Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cold fusion (err, low energy nuclear reactions) yet again.

I'm starting to know how Phil Plait must feel every time he has to write yet another article about how Betelgeuse is not about to explode.  (Though my readership is about 0.01% of the Bad Astronomer's)

Once again, there is a claim receiving attention from various media sources (here, here, here) that someone has demonstrated some gadget that produces so much "excess heat" that the conjectured source of the energy is some kind of nuclear reaction taking place in a condensed matter environment.  This time, it's two Italian researchers, and they have demonstrated (in some very restricted way, more on this below) a device that they say uses a reaction involving nickel and ordinary hydrogen.  The claim is that for a steady state input power of 400 watts, they can produce around 12 kW steady state of power in the form of heat.  The device when running supposedly takes in room temperature water at some rate and outputs dry steam, and doing the enthalpy balance and water flow rate is how one gets the 12 kW figure.  Crucially, the claim is that this whole process only consumes a tiny amount of hydrogen (far too little for some kind of chemical combustion to be the source of all the heat).  The conjectured nuclear reaction is some pathway from 62Ni + p -> 63Cu.  No big radiation produced, though of course the demo doesn't really allow proper measurements.   Don't even bother reading the would-be theoretical "explanation" - it's ridiculously bad physics, and completely beside the point.  What's really of interest is the experimental question.

As always in these cases, there are HUGE problems with all of this.  The would-be paper is "published" in an online journal run by one of the claimants.  The claimants won't let independent people examine the apparatus.  They also don't do the completely obvious demonstration - setting up a version that runs in closed cycle (that is, take some of that 12 kW worth of steam flow, and generate the 400 W of electrical power needed to keep the apparatus running, and just let the system run continuously).  If the process really is nuclear in origin, and the hydrogen accounting is correct, it should be possible to run such a system continuously for months or longer.  The claimants say that they've been using a 10 kW version of such a unit to heat a factory in Italy for the past year, but they conveniently don't show that to anyone.

The burden of proof is on these people - if they've really done this, the world will beat a path to their door, and that would be great.  I'm not buying my nickel futures yet, however.  Once again there will be people out there who claim that evil scientists are suppressing these unorthodox geniuses; this is such a ridiculous mischaracterization of science that it still ticks me off every time I read it.  Of course I wish this were a genuine discovery - it would be world-changing and reveal enormous new physics.  However, so far no version of this kind of low energy nuclear reaction business has passed the bar of reasonable reproducibility in controlled circumstances.  (See here for a past discussion concerning the palladium variety and its reproducibility.   Read the comments there before posting angrily below that I don't understand the situation, or that I haven't looked at this, or that I'm otherwise hugely ignorant on the subject.)  That's not the establishment being oppressive, it's the way good science works.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  The self-sustaining demo I described above with independent verification and measurements would go a long way.  I'm not holding my breath.

41 comments:

Jed Rothwell said...

I have a collection of 1,200 peer-reviewed journal papers on cold fusion copied from the library at Los Alamos. I suggest your review this literature before commenting on this research. See:

http://lenr-canr.org/

Prof. Levi et al., the experts who conducted the test of Rossi device, will upload a paper on Monday. I suggest you read it before judging this work. You will see that they have, in fact, run this system without input electric power. Many other cold fusion cells have been run without input, sometimes for weeks.

You can read some of Levi's preliminary comments and about the calorimetry of this experiment here:

http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm

Doug Natelson said...

Jed,we've talked about this area before. I also know that they claim to have run the device with no input power. Why they didn't actually show that, when it would be much more convincing? Who knows. I do know that the burden of proof is on them. Show me evidence rather than hearsay, and I'll be more predisposed to take this seriously as an experimental matter. I will read the paper.

Viridian Energy said...

A cold fusion that will produces an excess heat?

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "I also know that they claim to have run the device with no input power. Why they didn't actually show that, when it would be much more convincing? Who knows."

Anyone familiar with cold fusion knows. Running this type of cell without input heat to modulate the reaction is dangerous. It makes it difficult to quench the reaction. See the upcoming paper by Levi et al.

In one case, they had to use nitrogen and lots of cooling water to quench a heat-after-death reaction (a reaction with no input).


"I do know that the burden of proof is on them. Show me evidence rather than hearsay . . ."

This is not hearsay. The professors at the university who did the test uploaded a video showing the test and the audience Q&A.

Audience members include several top people from the ENEA (the Italian DoE). The professors are well known experts in calorimetry and related fields. They include the retired president of the Italian Chem. Soc. They also gave me instrument data, and descriptions on the phone and by e-mail, which I uploaded to http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm

Thermocouple readings are not "hearsay." This is not a rumor.

Regarding this burden of proof . . . take a look at the photos of the test. You will see that the reservoir is sitting on a weight scale, which ensures that the flow rate really was 0.3 kg/min. You will see that the thermocouples are installed in the reservoir, air and exit pipe, along with the RH meter. In short, you can visually confirm every claim made by Levi et al. You will also see that the only power wire going to the cell could not possibly conduct 12 kW -- it would burn up -- there are no other wires. You will see device is roughly 4 times too small to hold enough chemical fuel (gasoline, for example) to produce this much energy. So, unless you dispute the heat of vaporization of water, or you think the laws of thermodynamics have been repealed, I would say the burden of proof is on YOU, to show how this could possibly be a mistake. Experiments of this nature have been done since the 1770s. Do you seriously think the technique does not work?

Some people have suggested there is a "hidden trick" that the professors overlooked during the two months they worked with the machine. That hypothesis cannot be tested or falsified, so it is not scientific. It applies equally well to all other experiments. And it is preposterous.

Doug Natelson said...

Well, Jed, I'll happily eat crow if these guys start selling these. You say the burden of proof is on me to say how stuff reported in an internet-broadcast video could be a mistake. That's not how science works. Bednorz and Muller actually explained to people how to make a high temperature superconductor, and other labs did so in short order, leading to a Nobel prize within a year. Science proceeds by the free and open flow of information, and truly independent verification. Convincing skeptics is part of the job description.

DanM said...

People cannot possibly be so insanely naive to believe that the whole world should simply take it on faith that this works, despite the fact that (a) it flies in the face of a huge and years-old body of understanding, and (b) there have quite obviously been many attempts, including some recent ones along these very lines, to defraud the scientific community and the broader public. Just the fraudulent history alone should be a HUGE warning flag. Does this mean I will never believe in such phenomena? Of course not. But it sure does believe that the bar for proof is WAY high.

Until there is an acceptable level of independent confirmation, I'm more likely to believe that these guys have a hidden battery inside the device than that they've discovered new physics. Why am I such a skeptic? If you can't see why, I can only assume willful blindness. The stakes are so high that the bar for proof HAS to be high. Internet videos just don't do it for me. Publication, even in a respectable journal, also isn't enough, but it's a start. Reproducibility in six different physics laboratories around the world would be pretty darn good evidence. Until there is some reasonable corroboration from independent researchers (hopefully, who don't have a financial stake in the outcome), I will assume it's bullshit.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "You say the burden of proof is on me to say how stuff reported in an internet-broadcast video could be a mistake. . . ."

It is not only an internet broadcast. It is data and photos provided to me by the researchers, a series of peer-reviewed journal papers published by them starting in 1994, and supporting evidence that cold fusion is real in ~1000 other peer-reviewed journal papers. The literature describes experiments performed thousands of times in hundreds of laboratories.

You are using the "dice and slice" technique to deny reality. You look at one piece of evidence at a time, a video, or a single paper in isolation, and you pretend that the rest of the evidence does not exist. You should look at the totality of the evidence. I have uploaded ~1000 papers. You should read a few dozen of the good ones, and look for errors in them. You will not find any errors. In 22 years, no skeptic has ever published a paper showing a calorimetric error in any major cold fusion experiment.

DanM seems to be suggesting that group of distinguished professors at U. Bologna and officials from the Italian nuclear agencies are engaged in fraud. That is extremely unlikely. It would be out of character.

Lewis Larsen said...

Mr. Rothwell has been a well-known Internet promoter of D-D “cold fusion” for many years. Consistent with that behavior, he and other like-minded zealots have recently been ballyhooing the non-peer-reviewed published work of Rossi-Focardi and recent experiments conducted in Bologna, Italy, as being strong evidence for some variant of a “cold fusion” process overcoming high Coulomb barriers in such systems. In that regard, Rossi et al. claim to demonstrate the creation of inexplicably large amounts of “excess heat” in a nickel-hydrogen gas-phase experimental system using a combination of input heat and nanoparticles comprising a “secret catalyst.”

As a 10-year participant in the field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs), I myself have no opinion whatsoever on the scientific validity of the recent Rossi-Focardi work. In my view, not enough detailed, independently verified technical information has been released by Rossi et al. to determine whether their bold, albeit sketchily supported recent claims of “excess heat” and nuclear transmutations are in fact true or false; reality or fantasy; factually reported or grossly exaggerated; important step toward eventual commercialization or merely a plausible scam. However, the simple passage of time and greater public availability of vastly more detailed information about their purported technical “advances” and verifiable examples of working devices will ultimately tell the truth about their recent claims, one way or another.

Notwithstanding Rossi et al., I believe that LENRs themselves are real physical phenomena. Importantly, it appears that nanoscale phenomena on surfaces are vitally important to LENRs in condensed matter systems. Moreover, we have developed a body of rigorous theoretical work involving existing physics which successfully explains such phenomena that has been published in well-respected, mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journals. According to our work, LENRs do not involve appreciable amounts of nuclear fusion --- hot, “cold,” warm or otherwise. In particular, a 5-page, highly technical description of the physics 'bedrock' of our theoretical work was published in:

"Ultra low momentum neutron catalyzed nuclear reactions on metallic hydride surfaces"
A. Widom and L. Larsen
European Physical Journal C - Particles and Fields 46 pp. 107 – 112 (2006)
Source URL = http://www.newenergytimes.com/v2/library/2006/2006Widom-UltraLowMomentumNeutronCatalyzed.pdf

More recently, a 21-page Primer paper, which provides a high-level overview of the entire expanse of the Widom-Larsen theory of LENRs from the microcosm (very high local E-fields on nm-to-micron length-scales on condensed matter surfaces) to the macrocosm (dusty plasmas and magnetic-regime astrophysical phenomena on large length-scales), recently published in an Indian Academy of Science journal as follows (much less mathematically intensive than EPJC in 2006):

“A primer for electroweak induced low-energy nuclear reactions”
Y. N. Srivastava, A. Widom, and L. Larsen
Pramana – Journal of Physics 75 pp. 617 – 637 (2010)
Source URL = http://www.ias.ac.in/pramana/v75/p617/fulltext.pdf

Lewis Larsen
President and CEO
Lattice Energy LLC
Chicago, IL USA

Lewis Larsen said...

The importance of nanotechnology and plasmonics to condensed matter LENRs is explained in some detail in Slides # 7 – 43 found in the following Lattice technical public PowerPoint presentation on SlideShare.net:

“Lattice Energy LLC - Could LENRs be involved in some Li-ion battery fires? LENRs in advanced batteries, July 16, 2010”– Larsen at http://www.slideshare.net/lewisglarsen/cfakepathlattice-energy-llc-len-rs-in-liion-battery-firesjuly-16-2010

Starting with the release of our first arXiv preprint in 2005, the Widom-Larsen theory of LENRs has shown, using known physics, how energetic nuclear reactions can readily take place in ordinary chemical cells. According to W-L, key aspects of LENRs involve weak interactions that can occur in a variety of different laboratory and natural environments under relatively ‘mild’ physical conditions. Our theory posits that in condensed matter systems, many-body collective electroweak and electromagnetic effects allow the otherwise disparate chemical and nuclear energy realms to interconnect with each other in special, nano-scale regions on surfaces in which there is a breakdown of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation.

In various types of guises, LENR-related phenomena have been episodically reported in mainstream scientific literature for over 100 years. In the past, most such discoveries were either written-off as experimental error or simply inexplicable anomalous phenomena --- scientific curiosities with no sensible theoretical explanation. Unlike strong interaction fission and fusion, even substantial fluxes of LENRs in condensed matter do not typically produce large amounts of dangerous ‘hard’ photon or neutron radiation, or long-lived radioactive isotopes, so they could easily go unnoticed or sometimes even mimic prosaic chemical isotopic ‘fractionation’ processes --- hidden in plain sight, as they say.

All of this prior 100-year history is understandable because LENR triggering mechanisms in condensed matter systems are very subtle, depending on multistep, nanoscale, many-body, collective quantum phenomena that are very difficult to reliably replicate unless one has mastery of certain key elements of nanotechnology and plasmonics that are required to do so. Indeed, the requisite technical knowledge and related fabrication techniques in nanotech that are crucial to conducting truly productive interdisciplinary R&D programs in LENRs have only become available within the past several years --- they simply didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Today, they finally do.

Lewis Larsen
President and CEO
Lattice Energy LLC
Chicago, IL USA

Lewis Larsen said...

Mr. Rothwell has been a well-known Internet promoter of D-D “cold fusion” for many years. Consistent with that behavior, he and other like-minded zealots have recently been ballyhooing the non-peer-reviewed published work of Rossi-Focardi and recent experiments conducted in Bologna, Italy, as being strong evidence for some variant of a “cold fusion” process overcoming high Coulomb barriers in such systems. In that regard, Rossi et al. claim to demonstrate the creation of inexplicably large amounts of “excess heat” in a nickel-hydrogen gas-phase experimental system using a combination of input heat and nanoparticles comprising a “secret catalyst.”

As a 10-year participant in the field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs), I myself have no opinion whatsoever on the scientific validity of the recent Rossi-Focardi work. In my view, not enough detailed, independently verified technical information has been released by Rossi et al. to determine whether their bold, albeit sketchily supported recent claims of “excess heat” and nuclear transmutations are in fact true or false; reality or fantasy; factually reported or grossly exaggerated; important step toward eventual commercialization or merely a plausible scam. However, the simple passage of time and greater public availability of vastly more detailed information about their purported technical “advances” and verifiable examples of working devices will ultimately tell the truth about their recent claims, one way or another.

Notwithstanding Rossi et al., I believe that LENRs themselves are real physical phenomena. Importantly, it appears that nanoscale phenomena on surfaces are vitally important to LENRs in condensed matter systems. Moreover, we have developed a body of rigorous theoretical work involving existing physics which successfully explains such phenomena that has been published in well-respected, mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journals. According to our work, LENRs do not involve appreciable amounts of nuclear fusion --- hot, “cold,” warm or otherwise. In particular, a 5-page, highly technical description of the physics 'bedrock' of our theoretical work was published in:

"Ultra low momentum neutron catalyzed nuclear reactions on metallic hydride surfaces"
A. Widom and L. Larsen
European Physical Journal C - Particles and Fields 46 pp. 107 – 112 (2006)
Source URL = http://www.newenergytimes.com/v2/library/2006/2006Widom-UltraLowMomentumNeutronCatalyzed.pdf

More recently, a 21-page Primer paper, which provides a high-level overview of the entire expanse of the Widom-Larsen theory of LENRs from the microcosm (very high local E-fields on nm-to-micron length-scales on condensed matter surfaces) to the macrocosm (dusty plasmas and magnetic-regime astrophysical phenomena on large length-scales), recently published in an Indian Academy of Science journal as follows (much less mathematically intensive than EPJC in 2006):

“A primer for electroweak induced low-energy nuclear reactions”
Y. N. Srivastava, A. Widom, and L. Larsen
Pramana – Journal of Physics 75 pp. 617 – 637 (2010)
Source URL = http://www.ias.ac.in/pramana/v75/p617/fulltext.pdf

Lewis Larsen
President and CEO
Lattice Energy LLC
Chicago, IL USA

Carl Brannen said...

Knowing nothing more than what I've read here, I doubt that the result is true. That said, at least they're claiming to be using the device to heat a factory.

The usual problem with experiments like this is that the researchers fooled themselves. When you're claiming to provide heat to a factory you've passed into the realm of being either a success or a complete liar.

And if I found something like this I wouldn't go to great lengths to show everybody how to do it. There are patent issues. And sufficiently large amounts of money trumps the usual requirements of scientific disclosure. Among others, the biotech people do it all the time.

rob said...

I will believe it when I get my Mr. Fusion installed in my DeLorean.

Until then, a video on the internet just isn't that convincing to me. Unless it is a video with a cat in it.

Heumpje said...

DanM seems to be suggesting that group of distinguished professors at U. Bologna and officials from the Italian nuclear agencies are engaged in fraud. That is extremely unlikely. It would be out of character.

They are from italy....Duh! Have you ever heard from a certain Mr. berlusconi?

more seriously: whenever I see the long swats of text blurped by people defending some fabulous new science I simply stop reading. A truly decent demonstration doesn't need more then two lines to comprehend.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "A truly decent demonstration doesn't need more then two lines to comprehend."

Here:

1. Input is 400 W. In the first test it was turned off for 15 minutes and reaction continued.

2. The device vaporizes 18 kg of water per hour.

Do the math yourself. 400 W would heat the water to 35 deg C.

You cannot ask for a more definitive test. It could not be any simpler, or easier to understand.

The Levi paper describing heat after death in the first run is now uploaded.

Doug Natelson said...

I've looked over the Levi report on the demo, and not to put a damper on Jed, but several things sound odd or amateurish. There was no attempt to measure the steam flow rate out of the apparatus, just a water flow rate into the apparatus *initially*. Without measuring the water flow rate *during* the actual experiment, and the steam flow rate out of the apparatus, the output power estimates are just guesses. It's not at all hard to have a situation where the boiling of the water leads to a back-pressure that slows the water flow below the level that one would get in the absence of heating. It would seem to be trivial to just increase the water flow rate so that the output is warmed water rather than steam, and measure power that way. Why this was not done is not clear. There were only two runs, and they were quite different because of a reported failure of the heating resistor. Come on - this is a demo - surely you can make something that runs the same way twice in a row. The temperature data in the second run were "lost". Again, come on, this is ridiculous in something that is supposed to be a convincing test, and would be considered poor practice in an undergrad lab. I won't even discuss the silliness about not letting anyone examine the apparatus itself (if the magic is really in the proprietary Ni + wonder catalyst, then what's the harm in showing the rest of the apparatus? It should just look like a pressure vessel and a heat exchanger, right?).

In short, this looks sloppy and amateurish, and the main conclusion about output power is based on parameters (water and steam flow rates) that are not actually measured *during* the experiment. This is not me being some kind of anti-cold-fusion zealot; it's me expecting reasonable experimental protocol. If this turns out to be real, I'll celebrate with the rest of the world, but I'm not planning the party just yet.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "There was no attempt to measure the steam flow rate out of the apparatus, just a water flow rate into the apparatus *initially*. Without measuring the water flow rate *during* the actual experiment . . ."

That is incorrect.

The water flow rate is measured during the experiment. The reservoir is placed on a weight scale, and the weight is periodically recorded.

See the photo here:

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJbrieftechn.pdf

The reservoir is the large white plastic translucent container . . . I guess you would call it a Jerry Can. The weight scale is high precision.

This method is easier and more reliable than using a flowmeter. Most top-notch, super-expensive flow calorimetry at places such as SRI use a weigh scale and siphon instead of a flow meter, or in addition to a flowmeter. I have had a lot of experience with flowmeters. They are ornery, like computer printers.

Doug Natelson said...

Jed, your statement is inconsistent with what Levi's report says: "Before igniting the reactor the water flux was set and measured by collecting, and
then weighting, an amount of water in a container in a given time." Levi says nothing about continuing to monitor water flow during the experiment, and he's the guy that was there and supposed to be reporting the conditions of the test.

Jed Rothwell said...

"Before igniting the reactor the water flux was set and measured by collecting, and then weighting, an amount of water in a container in a given time."

That does not mean they stopped weighing it! Or that they did not record the final value. They had to keep an eye on the water level because in some of the tests and calibrations the reservoir ran out and had to be replenished.

Why would they leave the reservoir on the scale the whole time if not to keep track of the mass? That makes no sense.

(By the way, "In a given time" means "over a fixed duration" -- 30 seconds in this case. I asked about that. Their English is a little hard to follow at times.)

You can tell when water is leaving the reservoir at a liter every 3 minutes. In the first phase of the experiment before the water comes to a boil, you can see the hot water flowing out of the hose. Once it started boiling they had to put the hose outside the window or the room would have been "a sauna" as one of them put it.

Look, these are scientists in the 60s and 70s. They include the former president of the Chemical Society. They have doing experiments for 50 years. They said they measured the flow with the weight scale. Any junior high kid in a chemistry class would do that. So you should stop reaching and what-iffing and supposing and imagining that they are so extraordinarily stupid they forgot to measure the flow, or they lied to me about how they did it.

There may be a weakness in this procedure, but you have not discovered it. The flow measurement is definitely right, to within a few grams a minute.

It is good to be skeptical, and to ask questions. But to assume that a 70-year-old chemist who leaves a container of water on a weight scale did not do that deliberately for a good reason, did not bother to record the value, and then lied about it to me is not skepticism. It is your imagination run wild. I suggest you are scrambling to find an excuse to avoid doing a serious analysis of this experiment.

Doug Natelson said...

Jed, claims based on authority don't work in science. Brian Josephson is a Nobel laureate who also believes in telepathy and yogic flying - his well deserved Nobel doesn't make him right about those.

You asked me to read the written evaluation made by the professionals who were there. I did that, and wrote my comments accordingly. If what they wrote does not accurately reflect what was going on there, that's a problem, and not me being desperate or cynical. I've explained my reasoning, and explained what I would consider necessary steps to be convincing. I stand by what I wrote. If you think I'm being irrationally skeptical, that's your prerogative, just as I am free to think that you're being unreasonably credulous.

It's clear we're talking past each other on this, so let's just let time tell. I will publicly apologize for my skepticism loudly if Rossi et al. ever (not just in the next three months) actually demonstrate (by which I mean sustained operation, not a brief private test with no examination of the apparatus) a 10 kW unit that performs as they have claimed here (with say 1 kW input power, tiny hydrogen consumption, no chemical explanation).

Jed Rothwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jed Rothwell said...

Oops. Typo. Meant to say:

You wrote: "claims based on authority don't work in science."

This is not a claim based on authority. That would be a logical fallacy:

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

It does not fit that category for two reasons:

1. Prof. Levi et al. really are authorities. Note that the fallacy only occurs when the person in question is not an authority, which is why this is also called "Fallacious Appeal to Authority, Misuse of Authority, Irrelevant Authority."

2. I do not rely upon their judgement. I know how to measure a flow rate as well as they do.


"I've explained my reasoning, and explained what I would consider necessary steps . . ."

You claim they did not measure the flow rate. That is not a serious analysis. Anyone who glances at the photo can see that they did. You are evading the issue and grasping at straws.

Doug Natelson said...

Jed, smart and credentialed people goof up all the time. Being elder statesmen does not mean getting a free pass on writing up work, particularly on something that clearly is an extraordinary claim.

Let's just see what happens. (and I'm done commenting on this. Go ahead and get in the last word.)

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: ". . . smart and credentialed people goof up all the time."

They do indeed! That's an important point. However, in this case we have photographic proof that these particular experts did not make a mistake measuring the flow rate. They said they weighed the water, and you can see for yourself they did.

They might have made some other mistake. I invite you to try to find it. That's a good thing to do. You have not found an error yet. A flow rate problem is ruled out. So what else do you think might be a problem?

If you cannot point to a specific error they might have made, you have no case. An assertion that they might have made some undefined error cannot be tested or falsified. It applies equally well to all experiments.

Your point is certainly well taken. I know many smart and credentialed people who goofed up in cold fusion. I have read dozens of papers by such people. Here is a classic example:

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/Fleischmanreplytothe.pdf

As you see on p. 17, the first author made a gigantic error in elementary chemistry. He thought an effect produces 1.1 MJ when it can produce at most 650 J, "a discrepancy of a factor of ~1700."

CarlBrannen said...

"Once it started boiling they had to put the hose outside the window or the room would have been "a sauna" as one of them put it."

I'm glad to see this. From my experience with equipment, I was wondering how they were getting rid of 20KW. You need huge heat sinks for this.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "I'm glad to see this. From my experience with equipment, I was wondering how they were getting rid of 20KW. You need huge heat sinks for this."

Yup. Another method is to get ~100 gallons of water in steel drum (or some other vertical container) and sparge the steam through it. That is, you put the end of the hose at the bottom of the drum.

In a factory in Georgia where they make 100 kW process steam generators for carpet factories, I saw them testing the devices by this method. The beauty of it is, it captures much of the enthalpy, and heats up the water. You know the starting mass of water and temperature, so you can estimate how much heat is released. It is best to stop the test when the water reaches ~40 deg C because a steel drum full of hot water is mighty dangerous. Also because you start to get serious losses from the sides of the drum. The hard part is getting rid of the water. They dumped it out into the parking lot with a fork lift.

You have to use a vertical column of water. This also muffles most of noise. The noise from 100 kW of steam in air is terrific.

I am trying to persuade Levi et al. to try this. Their original plan was to discontinue the testing but now they say they will do more tests, which is good. I will meet with some of them next week, in India.

Meanwhile, Rossi's people in the U.S. are fabricating 125 of these devices and assembling them into a 1 MW (thermal) heater for a customer in Italy. They say they will demonstrate it before shipping it to Italy.

Jed Rothwell said...

I meant serious heat losses by radiation from the drum. If the water starts to pour out you are in big trouble!

12 kW and 100 kW process steam generators are DANGEROUS. I spent a couple weeks in that factory, and I wouldn't go near one. A large water heater for a house is 50-gallon and 40000 BTU/hour which is about 12 kW.

In addition to the sparge test, they had a gigantic flow calorimeter designed by the Dean of Mech. Engineering at Georgia Tech. Very impressive.

rob said...

i'm still waiting for an explanation of how the LENR works. just how do you coax the nuclei of Ni and H together close enough to fuse?

press releases, still pics/videos on the internet and blog posts on their own blog are not very convincing right now.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "i'm still waiting for an explanation of how the LENR works. just how do you coax the nuclei of Ni and H together close enough to fuse?"

I haven't the slightest idea. You would have to ask a theoretician. Ask three of them and you will get five different answers.

I don't see why it matters how it works. No one had the slightest idea how the sun works before 1939, but no one doubted that it works. As long as you can measure, say, 300 MJ from a 1 g sample of metal, without no chemical changes and commensurate helium, it has to be nuclear fusion.


". . . press releases, still pics/videos on the internet and blog posts on their own blog are not very convincing right now."

Okay, how about this?

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/McKubreMCHisothermala.pdf

Granted, it is Pd instead of Ni, but I think it is convincing. If you find any errors, let me know. My phone number, e-mail and mailing address is on the front page at LENR-CANR.org.

Anonymous said...

Hello Doug,

could it be that those guys just built a Ni-hydrogen battery like the one that was used for 19 years on the Hubble telescope?

http://www.nickelinstitute.org/index.cfm/ci_id/19223/la_id/1.htm

Nickel Hydrogen (NiH2): In May 2009, the original NiH2 batteries of the Hubble Space Telescope were changed after more than 19 years of continuous service and the highest known number of charge/discharge cycles of any nickel hydrogen battery. This type is viewed as a kind of hybrid between a traditional battery and a fuel cell as the chemical activity takes place in a pressure vessel (up to 8,300 kPa/1,200 psi). Nickel hydrogen batteries are never going to be common, and yet in cases where high energy density, utmost reliability, and long service
are required, they will find a use. Every major space probe and long-lived space enterprise (such as the International Space Station) relies on nickel hydrogen batteries that have nickel(II) hydroxide at their core.

Cheers.

Doug Natelson said...

Hi, anon. - You might well wonder why, if there is nuclear chemistry at work in the Ni/H system, none of the people who developed nickel metal hydride batteries ever noticed it....

Anonymous said...

Dear Doug,

I strongly believe in Occam's razor, which tells us that the simplest explanation is mostly right.

If there is an electrochemical explanation, then I will buy it. Low-energy nuclear processes are probably not necessary to explain what is going on.

Fleischmann and Pons were also electrochemists, Fleischmann was even the editor of J Electrochem, so their experiments were also coming from this direction.

Let's assume for a second that the Italian evidence is not pure hoax, then maybe there is some hydrogen chemical effect. However, this would imply that they cannot get this thing running for a long time and get permanently more energy out than they put in by tapping a "hidden" energy source such as nuclear processes.

Regards,

...

(Admirer of your Raman and break junction exeriments - those are very thorough and clean ones :-)

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: If there is an electrochemical explanation, then I will buy it. Low-energy nuclear processes are probably not necessary to explain what is going on."

They are necessary because the reaction produces 10,000 times more energy than any chemical reaction can produce with the mass of reactants in a cell, no measurable chemical changes, no chemical ash, and helium commensurate with the heat. It also produces tritium, which can only be the product of a nuclear reaction.


"Fleischmann and Pons were also electrochemists, Fleischmann was even the editor of J Electrochem . . ."

Also an FRS and president of the Electrochem. Soc. Cold fusion has been replicated by roughly 2000 other scientists, many of them distinguished experts, such as the guy who designed the National Tritium lab at Los Alamos and the PPPL tritium lab. It is very unlikely all of these people are making a mistake.

Zach said...

@Jed:

Great! When can I buy one?

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "Great! When can I buy one?"

Soon, if Rossi and the people testing his device have not made a mistake.

Rossi says he is building a 1 MW (thermal) reactor with ~120 small units ganged together. It is for a factory in Italy and it should be ready in a few months. They will demonstrate it in the U.S. before they ship it. They hope to begin mass production by the end of the year.

I know that he has the funding to do this.

You can't actually buy one unless you happen to need a great deal of heat and you have lots of money. He intends to produce large units only for a while, to be used by experts. Not for use at home. I think the 1 MW unit is for process steam. Although I have no idea who needs that much steam! Steam for electric power generators is much hotter, high pressure, and more demanding to engineer.

I know several other people making itty-bitty reactors with Pd nanomateraial manufactured by various companies, universities and national labs in the U.S., Japan and Italy. They charge hundreds of dollars per gram for the material, which is hand-made. If you have a fully-equipped lab and experience with hydrides and calorimetry, I can get you some. (Seriously)

U. Missouri has a joint research project underway with Energetics Tech., using material from the Italian Nat. Nuclear Physics Lab., but I don't think they are handing out sample material. You have to be a national lab or full-fledged university to join that project, and I'll bet you have to pay a lot of dough up front.

rob said...

I would still like to know just how they overcome the coulomb barrier. even at the center of the sun, the energies are not sufficient. fusion has to proceed via tunneling.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "I would still like to know just how they overcome the coulomb barrier. . . ."

Many people would like to know that. Read the theory papers.

I do not know enough about theory to judge, but several distinguished theoreticians, include three with Nobel laureates in physics, told me they think present-day theory can explain this. They do not think cold fusion casts doubt on present-day theory.

(These are elderly, traditional scientists, so they say that if there is conflict between replicated experiments and theory, the theory must be wrong. Younger scientists -- plus John Huizenga and Piel, the late editor of Sci. Am. -- tell me that theory is right by definition and any conflict proves the experiment is wrong. See Huizenga's book.)

Jed Rothwell said...

On his blog, Rossi repeated what he told me: ". . . the water came from a weighted reservoir, so that the total amount of water passed through the reactor has been weighted by means of a scale you should see in the video, on the floor, beside the the high H2 tank (not the low one connected with the reactor)."

Regarding the cost of the Pd-Zr material, it is expensive because it is hand-made in very small quantities. If it were manufactured industrially the cost would be far lower. I think it is usually 3% to 5% Pd. You need roughly as much Pd per watt of output as the amount of Pd used in an automobile catalytic converter compared to the output of an automobile engine. That works out to be a few hundred bucks per ~20 kW, I think.

It is unclear whether there would be enough Pd in the world to generate all of the energy we need. Probably not. Anyway, it seems Ni works just as well, if Rossi is correct. Rossi's co-workers and a few others have published reports of excess heat from Ni since 1994, but they have not been widely replicated, unlike Pd.

Joe said...

We need to be very clear about this new claim. This is a very strong claim: "The claimants say that they've been using a 10 kW version of such a unit to heat a factory in Italy for the past year", etc. The author here is free to conclude that this is outright fraud if he wishes, but I don't think anyone can say at this point that this is simply overexcitement, or error, or sloppiness or self-deception on the part of these scientists. (Which might cover previous cold fusion claims.) This is not one more claim of maybe, probably, some extra heat; maybe reproducible, and maybe not.

Also, obviously one can't conclude in the case of an extremely commercial discovery (as this would be if true) that not openly publishing it as a purely scientific discovery indicates fraud or dissembling. The marketplace has different rules, including a hell of a lot of discretion. To resent the secrecy or draw scientific conclusions just from that is to confuse apples with oranges. There is no burden of proof before the point of sale. Xerox(Halide) didn't publish their copying process during the years of initial development, and they were in fact briefly investigated for fraud by the Feds for their outlandish claim to be able to copy onto untreated paper. That's business for you. (Xerox copied the Fed's letter of accusation on a lunch bag and sent it back, ending the investigation.) If this Italian claim is real, there is no "burden of proof" until after there are units for sale. Intel was largely founded on a discovery that allowed them to create memory chips with a far lower failure rate. They kept that as a trade secret for years since just examining the chips didn't reveal the secret. That may be bad science on the part of Intel, but it sure was excellent business.

The author may be right. It may be massive fraud. But not being either a psychic or a police officer, I'm going to be following the story with great interest because it's a terrific story either way.

Ricky said...

Big names in the energy industry should really consider alternative energy like what Ambit Energy
does.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Just stumbled on your blow from a Google search. Although I'm currently in college (in the US) for the IT industry. I am very fascinated by this research. Just to think about the applications a small portable fusion reactor could have is staggering. I live by the Great Lakes in Michigan. Just thinking about filling up a reservoir with water to heat a home would change my entire region. There are more and more people adopting geothermal heat exchangers as a way of obtaining relatively low cost winter heat, but with the price of electricity going up every year who knows how long that will be viable. Also i would love to fill my car with water, start the reaction and have heat and locomotion in short order.
All this talk as got my hairs standing up! I think i like one of these small reaction vessels just to take apart. LOL

Thanks for the post, and the discussion.

-Neil

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