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The Fusion Revolution

By       Message Christopher Calder     Permalink

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     When the first human animal figured out how to make fire, the earth changed forever.  The fictional character Sherlock Holmes once said that "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  Using that logic, I have come to the conclusion that fossil fuels will soon become obsolete, and earth history will again be changed forever.  A total switchover to fusion power will take decades, but basic economics tells us that fusion reactors will win in the marketplace over their more costly competitors.  Imagine a clean new world where oil and coal are only used to make chemicals, and where every nation has equal access to low cost energy.  Sounds too good to be true?
     Scientist Andrea Rossi got his Master of Science and Engineering degree from the University of Milan, and is now associated with the famous University of Bologna, where Dante, Copernicus, Galvani, and Marconi were once students.  Rossi claims invention of the "Energy Catalyzer," or E-Cat for short, that mixes nano-particle nickel dust, hydrogen gas under pressure, secret catalysts, and a modicum of applied heat to produce a new kind of fusion that drives the nuclei of hydrogen atoms into the heart of nickel, thus creating copper.  He says E-Cat technology can produce electricity at a cost of just one cent per kilowatt hour.  Even if we skeptically double or triple that cost, the E-Cat is still a bargain.  We currently pay at least 40 cents per kilowatt hour for intermittent electricity produced from solar panels, 15 cents per kilowatt hour for unpredictable wind power, and 8 cents per kilowatt hour for natural gas.  Rossi states that one pound of nickel can unleash as much energy as burning 517,000 pounds of oil, which is approximately 1,590 barrels worth.  Fortunately, the earth has enough easily mineable nickel to supply all of our energy needs for thousands of years.
     In 2007 Rossi approached Sergio Focardi, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Bologna, and asked him to help test his E-Cat prototype and verify that it did not emit dangerous radiation.  Conventional "hot" nuclear fusion using lasers to super-heat deuterium and tritium creates so much radiation that it would be impossible to shield in a small, portable device like the E-Cat.  Rossi and Focardi knew this was not conventional fusion, but perhaps some strange phenomena involving runaway electrons at near light speed that form plasma and thus heat.  Through extensive testing, the two scientists found no dangerous levels of radiation escaping from the E-Cat's lead lined fusion chamber.  No radioactive materials are used in the reactor's construction, and the temporary internal radiation produced by pressure fusion stops when the reactor is turned off, leaving behind no residual radioactive elements and zero toxic waste.  After four years of studying the E-Cat, Professor Sergio Focardi gleefully declared that "This is the greatest discovery in human history," and went on to say that "The results will be immense: clean energy at (almost) zero cost." 
     Andrea Rossi then contacted Dr. Joseph Levi, a physics professor at the University of Bologna associated with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).  After conducting preliminary tests in private, Levi set up a public demonstration on January 14, 2011, attended by 50 scientists from the University of Bologna and the INFN.  The E-Cat produced 12.4 kilowatts of heat with an input of just 0.4 kilowatts, a gain of 31 times input power.  In a third test conducted by Levi, the E-Cat produced a minimum of 15 kilowatts of heat continuously for 18 hours. Levi stated that "Now that I have seen the device work for so many hours, in my view all chemical energy sources are excluded." On occasion, E-Cats have been powered up to produce over 130 kilowatts of heat, but Rossi wants to sell his first generation E-Cats in a powered down configuration to make sure they are completely safe.  His company plans to start selling a 20 kilowatt version of the E-Cat soon.
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     Much experimentation will be needed before the full potential of E-Cat technology is realized, and as always the original inventor's work will be greatly improved upon by other scientists from around the world.  As pressure fusion is a completely new, inherently nontoxic technology, there are no regulatory barriers to slow its rapid technological advance and implementation.  No precious metals are used in the low cost, easy to manufacture E-Cats, and any company with the technological skills required to build an air conditioner can produce them in large numbers on assembly lines.  That means even poor, relatively undeveloped countries will be able to manufacture E-Cats.
     Unlike the notoriously flawed "cold fusion" experiments using deuterium and palladium conducted by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann in 1989, Rossi's invention is decidedly "hot" in that the reactor yields generous amounts of reliable heat.  The reaction is so powerful that even a first year engineering student could easily measure the E-Cat's healthy net energy gain.  We therefore know with certainty that the E-Cat's energy is real and not an illusion created by measuring error, a possibility that haunted the work of Pons and Fleischmann.  In some tests E-Cats have continued to produce stable heat output for very long periods of time even after all energy inputs were switched off.
