Mats Lewan is a science and technology journalist and author of An Impossible Invention, the true story of an Energy Source that could Change the World, a book detailing the early demonstrations of Andrea Rossi’s Energy Catalyzer. He joins Ruby on the Cold Fusion Now! podcast where he discusses his assessment of the LENR technology challenge.
Mats Lewan has a Master of Science in Engineering Physics from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockhom and spent fifteen years working as technology reporter for the magazine Ny Teknik. He also attended the Innovation Journalism Program at Stanford University in California and while there, reported for CBS-CNET News in San Francisco.
Mats Lewan was one of the few journalists chronicling Andrea Rossi’s early work as it was evaluated by Dr. Sergio Focardi, physicist at the University of Bologna and former Director of the University of Bologna branch of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. Mats is currently working with Stockholm School of Economics on a project about The Internet and its Effects on Innovation and the Swedish Economy, and Energiforsk (The Swedish Energy Research Centre) on Digitalisation in the Energy Industry. Find more on Mats work at http://matslewan.se/.
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax created the blog coldfusioncommunity.net and spent the bulk of 2017 using it to document the Andrea Rossi-Industrial Heat lawsuits.
In episode 09 of the Cold Fusion Now! podcast, he talks with Ruby about the dream partnership that ended with suspicion and the drama of a Miami, Florida trial court.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax sat in Richard Feynman’s lectures at Cal Tech in 1961 through 1963. In 2009, he began challenging Wikipedia about their bias regarding cold fusion. Since then, he’s been involved in the cold fusion/LENR field. He was published in the 2015 special LENR issue of Current Science journal on the correlation of excess heat and the production of helium with the paper Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio [.pdf].
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This is a repost of and article originally published on the Falls Church News-Press here.
The Peak Oil Crisis: Cold Fusion Gets a U.S. Patent By Tom Whipple
Sometimes our government moves very slowly. In the case of granting a patent to cold fusion technology, which just might replace fossil fuels, it took 26 years. The odyssey that started with a press conference at the University of Utah back in 1989 and has bumped along below the world’s radar screen ever since, seems to be coming to an end. The cold fusion phenomenon had a brief flurry of notoriety until it was “debunked” by many physicists, a couple of universities, and the U.S. Department of Energy panel. The science fell into disrepute, its discovers were disgraced and went into exile.
Fortunately for mankind, there were a handful of experimenters who were able to reproduce the original experiments which produced anomalous heat, thereby keeping the spark of cold fusion alive, but mostly in obscure laboratories out of the purview of the mainstream press. A decade or so ago some Italian physicists made a major breakthrough which led to devices producing commercial, not just test tube, amounts of heat. This effort culminated in a number of semi-public demonstrations of the technology, which were largely ignored or denounced as conventional wisdom held that “cold fusion” was impossible.
Circa two years ago the Italian cold fusion effort, led by entrepreneur Andrea Rossi, was moved to North Carolina, linked up with a venture capital firm, and well-financed developmental work began on building commercially viable cold fusion reactors. Last February the first prototype, a one-megawatt reactor system producing steam 24 hours a day, was installed for a one-year test in an undisclosed factory somewhere in the US. This device has now been successfully operating for over six months. If all goes well for the remainder of the trial period, a report is scheduled to be issued and heat producing devices will go on sale to the public.
At some point the mainstream media will cotton to the fact that we have been led badly astray as to the viability of this technology and there indeed is an alternative to producing large amounts of energy other than by burning fossil fuels, nuclear fission, hydro, solar and wind. Obviously a technology that can produce large amounts of heat continuously at low cost and without harmful emissions or hazardous waste will catch on quickly. If not in the U.S., then I am sure the Chinese will be happy to help advance the technology.
One of the reasons there has been so much skepticism about cold fusion and Rossi’s reactor in recent years was the secrecy surrounding the inner workings of the device. Much of this secrecy was due to the developer’s inability to obtain a valid international patent on his intellectual property. When the U.S. Department of Energy declared the whole technology a hoax 25 years ago and reaffirmed this decision in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary 10 years later, the U.S. Patent Office adopted the position that it would not patent any device claiming to be based on cold fusion or anything close.
In 2008, Rossi filed for a U.S. patent on his technology, only to have it finally rejected seven years later for lack of sufficient proof that he really had developed a technology that worked. Although Rossi was granted an Italian patent in 2011, nobody thought it offered much protection against copiers of a technology that could easily be worth trillions of dollars should it come to replace fossil fuels someday.
This time around Rossi, and his patent attorneys, took a new approach to gaining the first of what will likely be many patents relating to a technology which could easily turn out to be the most important of the century. Rather than claiming that the device was based on controversial nuclear reactions, the new patent is for a simple “Fluid Heater” that raises the temperature of water by subjecting a mixture of nickel, lithium, and lithium-aluminum-hydride powders to heat. The mixture warms to hundreds of degrees centigrade and begins to produce much more heat energy than is initially applied to the powder by the built-in electric heater. There is a no mention anywhere in the patent of “cold fusion,” nor any kind of nuclear reaction. The patent is silent as to what is causing the excess heat, only saying that it occurs, leaving it to the reader to conclude that so much heat is bring produced that there must be some kind of nuclear reaction taking place – known chemical reactions will not suffice.
The patent breaks new ground in our understanding of how Rossi’s reactor works for in order to obtain his patent protection, he had to reveal the inner workings of the reactor and the composition of the fuel that was inside. The revelation in the patent that there are three separate powders, the proportion of the powders, and that the nickel catalyst must be preheated to drive out any moisture and increase the porosity of the nickel should be of great help to anyone attempting to replicate Rossi’s device. Also revealed in the patent was that each fuel load should be able to run for six months before needing to be replaced. Rossi, however, recently stated that that a single fuel load may run for a year and that the reactor currently being tested can run for long periods of time without the need to turn on the heaters that are run with outside power.
In the past year, numerous replicators have attempted to produce excess heat from devices similar to Rossi’s. One the of these replicators, Alexander Parkhomov at the University of Moscow, has been successful in at least a dozen tests. Other replicators have been able to produce excess heat, but were unable to control their reactors which quickly melted down due to the massive amount of heat being generated. With this new information from the patent, we should soon be seeing many successful replications and put to rest assertions that the technology is a fraud.
For those of us who have been following this technology for over a quarter of a century, the granting of a U.S. patent marks a major milestone in the history of science for it offers the opportunity to get mankind beyond the age of carbon and nuclear fission fuels and all that they have wrought – rogue petro state governments, pollution, global warming, and dangerous radioactive wastes. For now, the major question is whether this or similar technologies can come into widespread use fast enough to slow and then halt the many adverse societal, economic and climatological trends with which we are currently beset.
This is a repost of The Peak Oil Crisis: Cold Fusion Gets a U.S. Patent By Tom Whipple originally published on the Falls Church News-Press here.
Andrea Rossi just received his first U.S. patent for his ECAT from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The Patent covers the ECAT as a Fluid Heater based on the Rossi Effect in all its details. Since the Rossi Effect is the main source of energy of the ECAT, this means that the ECAT Core Technology is protected by this patent. The Rossi Effect is based on the exothermal reaction between Lithium and Hydrogen which is catalyzed by Nickel or any other Group 10 element in the Periodic Table, including Palladium and Platinum. – See more at: http://ecat.com/news/e-cat-patent-granted-by-uspto#sthash.XcAVNL9L.dpuf
ECAT.com has information, links, and a Q and A with Rossi regarding this latest news.
The first thing to record is that the document under consideration is an informal, preliminary research note available to me only in English translation of the Russian original. Despite that it reads well. Alexander Parkhomov is a “known” scientist from a highly reputable Institution, Lomonosov Moscow State University, which I have visited on several occasions. He has published work with friends of mine including Yuri Bazhutov (Chairman of ICCF13 and member of the IAC) and Peter Sturrock (Stanford University). These are both very capable senior scientists so that when this research is prepared for formal publication I am sure we can anticipate a complete and solid report.
In the meantime I will comment briefly on what is presented. Because of the community interest in the topic and the apparently clear and elegant nature of the experiment, Parkhomov’s preliminary report has already received an astonishing amount of discussion on the CMNS news group. What is stated in this preliminary report is encouraging, potentially even interesting, but one is struck by material information that is not made available in this report. Much, most or all of this added detail apparently is available to the author so one must await further elucidation from Parkhomov or a serious engineering effort at replication before final conclusions can be arrived at.
Although clearly motivated by the Rossi “Lugano” experiment it is not correct to call either a replication of the other or of any before. These are new experiments, with new characteristics, and some common features. As shown below the reactor active core consists of nickel powder intermixed with a hydrogen (lithium and aluminum) source, LiAlH4, enclosed in an alumina tube and confined with bonded ceramic plugs. This core is surrounded by a helically wound, coaxial electrical heater extended in length to provide closely uniform heating. The whole is potted in ceramic cement to incorporate a single sense thermocouple.
To this extent this configuration mirrors the Rossi reactor recently reported from Lugano although we do not know the similarity or differences between the Ni samples used in each. Since LiAlH4 decomposes to liquid and H2 gas at the temperature of operation its source and nature of are presumed not to make much difference although the impurity content (unstated) may. Also different is the nature of the electrical input used for heating. For Parkhomov this is unspecified. The Rossi effort at Lugano employed 3-phase (50 Hz.) power for the calorimetric input and thermal stimulus but also includes an unknown amount of power in unstated form as a trigger. No such trigger apparently was used by Parkhomov.
The two experiments diverge radically in their chosen means of calorimetry. Parkhomov states that the “Rossi reactor technique based on thermovision camera observation is too complex,” with which I tend to agree. The chosen mean of calorimetry on the new report is to employ the latent heat of vaporization of water — the well known amount of heat required to boil water to steam, in this case at ambient pressure. The heater/reactor combination shown above was enclosed with partial insulation inside a rectangular metal box that was contacted on 5 of 6 surfaces by water.
There are some second order effects that might pertain to this boiling water calorimetry but the method is “tried and true.” It has been employed accurately for well over 100 years and in a slightly different form (boiling liquid nitrogen) was the method selected in recent SRI calorimetry. With simple precautions such a calorimeter should be accurate within a few percent over a wide range of powers and reactor temperatures. One must be concerned to interrogate the heat that leaves the calorimeter by means other than as steam escaping at ambient pressure, that water does not leave the vessel in the liquid phase as splattered droplets or mist (fog), and to accurately measure the water mass loss (or its rate to determine output power). Obviously one also needs to accurately and completely measure the electrical input power.
Although this last issue has been recently (and anciently) raised it is very rarely a problem. Measurement of current, voltage and time (power and energy) are some of the measurements most easily and commonly made. Parkhomov does not supply details of the electrical power or its measurement and he is very much encouraged to do this in his formal reporting. I have no reason, however, to doubt the input power statements. Splatter and mist are issues of observation and calibration and heat leaks are a matter of calibration. Much detail is missing here. Full information about the calibration(s) must be provided in any formal report and full resolution of the question “what do the data tell us?” awaits this detail.
In the meantime what can we learn? Parkhomov states without showing that data that: “The power supplied to the heater stepwise varied from 25 to 500 watts.” The thermocouple in the reactor reached 1000°C approximately 5 hours after initial heating. It would be very nice to have these early-time data together with the data for calibration with which to compare; the greatest weakness of this report is the paucity of data. We are forced basically to rely on three data pairs that I have re-tabulated below from the Parkhomov report with some calculated numbers. Three time intervals are reported of varying duration (Row 2) in which the cell reported an average temperature resulting from the stated average electrical input power, and accumulated the stated Energy In. Parkhomov states from his calibration (not shown) that the heat leak from the system to the ambient is 155 W with the boiler at 100°C. From this heat leak rate we can calculate the energy that leaves in each interval through the insulation and from the mass of water lost we can calculate the heat that leaves as steam by using the known latent heat of vaporization of water (40.657 kJ /Mole or 2258.7 kJ / kg of H2O). The sum of these is the Total Energy Output, the second half of our three data pairs.
These tabulated data (although few) exhibit an impressive set of characteristics:
Excess energies of ~120 to ~1900 kJ in 40-50 minutes.
Energy output greater than heat leak rate for the two higher input powers so that even if this loss approaches zero there is still calculated excess energy.
Percentage excess energies (and therefore average power) of ~20-160% with increasing input power and temperature.
Average excess powers of ~50 to nearly 800 W with a very small “fuel” load (0.9g of Ni).
Excess power densities of ~60 to nearly 900 W g-1 of Ni, well within “useful” regimes and consistent with previous CMNS results.
Excess power densities for the small reaction volume (~1 cm3) of ~50 to nearly 800 W cm-3.
All of these characteristics are exceptionally favorable. In the “plus column” we can also add that the experiment should be very easy to reproduce and we will hopefully soon have well-engineered replication attempts and conceivably confirmations. The experiment also does not appear to need stimulation other than heat, hydrogen and possibly lithium or the need for solid-nickel/molten-metal interaction. So what are the worries? A very large amount has been said about this experiment in part because of the spectacular character of the tabulated data. Over and above the obvious need for calibration data and complete run-time data (ideally in the form of numbers not just plots) not everybody is happy. Why not?
Although others may have further points to add I would summarize three major concerns expressed with the material that has been presented (rather than what was not):
The unexpected behavior of the Temperature at high power. When excess power (of apparently considerable power density) is being created one would expect to see the temperature of the source to be increasingly elevated. The observed trend is not in the “right” direction.
A plot of the data tabulated by Parkhomov for Reactor Temperature vs. Input Power is a stunningly good fit to a parabola. Because of limits of accuracy and precision experimentalists normally expect such close fits to be the result of calculation, not measurement. The goodness of fit may be explicable by the author or just be a fascinating coincidence.
A temperature arrest of approximately 8 minutes occurred at the end of the experiment after the rapid power and temperature drop following heater failure. This “Heat after Death” episode was preceded by a similar period of apparent temperature fluctuation. Either episode or both might be important signals of the underlying heat generation process or may signal sensor failure. It is difficult to resolve this ambiguity without redundant temperature measurement.
In the absence of relevant calibration data at least, and (better) a finite element model of the complex heat flow from the system as well, one can use only experience and intuition to predict what the reactor thermocouple sensor should register as a consequence of changing input power. The input power to the helical heater has a known (distributed) location. The excess power, however, while (presumably) volumetrically constrained has no defined or necessarily stationary position within the fuel volume. Even the first step of heat flow is therefore complex but an argument has been made qualitatively that, all else being equal, if you add a heat source the temperature should go up. Does it?
Let’s look first at a plot of percent excess power (left vertical axis) and temperature (right vertical axis, °C) as a function of input power (W). Three different colored curves are plotted for three different postulated values of the conductive heat leak from the calorimeter: red (155 W) the heat leak power calibrated by Parkhomov and assumed to be constant throughout the active run; blue (102 W) the value that makes the excess power for the first data point zero, as a conservative internal calibration; green (0 W) no heat leak, the most conservative estimate possible for this term. There is nothing at all surprising about this set of curves, and something quite encouraging. The observed excess power cannot be explained by an error in the conductive heat leak or any changing value of that parameter. The temperature of the reactor rises monotonically and smoothly with increasing excess and total power.
Now let’s look at the same data plotted against the measured reactor temperature below. Here we see some indication of the first concern enumerated above. Although slight, the curvature of this family of curves is up suggesting that as the excess (and total) power measured calorimetrically by the released steam increases, so also does the rate of heat (or temperature) loss from the thermocouple sensor. Although this might indicate a measurement problem (unknowable without calibration data) note that the deviation cause by this curvature is well within the variation bounded by the assumed heat leak to the ambient and might easily be caused by a relatively small change in this calibrated “constant.”
At least two unincluded heat loss term are known that must cause the heat leak constant to change in the direction to cause upward curvature: radiant heat loss from the reactor to the enclosing metal box at higher temperature; increased convective transport from the enclosing metal box to the inner wall of the “steamer” at higher rates of steam bubble evolution. I do not know whether the shape of the curve is a problem or is not. The point that I would like to re-reinforce is that we can only answer such questions definitively and thus gain confidence in the data and therefore knowledge if we have direct access to calibration data in the relevant temperature regime. I would also like to see a good thermal model as the reactor/calorimeter system is nowhere near as simple as it seems having several parallel and series heat transport paths. I realize that such model would be labor intensive and/or expensive to develop so lets start with the calibration. How does the system behave with no possibility of excess power?
As a comment in conclusion, there are gaps and unexplained effects in the data set, notably in the missing calibration data, and the foreground data record is slight. Nevertheless the experiment is clearly specified, easily performed, elegant and sufficiently accurate (with relevant calibration). I would recommend that the experiment be attempted by anyone curious and with the facilities to do so safely, exactly as described. Anything else or more runs the risk of teaching us nothing. I await further word from Parkhomov and reports from further replication teams.
 Parkhomov has stated that the NI used to charge his reactor had an initial grain size of ~10µ and specific area ~1000 cm2/g.
 SRI DTRA report and ICCF17 proceedings.
 Note that the lack of need for stimulation is very good for demonstration but undesirable for control and thus technology.
 The first two points were elaborated initially by Ed Storms, who may make them more strongly than I do here.
About the Author: Dr. Michael McKubre is Director of the Energy Research Center of the Materials Research Laboratory at SRI International. He received B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in chemistry and physics at Victoria University (Wellington, New Zealand). He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Southampton University, England. Dr. McKubre joined SRI as an electrochemist in 1978. He is an internationally recognized expert in the study of electrochemical kinetics and was one of the original pioneers in the use of ac impedance methods for the evaluation of electrode kinetic processes. Dr. McKubre has been studying various aspects of hydrogen and deuterium in metals since he joined SRI in 1978, the last 25 years with a close focus on heat measurements. He was recognized by Wired magazine as one of the 25 most innovative people in the world. Dr. McKubre has conducted research in CMNS since 1989.