Sunday, January 23, 2011

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions vs Blacklight Power

"Cold fusion" and Blacklight Power have been two of the less reputable approaches to generating energy. Cloaked in mystery and proprietary methods and materials, to outsiders both approaches seem custom-made for investment scamming. And yet neither approach seems likely to go away soon. In fact, a whole new upswell of interest in unconventional energy sources has been pouring out of Italy over the past week.

First of all, "cold fusion" is not a good description for what Rossi and Focardi seem to be doing.
Whatever the LENRs that are responsible for the device’s heat output, nickel-hydrogen reactions are not fusion, so this has nothing to do with the idea of “cold fusion.”

Researcher Jacques Dufour, retired from Shell and now a contractor with the French Laboratoire Des Sciences Nucléaires (CNAM), has speculated on neutron or proton capture on nickel to explain the mechanism. Unfortunately, proton capture requires astronomical forces to overcome the Coulomb barrier and is effectively invoking “cold fusion.”

Neutron capture, on the other hand, is different and theoretically feasible. In his conclusion, Dufour has cited the Widom-Larsen theory, published in the mainstream press by the European Physics Journal C, Pramana, and the American Chemical Society. The theory has also been cited by NASA, Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Science in Society. (See New Energy Times Widom-Larsen Theory Portal for papers and references.)

“Strong nuclear signatures are expected from the Rossi energy amplifier,” Dufour writes. “It is of interest to note that in [Widom Larsen 'Theoretical Standard Model Rates of Proton to Neutron Conversions Near Metallic Hydride Surfaces'] a mechanism is proposed that strongly suppresses the gamma emission during the run (it is the same mechanism that creates very low energy neutrons, subsequently captured by the nickel).” _NewEnergyTimes
Neutron capture would describe a form of "transmutation." Rossi and Focardi are claiming that their energy-generating device involves the transmutation of nickel to copper. They are not claiming any form of fusion.

Still, a lot of people don't want to let go of the "cold fusion" idea, but if the mechanism is proven to generate as much excess heat as is claimed -- an energy gain of over 20 to 1 -- successful developers should be allowed to call it whatever they wish. More:
...while mainstream science spurns cold fusion vehemently, a maverick minority has been pursuing it with just as much passion; holding international conferences, publishing papers in their margin journals, and comparing notes.

And they don't like calling it "cold fusion," both because of the stigma attached to that phrase, as well as the inaccuracy of the name from a strict interpretation point of view. It's most often called a "Low Energy Nuclear Reaction" or LENR.

With Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi announcing in a press conference and demonstration last Friday that they had a device that produces 10 kilowatts of energy (enough to power five homes), and that they were now going into production with the patented technology; you can imagine that the LENR community has been abuzz with interest about this amazing disclosure. Though there has been plenty of skepticism, the general tone seems to be increasingly positive, as can be seen in the excerpts below.

Three of the premier media sources in that arena are Jed Rothwell's, Steven Krivit's New Energy Times, and Infinite Energy. A sampling of they're take on this is represented here. There are other players in the cold fusion journalistic world as well, including those that cater to non-English-speaking audiences. _Pure Energy Systems News
Speculations about possible similarities between Rossi/Focardi and Blacklight Power:
Rossi received a patent, but he says that it does not contain proprietary information on the catalysts used in the device and the special processes utilized to prepare the powdered nickel. Speculation on the internet continues as to what these catalysts may be and what special processes may be utilized. One possibility that has been suggested is that sodium hydride (NaH) may be mixed in with the nano sized nickel powder. The hypothesis is that the NaH when heated would release hydrogen that would interact with the nickel powder. After this occurs the cell would be allowed to cool slightly (perhaps the need for a controllable input) to regenerate the NaH which would absorb hydrogen. Then the cycle would begin once again.

Such a cycle would be similar to some of the experiments performed by Black Light Power. Additional ideas include special methods to "clean" the nickel powder of impurities, a method that embeds the nickel powder in a ceramic that may act like a catalyst, and other methods.

It has been suggested on some internet forums that due to the fact that his patent is absent of such important information, it may not be enforceable and this may partially explain his need for total secrecy about these special processes and methods.

These emerging bits of information, technical details, interviews, and accounts of the demonstration are making the argument in favor of this technology being legitimate more compelling. As the days progress we urge you to follow this story closely. _PESN
Rossi's work supposedly involves a low energy nuclear reaction -- perhaps a transmutation via neutron addition. Blacklight Power, on the other hand, claims to be dealing with the energy states of the electron in a hydrogen atom. But even if some kind of excess heat energy is being generated, there is no guarantee that the claimed theory is an accurate description of what is happening.

Brian Wang has been following this story closely
Extensive (148 pp) PDF description of low energy nuclear reactions (h/t NextBigFuture)

When confronted with claims such as come from Blacklight Power or Focardi/Rossi, one must remain skeptical. And yet it is important to attempt to follow research progress and commentary as provided by objective-but-interested persons familiar with the basic theories involved.

Clean and abundant resources of energy will be discovered and commercially developed, in time. But modern western societies are in the unfortunate position of having their energy supplies unnecessarily constricted by political leaders, for ideological reasons masquerading as science. The effect of such policies include economic stagnation and a generalised "societal malaise" and an absence of a positive sense of future. These problems tend to feed upon each other and escalate in severity over time -- particularly when political leaders are corrupt and waste vast public resources -- both present and future -- merely to remain in power.

The bottom line is that when claims sound exaggerated, they usually are. It is best not to get one's hopes up prematurely. Be skeptical, but check in on progress from time to time, just in case something important is actually happening.

PESWiki page on Focardi/Rossi

New Energy Times blog

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions News

"Journal of Nuclear Physics" blog a "peer reviewed blog" run by Rossi dealing with Rossi's work

Blacklight Power technical papers

None of the sources listed above represent the physics mainstream, but if you read through the 148 pp PDF introduction on low energy nuclear reactions from New Energy Times, you should have an idea what questions to ask, what to look for, and what may be going on.

Al Fin energy analysts recommend not counting on this development to provide appreciable power supplies for a number of decades at least. But they admit they are slowly becoming addicted to speculating on such unconventional physical mechanisms as a diversion.

Adapted from an article at Al Fin

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