Saturday, October 8, 2011

Andrea Rossi, ECat & Cold Fusion

Is cold fusion possible?  Does it hold the promise to provide almost unlimited energy for all?

"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong." Arthur C. Clarke Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, Profiles of the Future
Although many have heard the phrase cold fusion, we suspect there are a large number of our readers that do not really cobwebs understand it.  Yet nevertheless, if true, this process promises to decentralize power grids, and make abundant limitless energy possible.  The implications of this are staggering to the economy and of our way of life.  Talk about a disruptive technology?  This would be truly disruptive and would create new corporate giants and probably destroy present ones.  To get an idea of what cold fusion is, we provide this multipart series to clear up the for some.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

The names that are usually associated with Cold Fusion are two scientists - Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons.  They were both electrochmists, both well known and respected.  They were the first to publicly announce the discovery of cold fusion (a name which was forced on them for publicity purposes).  Since they passed by the peer review process, their experiment, when duplication attempts were made, was rejected.  No other labs could duplicate it.  They were both shunned and forgotten by the scientific community.  Interestingly enough, Jules Verne in his book Mysterious Island may have predicted the use of water as a source of energy.
"Yes, But water decomposed into its primitive elements," replied Cyrus Harding, "and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have become a powerful amd manageable force, for all great discoveries, by some inexplicable law, appear to agree and become complete at the same time. Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of steamers and tenders of locomotives will instead of coal, be stored with these condensed gases, which will burn in the furnaces with enormous calorific power. There is, therefore nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it will supply the wants of its inhabitants, and there will be no want of either light or heat as long as the productions of the vegetable, mineral or animal kingdoms do not fail us. I believe, then, that when the depostis of coal are exhausted we shall heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will be the coal of the future."
We include a set of videos produced by CBS' 60 Minutes on the subject of Cold Fusion, which will give the reader a good overview of the controversy.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Fleischmann and Pons have not been the only ones who have worked on Cold Fusion.  There have been scores of labs and scientists working on this, including DARPA, who is funding a large number of this research.

Andrea Rossi
Andrea Rossi, has worked alongside physicist Sergio Focardi, professor emeritus at the University of Bologna former head of the Insituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare have worked on a device which produces "exothermal reactions with nickel and hydrogen," in a 2009 patent.  Interestingly enough, although many calle his work Cold Fusion, Professor Focardi prefers to call it LENR Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction.  This device is called an Energy Catalyser (in short E-Cat).  The device has been demonstrated many times with commercial applications to begin by October 2011.   Rossi intends to build a 1 MW plant in Bologna, Italy (it will be made up of 300 small E-Cats).  His proposal for the E-Cat Module for the people is as follows:
The E-Cat basic module “for the People”, that we will put in commerce within months, will be 40 cm long, 40 cm large, 40 cm high, will weight 60 kg, the shape of a cube. I need a design cheap ( I want to put it in commerce at a price of 500 euros per kW) but nice, very nice. I will buy the design which I will choose and everybody has my honour word that I will not use designs not paid. I need it within two months.
Andrea Rossi & his 1MW E-Cat plant
via: E-Catworld
The real issue at work here is whether there is a chemical reaction going on or a true nuclear reaction.  This technology has meny skeptics among the scientific community, who suspect that either the heat output has been miscounted or that the excess heat can be explained by a short lived chemical reaction that is being produced.  There was a much anticipated demonstration which took place in Bologna on October 6, 2011.  Not all reports have returned by the first one from the New Energy Times was critical.  Suffice it to say that first line is not one Mr. Rossi would have liked to hear: "Promoter Andrea Rossi's most recent test of his "energy catalyzer" failed to demonstrate the production of excess heat." The report concluded, "Lewan's and Rossi's choice to ignore the input energy from the four-hour-warm-up period is like saying a sailplane can fly without power, so long as it is first carried aloft by a tow place."

