A guy named Andrea Rossi has been promoting this device call the E-Cat that produces huge amounts of energy by nuclear fusion: specifically, that it fuses hydrogen and nickel to produce copper and energy. And now there is a claim that this amazing result has been verified, in a remarkably gushing and credulous review.
I am not a physicist, not even close. I am at best a moderately well-read layman. I also understand the general principles of fusion — it’s how stars work, it’s how heavier elements have been built up over the history of the universe from lighter ones. I might be willing to naively concede that maybe you can get two elements to fuse under conditions present on earth…but then I would ask, in my charmingly simplistic understanding of nuclear reactions, what about the left over bits? You say you’ve brought these two atoms together in a high-energy reaction, you’ve got oodles of power flowing out of this, don’t these reactions always spew out a few subatomic particles? And if there really is all this energy available, aren’t they going to be flying out of the collision with tremendous power, producing what we civilians call deadly radiation?
You’re running a small nuclear reactor, you claim, on a table top…and there doesn’t seem to be any shielding at all. And you’re claiming phenomenal power output.
To put this into perspective, the E-Cat tested by the researchers has an energy density of 1.6×109 Wh/kg and power density of 2.1×106 W/kg. This is orders (plural) of magnitude higher than anything else ever tested — somewhere in the region of 100 times more power than the best supercapacitors, and maybe a million times more energy than gasoline. In the words of the researchers, “These values place the E-Cat beyond any other known conventional source of energy.”
Again with my childlike understanding of these kinds of processes…if I were in a room with something burning with a million times the intensity of gasoline, even if it was a tiny quantity, I’d be worried about containment. Why aren’t these guys? They all seem to be assuming that there is 100% efficiency in the conversion of hydrogen plus nickel into electricity…but where does that happen in the real world?
Not being a physicist, though, I could be missing something, so I looked for someone who knew these things better than I do. Here’s Ethan Siegel confirming my intuition about cold fusion — not only would all the possible nuclear reactions from these components produce lots of γ radiation, but the reaction is so improbably and requires such high energies that it doesn’t even occur in supernovae.
There are photos of the old device there that look like they’ve been wrapped in a layer of tinfoil. To block γ radiation. Right. And the new version looks like a bit of pvc pipe.
I think I’m satisfied that this new cold fusion thingie is fake. They didn’t provide the evidence that would satisfy a biologist: the investigators aren’t all dead.