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Does Italian Demo Show Cold Fusion, or Snake Oil? 479

Posted by timothy
from the how-much-would-you-bet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Today, Wired.co.uk is running a story, 'Cold fusion rears its head as "E-Cat" research promises to change the world.' It gives an overview of the technology that claims to fuse hydrogen and nickel into copper, with no radioactive by-products, to produce copious amounts of heat, inexpensively, with a 1 megawatt plant scheduled to come on line later this month. Apparently, Wired was not aware that today is a big test in Italy by scientists from around the world, who will be observing the technology in operation, including self-looped mode. A real-time update page has been set up at PESWiki, which has been a primary news provider of this technology since it was announced last January." Wired's article is remarkably optimistic. I'd love for this to be true, but many decades of scientific-looking free-energy machine scams make it hard to be other than cynical; the claim of a secret catalyst which "can be produced at low cost," controlled-access for outside observers, the lack of published science to explain the claimed effect, and skepticism even from the free-energy world — along with a raft of pro-E-Cat websites registered anonymously earlier this year — all make it sound like this follows the marketing style of previous "over unity" / perpetual motion machines. I invite Andrea Rossi to take part in a Slashdot interview, if he's willing to answer readers' questions about his claims.
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Does Italian Demo Show Cold Fusion, or Snake Oil?

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  • Re:I do wish that... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:16AM (#37626178)

    ... people had taken that much scepticism to global warming.

    You probably want to be more specific and say, "... people had taken that much scepticism to anthropogenic global warming."

    Climate has always been warming or cooling, it's only in the last few years that we started blaming ourselves.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:47AM (#37626688) Journal

    I think the big question on everyone's mind is if this actually *is* a nuclear reaction. There could be some sort of chemical reaction going on with the hydrogen, causing it to give off heat. If so, this 'reactor' is just another hydrogen fuel cell (possibly more efficient, maybe not). Not that a fuel cell which can be made using a "cheap catalyst" would be a bad thing - Slashdot has had a number of stories of people working towards such. But, fuel cells are not an energy "source", in the same way as an alkaline battery is not an energy source - but it could be a very convenient storage mechanism.

  • by rabtech (223758) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:48AM (#37626692) Homepage

    They appear to claim that injecting a nickel powder with hydrogen gas under high pressure forces hydrogen into situations where the nickel will capture a proton, turning into an unstable copper isotope, which will beta decay back to nickel emitting a positron which annihilates with an electron, producing heat energy.

    As far as I know there is no known theoretical basis for such a reaction. Even if you could squeeze the hydrogen into really tight spaces in a heated crystal structure then cool it to get atomic forces to squeeze the hydrogen to an insane degree, you still won't come close to enough force to get proton capture. And the heat levels they are talking about aren't going to get there either.

    History is littered with crackpots who believed their own nonsense and fakers who drummed up hype to get investor's money (or just coast for a few years while drawing a paycheck and not having to get a real job). I predict more of the same in this case.

  • Re:Catalyst or not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krlynch (158571) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:50AM (#37626740) Homepage

    The bigger problem is that Ni62 is the most tightly bound nucleus known, http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/nucbin2.html#c1 [gsu.edu] or http://www.nndc.bnl.gov/chart/ [bnl.gov] Fusion or fission of Ni62 require an input of energy; they clearly aren't measuring spontaneous release of energy in a fusion event...

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @11:18AM (#37627232)

    I can't hardly blame someone with a potentially world altering invention wanting to keep it under wraps for as long as possible.

    then...

    Yeah, it's against the open source ethos, but it's also how reality works for 99% of the people out there; you don't give your work away for free.

    then...

    Quite frankly, this would be the exact kind of invention that the patent system works for....

    You are trying to argue both sides of the fence here. If you had a potentially world-altering invention, you would be racing to the patent office at each stage of the invention to prevent competition. That is how is works for 99% of the people out there. Otherwise, you would eventually be giving your work away for free.

    So where are the patents? If there are no patents, and this thing (through some miracle) is legitimate, then it is now ripe for someone else to swoop in and patent it (first to file wins; former publication, which this would qualify as, is mostly irrelevant nowadays). That would make this guy the dumbest inventor on Earth.

    So yes, this is 99.9999999999% certain to be a scam.

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