This is part of the Homeopathy journal club described here:
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. Can low-temperature thermoluminescence cast light on the nature of ultra-high dilutions?
Louis Rey, a,
aChemin de Verdonnet 2, CH-1010 Lausanne, Switzerland
Received 2 May 2007; revised 8 May 2007; accepted 16 May 2007. Available online 31 July 2007.
Low-temperature thermoluminescence has been used in attempt to understand the particular structure of ultra high dilutions. Samples are activated by irradiation after freezing at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (77°K). Experimental results show that, in the course of rewarming, the thermoluminescent glow is susbtantially different between dilutions of different substances. It is suggested that the dispersed gas phase might play a role in this process.
Keywords: irradiation; frozen dilutions; nanobubbles; low-temperature glow
No chemical is more common on earth than water: it covers 75% of the earth’s surface with a total mass of 1.4 billion megatons. A very simple molecule, with one central, negatively charged, oxygen atom and two positively charged hydrogen atoms 0.1 nm apart at an angle of 104°1 water is, nevertheless, a most atypical compound. In the liquid state, it is an abnormal fluid which should be a gas by comparison with other similar chemicals. Among other unusual properties, it increases in volume when crystallizing into solid ice at 0°C and boils at 100°C: both these temperatures are abnormally high for a substance which is neither a metal nor an ionic compound. Its dielectric constant as well as its increasing fluidity with rising pressure is equally odd.
In fact, liquid water is not a simple association of independent molecules; the molecules are actively interconnected by hydrogen bonds and . Liquid water is, indeed, a structured fluid which behaves as a polymer. In an ever-moving universe, individual water molecules link to each other, most often in tetrahedral geometry, building evanescent clusters which are continuously formed and dissociated again at random in a pico-second timeframe. When an ionic compound is dissolved in H2O, each ion is immediately surrounded by a spherical shell of water molecules so intensely that, should the concentration of the solute be high enough (over about 10%) all the shells come into contact and there is no more truly liquid water.
It can, thus, be understood that, in the preparation of an homeopathic medicine, any compound dispersed in water gives rise, from the outset, to a specific structure. When successive dilutions are made the violent turbulence created in the liquid by each succussion, helps to both maintain and possibly spread the original structure despite, progressively, the solute content of the dilution dropping by a factor of 100 with each centesimal step. However, Brownian motion is still very active and these ‘remnant structures’ fade away and reconstitute continuously. In other terms, we could say that homeopathic dilutions are ‘statistically structured’ and could remain so beyond the Avogadro number. Succussion appears to be an essential part of the overall process.
It is easy to understand why, based upon this succession of dilutions–succussions, many scientists believe that eventually—and definitely beyond the Avogadro number—the resulting ‘solutions’ are no more than the dilution fluid itself. However, numerous physiological and clinical tests have demonstrated for decades, since Hahnemann himself, that this is not the case. Our research objective has been to try to demonstrate that the high dilutions are physically different from the diluent and have, indeed, an ‘individual personality’.
Since any investigation is always difficult in an highly dynamic system we assumed that, should some specific ‘patterns’ exist in the liquid dilution they might be fixed when it is frozen giving rise to specific defects in the crystal lattice of ice, which could be investigated by appropriate means.
To perform this type of studies we selected low-temperature thermoluminescence. This technique, which is well known for archaeological and geological dating,4 has been adapted by us to low temperatures5 and described in detail in previous publications. and  I will here only summarize here its main features.
A 1 cc sample of the dilution under investigation is placed in an aluminum cup and frozen down to liquid nitrogen temperature (−196°C=77°K) following a well defined multi-step process. The frozen 1 mm thick ice disk is then ‘activated’ by radiation (Gamma rays, X-rays or electron beams) which displace electrons from their quantum ground states. The sample is then rewarmed at constant rate (3°C/min) from 77°K to melting point. During that process the electrons, powered by ‘thermal activation’ leave their respective traps and recombine with the empty quantum ‘holes’ releasing their ‘activation energy’ in the form of light as they do so. This light is the thermoluminescent glow that we record.
The analysis of the emitted light shows two main peaks around 120 and 166°K for deuterium oxide and 115 and 162°K for H2O.5 Their relative intensity and shape vary both with the radiation dose and also with the nature of the radiant beam. In particular peak 2 displays a complex structure which can be resolved in a set of individual components by a deconvolution technique. and  It is assumed that the ‘defects’ present in the ice crystalline lattice are active luminescent centers, hence that thermoluminescence might be an appropriate tool to study the ‘image’ of the initial liquid samples.
Thermoluminescence is known to be a very sensitive technique and has been used to identify trace compounds. For example see Figure 1, the thermoluminescence emissions of very dilute alumina colloidal sols which show major differences between the 10−8 g/ml, 10−9 and 10−10 g/ml solutions.
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Figure 1. Thermoluminescence glow of colloidal sols of alumina irradiated by gamma rays (10 kGy) at liquid nitrogen temperature (77°K).
For homeopathic high dilutions we use deuterium oxide (D2O, heavy water) as the solute since the signal is 50 times more intense than that of H2O, due to the more rigid nature of the two ‘arms’ of the molecule. As diluted substances we selected two ionic compounds: sodium chloride (NaCl) and lithium chloride (LiCl). The latter was selected because, like urea and ethanol, it is known to impact on and suppress the hydrogen bonds10 which are thought to be involved into the high temperature peak (ca 166°K) of the thermoluminescence glow.6 Figure 2 shows that the curves recorded for successive dilutions of LiCl (3c, 5c, 7c, 9c) prepared by the classical Hahnemannian method and following the French Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (150 strokes of 2 cm amplitude in 7.5 s, delivered by mechanical succussion machine) are substantially different.