     Sherlock Holmes would ask what are the odds that Rossi, Focardi, and Levi could all go insane at the same time, deciding to throw away their reputations, careers, and scientific legacies by endorsing a fraudulent energy scheme.  How could a public test closely observed by 50 scientists be faked?  The E-Cat produced so much energy that if the power had come from the wall socket, the power cord would have melted.  No tiny hidden battery could have possibly unleashed so much energy, and the small amount of hydrogen gas consumed during the reactor test was independently measured at less than 1 gram, thus simple combustion is ruled out as an energy source.  Overall hydrogen consumption for the E-Cat is estimated at 0.01 grams of hydrogen to produce 10 kilowatt hours of heat.  The only reasonable explanation for the excess energy produced is some form of low energy nuclear reaction (LENR).  Thus, no matter how improbable it is that Rossi and others have discovered a new field of physics, it must be true according to the practical logic of Sherlock Holmes.
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     On March 29th, 2011, two Swedish scientists participated in a test of Rossi's new mini E-Cat, which produced over 4.4 kilowatts of heat from a volume of only 50 cubic centimeters, which is just one twentieth the size of the original one liter E-Cat prototype.  Hanno Esse'n is an associate professor of theoretical physics at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, and ironically a former chairman of the Swedish Skeptics Society.  Esse'n stated that "In some way a new kind of physics is taking place.  It's enigmatic, but probably no new laws of nature are involved.  We believe it is possible to explain the process with known laws of nature."  He went on to say that "We checked everything that could be checked, and we could walk around freely and have a look at most of the equipment." 
     Sven Kullander, a Professor at Uppsala University and chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' Energy Committee, also participated in the test.  Kullander stated that "My belief that there is an energy development far beyond what one would expect has been strengthened significantly as I have had the opportunity to see the process for myself and perform measurements." Their group report stated that "Any chemical process for producing 25 kWh from any fuel in a 50 cm3 container can be ruled out. The only alternative explanation is that there is some kind of a nuclear process that gives rise to the measured energy production."
     Some critics suggest the E-Cat is a money making hoax, but Rossi's self-financed company is not seeking investors or government handouts.  Rossi will only make money if his E-Cat actually works.  If it does not work as promised, his company will go bankrupt and he will live the rest of his life in disgrace.  Only a fool would intentionally craft such a bleak future for himself, and Rossi is certainly no idiot.
     Rossi's initial scientific paper on the E-Cat was rejected by established journals because even Rossi himself could not come up with a sufficiently detailed explanation of how the E-Cat works.  Building an E-Cat is easier than explaining what happens inside the E-Cat's reactor core.  When asked how he got the idea, Rossi simply stated that "The idea started from the premise that using very high pressure could increase the kinetic energy of protons to obtain nuclear reactions, since one can reach very high pressures with relatively low forces by reducing the surface area on which the pressure is focused.  At this point the natural candidate to provide the hammer exerting the pressure could only be hydrogen, while as the anvil on which to exert pressure, the atoms of the column number 10 of the periodic table of Mendeleev are most suitable for their high affinity with hydrogen. Obviously nickel is chosen for cost reasons." 
     Finding safe ways to scale up E-Cat technology to the giant gigawatt size needed to replace major fossil fuel and fission nuclear power plants will take a few years of research by big corporations.  Rossi plans to install a one megawatt, American made E-Cat power station in a factory in Greece in October, 2011.  Rossi believes that only a working commercial power station can definitively prove to the world that his creation is real.  If E-Cats turn out to be as economical as expected, they will eventually be used to power cars, trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.  Imagine a luxury sedan you could drive for thousands of miles without refueling, or a small aircraft you could fly from New York to Beijing nonstop at low cost.
     Global greenhouse gas emissions will be dramatically reduced as we replace fossil fuels with energy from E-Cats.  There will be no risk of radioactive pollution because E-Cats contain no radioactive or fissile materials.  Fusion power will put an end to biofuels and all the environmental damage and food price hyperinflation they create.  E-Cats will raise our standard of living by lowering the cost of food, shelter, clothing, consumer goods, transportation,"everything.
The Rossi 10 kW Reactor, by Scott Chubb
Specifics of Andrea Rossi's "Energy Catalyzer" Test
Cold fusion may provide one megawatt in Athens
Swedish scientists confirm E-Cat
Rossi's paper - "A new energy source from nuclear fusion"
"Catalyzing Fusion with Relativistic Electrons"
Interview with Andrea Rossi
Andrea Rossi's website - "Journal of Nuclear Physics"
Rossi's patent application
The Renewable Energy Disaster


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Christopher Calder is an advocate for world food supply security with no financial interest in any energy related business.

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