In a recorded interview with fellow physicist Prof. John Wheeler in 1962, Nobel prize-winning Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa said that his colleague Hantaro Nagaoka in the 1930s was (quoting directly), “…“I think Professor Nagaoka was all powerful then among scientists … he had some very deep insight, although he did not work himself [at that point in his career] … Nagaoka was [the] President of Osaka University when I moved from Kyoto to Osaka. But he was at the same time President of the Academy; he was the greatest boss among all the scientists in Japan.”
Between September 1924 and June 1925, Nagaoka and his co-workers at RIKEN in Japan conducted some 200 experiments with high-current electric arc discharges between Tungsten electrodes immersed in liquid hydrocarbon transformer oil in which they detected successful transmutation of Tungsten into macroscopic, visible flecks of Gold and Platinum. In June 1925, Nagaoka went a world tour in which he spoke to scientific and lay audiences about their transmutation experiments in Japan and handed-out samples comprising small pieces of porcelain reactor vessels with tiny bits of adhering Gold that had been created therein. In July 1925, “Nature” published his Letter to the Editors in which he reported on their results and encouraged other scientists to try to repeat their provocative experiments.
Amazingly, as far as we can tell no one ever tried to repeat Nagaoka et al.’s landmark experiments. Even more incredibly, the entire area of inquiry involving electric discharge-triggered transmutations of elements essentially died-out worldwide by 1930 (Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932 and transmutation via neutron-capture was first elucidated by Taylor in 1935). In this document, we explore some of the possible underlying reasons that may have caused this totally unexpected historical twist.
In 2004, Cirillo & Iorio (Italy) transmuted Tungsten into Rhenium, Osmium, and Gold in a modern, roughly equivalent version of Nagaoka’s electric arc discharge experiments. In 2012 at an American Nuclear Society meeting, using a very different type of gaseous D2 thin-film permeation experimental method it had pioneered in back 2002, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries reported transmutation of implanted Tungsten targets into Osmium and Platinum.
Widom & Larsen theory of neutron-catalyzed low energy nuclear reactions (as published in the “European Physical Journal C – Particles and Fields” - 2006 and in “Pramana – Journal of Physics” – 2010) both predicts and explains all of this earlier experimental transmutation data with Tungsten targets.
If a modern repetition of Nagaoka et al.’s 1920s experiments produced encouraging results, commercial transmutation of Gold might not be very far in the future. That said, as in many cases--- time will tell --- and as they say in Russia, “We shall live and we shall see.”