The Promise of Controlled Nuclear Fusion Part 18

A few notes before I present the latest report: I’m reverting to Hindu-Arabic numerals to escape the rather too formal air that Roman numerals imply. I can also report that, as of today, Think Tank Report has exactly 6447 subscribers, although most still seem to be shy about commenting. And, yes, I do intend to comment on more than just controlled nuclear fusion in future but the topic, with its potential world-changing technology, is like that book that is very hard to put down. Okay …

Since my last report, developments on the E-Cat front have become even more interesting and complicated, to say the least! Andrea Rossi’s year-long, supervised test of the 1MW E-Cat duly came to an end and the independent third party validation tester, Fabio Penon, submitted his report to the two interested parties – Rossi/Leonardo Corp and Industrial Heat (IH)/Tom Darden. That report has not yet been made public but Rossi announced that it was very positive. However, the deadline for IH’s payment of the 89.5 million dollars balance to Rossi came and went.

On April 5th, Rossi filed a lawsuit against Industrial Heat and issued a public statement about it. Many blog articles about it soon followed, including from E-Cat World, Infinite Energy and Lenr and Cold Fusion News. Industrial Heat have, for now, only made a brief public statement including that Rossi’s claims are “without merit” and that “Industrial Heat has worked for over three years to substantiate the results claimed by Mr. Rossi from the E-Cat technology – all without success”. IH have about a month to add to that statement, pre-trial, should they wish.

So, meanwhile, we only have Rossi’s side of the story to go on. His full, detailed submission is well worth downloading and reading. Included in it is the assertion that Rossi was only ever offering to Industrial Heat and its associates a license to sell e-Cats in North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean, Russia, China and the Arab Emirates. So, in his version, he wasn’t offering to sell the IP outright and, in any event, only the above countries would have been included in the licensing agreement. That obviously leaves the UK, Europe, Japan, India, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and many more countries that, on the face of it, Rossi is still free to sell to – and he has already indicated that he intends to do so.

There has been much speculation as to how it could be that Industrial Heat “has worked for over three years to substantiate the results claimed by Mr. Rossi from the E-Cat technology – all without success”. Would that be because the E-Cat itself has never really worked or, perhaps, that it did but not consistently or at a significant ratio of output heat to input heat? That number, the Coefficient of Performance (COP), should obviously be over 1 from an academic point of view but well over 5 from the practical economic standpoint of being able to outperform a typical Heat Pump (COPs of up to 3) and go on to generate electricity by producing steam for electric turbines. Rossi has informally claimed COPs of up to 50 during his year long test run. Industrial Heat might alternatively argue that Rossi has still not divulged enough detail to enable them to build and sell E-Cats that match his test one – even if they always were happy to pay for the licensing fee. Then again, they might have noted with dismay that, during the year-long test, Rossi claimed to have developed a very improved device, the E-Cat QuarkX, as he calls it, which, if it comes to pass, could render all existing E-Cat models obsolete and so not worth marketing to any country.

Speculation on the likely developments around the court case range from that it will be dragged out for years to that it will be settled on the steps of the court-house. I’d very much like to see it fully play out in court with full press coverage and as soon as possible. There, although the case is nominally about a breach of contract, I think it would soon morph into what the press might dub “The Trial of Cold Fusion” and all the “weapons-grade” skepticism around LENR in general and Rossi in particular will, at last, be aired in open court with the best legal and technical minds available on both sides hopefully shining the light of facts and logic to bear on the whole issue. After all that, a win for Rossi, if it occurs, would be very much a win for LENR, not just technically but in terms of all the wider scientific, engineering, R&D funding and political contexts.

Until then, the debate will obviously continue but a very recent development may possibly render it moot if the US government effectively decides that LENR is a far too important technology to leave in the hands of either of the parties. That might happen because the US Secretary of Defense has been directed to provide a briefing on LENR to the US House Armed Services Committee. A key paragraph says:

The committee is aware of recent positive developments in developing low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), which produce ultra- clean, low-cost renewable energy that have strong national security implications. For example, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), if LENR works it will be a ‘‘disruptive technology that could revolutionize energy production and storage.’’ The committee is also aware of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) findings that other countries including China and India are moving forward with LENR programs of their own and that Japan has actually created its own investment fund to promote such technology. DIA has also assessed that Japan and Italy are leaders in the field and that Russia, China, Israel, and India are now devoting significant resources to LENR development. To better understand the national security implications of these developments, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing on the military utility of recent U.S. industrial base LENR advancements to the House Committee on Armed Services by September 22, 2016. This briefing should examine the current state of research in the United States, how that compares to work being done internationally, and an assessment of the type of military applications where this technology could potentially be useful.

So, just in case there was any remaining doubt that LENR was “on the global radar”, there is the proof! This development was probably the result of Brillouin’s Robert Godes recently making a presentation about LENR to Congress. If the US does decide that LENR is too important to leave to a handful of private individuals and firms who seem to spend half their time scrapping over the IP, we might be about to witness a 21st Century version of the Manhattan Project or, more fittingly, a crash program like NASA’s “Moon Race”.

That, I believe, would be necessary because, despite the comparatively simple recipe for the consistent generation of practical amounts of excess heat that might eventually emerge, LENR’s full exploration and safety certification require more extensive efforts than have so far been reported on. A well funded crash program could simultaneously employ many different teams to check out the many different aspects of LENR. Half of those could broadly be assigned to the original electrolysis approach of F&P and half to the later, gas based, methods of Rossi and Godes. Within the latter, an entire team could be testing whether imposed E/M fields do, in fact, enhance the reaction and, if they do, at what frequencies and intensities – their Fourier spectra. Simultaneously, a team of theoreticians could be exploring that effect and all the other new physics and chemistry questions that LENR stimulates. Simultaneously with all that, experimental chemists could be testing whether Nickel really is the optimum transition metal or whether others like Tungsten, with its high melting point, would be more practical and, then again, whether protium (pure hydrogen) is just as effective as deuterium (or more so), as Chinese researcher Songsheng Jiang and others have recently published evidence for. Simultaneously with all that, a team of meta studiers would be re-reading and re-evaluating all the historical evidence going back to Fleischmann and Pons and even earlier. You get the idea.

The creation of such a major project as this would immediately neutralize the Reputation Trap that Prof Huw Price has recently defined and that we explored in Part 17. Top class scientists, engineers and technicians would flock to the new facilities in a kind of “build it and they will come” effect. But, I hear you say, is there yet a “Prima Facie” case for LENR? Is there really “anomalous heat”? That is one of the terms that really gets long time LENR guru, Peter Gluck, “going”. To Gluck, the ongoing, unthinking use of it, by both LENR “believers” and skeptics, is half the problem. It seems to concede at the outset that the current “laws” of Physics are basically correct and that no major new discoveries or paradigm shifts are either likely or necessary. Anomalous or not, LENR skeptics still maintain their 27 year-long background chant that there is no extra heat produced by any variation of LENR. Gluck contends that, if the extra heat is really so minor that it requires painstaking calorimetry to detect, let’s forget about it and wait till further improvements result in the extra heat being so obvious and abundant that it will constitute a simple knock-out blow for the skeptics. That reminds me of the champion boxer who was about to fight a local contender and who was asked whether he was afraid that his opponent might be awarded a “home town decision”. His retort: “If there has to be a decision, you can give it to him!”

P W Power

June 2016

 

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