The Promise of Controlled Nuclear Fusion Part VII

At the end of part Part VI, we were waiting to see the report by independent investigators into Andrea Rossi’s eCat. The report duly arrived and may be downloaded here.

It concludes by saying:

Given the deliberately conservative choices made in performing the measurement, we can reasonably state that the E-Cat HT is a non-conventional source of energy which lies between conventional chemical sources of energy and nuclear ones.

This is as positive as Rossi could have hoped but, not surprisingly, stimulated fresh discussion. So, while there is even less doubt about anomalous heat, my original hope of 2013 being the key year for Rossi’s eCat is again frustrated. That said, the eCat and the many related issues and news continue to be covered by Frank Acland on his eCat World site.

While the above site is probably still the most visited one by Cold Fusion/LENR followers, it is time to look at not just a competing site but one with definite views of of what LENR is and is not. Here I’m referring to the New Energy Times site run by Steven Krivit. It mostly seeks to explain, popularise and follow the progress of the Widom – Larsen Theory, which we first looked at in Part III. As Krivit puts it:

Their theory claims these anomalies are due not to a fusion reaction, which would involve the strong force, but to other low energy nuclear reactions that involve weak interactions, namely neutron formation from electrons and protons/deuterons, followed by local neutron absorption and subsequent beta-decay processes.

So the key to escaping the “mental trap” of using the term “cold fusion” in this context, is to realise that, if low energy neutrons can be systematically generated, everything else falls easily into place. As we noted in Part III, neutrons, being charge-less, have no Coulomb barrier to overcome and can thus react with almost any nucleus they collide with. In the case of Hydrogen, although the sequence is not simple, the end result is that Helium is produced. Since a Helium nucleus (two protons and two neutrons) is lighter than four Hydrogen ones (i.e. Protons), there is, by Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2, a net release of energy.

So Krivit would, no doubt, object to my own use of term “Controlled Nuclear Fusion” as including Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR). In his own article  LENR is not Cold Fusion he concludes that “although the set of phenomena is indeed nuclear, it has little or nothing to do with fusion”. I am increasingly inclined to concur but will persist with my series title for the sake of continuity.

Looking at the details of neutron physics, I should point out that the very low energy of the neutrons is a positive factor. To see why, we need to remind ourselves of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, namely that the product of the uncertainty of momentum of a particle and the uncertainty of its location in space is a constant. Simply put, if one term is small, the other must be large.

The lower the energy of the neutrons, the lower their momentum which, in turn, means less uncertainty in that momentum and therefore, by Heisenberg, the higher the uncertainties or “spreads” in their positions. Or the larger their “effective sizes” – or “Cross Sections” as physicists prefer. That in, turn means that said neutrons will readily bump into, combine or react with whatever nucleus they find around them. So they don’t “live” long after being created but instead set off a chain of reactions. We are lucky in that these reactions take place in “Condensed Matter” as it is called – “solid matter” to you and me. Most of the harmful reaction by-products, such as gamma rays, are blocked by the immediate presence of the nickel or other heavy material that is part of the setup.

But, in a broader context, if low energy neutrons can be produced much more readily than has been assumed until recently, we need not confine ourselves to detecting the net heat that some of those reactions generate but can also look, instead, at the transmutations that result. Some of the longer lived elements and isotopes can, in principle, be detected by standard radio-chemistry. The problems then centre around the fact that, in a typical experiment over a finite time, these reaction by-products will be present in very tiny amounts, often only comparable with background or trace impurities. Even so, there is mounting peer-reviewed evidence of this “Low Energy Nuclear Transmutation” as leading researcher Yogendra Srivastava described it in his 2012 invited lecture at CERN.

Another source of a great deal of optimism for the future of the whole LENR field is the recently established Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project which, crucially, is attracting younger researchers and we may look into that further next year.

All of which indicates that the theory and research side of LENR/LENT is going well but what are the prospects for the leading contenders in the race to a commercial energy-generating device as my second “pivotal” year for LENR draws to an admittedly inconclusive close? Rossi appears now to be part of a larger company that is still working towards a commercial eCat but that is also constantly extending its deadlines. Defkalion announced that, in early 2014, they will start the pre-industrial Hyperion product in their labs in Vancouver and Athens, which certainly sounds positive. Brillouin have been rather quiet of late but, armed with their patent in China and their well thought out commercial plans, I believe they are still very much in contention.

So a pivotal year may again be likely but, given that my predictions of pivotal years for LENR have fallen short twice running, I think it may be wiser for me to simply say that 2014 will see steady progress in all aspects of LENR. In any event, have a happy new year and we’ll soon see what develops!

P W Power

29-Dec-2013

 

 

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