantly below 20 KeV) and even lower, but it is nonsense to pretend to use this possibility, whose yield is extremely small, as the basis of a physical process that involves a chain reaction. But even so, let us imagine that the reaction can be produced with an energy of 1 KeV. In order that 1 % of the particles reaches such an energy, a temperature of two million degrees is necessary. It can be seen, then, that even in this hypotetical case, for which no reaction can be expected, such a large temperature is necessary that its production escapes any technical possibility of being achieved. Imagine, therefore, what is the possibility of starting the nuclear reaction relying only on a voltaic arc whose maximum temperature, in the best conditions, does not reach 4000 degrees!
Following this, Dr. Richter mantains "The general report is not correct if it claims that the technical process applied by Dr. Richter does not take into account the Maxwell-Boltzmann velocity distribution law". Before S.E. (His Excellency) the Minister and the comittees of Legislators and experts Dr. Richter has clearly mentioned that he had discovered a certain class of phenomena that imply an unknown type of velocity distribution, and has even gone so far as to make a graphical representations of such a distribution. He mentioned also that this modification is achieved by means of the application of the Larmor precession frequency. Later on, in the meeting with the experts on the Hotel Pistarini, Dr. Richter insisted in having obtained thi dearture from the Maxwell law but in this opportunity he claimed that the Larmor precession was used, in fact, to obtain the control of the thermonuclear reaction.
Dr. Richter mantains now, in his reply, that the technique of his applied process shows an interesting degeneracy of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution law. In spite of the change of name, such a "degeneracy" is not conceivable inside the frame of present day knowledge, in particular, the kinetic theory of gases, so that the objections that have been made in several of the individual reports, as well as in the general report, still stand. The reference he makes of the Fermi or Maxwell distribution for electrons in metals, or those emitted in the thermoionic effect, has no relationship, either direct or by analogy, with the present situation.
It is important to point out, on the other hand, that in his reply Dr. Richter does not refer in any way to the above mentioned application of the Larmor precession effect, about whose existence under the operating conditions, serious objections have been raised.
Dr. Richter suggests as the only possibility for the practical achievement of his reactor a closed circulation system. In the general report it is mentioned for the case of the Lithium-Proton reaction that when this begins to reach equilibrium, the temperature in the reaction region must be over 150 million degrees, a figure that Dr. Richter seems to accept. To pretend that in a region of a closed chamber such a tremendous temperature exits and that its walls remain at, let us say 5000 degrees ( a temperature that no known refractory material can resist), is simply absurd. To see that this is indeed the case, it is enough to take int account the integral Stephan-Boltzmann law,
E = s T4 erg/cm2 seg,
s = 5.6 x 10-5 erg/cm2 seg K4,
which gives, for the energy given off by second and by square centimeter of surface an enormous value of 3 x 1018 Kw, that is around 4,000,000,000,000,000,000. H.P. for each cubuic centimeter. To dissipate such an amount of energy with a water refrigeration system, taking e.g. the initial water temperature at 0 C and the exit temperature as 100 C, a circulation of 10,000, 000, 000, 000 tons of water per second would be needed for every square centimeter of surface presented by the reaction region. The volume is greater than all the water contained in the Nahuel Huapi lake!
Dr, Richter claims that Cap. Beninson and Ing. Báncora have confused the rectification circuit with an oscillating circuit and accuses them of breaching the security rules of Isla Huemul when they examined the electrical circuit of the reactor. In the talks mantained previously, in the Pistarini hotel, Ing. Báncora asked Dr. Richter, in the presence of father Bussolini, Dr. Balseiro and Cap. Beninson, wether the aforementioned circuit was secret, to which he replied that it wasn't, but that even so he was not disposed to make it available to the comission. About the suposed confusion it is worth transcribing the conclusion of Báncora: "The device used by Dr. Richter is the singing arc discovered by Dudell about 50 years ago. The negative resistance of this arc, neutralizes the positive resistance of an oscillating circuit, which is completed by a `control' impedance and two condensers of one microfarad each, conected in paralell which are close to the Reactor." On the other hand, in the general report, in paragraph c) point # 2 it has been said "the only generator of electromagnetic oscillations existing when the experiment was performed is the arc of the reactor itself". It can be seen then that in no way anything that has been said could induce Dr. Richter to point out that such confusion has been made.
