17 August 2011 by Pelle Neroth
Mention the words "Cold fusion fiasco" and you will understand why many scientists and the bigger journals are keeping their distance. So is this just another false hope, or has an Italian engineer stumbled on the abundant and cheap energy solution to the future?
Rossi calls it E-Cat, for E catalyser. Sitting in a warehouse space at the University of Bologna, on a table, it is an ugly thing; a wishbone-shaped construction clad in insulation, to which pumps and pipes are attached. Fifty grams of nickel powder are poured into the tiny combustion chamber, 50cm3. A canister containing hydrogen gas is also connected to the strange-looking device.
To start up the E-Cat, the input from a heater is approximately 1000 watts. After reaching a temperature of 500C, a reaction between the nickel and the hydrogen in the presence of a secret catalyst inside the combustion starts up. Once the reaction has started, the input is lowered to around 80 watts. After a few minutes, water starts continuously pumping through, emerging as steam. Standard calorimetry allows the E-Cat's power to be determined.
Physicists from Bologna University and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences have overseen separate trial runs, checking no secret cables or batteries were connected up, They fed the system and kept it monitored by camera, so that no tampering could take place, and nothing added.
The nickel the Swedes measured consumed over a day was a fraction of a gram, hydrogen used one gram. Yet the 25 kWh heat output from six hours of continuous operation was the astonishing equivalent of 2500 cm3 of oil.
According to Nobel prize winner and Cambridge emeritus physics professor Brian Josephson, an early supporter, the enormous output indicates the E-Cat must be generating energy from nuclear reactions, not chemical ones. Uppsala Prof Sven Kullander, chairman of the energy committee of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, and a monitor, said: "The actual combustion chamber only has a volume of 50cm3. So if this chamber was completely filled with something combustible, the energy density per litre must have been 20 multiplied by 25=500 kWh per litre or per kilo of a material with a density of one. There is no chemical substance with such an energy density."
Evidence speaking against it being fusion is that this normally requires enormous temperatures, and usually produces gamma radiation, and none was emitted here. But is it some other kind of nuclear reaction?
NASA's chief scientist at Langley Research Center, Dennis Bushnell, is a supporter of Rossi. In a radio talk, Bushnell said that LENR (Low energy nuclear reactions) were one of the most promising areas in current energy research and Rossi's experiments were some of the best. He added:
" I think were almost over the - 'We don't understand it' problem. I think we're almost over the 'This doesn't produce anything useful' problem. And so I think this will go forward fairly rapidly now. And if it does, this is capable of completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics and solving climate and energy."
A few, maybe 10, thousand tonnes of nickel could supply the world's energy needs for a year, that is less than 1% of global annual nickel production. Rossi originally confirmed to me that a 1MW power plant in Greece, of all places, was to open on schedule in October, comprising several dozen connected E-Cats. But last week, after the print version of this article with that information had gone to press, sent an email there was a change of plan. He is in secret talks with a US company and the plant will be opening there instead - still at the end of October.
Some say Rossi has a murky past, sceptics are ten-a-penny, many unknowns remain, but he is not soliciting investors and has a very definite deadline. So no one has anything to lose by seeing what he will come up with.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 17 August 2011 04:11 PM Energy
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