The following guest posting has been written by a retired intellectual property attorney with 35 years of experience: David J. French LLB, BEng, PEng.
It has been over 22 years since professors Fleischmann and Pons of the University of Utah announced they had discovered a new effect: the anomalous production of heat, obtained by driving deuterium, the heavy form of hydrogen that makes up part of “heavy water”, into the metal palladium in an electrolytic cell. They speculated that this novel generation of heat arose from a nuclear phenomenon which the press labeled as “cold fusion” but this postulated mechanism was rapidly discredited and ridiculed after their March, 1989 announcement. Cold Fusion is now the subject of a documentary film “The Believers,” currently under construction by the Chicago production house 137 Films. Believers are those who feel that this promising discovery should not have been neglected.
Criticism came principally from physicists familiar with the fusion process. Fusion was recognized as a process occurring in the high temperatures of the center of the sun. Fusion, as they knew it, always produced highly penetrating gamma rays. None of these signatures of classical fusion emanated from the demonstration electrolytic cell. Furthermore, the procedures for replicating the Fleischmann and Pons effect were uncertain and difficult to achieve. Many other laboratories trying to duplicate the results were unsuccessful. This unfortunate technical glitch, combined with the criticism from physicists who “knew” that fusion could not occur at ordinary temperatures, led many to condemn this concept to the dustbin of bad science. This criticism led to a 22 year “Ice Age” respecting initiatives to explore the phenomenon they had identified.
Believers in this field are, however, those who feel that there is really something here worth exploring. They believe in the fabulous consequences for mankind if this process were to prove real. One commentator has said that the optimum scenario would be as meaningful for mankind as the original discovery of fire.
Since 1990, researchers from around the world have consistently reported the detection of unexplained amounts of excess energy. The focus is on “excess” energy because it seems that some energy is needed to turn-on a mysterious process that puts-out even more energy than is being injected initially. This is akin to striking a match in order to light a fire.
In a colloquium held over the weekend of June 11-12, 2011 on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the sponsor, Dr. Mitchell Swartz assembled some 40 individuals for a review of recent developments in the field. Interesting additional consequences were identified, including the presence of new elements in the “ash” of the reaction. Experiments starting with palladium or pure nickel have been found to contain traces of copper, silver, zinc and iron after they have been allowed to run for some time. This is akin to the alchemist’s dream of converting lead into gold. How such a result could be occurring may be a valuable clue to the source of the reaction.
Once the mechanism producing the additional heat is finally identified, the next step will be to apply this phenomenon to the service of mankind. On January 14, 2011, Italian scientists Sergio Focardi and Andrea Rossi demonstrated the production of up to 10 kilowatts of steam by exposing nickel powder to pressurized hydrogen on a table top, initiating heat by providing an electric current. The amount of energy said to be produced would be enough to boil simultaneously several kettles of water on the kitchen stove indefinitely, or as long as the reaction continued.
The reported successes of Focardi and Rossi have aroused Believers around the world. This may be the first commercial application of the renamed phenomena of: the Low Energy Nuclear Reaction – LENR. Rossi is reported to have obtained a contract to install multiple numbers of his individual reactors in 2011-12 at a location in Greece to provide a megawatt of steam heat. This would be enough energy to heat 50 typical Canadian homes during the coldest winter months.
If Fleischmann and Pons had merely announced their identification of a process for generating excess heat, without intruding into the world of physicists who know better when it comes to matters relating to fusion, they might be basking in world renown today. Vast government and commercial resources might have been invested over the past 20 years to get to the root of this incredible discovery. Successes such as those of Andrea Rossi might already have been achieved 5, 8 or even 10 years ago and the coming dilemma presented to mankind by the arrival of Peak Oil could already have been addressed in the form of a wonderful new energy source that produces no radioactivity and consumes only such readily available substances as nickel and hydrogen.
But investments on the required scale have not taken place. Researchers laboring in their very modest facilities have done so at minimal cost and investment, often their own. The shadow of doubt and accusations of unreputable behavior heaped on the original Cold Fusion premise by critics, have taken their toll.
Potential benefits suggested by this not yet fully understood new phenomenon are so great that significant investments should be made, despite the fact that the prospects for producing real and tangible industrial benefits may be considered by many observers to be modest.
For Believers there is no doubt: there is really something here worth exploring. They look forward to the day when this new technology will revolutionize life for human beings on the planet Earth.
David French is the principal and CEO of Second Counsel Services, which provides guidance for companies that wish to improve their management of Intellectual Property. For more information visit www.SecondCounsel.com.
The Believers from 137 Films
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2011 Cold Fusion/Lattice-Assisted Nuclear Reactions Colloquium Review by Jet Energy Inc.
Jet Energy Inc. Home
Cold Fusion Times MIT 2011 Cold Fusion/Lattice-Assisted Nuclear Reactions Colloquium organizer Mitchell Swartz’ Home
Defkalion Green Technologies, licensing the first commercial applications of Energy Catalyzer technology Home.
David French of Second Counsel Home