As the year 2014 is about to conclude, there is yet more evidence for my prediction that it will come to be regarded as the pivotal year for LENR. The latest development is that a Russian nuclear physicist, Professor Alexander G. Parkhomov, has replicated the performance of Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat as described in the Lugano Report. The only major difference was in the way the output heat was measured. Rather than the infra-red camera method used in both the Lugarno test and in the Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project‘s own ongoing replication of it, Professor Parkhomov has used the tried and true calorimeter-based method. That should calm those critics who thought the infra-red camera measurement chain contained too many debatable links, in terms of assumptions, calculations and approximations, each of which potentially added to the uncertainty.
Whether Professor Parkhomov did all that work himself or whether he is only the visible tip of a much larger “Russian Iceberg” that may have been secretly working on LENR for years is another question. I am old enough to remember the shock that America and the world received when the original Sputnik began its taunting transmissions from full orbit. The West had to quickly re-think its impression of the USSR being a comparatively backward nation in most branches of science. So, fast forwarding to 2015, we might be about to see Russia joining China, Japan and India in the list of countries that could soon flood the world with LENR devices and thus embarrass the US-based Industrial Heat and Brillouin corporations which their host country still seems to be largely indifferent about.
It may also transpire that all this momentum in “cold fusion” – as some still describe LENR – has sent a timely wake-up call to the “hot fusion” research community and that 2014 may prove to be the pivotal year for this approach as well. Of course, the word “pivotal” can mark the point of either upward or downward progress. Laser Fusion has pivoted decidedly downwards: the National Ignition Campaign ended in 2012 after spending over $4 Billion without achieving “ignition” and the Laser Inertial Fusion Energy program was cancelled in April 2014. The Magnetic Confinement approach is still alive in the form of the existing JET facility and its under-construction bigger brother, ITER, but both these projects are far behind schedule and still have many technical hurdles to clear – if they ever do.
However, against this bleak outlook for large-scale hot fusion, there is now, as we noted last time, a new generation of medium-sized hot fusion devices under active development. Aside from the Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Project, the Polywell (which we first mentioned way back in part one of this series) has also made good progress.
In fact, adopting an even wider perspective, 2014 is likely to be regarded as the year of radical changes all across the energy spectrum. Here, the biggest “elephant in the room” is obviously the oil glut and its large price-drop. There is ongoing debate over the financial and geopolitical reasons behind this. Some bloggers are even claiming that oil prices have dropped because the world is now factoring in the full implications of LENR but that would imply that the current energy dinosaurs actually bother to look down around their feet.
If low oil prices persist, the more expensive extraction methods, including the increasingly controversial technique of Hydraulic Fracturing (“fracking”), may be wound down, at least in the short to medium term. Likewise, energy R&D involving wind and solar may suffer cut-backs. But the same could hardly be said of LENR research, which has long since learned to survive on donations and modest funding mostly from outside the main stream.
However, the point is that oil is a finite resource and current supply volumes cannot be sustained in the long term. An upward price rebound will surely come and, with it, renewed interest in clean energy. But – and this is the only question that many subscribers and investors are interested in – which particular energy source and which particular team should we be “betting on”?
I still wouldn’t like to call it. In the wider picture, there are many horses entered in this global “clean energy” derby. Among the favorites would still have to be Industrial Heat and Brillouin with LENR, Lockheed Martin and the Polywell with hot fusion and Solar Hydrogen Trends to supply hydrogen-electric vehicles. The many darker horses would have to include Blacklight Power, together with further LENR-based entries from the above mentioned “big four” countries (China, Japan, India and Russia).
In any case, I see that there are now precisely 4470 subscribers to Think Tank Report and I want to see you all again next year. So, take care over the New Year celebrations and we’ll soon see what 2015 brings to the ongoing promise of controlled nuclear fusion.
P. W. Power
Note: Think Tank Report was never intended only to be about Controlled Nuclear Fusion, even if this remains an increasingly absorbing topic! In 2015 and beyond, other issues (and thus titles) will be also be examined as and when appropriate and will be interspersed with ongoing articles in this, so far, 12 part series.
Thank you again for your readership and don’t be afraid to post comments of your own!