Alison K. Lanier
Cold fusion has been a dream of scientists and Trekkies for decades. The fusion of hydrogen atoms that is created in the sun is the dream source of renewable energy for scientists, but of course the natural conditions provided by the sun’s environment for fusion to occur is impossible to recreate on the earth’s surface because of its heat and mass necessary.
This is the portable cold fusion unit. Hydrogen flows into the unit when the valves are turned, according to E-CAT.
However, an Italian energy company called Energy Catalyzer, truncated to E-CAT, is claiming to be able to do just that. As soon as next year, the company is promising to deliver a cold fusion plant, its E-CAT 1MW portable cold fusion plant.
Rumor and Speculation
“The device is said to work,” reported Forbes, “by heating hydrogen to an ‘ignition temperature’ using an external heat source, after which a catalyst, which has yet to be explained, causes the hydrogen atoms to ‘penetrate’ the nickel and transform it into copper, producing energy in the process—essentially a nuclear fusion reaction—that is self-sustaining.”
However, this long-awaited announcement has been met by the scientific community with what can be generously called disbelief. Cold fusion is itself theoretical, and Andrea Rossi, the company’s founder, had never previously been peer reviewed and no one at E-CAT, including Rossi, has ever published on cold fusion or given an explanation for how the plant is meant to work, according to Phys.org.
The leading theory for the device’s potential functionality, reported Phys.org, describes a simple tube using an unknown nano-sized, nickel-type catalyst. After adding hydrogen to the device, which only measures 20 centimeters long, 20 centimeters wide, and 1 centimeter high per unit, hydrogen and maybe copper are produced. Electricity would theoretically follow when the unit is hooked up to a turbine. One hundred and six of these slim units fit neatly into a shipping container, according to Phys News, and sell for a neat $1.5 million.
Promise and Potential
Rossi’s energy catalyzer would, ideally, create clean, renewable, and inexpensive power. Several scientists external to the project have tested the device, Phys reported last May, and wrote that the device produces an energy density of at least one order of magnitude higher than any other conventional energy source, including gasoline.
Forbes described the process of sorting out fact from fiction in this series of unsupported claims and rumors a “saga.” But at long last a paper by a group of scientists external to the project seems to confirm the projects’ best hopes. The paper was authored, Forbes reported, by a group of scientists who had previously been in support of Rossi’s project. Forbes described the group as academics “with reputations to lose” who have written a “detailed and thorough” paper.
The authors’ report includes results “obtained from evaluations of the operation of the E-CAT HT in two test runs. The first test experiment, lasting 96 hours from Dec. 13, 2012, to Dec. 17, 2012, was carried out by the two first authors of this paper, while the second experiment, lasting for 116 hours from March 18, 2013, to March 23, 2013, was carried out by all authors.”
They wrote that E-CAT is “a high temperature development of the original apparatus, which has also undergone many construction changes in the last two years, is the latest product manufactured by [the] Leonardo Corporation. It is a device allegedly capable of producing heat from some type of reaction. The origin of which is unknown.”
The portable cold fusion plant fits into a shipping container.
Skepticism though, according to the Forbes’s report, remains. The author even implies that this is the continuation of an elaborate hoax. From hesitation about the authors’ nature as a truly third-party group—apparently laid to rest—and the suspicion of one Forbes commenter that one of the scientist’s titles meant “veterinarian,” suspicions abound.
However, the implications for a success story with Rossi and E-CAT could lead to a change in the way, not to mention the cost and ease, of how the world produces and consumes energy. According to the phrasing of Forbes’ dubious, but hopeful report, the magnitude of the test results portray “a process with insanely valuable output.”
With the third-party validation evidently in hand, websites like Forbes and ECATreport.com are following the progress of Rossi’s promise with collective baited breath. The scientific community will have to wait for time to tell if the technology will be as revolutionary as its potential implies.
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