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Figure 2. Thermoluminescence glow of successive dilutions (3c, 5c, 7c, 9c) of lithium chloride in D2O irradiated by a 2.2 Mev electron beam (6 kGy) at 77°K.
Subsequently, since it appeared that we had a reliable tool for assessing the dilutions we applied the same method to ultra-high dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number.6 Figure 3 gives the results and shows evidence that the ‘signature’ peak of LiCl 15c is substantially lower than that of NaCl 15c and lower than succussed pure D2O. This demonstrates that: ultra-high dilutions are different from their dilution fluid.
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Figure 3. Thermoluminescence glow of ultra-high dilutions (15c) in D2O of LiCl, NaCl and of pure D2O, diluted and succussed to 15c irradiated by gamma rays (19 kGy) at 77°K.
The high temperature components of the glow (ca 166°K) is linked to the hydrogen bond network. These results have been recently confirmed by another research group.11
In recent and still unpublished experiments we found the same type of ‘scaling’ between increasing dilutions of other compounds, among which potassium dichromate looks particularly interesting.12
As I said above, in the homeopathic preparation scheme, succussion is an important component of the preparation process of homeopathic medicines, releasing considerable energy in the fluid. In view of this I became interested in recent research on the role of ‘nanobubbles’ in water.13 Part of the ‘message’ transferred from one dilution step to the next one might be linked to the nanobubbles created into the liquid by the successive strong mechanical agitation which creates turbulence.
To investigate this, we built special equipment to perform dynamization in gas atmosphere or vacuum. We dynamize the dilution at room temperature (20°C) under a moderate vacuum (2337 Pa=24 mbar) which corresponds to the saturated water vapour pressure at 20°C. Time to reach vacuum is approximately 20 seconds. Dynamization is 150 strokes in 7.5 sec followed by stabilization under reduced pressure for 3 minute. The vacuum is broken reverting to atmospheric pressure in 20 seconds. Figure 4 gives preliminary results which show that the gas-phase seems to play a major role in the ‘personalization’ of the dilutions. Bearing in mind that the number of nanobubbles created into the fluid is of the order of billions (which represents a very large ‘contact’ surface with the surrounding liquid) and that, due to their size, they may remain stable and undisturbed in the dilution for months or even much longer, this might open some new perspectives on our understanding of the homeopathic preparation process.
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Figure 4. Thermoluminescence glow of LiCl 15c in D2O dynamized in a vacuum and in a pure O2 at 15 bars pressure and irradiated by a 2.2 Mev electron beam (6 kGy) at 77°K. We dynamize the dilution at room temperature (20°C) under moderate vacuum (2337 Pa=24 mbar) which corresponds to the saturated water vapour pressure at 20°C. The time to reach vacuum is approximately 20 seconds, we use our standard dynamization: 150 strokes of approximately 2 cm amplitude in 7.5 sec, followed by stabilization under reduced pressure for 3 minutes. The vacuum is then broken, reverting to atmospheric pressure in approximately 20 seconds.
The author thanks Laboratoires BOIRON and the AREVA Nuclear Center of Marcoule for their interest and support.
2 R. Roy, W.A. Tiller, I. Bell and M.R. Hoover, The structure of liquid water; novel insights from material research; potential relevance to homeopathy, Mater Res Innovations 9 (2005), pp. 93–124.
3 J. Teixeira, A. Luzar and S. Longeville, Dynamic of hydrogen bonds: how to probe their role in unusual properties of liquid water, J Phys Condens Matter 18 (2006), pp. S2353–S52362.
4 Gartia RK. Thermoluminescent materials: past, present and future. In: Sarma HNK, Sumitra P, Basantakumar Sharma H, (eds). Proceedings of Regional Conference on Materials and their Applications (RCMA), February 18–19, 2005, Manipur University, Imphal, India, 2005, p 33–40.
5 L. Rey, Thermoluminescence de la Glace, CR Physi I (2000), pp. 107–110.
6 L. Rey, Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride, Physica A 323 (2003), pp. 67–74. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (306 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus
7 L. Rey, Thermoluminescence of deuterated amorphous and crystalline ices, Rad Phys Chem 72 (2005), pp. 587–594. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (467 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus
8 B.A. Sharma, Th. Basanta Sing and R.K. Gartia, Critical evaluation of goodness of fit of computerised glow curve deconvolution, Indian J Pure Appl Phys 42 (2004), pp. 492–497.
9 Rey L, Gartia RK, Belon P. Trap Spectroscopic Characterization of D2O ice and its potentialities in homeopathy. In: Selvasekarapandian S, Murthy KVR, Natarajan V, Malathi J, Brahmanandhan GM, Khanna D, (eds). Macmillan Advanced Research Series. Proceedings of the National Conference on Luminescence and Its Applications (NCLA, 2007) January 18–20, Bharathiar University, India. New Delhi: Macmillan India Ltd., 2007, p 12–17.
10 Ourisson G. Personal communication, 2000.
12 Rey L, Muchitsch I. Recent unpublished results, 2007.
13 Ph. Vallée, J. Lafait, L. Legrand, P. Mentré, M-O. Monod and Y. Thomas, Effects of pulsed low-frequency electromagnetic fields on water characterized by light scattering techniques: role of bubbles, Langmuir 21 (6) (2005), pp. 2293–2299. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus