Are we on the threshold of a new era in respect of sustainable, low environmental impact energy supply? Is there something new around the corner that could revolutionise our way of producing heat and electricity, or of powering tomorrow’s vehicles? These are questions that should now be considered as a result of the renewed interest again being shown in low-energy nuclear reactions.
This report is an overall summary review of the Low-energy nuclear reactions working area or, as it is sometimes called, Cold Fusion. Equipment and devices, based on LENR technology, are now beginning to be demonstrated here and there in the world. In some cases, the energy yield from these devices is claimed substantially to exceed the input energy needed in order to start and stabilize the process. If this is true – which has been questioned by many – we are looking at something unexpected: that this is perhaps a new process that greatly exceeds conventional fuel‑based energy conversion processes. In addition, these devices are claimed to operate without significant environmental impact. Or are the results that are now being claimed the consequences of incorrect measurements and wishful thinking?
Some events along the way:
• Andrea Rossi, an Italian inventor and chemist, has developed a reactor to which he has given the name E‑Cat. It is an apparently simple apparatus, consisting of a metal tube containing a small quantity of catalyst in the form of nano‑size nickel powder. To start the process, the tube is filled with small quantities of hydrogen and other elements, and then delivers a substantial thermal output over a period of several months. The company that is developing Rossi’s device, Leonardo Corporation, claims that its reactors will soon be “scientifically” validated and ready for a market launch.
• The Greek company, Defkalion, which is nowadays based in Canada, was originally working with Andrea Rossi, but has now branched out on its own to develop the Hyperion hydrogen/nickel reactor. The company has announced that its technology will launch in 2014.
• Brillouin Energy Corporation, an American company, claims that it has discovered what it calls the “controlled electron-capture reaction”.
• As far back as the 1970s, Joseph Papp claimed that energy could be obtained through the compression and electromagnetic stimulation of an inert gas plasma. Papp, and his subsequent followers such as Rohner, Klostermann, Weber and others, claimed that they could deliver energy via a conventional piston engine using hydrogen, inert gases, electrical discharges and possibly electromagnetic resonance.
• Since the beginning of the 1990s, Erik Lerner, a plasma physicist in the USA, has claimed that it is possible to construct a cheap electricity production facility by magnetically compressing protons and the element, boron, in order directly to generate electricity from the helium nuclei so formed. He gives his apparatus the name of the Dense Plasma Focus (DPF) Machine. Experiments have been performed in Chile and elsewhere, and market agents are also active. The research is funded by private sources.
• In 1989, Fleischmann and Pons described how they had succeeded in creating “cold fusion”, using palladium electrodes in a heavy hydrogen electrolyte. However, it has been difficult to reproduce their experiment, with the result that cold fusion cooled down further.
What common thread links these attempts? This thread can be seen as them possibly being different examples of LENR technology or variants thereof. Scientific validations are now in progress in a number of places in order to confirm the functions, manage the engineering aspects and obtain an understanding of the physical mechanisms behind the processes.