Thursday, December 31, 2015

Annual Splashing of Cold and/or Hot Water on Cold Fusion

Because it’s been a year since my last report, let’s restate the buzz words:
  • Cold Fusion - the term coined by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann for generating energy from a nuclear reaction at, or near, room temperature. 
  • LENR (low-energy nuclear reactions) - the current term for cold fusion
  • CMNS (condensed matter nuclear science) - the current term for the field of cold fusion
  • CECR - (controlled electron capture reaction) - the term used by Brillouin Energy Corporation for their type of LENR
  • Brillouin Energy Corp. (mentioned in my 2013 report) - the company collaborating with Stanford Research International (SRI) in developing LENR, and, of course,
  • E-Cat - Andrea Rossi’s LENR device 

Here’s some news from 2015:
Andrea Rossi obtained a U.S. patent for a “Fluid Heater” that raises the temperature of water using a mixture of nickel, lithium, and lithium-aluminum-hydride powders with heat. The mixture produces more heat than added. This is the first patent Rossi has been able to obtain in the U.S. His previous attempts were for devices which mentioned cold fusion.

Andrea Rossi, whose ecat device was “independently” tested last year (As pointed out in last year’s report, there was controversy over the “independence” from Rossi’s interventions during the test.), has been testing a one megawatt ecat for several months which should wrap up in February. While it is operating continuously 24 hours a day, it requires constant monitoring and adjustment. Clearly, not close to a commercial product or even one which can boast an independent test.

On December 1 of this year Brillouin Energy Corp. released a 35 page report by Michael Halem, a third party technical investigator, on Brillouin Energy’s Hydrogen Hot™ (HHT™) prototype Boiler System reactor. The report was very positive. "I was given full access to the experiments," said Mr. Halem. "I was able to confirm, with a high degree of confidence, excess energy output above chemical and likely due to a nuclear reaction." The report was peer reviewed by Mr. Halem’s technical colleague, Dr. Antoine Guillemin. The report also affirms that the technology “is scalable by assembling multiple HHT™ tubes in the reactor system."

Here is the Brillouin Energy's web site. You can find news about the December 1 report as well as many peer reviewed papers on the science and the company's technology. If nothing else, you may want to read the Preface, the first article under "LENR Peer Reviewed Papers" which will answer many of your questions (or not, as the case may be).

So, as has become typical, it was a mixed year for the technology. I still say the science seems real, as there are just too many experiments yielding positive results, but the chance for a commercial product is still very much in question.

One article I found interesting was this one by Louis F. DeChiaro, Ph.D, a physicist with the US Naval Sea Systems Command. He lists some conditions necessary to produce successful LENR. It is quite technical, but the key, to me, is towards the end where he points out that none of this was known in 1989 by Pons and Fleischmann. 
Without knowing what one is doing and why it works, the probability of achieving successful results via the so-called Edisonian method of trial and error is disappointingly low. Reasonable scientists and engineers can be forgiven for their difficulty in believing that there might exist ANY circumstances under which such things could be possible. And to be blunt, it was only in the last few months that the causal chain finally became clear.
If you are interested in the topic, here is a link to the notes of a presentation by DeChiaro in September of this year which summarizes the whole field of LENR.


Big Myk said...

A few thoughts. One thought -- and I suppose this is why you want ot report on this -- is that the promise of LENR is extraordinary. The abilty to produce energy when we want without the need for sunlight or wind that does not produce greenhouse gasses is the holy grail of our time. Climate change poses threats of Biblical proportions: rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, flooding, drought, agricultural disasters, dogs and cats living together. LENR could help us avoid all this.

Having said that, I am flummoxed by the science. I can't begin to understand how something that looks like a chemical reaction ends up being a nuclear one.

On the one hand, I tend to be skeptical of things that sound too good to be true. On the other hand, sometimes things that sound too good, like penicillin, are, in fact, true. It seems that given both LENR's promise and uncertainty, Bob Dylan's advice is well-taken: "keep your eyes wide" but "don't speak too soon/For the wheel's still in spin." Here is also a nice summary that pretty much echoes the post: Low Energy Nuclear Reactions: Papers and Patents.

James R said...

Thanks for the referenced article. It is more complete than mine. (They're probably getting paid.) As you note, the import of LENR with its lack of established science, indeed, put it in the "too good to be true" category, which is why, I suppose, the news is being shunned. A lot of editors suffered in the laughing stocks after making cover stories out of Pons and Fleischmann, however, I would think most have retired by now.

It does require a new way of looking at existing science as well as a lot of hard work—inspiration and perspiration. As you hint, for every discovery of penicillin, electricity, relativity, DNA or quantum theory, there are many failures—spontaneous generation, phlogiston, abundant hemp on Mars. The best we can do is use all the clues available to follow which technologies warrant promise. I hope people find it intriguing and plausible enough to read about it—until the time it becomes a laughable failure or a brilliant success.