National Commentary

The Peak Oil Crisis: Cold Fusion – A New Report

The second independent report on the performance of Andrea Rossi’s low energy nuclear reactor was just released. Even though the first round of tests were conducted by a group of respected European physicists, they received considerable criticism from those who believe “cold fusion” to be impossible and that the scientists reporting positive test results had simply been duped. Thus a second test of Rossi’s latest device took place in the spring of this year. For those who have not been following this saga, it should be noted that Rossi moved his research to North Carolina last year and is now working for a new well-financed company called “Industrial Heat” which is currently developing commercial versions of his devices.

This time the testing took place in an independent laboratory in Switzerland where the six European scientists conducting the tests had complete control. The tests were sponsored by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and Elforsk AB, which is Sweden’s version of the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute which should reduce concerns about their validity. This second round of testing was designed to eliminate experimental error and the possibility of fraud.

For this test Rossi gave the team a new version of his reactor which is made of ceramic alumina, and is able to withstand temperatures beyond 1400° C. The actual test which lasted a month had the reactor running continuously at 1260° C and 1400° C. Unlike the previous test, the testers had access to the nickel powder which fueled the reaction and were able to conduct detailed scientific analysis of the fuel before and after the test.

Although Rossi was present during the loading and unloading of the fuel, he was not present during the bulk of the testing or the analysis. As with the first test, the scientists reported nearly unbelievable results which, of course, is the problem. Conventional science says the amount of heat being produced simply cannot be happening through nuclear reactions at relatively low temperatures. The six scientists who conducted the tests admit they have no satisfactory scientific theory as to why so much heat is being produced.

The report makes public for the first time some, but not all, details of how Rossi’s device works. We now know that the “catalyst” which makes the reaction possible is likely lithium-aluminum hydride which breaks down when heated and supplies the hydrogen to the reaction. We also know that to get started the reaction requires some form of an electro-magnetic pulse similar to those used by Brillouin Energy’s LENR devices.

The test seems to have been run without a hitch, which is a reminder that during the first test the investigators managed to melt down the device they were testing. This time they were far more conservative, running the apparatus first at “modest” 1260° C and then at 1400° C. despite Rossi telling them that it will run at higher temperatures. The test ran for a previously agreed upon 32 days and then the device was shut down so that the residue of the fuel could be tested.

During the test period, the reactor, which is a tube about an inch in diameter and eight inches long containing one gram of fuel, produced 1.5 MWh of energy beyond that used to stimulate the device. According to the investigators, “this amount of energy is far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume.”
The most interesting aspect of the new tests was not only that Rossi’s devices can run continuously at 1400° C, but that comparison of the isotopic composition of the fuel before and after the test shows clear evidence that nuclear reactions were taking place.

The report concludes: “In summary, the performance of the E-Cat reactor is remarkable. We have a device giving heat energy compatible with nuclear transformations, but it operates at low energy and gives neither nuclear radioactive waste nor emits radiation. From basic general knowledge in nuclear physics this should not be possible. Nevertheless we have to relate to the fact that the experimental results from our test show heat production beyond chemical burning, and that the E-Cat fuel undergoes nuclear transformations. It is certainly most unsatisfying that these results so far have no convincing theoretical explanation, but the experimental results cannot be dismissed or ignored just because of lack of theoretical understanding.”

How fast this technology will be adopted is still an open question. Obviously it has the potential to replace most uses of fossil fuel, giving a massive boost to the global economy, and stopping nearly all carbon emissions if universally deployed. So far the U.S. and other governments seem to be holding to a position that this cannot be possible despite credible test results. Rapid deployment of this or a similar technology would, of course, be one of the most disruptive events in industrial history and would obviously meet resistance.

Whether the mainstream media, the scientific community, and the government come to realize that this or similar phenomena are real and need to be widely deployed as quickly as possible if we are to avoid the consequences of global warming remains to be seen. The one bright spot on the horizon is that Rossi tells us that his firm, Industrial Heat, is currently installing a one megawatt device in an undisclosed U.S. factory which will provide heat for a production line. If this device becomes operational in the near future, it will be difficult to ignore in face of the growing climate, energy, and economic problems the world is facing.

Policymakers should note that the Chinese are well aware of this technology and are already in a contractual relationship with Industrial Heat to exploit it. If Washington is not ready to lead the world into the next age, then Beijing almost certainly is.