Is Low Energy Fusion Real?

September 28, 2015

Fusion, the big hardware kind, is one of those miracle promising technologies that always seems to be 30 years away.
In the late 1980s, claims about low energy (cold) fusion reactions were lambasted as huge blunders.
A small but persistent cohort of scientist and investors are more and more going public about the possibility of a game changing energy resource.

I’m just sayin’.


Tom Darden, the founder and CEO of the $2.2 billion private equity fund Cherokee Investment Partners, made his mark by acquiring and cleaning up hundreds of environmentally contaminated sites. Today he is also an early stage investor in clean technology, having put his own money into dozens of companies in areas ranging from smart grid to renewable energy, and prefab green buildings. More recently he’s backed a new approach to fusion, a potentially abundant and carbon-free form of energy that would operate at a much lower temperatures than big government projects around the world, which require temperatures of 100 million degrees centigrade and more.

This new technology, called Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) is related but very different from the cold fusion technology that in 1989 researchers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have licked when they revealed to the world a simple tabletop machine designed to achieve a fusion reaction at room temperature. Their experiment was eventually debunked and since then the term cold fusion has become almost synonymous with scientific chicanery.

What does Darden, a no-nonsense, investor with a sharp eye on the bottom line and a successful track record, see in this new, risky technology? Fortune’s Brian Dumaine spoke to him to find out.

Q: How did you get involved with low-temperature fusion?

A: Well, I thought the issue was moot after scientists failed to replicate the Fleischman and Pons initial cold fusion experiments. I was literally unaware that people were working on this in labs. I’ve made about 35 clean technology investments, and I thought that if someone’s doing this I should have heard about it. Then three years ago I started to hear about progress being made in the field and I said, “Damn, you have to be kidding, it doesn’t make sense.”

As it turns out, many of those early efforts to replicate cold fusion did not correctly load the test reactors or attempt to properly measure heat. The scientists trying to replicate the work of Fleischman and Pons were mainly looking for nuclear signals, like radiation, which generally are not present. They missed that heat was the main by-product. In addition, I learned that there have been nearly 50 reported positive test results, including experiments at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, EPRI, and SRI.

Q: The conventional wisdom is that LENR violates the laws of physics.

A: That’s right. To create fusion energy you have to break the bonds in atoms and that takes a tremendous amount of force. That’s why the big government fusion projects have to use massive lasers or extreme heat—millions degrees centigrade—to break the bonds. Breaking those bonds at much lower temperatures is inconsistent with the laws of physics, as they’re now known.

Q: What changed your mind?

A: Scientists get locked into paradigms until the paradigm shifts. Then everyone happily shifts to the new truth and no one apologizes for being so stupid before. Low temperature fusion could be consistent with existing theories, we just don’t know how. It’s like when physicists say that according to the laws of aerodynamics bumblebees can’t fly but they do.

Huffington Post:

One private firm in the area is Brillouin Energy Corp. of Berkeley, California, where researchers are developing what they term a controlled electron capture reaction (CECR) process. In their experiments, ordinary hydrogen is loaded into a nickel lattice, and then an electronic pulse is passed through the system, using a proprietary control system. They claim that their device converts H-1 (ordinary hydrogen) to H-2 (deuterium), then to H-3 (tritium) and H-4 (quatrium), which then decays to He-4 and releases energy. They report that they have confirmed H-3 production in their process.

Additional technical details are given at the Brillouin Energy website, and in a patent application. Their patent application reads, in part, “Embodiments generate thermal energy by neutron generation, neutron capture, and subsequent transport of excess binding energy as useful heat for any application.”

Rossi and Industrial Heat, LLC

Perhaps the most startling (and most controversial) report is by an Italian-American engineer-entrepreneur named Andrea Rossi. Rossi claims that he has developed a tabletop reactor that produces heat by an as-yet-not-fully-understood LENR process.

Rossi has gone well beyond laboratory demonstration; he claims that he and the private firm Industrial Heat, LLC of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, have actually installed a working system at an (undisclosed) commercial customer’s site.

According to Rossi and a handful of others who have observed the system in operation, it is producing 1 MWatt continuous net output power, in the form of heat, from a few grams of “fuel” in each of a set of modest-sized reactors in a network. The system has now been operating for approximately six months, as part of a one-year acceptance test. Rossi and IH LLC are in talks with Chinese firms for large-scale commercial manufacture.

Several “reliable sources” have visited Rossi’s commercial site, and have verified that the system is working as claimed, as evidenced, for example, by the customer’s significantly reduced electric bills.

On the downside, from a scientific point view, Rossi’s work leaves much to be desired, to say the least. Rossi remains tight-lipped as to technical details, preferring to protect his company’s intellectual property through silence.

However, a few details have now come to light. For example, Rossi was just granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office. The patent includes some heretofore unknown details, such as the contents of the “fuel” in Rossi’s reactors: it is a powder of 50% nickel, 20% lithium and 30% lithium aluminum hydride.

Replications of Rossi’s work

Given that Rossi has been unwilling to divulge many details, several other research teams have been working largely independently with similar experimental designs.

In October 2014, a team of Italian and Swedish researchers released a paper entitled Observation of abundant heat production from a reactor device and of isotopic changes in the fuel. This paper claimed substantial power output, with a “coefficient of performance” (ratio of output heat to input power) of up to 3.6. The experiment was performed at an independent laboratory in Lugano, Switzerland.

The most intriguing results in the 2014 Lugano paper are the before-and-after analyses of the “fuel,” which found an “isotopic shift” had occurred in this material. In particular, the team found that lithium-7 had changed into lithium-6, and that nickel-58 and nickel-60 had changed to nickel-62. This is based on two different types of mass spectrometry measurements, using state-of-the-art equipment.

These changes can only be due to nuclear reactions of some sort — not conventional chemistry. The Lugano team is reportedly working on a new experiment, independent of Rossi, but as yet no details are known.

Another research team performing Rossi-type experiments is headed by the Russian physicist Alexander Parkhomov. He and others working with him report observing excess heat with a Rossi-type reactor running at 1347 degrees Celsius, with a coefficient of performance of 3.0. They also report observing excess heat in at least ten other experiments of this type to date.

48 Responses to “Is Low Energy Fusion Real?”

  1. Firstly I will mention that Peter in publishing this item has in the item the information
    “The system has now been operating for approximately six months, as part of a one-year acceptance test. Rossi and IH LLC are in talks with Chinese firms for large-scale commercial manufacture.”

    So we have that 6-12 Month window to find out the reality. Patience is called for

    To say we have the Physics nailed when Dark Matter and Energy are unknowns may be presumptuous. there are many other areas which are poorly understood, or even classified as fraud and chicanery as they cannot be explained at this time which have gone on their quiet way for millenia, consider the split proton pair and the inherent order within quantum physics that allows us to consider quantum computing, that spooky science.
    We still have much to learn

    So patience

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Got moderated, for too many links presumably. Here they are one at a time.

    Yes, “patience” is surely a virtue. Scam artists need it because it takes time for them to build each fraud they perpetuate and bring it to fruition. You will also need it to wade through all the links in Peter’s post, particularly the patent applications, which contain a like of “mays” and cans” but not many “wills”. A better way to spend the time might be to look at some links. These are not the wishful thinking pie-in-the-sky musings of the folks on the LENR links, but some analysis of what Rossi and IH LLC may be up to. I am going to “patiently” hold onto my Solar Roadway stock and NOT sell it all to buy into IH.

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