|Four Bologna E-Cats: nearest one covered in insulation.|
In a preliminary demonstration in January 2011, the inventor Andrea Rossi and his scientific collaborator Professor Sergio Focardi at the University of Bologna showed off a version of their device, called "E-Cat" for "energy catalyzer", which produced 12 kW for a number of hours. The energy emerges from the device in the form of hot steam.
The E-Cat's fuel consists of Nickel powder and Hydrogen gas plus a "secret Italian sauce" that is necessary for the reaction to proceed. Rossi apparently discovered this secret catalyst though a long process of trial and error.
On March 29, 2011, the Bologna scientists performed a second demonstration of a smaller "more stable" version of the E-Cat (pictured above) that produced 4.4 kW for a period of 6 hours resulting in a total energy output of 24 kWh. Besides the "secret sauce" the reactor was fueled with 50 grams of Nickel and 1.1 grams of Hydrogen. I infer from their report that the reaction was terminated before the fuel was exhausted so we do not as yet know the ultimate capacity of this new Bologna energy source.
The second demonstration was witnessed by two members of a Swedish skeptics society who were allowed complete access to the E-Cat at all stages of its operation. The Swedish team could not discover any covert sources of energy and concluded from the facts available that some new form of nuclear reaction was involved.
According to physicist Brian Josephson, who has followed the cold fusion effort more closely than I, the Bologna research is self-funded but a Greek company Defkalion Green Technologies has contracted Rossi and Focardi to build a 1 MegaWatt reactor in Athens, Greece, which they hope to achieve by linking together 300 of the 4.4 kW demonstration model E-Cats.
Rossi and Focardi are also carrying out experiments to determine the nature of the reaction or reactions that power this device. For a nuclear scientist the most puzzling feature of the Rossi-Focardi E-Cat is that it produces substantially no gamma rays and no radioactive byproducts. A cursory study of possible reaction mechanisms between protons (Hydrogen) and Nickel suggests that both gamma rays and radioactive isotopes of Nickel should be produced. Because these expected products seem to be absent, the answer to the question: "What is the mechanism for the Rossi-Focardi reaction?" will probably turn out to be highly unconventional.
Until a plausible (and experimentally verifiable) nuclear mechanism is put forth, scientists are wise to suspend their belief. One obvious experiment that begs to be done is to run a small E-Cat to exhaustion while carrying out isotopic analysis at various stages of the process. I am hoping that Rossi and Focardi will publish soon the results of such an experiment.
|Nuclear Data Table on the Ni/Cu region. Click to expand.|
We can use this table, for instance, to see what happens when the most abundant Nickel isotope absorbs a proton. Ni58 + p --> Cu59. (We see from the table that Cu59 has a half-life of 81.8 sec and decays into Ni59 by emitting a positron and gamma rays.) Since this reaction produces gamma rays, both directly and through the annihilation of the resulting positron, and also produces a radioactive residue of Ni59, this hypothetical reaction cannot be responsible for the E-Cat's energy production.
So if it's a nuclear reaction, which reaction is it? Using this table, can you devise a plausible cold-fusion scheme that 1) emits no gamma rays and 2) does not create a radioactive residue of Ni59, Ni63 or Ni65?
Whatever the origin of its power, this new Bologna power source is extremely light (10 pounds) and compact, producing 4.4 kW for at least 6 hours (and probably much longer) using 50 grams of Nickel (an American Nickel coin weighs exactly 5 grams) and 1.1 grams of Hydrogen (an amount that would fill a seven-foot balloon).
For comparison purposes let's consider the properties of the largest home electric generator sold by Honda--the Honda Eu6500.
The Honda Eu6500 (pictured below) weighs 250 pounds and produces 6.5 kW of power (compared to one E-Cat's 4.4 kW). The Honda is fueled by gasoline and will run 5 hours on its 4.7 gallon tank producing about 30 kWh of energy compared to the 25 kWh produced by one E-Cat during its most recent demonstration.
Quantitatively the Bologna E-Cat's output is comparable to the Honda generator but there is one important difference. The Honda outputs its energy in the form of electricity while the E-Cat in its present stage of development produces its energy in the form of heat.
Congratulations, Rossi and Focardi! May your secret Italian sauce transform the world.
|Honda Eu6500 Portable Generator|