Back in October 2011 I first wroteabout Italian engineer, Andrea Rossi, and his E-Cat project, a device that produces heat through a process called a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR).
Very briefly, LENR, otherwise called cold fusion, is a technique that generates energy through low temperature (far lower than hot fusion temperatures which are in the range of tens off thousands of degrees) reactions that are not chemical. Most importantly, LENR is, theoretically, much safer, much simpler, and many orders of magnitude cheaper than hot fusion. Rather than explaining LENR in detail here please see my original posting for a more complete explanation.
My next post on this topic was here on Forbes a few days later and, as the labyrinthine and occasionally ridiculous saga developed, I tried to sort fact from fiction in a series of posts (see the list at the end of this posting) which covered everything from unconvincing demos, through an Australian businessman offering Rossi $1 million to show independently tested proof, to other players in the LENR market showing interesting results.
I haven’t posted about Rossi and his E-Cat since last August simply because there wasn’t much to report other than more of Rossi’s unsupported and infuriating claims that included building large-scale automated factories to churn out millions of E-Cats (the factories still have no sign of actually existing) through to unsubstantiated performance claims that sounded far too good to be true.
What everyone wanted was something that Rossi has been promising was about to happen for months: An independent test by third parties who were credible. This report was delayed several times to the point where many were wondering whether it was all nothing more than what we have come to see as Rossi’s usual “jam tomorrow” promises. But much to my, and I suspect many other people’s surprise, a report by credible, independent third parties is exactly what we got.
Published on May 16, the paper titled “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device” would appear to deliver what we wanted.
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; andHanno 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.
The actual test reactor, called the E-Cat HT, was described by the testers as:
… a high temperature development of the original apparatus which has also undergone many construction changes in the last two years – is the latest product manufactured by Leonardo Corporation: it is a device allegedly capable of producing heat from some type of reaction the origin of which is unknown.
They described the E-Cat HT as:
… a cylinder having a silicon nitride ceramic outer shell, 33 cm in length, and 10 cm in diameter. A second cylinder made of a different ceramic material (corundum) was located within the shell, and housed three delta-connected spiral-wire resistor coils. Resistors were laid out horizontally, parallel to and equidistant from the cylinder axis, and were as long as the cylinder itself. They were fed by a TRIAC power regulator device which interrupted each phase periodically, in order to modulate power input with an industrial trade secret waveform. This procedure, needed to properly activate the E-Cat HT charge, had no bearing whatsoever on the power consumption of the device, which remained constant throughout the test. The most important element of the E-Cat HT was lodged inside the structure. It consisted of an AISI 310 steel cylinder, 3 mm thick and 33 mm in diameter, housing the powder charges. Two AISI 316 steel cone-shaped caps were hot-hammered in the cylinder, sealing it hermetically.
Here’s a picture of the E-Cat HT during one of the tests:
There were two test runs of the E-Cat HT (the emphasis is mine):
The present report describes the results obtained from evaluations of the operation of the E-Cat HT in two test runs. The first test experiment, lasting 96 hours (from Dec. 13th 2012, to Dec. 17th 2012), was carried out by the two first authors of this paper, Levi and Foschi, while the second experiment, lasting for 116 hours (from March 18th 2013, to March 23rd 2013), was carried out by all authors.
The authors also note various assumptions they made about the test and that they weren’t in control of all of the aspects of the process but they apparently didn’t consider any of these to be egregious enough to be showstoppers.
And now, the big reveal … the authors’ conclusions are (again, the emphasis is mine):
… if we consider the whole volume of the reactor core and the most conservative figures on energy production, we still get a value of (7.93 ± 0.8)
10210^2 MJ/Liter that is one order of magnitude higher than any conventional source.
To put that in perspective, the following graph plots the peak power of various energy sources against their specific energy (energy per unit mass). As you can see, gasoline is way out in front in terms of how much energy is available and how much power can be delivered but if this paper is correct, you can make that “gasoline was way out in front” because, as can be seen, the E-Cat has roughly four orders of magnitude more specific energy and three orders of magnitude greater peak power than gasoline!
Graph [UPDATED 05/21/13 @ 09:08] courtesy of Alan Fletcher
While a few commentators have raised criticisms concerning how the measurements were made and sources of error others have argued that the energy produced is so significant even knocking off an order of magnitude on either axis still portrays a process with insanely valuable output.
This is not, of course, the last word or even one anywhere near the end of this story but unless this is one of the most elaborate hoaxes in scientific history it looks like the world may well be about to change. How quick will depend solely on Rossi.