A new scientific paper confirming the validity of a working Nickel-Hydrogen power generation technology has been published by Cornell University Library.
Called the “eCat”, the device puts out more energy than it takes in, using a low-powered nuclear reaction. It does not use any radioactive materials, and requires no “fuel” in the conventional sense, only nickel powder and hydrogen under heat and pressure, along with another unspecified catalyst. The eCat can run for 6 months on approximately one metric cup of nickel powder before the core needs to be replaced.
Unlike classical nuclear power plants, the eCat exploits a phenomena known as Low Energy Nuclear Reactions. Previously called “Cold Fusion”, scientists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann discovered anomolous (excess) heat in an experimental apparatus, but their experiments could not initially be replicated. It took more than 20 years of research around the world, but finally, the Widon-Larsen Theory was found to describe the effect. It was an accidental discovery by Italian energy technologist Andrea Rossi which finally made it possible to produce a reliable device.
The unit (pictured right) is completely safe to operate in a normal industrial facility, allowing for the extreme heat it produces. Weak gamma particles produced by the eCat are easily shielded by the casing of the reactor, and the reaction itself is easily controlled by modulating its power inputs. The reactor does not produce any radioactive by-products. It is automatically self-neutralising, because if it becomes too hot, the powdered metal core melts, and the reaction can no longer take place.
During the validation process, the eCat device was carefully tested and examined for error or fraud by a team of seven internationally-respected scientists who were all named in the report. The eCat was run continuously in a large room for more than 96 hours. It was also tested to destruction. On average, it generated three times its power input.
While it remains for scientists to continue experimenting, Andrea Rossi has produced a number of commercial applications which are currently under examination for industrial certification. Two large units have already been sold. Twelve months ago, Rossi sold a 1 Megawatt power generation system that fit inside a 20′ cargo container. An earlier device is believed to have been sold to a military customer. Both devices generate dry steam. According to Rossi, Siemens is helping Rossi turn this steam into electrical power with sufficient efficiency to make local power generation by small LENR devices efficient enough to install in domestic and business applications.
Since the production of Rossi’s first 1 Megawatt plant, Rossi has developed his eCat technology further, to produce a new generation of products. The “Hot Cat” runs at much higher temperatures, up to 1000c, and is better suited for electrical turbines. The specs of his latest unit, the “Tiger” are closely guarded, but it appears that Rossi has succeeded in greatly reducing the size of the 1 Megawatt unit from a 20′ cargo container to something roughly the size of a 44 gallon drum, or, when fully insulated, about the size of a conventional home water heater. One megawatt is enough to power approximately 100 homes, or an entire high-rise apartment building. When fully developed and ready for domestic applications, an eCat unit the size of a Thermos flask would power a home, and a unit twice that size would run an automobile. Both units would be able to run continuously for six months without needing refueling. The cost of a replacement canister is expected to be less than US$10.
Because the eCat does not “burn” fuel in the ordinary sense, the cost of generating electrical power will be a tiny fraction of current electricity production costs. Nickel is one of the most abundant metals on the planet – nickel used in the core is believed to be recyclable. Some of the nickel is transmuted into copper, proof that a nuclear reaction is indeed taking place. The copper is not radioactive. The reactor does not “burn” the hydrogen in a chemical reaction, so hydrogen costs will be insignificant. No large power plants or special generation stations will be required. And as power will be generated locally, there will be no need for a power grid, thus saving another huge expense.
The power grid, as we know it, is already doomed. 100% local generation is becoming quite feasible even with existing renewable technologies. As more and more distributed generation technologies come on line, those big, ugly, wasteful wires are looking more and more like Steam Age relics. Put another way, the grid is about to be made redundant. LENR also sounds the death-knell for conventional nuclear power plants, as if Fukushima hadn’t done enough already.
