The cold fusion energy: history, theory and technology
Fusion reaction, called nucleosynthesis, is a natural process that powers the stars and produces virtually all elements. The search for easy
renewable energy has brought science to look to this natural energy source. The past saw huge powerful bursts demonstrated by the only man-made fusion device achieving ignition, the hydrogen bomb. Today scientists look towards using the unique properties within the atoms, which contain the building blocks for smooth sustained energy.
The nuclear power used currently is created by nuclear fission, which is not a natural process. Fission is produced by “splitting” heavy atoms. It generates steam heat to power electric plants, nuclear ships, submarines and weapons. The result is a tremendous amount of radioactive nuclear waste. Fission requires sufficient fuel within a small space, to reach high temperature and pressure inside a fusion reactor. This causes a release of electromagnetic energy, more radioactive than the heavy fuel. There always exists a danger of not maintaining confinement, which includes catastrophic failure. Because of this, nuclear fusion power is believed to have significant safety advantages over power stations based on nuclear fission.
Most of the mass of am atom is made
up of the protons and neutrons, with positive and negative charges, in the very dense nucleus. The orbiting electrons make little contribution to the mass. The Protons repel each other, keeping the nucleus of the atoms at a safe distance. This is called the Coulomb barrier. However, when atoms become close enough, by touching, the positive attraction becomes greater than the negative, and they "fuse" together to form a single heavier nucleus. The result of these opposing forces is that the binding energy per nucleon generally continues with increasing size. Iron, along with nickel, has the largest binding energy per nucleon, The fusion of two nuclei with lower masses than iron, releases energy, which is the desired result. Getting the atoms passed the barrier to positive exchange, has been one of the most difficult challenges.
One of the methods traditionally tried is using a powerful fusion device, like thermonuclear, (Hot) fusion, with the hydrogen bomb. This is because it was felt that having temperature equilibrium would best neutralize the Coulomb barrier, but there are other possible ways, like speeding up the spin and orbit speeds within the atom, or using acceleration to do so.
For sixty years, forward thinking physicists have been working to find ways to perfect cold fusion to eliminate these hazards to provide
safe usable power. Cold fusion means that the bulk of the material is at a relatively low temperature and pressure but the reactants are not. Hydrogen, the lightest element that has been commonly used as a medium, is not found without its electron in ordinary chemistry at room temperatures and pressure. This stability makes it
ideal for low temperature experimentation. What is necessary in such experimentation is to control all variables and demonstrate a net gain in energy out-put. However, there is not a way to actually observe that energy produced comes from fusion. So, the only way to attribute the gain in energy output, to a nuclear cause, is to eliminate all other possible causes of the gain. Which could be directly from fuel use, or a chemical reaction.
Some of the efforts or principles discovered were:
Pauli Principle, 1931, Paul Ehrenfest, pointed out that the rotation of electrons could be manipulated by magnetism, making net energy gains. Electrons of each atom, moving from lowest-energy orbital to successively larger orbits thereby increasing speed and energy. Ideas showed promise for later works.
Muon-catalyzed fusion is a well-established and reproducible fusion process that occurs at ordinary temperatures. It had not been reported to produce net energy at that time. This idea was built upon with better results.
Experiments by Martin Fleischmann, one of the world's leading electrochemists and Stanley Pons in March 1989, reported anomalous heat production, "excess heat,“ generated of a magnitude they asserted, that would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes.
Progress for Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction, LENR, has been slow but increasingly more viable. There has been opposition for political reasons. Never-the-less, breakthroughs have evolved in the research of Francesco Piantelli who made similar experimental findings to those by Sergio Focardi, physicist and emeritus professor and his student and protégé Andrea Rossi. Some questioned Focardi’s claim they have devised a method and apparatus for carrying out nickel and hydrogen exothermal reactions," with production of copper.
"The hydrogen is heated at a given temperature with a simple resistor. When the ignition temperature is reached, the energy production process starts: the hydrogen atoms penetrate into the nickel and transform it into copper."
This is what happens in the nickel-hydrogen fusion device invented by Andrea Rossi, which they call an Energy Catalyzer or E-Cat. The E-Cat device has been tested within the past several years with consistent results of net energy gain.
In 2011, the team did demonstrations for Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center, first in January. They re-did it in February and they re-did it in March. In which, they had one small cell,
producing in the 10 to 15 kilowatts range, for several consecutive days. Rossi re-affirmed that the process was a Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction however, and not fusion. Piantelli, who was not involved in the Rossi demonstrations, has stated that he has known for years this type of energy is inexplicable by “cold fusion,” but is actually LENR.
In addition to the interest by NASA, an American Company, AmpEnergo, has negotiated royalty agreements for marketing licenses and products based on the Energy Catalyzer in the United States.
It has been a long road of over twenty years that Sergio Focardi and Andrea Rossi have given this project with progress slow to come. Finally success has come for energy production with Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction. It may take even longer for universal acceptance. But today we know that “The Future is Here.”