Excess Heat

Most electrical plants burn coal, oil or natural gas to produce a great deal of heat, which powers steam or gas turbines, which then generate electricity. Nuclear plants create heat through a fission reaction kept from going critical, but the heat is also used to run a turbine.

Since we’re running low on cheap fossil fuels, and since fission reactors have proven to be both costly and frightening, people have wondered if motorized transportation and household electricity will slowly become luxuries. Indeed, those worried about climate change may hope that we will run out of ways to heat the Earth sooner rather than later.

After many years of playing cat and mouse, Andrea Rossi has finally staged a test of the E-Cat, a device variously claimed to harness cold fusion, or low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or chemically-assisted nuclear reactions (CANR) to produce excess heat.

A team of scientists involved did release a paper, Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder, which was released with moderation but without peer review. A PDF is available on Cornell’s ArXiv site, and includes a version of the chart above, which claims that only plutonium rivals the power and energy density of the E-Cat reaction.

At Forbes, Mark Gibbs writes, Finally! Independent Testing Of Rossi’s E-Cat Cold Fusion Device: Maybe The World Will Change After All:

The paper was authored by Giuseppe Levi of Bologna University, Bologna, Italy; Evelyn Foschi, Bologna, Italy; Torbjörn Hartman, Bo Höistad, Roland Pettersson and Lars Tegnér of Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden; and Hanno Essén, of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. While some of these people have previously been public in their support of Rossi and the E-Cat they are all serious academics with reputations to lose and the paper is detailed and thorough.

Actually, Levi is known to be a longtime collaborator of Rossi and Focardi. In, Rossi Manipulates Academics to Create Illusion of Independent Test, Steven Krivit of New Energy Times has quoted coauthor Hanno Essén to imply that Levi and Foschi actually ran the experiment and that the others more or less observed, using unusual techniques to measure the energy output.

The authors of the paper lack full knowledge of the type and preparation of the materials used in the reactor and the modulation of input power, which, according to the paper, were industrial trade secrets.

The authors didn’t perform any calorimetry and used a method to measure temperature to extrapolate output power that neither they nor anyone in the field of low-energy nuclear reaction research has ever used to analyze for heat power or energy.

SBK: Who set up the experiment?
HE: Giuseppe Levi and Evelyn Foschi – within the constraints set by Rossi.

Measuring the energy is of course, critical in an experiment on a machine designed to supply energy. What caught my eye were the charts – Plot 7, 8, 9 – that show the supplied energy at about the same level as energy produced for 150 seconds before each surge of produced energy, then falling down to zero for 300 seconds. While the paper claimed that 360W were supplied continuously, the chart resembles a single cylinder ignition cycle more than the start of a continuous, self-sustaining reaction.

It will be interesting to see if any peer review occurs.

Update: At ScienceBlogs, Ethan at Starts With A Bang notes that on-off circuits can be easily faked, and calls bullshit:

So… it wasn’t a continuous 360 Watts, but rather there was a switching between on/off states, where it was drew over 900 W of power for about a third of the time, and then far less for the other two-thirds. They also only approximate, rather than measure (or provide data for) the amount of power drawn. …

I’m done pretending that this is science, or that the “data” presented here is scientifically valid. If this were an undergraduate science experiment, I’d give the kids an F, and have them see me. There’s no valid information contained here, just the assumption of success, the reliance on supplied data, and ballpark estimates that appear to be supplied “from the manufacturer.”


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