With the publication of this latest report, it is now very clear that the technology works. Hundreds of firms can now be expected to move quickly into this space, creating a new “Energy Gold Rush”. First Movers like Rossi have an obvious head start, but he will not be able to maintain his lead for more than a few years. Like the Wright Brothers, once it is demonstrated that this seemingly impossible thing can be done by anyone, investment will flow. Even before electrical power systems start to roll out, heating units to replace oil and gas heaters in large buildings are an immediate application in the northern hemisphere, where winters are cold. While the major auto manufacturers can be expected to drag their heels, smaller players like Tesla Motors and others will leap into the vacuum and produce engines, some of which may be suitable as drop-in replacement plants for standard autos much like the LPG Conversion industry in the 1990′s. The benefits for airlines will be obvious. NASA wants to use LENR to power space planes that will take off from the ground like aircraft, and be capable of reaching orbit without burning any chemical fuel.
What does this mean for New Zealand? If commercialisation proceeds quickly, it means that in the near term, our existing power generators are white elephants. Power station investments are meant to span decades. However new technologies like the eCat throw those investments into question. It also means that investors who recently paid for Mercury Energy shares may have bought into a falling market, with power prices set to fall to near zero within a decade. [Disclosure: if you didn't know already, ANFS is emphatically opposed to the sale of NZ public utilities]
NZ could not possibly continue supporting its ageing infrastructure if the rest of our international competitors were moving quickly to distributed, localised power generation using LENR devices like the eCat, with virtually zero running costs. New Zealanders currently pay some of the highest power prices in the OECD, at nearly 30 cents per kilowatt. This is already enough of a scandal as it is. But it is not set to last, no matter how cunning and inventive our Oligarchs are at protecting their profits on these little cloud-shrouded islands. The eCat will be able to produce six months worth of electricity for about $12. Not $12 per month, $12 for half a year’s worth of power, excluding the cost of the initial investment.
How could we not have known this, prior to the float of our Mercury Energy? Well, in fact, we did – it simply couldn’t be proved, sufficient to include it as a credible risk in the share prospectus. But the government surely knew all about it. Research into LENR, and in particular the work of the garrulous Mr. Rossi has been one of the biggest open secrets in the entire global energy industry. Discussion has been intense. While certain details may have been proprietary, many websites publish *daily* updates on progress in the field which are avidly followed by tens of thousands. Every scrap of information is collected and analysed. Many notable personages in the scientific community have made cautious but positive comments about the technology, including NASA’s Chief Scientist and others. There have been conferences on the field, and it is almost inconceivable that any large buyer or producer of electricity could be ignorant of the fact that something BIG was going on.
To suggest that the government did not know about, and had no access to any serious scientific information with regard to LENR and its ability to revolutionise the electricity industry is absurd. The governments of all modern nation-states, even small ones like New Zealand are routinely briefed about scientific and technological innovations which can impact their competitiveness even in mundane situations. But when a government wishes to sell strategic assets, and indeed, stakes its political reputation on it in the face of public opposition, it is impossible that the government did know about this. The Prime Minister can’t claim a brain fade or a GCSB fumble this time… there was a highly prominent article in Forbes Magazine entitled, NASA: A Nuclear Reactor to Replace Your Water Heater. It’s not hard to imagine why the government was so keen to sell before the technology was validated. Validation could have come at any time in the last 12 months. The current report by the evaluation team was expected in mid-April, but it was late, and came out only today. The float occurred less than two weeks ago. Had it come out when it was due, it would have to have been referenced in the prospectus as yet another material risk.
The initial float has passed now. But expect more large power users like Rio Tinto Alcan to start stalling or renegotiating their long-term power buys. An aluminium smelter not wanting to pay commercial rates when they could generate their own electricity using LENR practically for free is a no-brainer. It will be these companies that bring LENR to New Zealand. Investors in NZ power company shares should probably not hold their breath on any big industrial customers saving their bacon any time soon. Share prices may be expected to fall slowly but steadily in the near term.
Of course a lot can happen, as the pace of change accelerates, and it’s by no means certain that the promise of this new technology will be fully realised, as powerful interests are heavily involved. But with this week’s LENR test results being published by such a serious and reputable source, the writing is on the wall. If you ever needed another reason to say, “Aotearoa is NOT for Sale”, you can’t go past this.