Thursday, November 6, 2014

Annual Report from the Edge of Science, aka 'Cold Fusion'

Last year’s post on the state of “Cold Fusion” or “Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction” (LENR) ended with the lines, “for such possibly breakthrough technology, events are progressing rapidly. Hopefully we will soon see if this is a false positive or not.” That turned out to be enigmatically prescient. Two significant events happened last year.

1. Defkalion’s LENR device, the Hyperion, was tested in a public demonstration streamed on the internet. Apparently, when the results were in, the device failed to produce any excess heat at all, reminiscent of the original Pons-Fleischmann experiment. That was the conclusion of high energy physicist Luca Gamberale in a report on the demonstration. The company, as a result, seems to have all but collapsed.

2. Andrea Rossi’s device, the E-Cat, also had a demonstration. Six researchers from Italy and Sweden tested the device for 32 days. The extended time allowed more rigorous testing than previously, and would help determine the long termed stability of the device. The team concluded:
“The quantity of heat emitted constantly by the reactor and the length of time during which the reactor was operating rule out, beyond any reasonable doubt, a chemical reaction as underlying its operation.” 
“The isotope composition in Lithium and Nickel was found to agree with the natural composition before the run, while after the run it was found to have changed substantially. Nuclear reactions are therefore indicated to be present in the run process, which however is hard to reconcile with the fact that no radioactivity was detected outside the reactor during the run.” 
“In summary, the performance of the E-Cat reactor is remarkable. We have a device giving heat energy compatible with nuclear transformations, but it operates at low energy and gives neither nuclear radioactive waste nor emits radiation. From basic general knowledge in nuclear physics this should not be possible.”
The scientists, being trained in ‘known’ physics, are almost comically skeptical and at one point in the report say:
“However, as discussed above, it is of course very hard to comprehend how these fusion processes can take place in the fuel compound at low energies. Presently we should therefore restrict ourselves to merely state that an isotope shift has occurred in Lithium and Nickel. We refrain from speculations in any dynamic scenario making this reaction possible at low energies. The reaction speculation above should only be considered as an example of reasoning and not a serious conjecture.”
To repeat, their explanation is an “example of reasoning and not a serious conjecture.”
Here is a copy of the report.

You may purchase one of Rossi’s 1 mega-watt E-Cat plants for a reported $1.5 million.

There are many, many organizations working on this technology, but, as far as I can tell, all are very poorly funded with the exception of Rossi’s E-Cat. I continue to hold no belief (one way or another) in the practicality of the technology, but report what I find.

You are free to speculate on your own as to its practicality, and also as to why the press does not report on LENR activities.

Addendum: I probably should add that, as you would expect, the results of the report are not without controversy, which is a good thing (re: faster than light neutrinos). There are those who argue that the 6 scientists, though respected, did an inadequate job, especially in measuring input energy to the system.


Big Myk said...

Cold Fusion is most likely one of those problems about which Laurence J. Peter (the father of the Peter Principle) said "are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them."

Peter H of Lebo said...

This just another obligatory comment from me, mainly because I bet a pint of beer so many years ago on the complete hogwash of the E-CAT and its inventor Mr. Snakeoil Rossi. (these words will be great ammo if I ever have to eat my hat...granted I am sure I'll be sipping on Prima Pils in victory from Victory)

While I was just going to copy paste my comments from each year previous, instead points to consider- the report again is not publish anywhere, nor is peer-reviewed. My favorite line from the report is on page 7, "Rossi later intervened to switch off the dummy, and in the following subsequent operations on the E-Cat: charge insertion, reactor startup, reactor shutdown and powder charge extraction. Throughout the test, no further intervention or interference on his part occurred"

I love independent examination of the E-CAT is not independent of Rossi. Say what?! Its been 2 or 3 years and still no peer-reviewed independent study and Rossi is trying to sell them at 1.5 million!

I can't really speculate as to why the press doesn't report on the E-Cat, other than believers that the moon landings hoax only make the news when they get punched in the face by Buzz Aldrin...maybe Rossi should change his marketing tactics.

James R said...

I like your comment. In the same vein I might caution that the use of "moon landing hoax" comparisons may have reached the status of corollary to Godwin's Law. My 'like-minded' counter is that, Scientific American magazine, while acknowledging the Wright brothers seemed to have the most advanced knowledge of heavier-than-air navigation at the time, claimed no public flight had been made in the U.S. Accordingly, to spur development, they announced the Scientific American Aeronautic Trophy. This was April of 1907. The engineering community and the scientific community don't always see eye to eye.

At the very minimum it appears Rossi has cleverly come up with a method to modify the isotopes of Nickel and Lithium without radiation.