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Energy Insights: Energy News: The Peak Oil Crisis: Cold Fusion Update

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The Peak Oil Crisis: Cold Fusion Update



By Tom Whipple

There are at least four contenders in the race to bring a cold-fusion powered heat-producing device to market in the near future. These are the Rossi E-cat project now based in North Carolina under the aegis of a new firm called Industrial Heat; the Brillouin and SRI effort to develop a nuclear reaction boiler out in California; the Defkalion Green Technology’s effort in Vancouver and Greece to market a heat producing device later this year; and finally BlackLight Power’s radically different “hydrino” technology which, if it proves to work at a commercial scale, could trump all the rest.

Of the four, Rossi’s E-cat has received the most publicity – at least on the internet if not in the mainstream media. Last week a new book by Swedish journalist, Mat Lewan, entitled An Impossible Invention, was released. Lewan relates the story of Andrea Rossi and his E-cat in much detail from the time when Rossi first decided to research the phenomenon, through the first semi-public demonstration in January 2011 to the current time. If nothing else, Rossi is important to the cold fusion story as he was the first to demonstrate commercial-scale production of heat and may be the first to develop a commercially viable product.

Lewan, who trained as a scientist before becoming a journalist, started as a skeptic. However, after attending many demonstrations, making measurements of his own, and conducting extensive interviews with Rossi and independent scientists, he has become convinced that Rossi and his heat generating device are for real. He concludes that we are on the cusp of a new age in which virtually unlimited quantities of clean, cheap energy will be at the service of mankind.

The Rossi story, however, is nearly as bizarre as that of the mainstream media’s treatment of the cold fusion story. Rossi came upon the idea that he should work on cold fusion in 1995 while sitting in an Italian jail for six months – but that is another story. Upon release he returned to the U.S. where he had been developing thermoelectric generators for the U.S. government and began experiments with nickel and hydrogen as a way to produce heat without a chemical reaction.

After years of experiments, and the encouragement of a well-respected Italian physicist, Sergio Focardi, who Rossi had called in to evaluate his work, he finally hit upon powdered nickel, a catalyst (possibly lithium), and a reactor configuration that would produce commercial quantities of heat – well beyond the test-tube scale that many other scientists had been observing over the previous 20 years.

In 2010 Rossi and Focardi self-published a paper about their work, but of course left out the details of the key catalyst. As cold fusion devices are generally un-patentable due to prejudices left from the Fleishman-Pons era, the only protection an inventor has for now is to keep key details proprietary. This withholding of information by Rossi, and others working in the field, coupled with no firm idea as to how what is known as the production of “anomalous heat” actually works, has made the whole topic highly controversial.

While the semi-public demonstration in January 2011 met its goals of producing steam before an audience of invited scientists and members of the press, the claims that the device was powered by a nuclear reaction raised a storm of controversy focusing on the notion that such a device could not be real. While a few Italian newspapers covered the event along with a handful of websites specializing in cold fusion, the mainstream media stayed silent and largely remains so to this day.

Interestingly enough the first demonstration seems to have raised the most interest in Sweden. Five days after the first demonstration Lewan wrote a story for his Swedish newspaper, Ny Teknik, which attracted widespread attention in Sweden, and eventually led to support for Rossi from the country’s electric power industry. The next two years were taken up in a search by Rossi for a partner that would test his device, bring credibility to his work as well as finance its development, and allow him bring a heat producing device to market.

At one time or another, partnership deals were about to be struck with five different organizations in Greece, Sweden, and the U.S. but for one reason or another they fell through, sometimes with recriminations. During this time however, Rossi, possibly with the help of a noted Japanese scientist, came up with a new design for his device which raised its operating temperatures considerably. In October 2012 Rossi concluded a deal with a then-secret U.S. partner in whom he had enough confidence to turn over the secrets of his designs and catalysts to the new partnership. At the end of 2013 the news leaked that Rossi was now with Cherokee Investment Partners in Raleigh North Carolina and was working out of a new firm called Industrial Heat to develop and market products based on his designs.

Currently Rossi and Industrial Heat have their latest device out for lengthy off-site testing and evaluation by an independent team of scientists financed by Sweden’s electric power institute. It is hoped that the results of these test will be available within the next few months and will be long, thorough, and independent enough to convince the world that Rossi’s device does indeed produce the claimed amounts of heat.

In an even more interesting development, BlackLight Power announced last week that they have designed and are patenting a device that can continuously produce the mini-explosions that occur as hydrogen atoms are converted into what BlackLight calls “hydrinos.” BlackLight says the blinding flashes resulting from these conversions, some 50,000 times brighter than the sun, have been directed onto solar cells to produce large amounts of electricity. They say they have designed a one-cubic-foot device that will produce 10 million watts of power. If this proves to be true, cold fusion may be obsolete before most know that it exists.

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.

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