If you scan the energy news headlines these days one of the themes that comes up repeatedly is the shale revolution. Technological advancements and capital investment are making possible the recovery of oil and gas resources in quantities that were considered unthinkable just a few years ago. Energy experts and commentators consider shale energy world-changing and transformational in terms of the economic and geopolitical impact it will have.
But there is a technological development brewing that could easily eclipse the shale revolution. That is in the fledgling and little-discussed field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR or cold fusion). To many people, research in this field is considered pseudoscience, an activity reserved for cranks and crackpots who are chasing an impossible dream. When cold fusion is mentioned, most people remember the Pons and Fleischmann announcement 25 years ago which ended with the scientists' humiliation after their 'desktop cold fusion' experiment proved famously difficult to replicate. Since that affair, many people refuse to take the topic seriously.
But there is something going on almost under the radar that could eventually send huge shockwaves around the world. It turns out that evidence strongly suggests that cold fusion/LENR is not a pipe dream after all, and we could be on the cusp of a world changing energy revolution far more significant than shale.
US-based Italian inventor Andrea Rossi, who along with the late Sergio Focardi (University of Bologna professor of physics) has invented a device known as the E-Cat (energy catalyzer) which operates on LENR principles. The E-Cat is a reactor which is able to produce anomalous amounts of heat in vast quantities when a mixture of nickel powder, hydrogen and proprietary catalysts is heated in a reaction chamber. The exact process involved is little understood, and is being tightly guarded as a closely held trade secret. Rossi has so far only been awarded a patent for the process in Italy. He has entered into a partnership with an undisclosed partner in the United States with the intent of launching a commercial operation in the near future which will manufacture E-Cat powered products to be used first in the industrial sector.
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What is the best evidence that the E-Cat is not simply the product of a raving megalomaniac or deluded inventor? E-Cat reactors were independently tested earlier this year by a team of European academics. They tested the performance of three high temperature E-Cat reactors in three separate tests each of which lasted for days. In the first test, the reactor actually melted as the reaction somehow got out of control. In the two subsequent tests when the apparatus was modified, the reactor ran stably at high temperatures for days at a time, and energy output was measured to be at least three times as much as the energy input into the system.
This research team published a report titled “Indication of anomalous heat energy produced in a reactor device” (published here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913), and concluded that the amount of energy produced by the E-Cat was found to have an energy density far above any known chemical source and at least “one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources.” Andrea Rossi reports that long term testing of the E-Cat (at least six months in length) is currently underway, and publication of these test results is expected at some point next year.
One of the remarkable aspects of E-Cat Technology is that the raw materials used in the reactor -- nickel powder and ordinary hydrogen -- are cheap, abundant and readily available. The LENR process in the E-Cat is not one of combustion where fuel is burned, but some kind of nuclear reaction, the exact nature of which is still mysterious. When a charge of nickel powder is exhausted (after about six months), it can be recycled. The amounts of nickel and hydrogen actually consumed in the nuclear processes that take place in the reactor core are miniscule. Andrea Rossi has stated that if the whole world switched over to E-Cat-based power, only one percent of the annual production of nickel would be utilized.
The E-Cat has many advantages compared to traditional nuclear power: the fuel itself is not radioactive, and no radioactive waste is produced, meaning there is no chance of a Fukushima style meltdown, or of it being used in a nuclear weapon. As in conventional nuclear plants there are no greenhouse gasses emitted during the reaction, which makes the E-Cat a clean energy source.
The work of Andrea Rossi has generally been met with skepticism by leading commentators in the scientific community and the media. This is not very surprising considering the magnitude of his claims which challenge conventional thinking about physics, and the fact that Rossi has not yet published a theoretical model that explains how his reactor works. With so much secrecy involved many people feel that Rossi's claims cannot be verified and should therefore be ignored -- or dismissed as some kind of fraud or trickery.
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I think otherwise. I have spent the last two-and-a-half years investigating and reporting about this fascinating story, and I am convinced that there is something extraordinary going on that should be taken seriously. For more about why I am convinced that the E-Cat is a real and important phenomenon read here.
I believe that as we consider the future of energy we should not discount LENR. If Andrea Rossi successfully launches the E-Cat into the marketplace the world will certainly take notice, and realize that energy can be produced more inexpensively, safely and cleanly than ever thought possible and intense research in the field will undoubtedly take off around the world. LENR has the potential to herald a new era of energy production which in comparison may make the shale revolution seem a rather minor event.
By. Frank Acland
Frank Acland is publisher and editor of E-Cat World