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The device being tested, which is called the Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat for short), was created by Andrea Rossi. Rossi has been claiming for the past two years that he had finally cracked cold fusion, but much to the chagrin of the scientific community he hasn’t allowed anyone to independently analyze the device — until now. While it sounds like the scientists had a fairly free rein while testing the E-Cat, we should stress that they still don’t know exactly what’s going on inside the sealed steel cylinder reactor. Still, the seven scientists, all from good European universities, obviously felt confident enough with their findings to publish the research paper.
As for what’s happening inside the cold fusion reactor, Andrea Rossi and his colleague Sergio Focardi have previously said their device works by infusing hydrogen into nickel, transmuting the nickel into copper and releasing a large amount of heat. While Rossi hasn’t provided much in the way of details — he’s a very secretive man, it seems — we can infer some knowledge from NASA’s own research into cold fusion. Basically, hydrogen ions (single protons) are sucked into a nickel lattice (pictured right); the nickel’s electrons are forced into the hydrogen to produce neutrons; the nickel nuclei absorb these neutrons; the neutrons are stripped of their electrons to become protons; and thus the nickel goes up in atomic number from 28 to 29, becoming copper.
This process, like the “conventional” fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, produces a lot of heat. (See: 500MW from half a gram of hydrogen: The hunt for fusion power heats up.) The main difference, though, is that the cold fusion process (also known as LENR, or low energy nuclear reaction) produces very slow moving neutrons which don’t create ionizing radiation or radioactive waste. Real fusion, on the other hand, produces fast neutrons that decimate everything in their path. In short, LENR is fairly safe — safe enough that NASA dreams of one day putting a cold fusion reactor in every home, car, and plane. Nickel and hydrogen, incidentally, are much cheaper and cleaner fuels than gasoline.
As far as we can tell, the main barrier to cold fusion — as with normal fusion — is producing more energy than you put in. In NASA’s tests, it takes a lot more energy to fuse the nickel and hydrogen than is produced by the reaction. Rossi, it would seem, has discovered a secret sauce that significantly reduces the amount of energy required to start the reaction. As for what the secret sauce is, no one knows — in the research paper, the independent scientists simply refer to it as “unknown additives.” All told, the E-Cat seems to have a power density of 4.4×105 W/kg, and an energy density of 5.1×107 Wh/kg.
If Rossi and Focardi’s cold fusion technology turns out to be real — if the E-Cat really has 10,000 times the energy density and 1,000 times the power density of gasoline — then the world will change, very, very quickly. Stay tuned; we’ll let you know when — or if — the E-Cat passes peer review.
Research paper: arXiv:1305.3913 – “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device”
Thank you. TiA.