Of course, like in any new disruptive technology, there is bound to be conflict and disagreement, even between people of honest intentions.  Steven B. Krevit, the senior editor of the New Energy Times, makes an important distinction between cold fusion and LENR.  In his website it states,
...we, like many other people, used the term "cold fusion" for this work. By 2010, an important distinction became overwhelmingly clear to us: the hypothetical idea of deuterium-deuterium "cold fusion" lacked strong scientific credibility but LENR, which recognizes the experimental research without the presumption of fusion, was unequivocally supported by strong, credible scientific research.
The New Energy Institute does not invest in or maintain ownership in any of the companies or technologies they report on, and do not attempt to acquire any intellectual property rights in the field.  The site explains that cold fusion is a "... highly speculative, little-supported theoretical process by which two like-charged atomic nuclei overcome the Coulomb barrier at normal temperatures and pressures."  An important consideration in separating the two concepts (cold fusion & LENR) is that they are not necessarily connected.  Krevit provides an excellent explanation of LENR:
Low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) are research and experiments that take place at or close to room temperature and pressure which produce nuclear-scale energy and nuclear products. The word "low" refers to the input energies to the reactions; the output energies may be low or high. LENR does not presume a fusion mechanism that involves surmounting a high-Coulomb barrier. 
The research suggests a possible new form of clean nuclear energy and nuclear transmutation processes. LENR was historically called "cold fusion". LENR does not produce greenhouse gases, strong prompt radiation or long-lived radioactive wastes. The fuel is deuterium or hydrogen, which is abundantly available in ocean water. One of the main reaction products is helium-4, which is harmless. 
Initially, the term "cold fusion" distinguished this research from thermonuclear fusion or plasma fusion. Thermonuclear fusion experiments require multimillion-degree temperatures. Since 1951, when thermonuclear fusion research began in the U.S., researchers have not succeeded in generating any useful amounts of energy. 
The term "cold fusion " was never ideal to describe low energy nuclear reactions, because it implied that they were just a colder form of thermonuclear fusion, which they are not. The term was adopted by the media in 1989, appearing first in the Wall Street Journal, as a result of confusion with muon-catalyzed fusion. LENR's benign byproducts distinguish them from thermonuclear fusion and a variety of other nuclear experiments that also can run in room-temperature laboratories. 
LENR experiments often use for their fuel a form of hydrogen called deuterium, which comes from water. One in every 6,000 water molecules contains deuterium. The energy available in the deuterium in one cubic mile of seawater, if release in a fusion process, exceeds the energy capacity of all the known fossil fuel reserves in the world. Some LENR experiments use regular hydrogen, which supports the hypothesis of a nonfusion mechanism.
In answer to the question of why isn't LENR ready to use, Krevit states,
Many researchers think that the greatest problem to be solved is a materials science issue. Researchers do not understand the specific atomic composition of the source materials - palladium, for example - that are required to make it work. The characteristic differences between batches appear to be at the nanoscale or atomic level. Consequently, such research is extremely difficult to perform outside of a large, well-equipped laboratory, and few researchers have had the means to study the subject properly.
Krevit goes on to explain more critical factors in the materials used and their properties.
Researchers know the materials differences are a major factor because, when they have used particular batches of palladium that work, all samples from the same batch register excess heat. When researchers have identified pieces of palladium that generate energy, they claim that those same pieces work repeatedly until the material fails. 
The second greatest challenge is to remove the enormous quantities of heat from the palladium quickly enough. The heat tends to melt and deform the palladium, rendering it useless. 
Researchers know what conditions are required for a working experiment; however, they are difficult to achieve. Minimum thresholds must be attained for the proper ratio of deuterium to palladium. A high electrical current is required, as well as some form of a dynamic trigger that imposes a deuterium flux in, out or along the cathode. Common triggers are changes in temperature, current flow and low-level laser stimulation.
So we think it is clear that Krevit is a supporter of this kind of technology and thinks it is possible to achieve.  Yet,  there seems to be tension between he and Rossi in regards to Rossi's E-Cat machine.  Krevit is skeptical that Rossi's machine is really producing excessive heat, which is critical to LENR.

We place a sympathetic video at your disposal using the tried and true Hitler in the bunker scenario to explain why Exxon and other moneyed interests are trying to stop Rossi from introducing his technology to the world.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

In our next installment of this two part series, we will explore who else is working on LENR technology.

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