Dr. Richter tries to justify the concrete shielding of arc No. 1, declaring that it is a protection against the X-rays produced by the Kenotron. These devices are constructed in such a way as to minimize as much as possible the X-Rays emmitted to the environment. If the object is to guard against this radiation, a rather small shielding of lead would be enough. However, Dr. Richter himself declares in his reply that he has used tons of lead and concrete for this purpose. It is worth mentioning, furthermore, the curious circumstance of the Kenotron being located near the edge of the shielding, making it relatively inefficient in spite of its large proportions, due to scattering of X-Rays at this edge.
With respect to the arc itself, there is no possibility that it could generate X-Rays.
Dr. Richter declares that the experts did not have a clear concept of the plasma oscillations which he supposes exist in the reaction zone. In the general report it is explicitly stated that the signals picked up by the induction coils are due to the electromagnetic oscillations of the singing arc itself. In this respect, Ing. Báncora has performed the relevant experimental tests, so that the above conclusion is more than just speculation. In the same way, it has been checked that the activation of the Geiger counters are due to the perturbations they suffer in the vicinity of the voltaic arc.
The experts agree that no direct conexions exist between the devices for regulating the reactor and the control apparatus. But if the light intensity of a source is changed by changing its supply current, it is obvious that a photocell will detect all the changes produced, even when there is no direct electrical conexion between the cell and the light source. To trace a curve while constantly changing, as Dr. Richter does, the parameters on which it depends, and then to exhibit the results as an element of proof, is something which does not fit in the scientific method. Dr. Richte then says then that he had no intention of showing a displacement in the spectral lines. In this he is making a conceptual mistake, because the Doppler shift due to temperature should be very noticeable for millions of degrees, if the necessary preparations are taken, and it consits of a widening of the lines, not to their displacement. On several ocasions Dr. Richter has exhibited spectrograms as a concluding proof of having obtained a nuclear reaction, which does not agree with the simple control role he now assigns to the spectroscope.
Dr. Richter has told Dr. Balseiro, in the presence of Cap. Beninson and Ing. Báncora, that he has not done any measurements of the ultrasound energy flow because of the lack of instruments for this purpose and that the great width of the walls of the large reactor was due to the need of protective mesasures against a very intense ultrasound flow. Now he mantains, on one hand to have measured the spread and intensity of the ultrasound using a photocell device. It is not possible to forsee in which way sound intensity can be measured by photocells without having available some calibrated standard source against which the measurements may be compared.
The remarks of the expert review panel about the apparatus for obtaining heavy water were based on declarations made by Dr. Ehrenberg, who stated that up to that moment no determination of the enrichment of heavy water in ordinary water had been made. Dr. Richter declares in his refutation, however, that picnometric determinations have been made.
In conclusion, it is worth remarking that naturally, the reports of the experts were made on the basis of their personal evaluation of the information and declarations submitted by Dr. Richter. From the present report it follows that a great part of the assertions Dr. Richter makes in his refutation are in glaring contradiction with his previous information.
This commission, when considering in detail the new declarations of Dr. Richter, and based in them, after analyzing the conclusions arrived at in the previous reports, has to point out that it cannot in any way modify the opinion reached in the general report, which reads:
"The theoretical concepts provided by Dr. Richter lack the necessary support to allow any hope of a succesful realization of his purpose of mantaining and controlling a thermonuclear reaction."
"From the experiments carried out, the Technical comission has not obtained any evidence that can justify in any way claims of such a magnitude as those formulated by Dr. Richter, such as having achieved thermonuclear reactions, and of being able to mantain them and control them."
Buenos Aires, october 16, 1952
Report of Ing. (Electrical Engineer) Mario Báncora referring to the inspection carried out in Huemul Island in September 1952.
For the purpose of presenting the information in the most objective form possible, the undersigned details the observations made in chronological order and records the reactions produced by them.
In the final part the general conclusions emerging from the observations are recorded.
1) Visit to the heavy water separation plant
Dr. Richter explains his method and apparatus for obtaining heavy water, which is based apparently on the different distribution of molecular speeds between ordinary and heavy water.
The fact that during the whole period when the plant was in operation no control of the enrichment factor has been carried out, stands out powerfully in our minds, because this control should have been the departure point in such an installation, even more so when considering a system whose possibilities of working properly are so problematic.
2) Visit to the photographic laboratory
It has not been possible to observe any work with nuclear grade emulsions that one could suppose would be the most important task to be performed in this laboratory in a project of the present characteristics.
3) Visit to Dr. Richter's desk
In a conference maintained with his Excellency the Minister of Technical Affairs, the members of Congress and the technical commission, Dr. Richter explains his method. In this, he uses the proton-lithium and deuteron reactions. Both have a low energy of excitation, but for a self-sustained reaction to take place, it is necessary to reach a temperature of the order of 100,000,000 Kelvin over a reaction area of considerable volume.
According to Dr. Richter he has been able to overcome this difficulty by modifying the law of Maxwell-Boltzmann that describes the distribution of kinetic energy of translation between particles of a gas possessing a given thermal energy. Dr. Richter maintains that he has obtained, instead of the classical curve representing this law, a `resonance peak' in such a way that almost the whole energy input is transferred to relatively few molecules (from 1 % to 2% according to Dr. Richter) which in this way acquire a high kinetic energy equivalent to several million degrees.
The possibility of realizing this would be the same as communicating to a few balls in a ball shaker (translator note: of the type used in bingo's or lotteries) a large agitation energy, but without communicating this energy to the other balls, which are constantly hitting them.
Dr. Richter declares that he obtains the `resonance' through the Larmor effect. This effect is the precession or turning around that arises when the electron orbits or the nuclear magnetic moment are influenced by an external magnetic field and takes place around the N-S axis of the field. It is analogous to the precession of the equatorial plane of a mechanical top around the local vertical direction.
In a gas undergoing violent thermal agitation and at atmospheric pressure, the orientation of the atoms and their associated electronic system is changing constantly and at random. In these conditions, only a statistical can be fulfilled, not a selective one as is required to obtain resonance. Furthermore, resonance needs a variable magnetic field. Dr. Richter's apparatus uses a constant magnetic field. The only variable magnetic field can come from the electromagnetic oscillations generated by the arc - as will be described further on - but these oscillations are very unstable and they are accompanied by a large number of harmonics, and for this reason the conditions for resonance are not fulfilled either.
4) Visit to the laboratory
Dr. Richter shows first a large impedance, whose purpose he says, is to control the reactor so that it does not explode. Afterwards he takes us to a device consisting of two carbon electrodes, separated by about 15 centimeters and surrounded by a heavy shielding of lead and concrete. Between the electrodes big spark are made to jump, which produce intense detonations. As an unusual feature, he points out the fact that the carbon electrodes glow red in the middle section and not in the tips. The undersigned in the presence of the Minister for technical affairs explains the electrical circuit. It is simply a high voltage transformer whose current, rectified by a kenotron, charges a battery of capacitors. When the charging voltage reaches the ionization potential of the air, corresponding to the tip separation, the discharge is produced. The glow of the electrodes in the middle section is due to the fact that the discharge is oscillatory, and the impedance offered by the carbon makes them glow red as in any resistance over which a large current flows.
Dr. Richter admits the explanation is correct and he informs that this is a device to make experiments related to his reactor. He justifies the shielding saying that it is for protection against X-rays, generated by the discharge. Given that the setup is working at atmospheric pressure, the possibility of producing X-rays is remote.
