National Commentary

The Great Transition: Update on Brilliant Light Power

It has been nearly 18 months since Randall Mills and his organization at Brilliant Light Power have released a comprehensive progress report on their efforts to develop a completely new source of energy. When last heard from in the fall of 2016, Brilliant Light Power (BLP) had just developed a new design for its SunCell technology that overcame several key obstacles to building a commercial product. At the time, however, the new design was only working in a laboratory environment and required constant attention to maintain the energy-producing reaction. The goal at the time, which Mills hoped to achieve during 2017, was to add computer controls to the SunCell and increase reliability to the point where working prototypes could be sent out for external testing and evaluation.

As 2017 went on, however, the lack of any announcement suggested that BLP was having trouble turning the laboratory version of the device into an automated prototype. During the year, BLP announced that it was trying to simplify the photovoltaic module that converted high energy light into electricity and said that they had contracted for the design of a heat-producing SunCell that would only heat fluids thereby bypassing the numerous problems of using photovoltaics to produce electricity.

The newly-released update confirms that the contractor working on automating the SunCell ran into problems in its efforts to melt the silver used as electrodes. As yet, an automated version of the SunCell does not seem to be a working proposition, although the report expresses the hope this will happen soon. To speed development, BLP says they are going to substitute gallium, which has a lower melting point than silver, in hopes this will sidestep the silver melting problem.

The most interesting and potentially important news in the new update is that in addition to continuing work on the current photovoltaic and radiative boiler designs, BLP has begun development of a more advanced design. This model is intended to generate arbitrarily large amounts of energy with much less complexity than the current design. Mills hopes that the new design will enable more rapid commercialization of the SunCell technology.

The reactor chamber of the new advanced SunCell is to be made of ceramic material rather than carbon and, in theory, has many advantages over the existing designs. The most important of these may turn out to be that the advanced SunCell is being designed to support the use of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) technology to convert the energy produced by the hydrogen to hydrino reaction to electricity.

The incorporation of MHD technology would send the SunCell program into a new direction as it could result in the development of devices capable of much larger amounts of electricity than would be possible using photovoltaics to convert the photon energy into electricity. While this technology has been around for decades and is fairly well understood, for economic reasons it has only been used in very limited applications in the electric power industry. The advanced ceramic SunCell linked to a magnetohydrodynamic energy conversion device could produce much larger amounts of electricity than currently envisioned. In the long run, such a technology, which has no moving parts, could be the key to faster elimination of electricity produced by fossil fuels. How long it might take to develop such a revolutionary technology for use on a commercial scale remains to be seen.

It is interesting to note that the new progress report gives no specific timetables as to when key milestones might be achieved. In recent years Mills has been announcing goals and rough estimates as to when these goals might be reached. The new report only talks in very general terms about what the company hopes to accomplish in 2018. Going back many years, Mills has been subjected to much criticism for over-optimism as to when he would have a commercially-useful device. For now, all we can say is that development seems to be moving along several different tracks, any one of which should produce a device that can convince the world that Mills has valid technology that could replace fossil fuels and even other sources of energy.

For those of us who grasp the dangers of global warming and have some insight into what rapidly changing weather patterns will soon be doing to much of the earth, an inexpensive replacement for fossil fuels is no longer an academic question. While non-polluting wind and solar energy are developing rapidly, so is the world’s demand for fossil fuels. Any honest assessment would have to conclude that despite some progress, mankind is losing the race to replace fossil fuels before there are very serious consequences.

Nearly every week there is a report of some new disaster being caused by climate change. It is becoming more difficult every day to imagine that well before the end of the century the primary concern of mankind everywhere will be anything other than mitigating the consequences of a changing climate. For now, the Chinese seem to be the only nation on earth that is seriously trying to reduce fossil fuel emissions even at the expense of economic development and even this effort is largely due to unbreathable air in its major cities rather than climate change.

It seems clear that the only solution to keeping civilization intact is to replace fossil fuels with non-polluting technologies as quickly as possible. The quickest way to do this is to develop technologies that can produce clean energy at only a fraction of the cost of fossil fuels and nuclear fission. For this reason, it behooves all of us the keep an eye on technologies such as the SunCell, Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, and even the hot fusion nuclear reactors that are under development. One or maybe all of these may be the only path to keeping our world habitable.