Just as the world is beginning to find out about Andrea Rossi’s supposed experimental cold fusion reactor, the E-Cat (or energy catalyzer), along comes a posting in OILPRICE that an actual cold fusion device may be working in Australia.

Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of energy. Fusion is the process by which hydrogen atoms are converted into one helium atom and an enormous amount of energy.  It is the energy source that powers the stars and created everything in the Universe including us and all other life forms.  And ever since Hans Bethe revealed how the stars work back in 1939 there have been ongoing efforts to replicate the internal workings of the Sun at a cost of billions of dollars and involving thousands of nuclear physicists and engineers.  As we write the two largest experimental hot fusion projects are underway in California and the south of France in a race to see which approach (laser ignition vs. tokomak) will most likely enable the commercialization of safe fusion reactors by the end of the 21st century.  In addition there are small private companies also in the race to recreate the internal processes of the Sun – General Fusion, Helion Energy, Tri Alpha Energy, and EMC2.

Yet every once in awhile a person pops up saying you don’t need to spend the billions of dollars and create 100 million degree C. conditions here on Earth.  “I have discovered fusion at room temperature and my device will power the world.”  In March 1989s we had the scandal involving Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman who pronounced to the world that they had produced cold fusion using electrochemical means.  Unfortunately for them, no one else could reproduce their claims and the two professors at the University of Utah ended up on the dustbin of history.

Yet the dream of cold fusion never died and there has been contiued work on the idea ever since both by university professors and businessmen.  If the dream is ever realized, the payoff to the inventor would simply be fabulous.

In January of this year an Italian scientisst, Andrea Rossi, grabbed world headlines when he announced he had constructed a cold fusion device capable of producing more than 10 kilowatts of heat power.  This mysterious device he called the e-Cat but Rossi has yet to let the public know exactly how it works although he claims to have licensed a 1 MW version of it to several companies.  He has given at least three public demonstrations of his device and supposedly it did produce more power than it consumed but experts have been unable to determine exactly how the process works without the ability to study and replicate the device. Many physicists are skeptical that the device is actually operating with fusion. To learn more about Rossi just google “Rossi e-cat” and you will read dozens of articles about his device and his current business plans. There are also websites devoted to Rossi.  See also Tom Whipple’s comments: The peak oil crisis: cold fusion redux

Now OILPRICE reports that a small un-named Australian company claims it has built a working 1 MW fusion reactor the size of a rice cooker. The rumours are that the company is now apparently in the process of building a 10 MW version that it plans to trial in 2012.

The report on this company’s fusion reaction says it’s fuelled by deuterium and tritium at not nearly as high temperature as other efforts. Specifically, the reaction is said not to require the high temperature, high pressure or accelerated particles of others’ approaches. “The key is not how many neutron hits you generate, but how you sustain them, how well you can control them.” For a 40-watt power input, the reactor is said to be able to generate a megawatt,” is the quote.

The technology’s inventor has apparently tinkered with his design for 40 years, and self-funded the company’s early stages, reinvesting income from earlier lucrative inventions. Now, strategic investors are said to include family money, such as a Shanghai real estate baron and decedents of American industrialist John Pitcairn, Jr. 

Wanting his creation to belong to mankind, the inventor refused to sell it to General Electric.  He is said to have discussed his device with the Australian and American military.

As the OILPRICE piece says, the credibility of the story rests on one business source and therefore more information is required to evaluate the meaning of this.  But it does show how the dream of creating endless energy at room temparture will not die. Recently Tom Whipple writing in the Falls Church News told us about another cold fusion experimenter George Miley, a Professor Emeritus of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois, who claims to have acheived levels of energy similar to Rossi.

Miley has been experimenting with palladium-zirconium alloys, but says his experiments are producing so much heat that could only be coming from fusion of atomic nuclei. Unlike the Italian experiments which are aimed at developing a proprietary commercial product, the Illinois experiments are being conducting under the auspices of a state university with details of the experiments being made known as soon as possible. At a university the aim of scientific research is to win a Nobel Prize, or at least academic prestige, not to make money.

While a second report does not adequately confirm that heat-producing, low-energy nuclear reactions are a real phenomenon, it is does seem to reduce the likelihood of fraud on the part of a single man or organization. Furthermore it increases the possibility that we could be witnessing the early stages of what could be one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history – production of unlimited amounts of cheap, pollution-free energy.

So there we have it. When all had thought that cold fusion was a dead animal after the embarrassment of the Fleischman-Pons debacle of the late 1980s, in 2011 we hear of three different individuals – one in Italy, one in the US and one in Australia – all claiming to have acheived the holy grail.  Time will tell whether there is any truth to this.

See also: A Fusion Reactor Hollywood Could Love at the energy collective.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Comments on Cold Fusion: The Dream That Won’t Go Away

  1. […] We are updating our previous posts that you can read here and here. […]

  2. Al Fin says:

    I like your articles. Now that I know about your blog I may decide to shut down my energy blog and just refer my readers over here.
    😉

    • Cal says:

      Thanks for your kind comments. I hope this blog is adding something to a very fast moving and fascinating time in human history. I wouldn’t close your blog right away though. You have many inciteful and informative topics that not many are discussing. I certainly enjoy reading your articles. Cheers. Cal.