We pass after to the reactor proper, which consists of two carbon electrodes set between the pole pieces of an electro magnet. The pole pieces are perforated and through one of the holes lithium hydride is injected by the use of pressurized hydrogen gas. There is a control panel from which the arc current and electromagnet current are regulated. As control elements we find the following:
a) two crossed coils to record the horizontal and vertical magnetic field components surrounding the reactor. These coils are connected to a pair of Tectronic oscilloscopes;
b) two photocells, one of them has a red filter, connected to the vertical and horizontal amplifiers of a Varyplotter;
c) two Geiger counters, that are connected, one to a scalimeter and the other to a pulse integrator, which in turn regulates the vertical displacement of a Speedomax;
d) a photocell with a red filter that regulates the horizontal displacement of the above mentioned Speedomax.
e) a spectroscope that records the spectrum produced by the arc and the incandescent gases surrounding it. A subordinate presses a button that turns on a red light in the control panel every time that a line spectrum appears.
Once the experiment is over, Dr. Richter shows as evidence for a nuclear reaction, the following elements: 1) at some time a series of oscillations appear in the Tectronic oscilloscopes that according to Dr. Richter are produced by the `plasma' of electrons and atoms in a state of thermal agitation; 2) the scalimeter starts registering a large number of pulses as soon as the arc starts. This number is increased when injecting the lithium with the hydrogen. 3) in the Speedomax an almost vertical increase is seen in the record controlled by the integrator, which agrees with the large number of pulses in the scalimeter. Dr. Richter attributes this increment to having obtained a high-energy excitation that translates into an emission of ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma radiation. About this experience full details will be given later on.
5) Meeting at the Pistarini Hotel
Dr. Richter insists with his argument that the Maxwell distribution does not apply and about the resonance peak obtained by the Larmor effect. When objections are raised, he covers himself arguing the need of secrecy. He presents then the following proposition :during the following day, Sunday, he will prepare his reactor to work with heavy water so that neutrons are produced. With them he will produce activation in various metallic sheets. He forewarns us that this is the first time he will perform this experiment and for this reason he needs to build a spraying device for the heavy water. It is agreed that if he produces neutrons, he would have indeed achieved a nuclear reaction. It seems however extraordinary that after some years of experimentation, and before a commission that comes with the purpose of appraising his work, he decides to offer as a proof the hypothetical results of an experiment he has never performed and that he has to prepare in the course of a single day. Afterwards, a discussion over general subjects in physics arises during which Dr. Richter expounds very personal interpretations about ideas in modern physics.
6) Second visit to the island
Dr. Richter performs the proposed experiment using heavy water from U.S. suppliers (indicating the failure of his own installation). The experiment, under rigorous control made with the monitors of the commission, gives negative results.
In view of this, the undersigned asks for a repetition of the previous experiment with hydrogen and lithium hydride. In the meantime he takes the opportunity to check the response of the equipment and to map the circuit of the reactor.
These evaluation elements and the ones gathered before allow him to reach the following conclusions.
The device used by Dr. Richter is the singing arc discovered by Dudell about 50 years ago. The negative resistance of this arc, neutralizes the positive resistance of an oscillating circuit, which is completed by a "control" impedance and two condensers of one microfarad each, connected in parallel that are close to the Reactor. This gives rise to a series of sustained oscillations whose frequency depends on that of the resonant circuit. These oscillations could be at a frequency low enough to be in the audible range (hence the singing arc) or they can be supersonic (which is the origin of the ultrasounds claimed by Dr. Richter). Incorporating a magnetic field, and adding gas to cool the arc, hydrogen for example, it is possible to enhance the frequency considerably reaching around 300,000 Hz. With this setup exactly, Poulsen, in the early days of radio communications could achieve transmissions over more than 500 km. These arcs emit light high in the ultraviolet, as well as centimeter wavelength sound, which together with the intense electromagnetic perturbations produced are particularly effective in activating the Geiger counters.
The increase in response obtained when introducing hydrogen is simply due to the increase in frequency produced by this means, according to Poulsen´s experiments.
To be absolutely sure, I have repeated this experiment in my own laboratory and have obtained the same results, that is:
a) The same type of oscillations in the screen of an oscilloscope connected to an exploration coil
b) Detection by a recorder connected to a Geiger counter located one and a half meters from the arc.
By virtue of the above observations and considerations the undersigned considers himself justified in asserting that there is no serious scientific content to Dr. Richter’s claim of having achieved a controlled thermonuclear reaction, and he deeply regrets having had to reach such a conclusion."
Buenos Aires, september 16, 1952