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Power Science

Italian Scientists Demonstrate Cold Fusion? 815

Haffner quotes physorg which says "Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W....when the atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen are fused in their reactor, the reaction produces copper and a large amount of energy. The reactor uses less than 1 gram of hydrogen and starts with about 1,000 W of electricity, which is reduced to 400 W after a few minutes. Every minute, the reaction can convert 292 grams of 20C water into dry steam at about 101C. Since raising the temperature of water by 80C and converting it to steam requires about 12,400 W of power, the experiment provides a power gain of 12,400/400 = 31."
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Italian Scientists Demonstrate Cold Fusion?

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  • by gambit3 ( 463693 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:04PM (#34981762) Homepage Journal

    Rossi and Focardi’s paper on the nuclear reactor has been rejected by peer-reviewed journals, but the scientists aren’t discouraged. They published their paper in the Journal of Nuclear Physics, an online journal founded and run by themselves, which is obviously cause for a great deal of skepticism. They say their paper was rejected because they lack a theory for how the reaction works. According to a press release in Google translate, the scientists say they cannot explain how the cold fusion is triggered, “but the presence of copper and the release of energy are witnesses.”

  • by Syncerus ( 213609 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:04PM (#34981782)

    Also, the site on which this report was published is owned by the authors.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:07PM (#34981830)

    There is a chance that they stumbled upon something useful without having a clue how it works, therefore unable to produce a good paper on it. Notably 'cold fusion' appears likely to have nothing to do with it.

    Someone writing it up along those lines: []

    Hard to tell.

  • by CraftyJack ( 1031736 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:21PM (#34982084)
    That was almost my favorite part of the article. It ran a close third to this:

    Rossi and Focardi have applied for a patent that has been partially rejected in a preliminary report. According to the report, “As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible. In the present case, the invention does not provide experimental evidence (nor any firm theoretical basis) which would enable the skilled person to assess the viability of the invention. The description is essentially based on general statement and speculations which are not apt to provide a clear and exhaustive technical teaching.” The report also noted that not all of the patent claims were novel.

    But neither holds a candle to this:

    Further, the scientists say that the reactor is well beyond the research phase; they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:21PM (#34982090)

    If it really works they could create a business out of it and retire.

    From their webiste

    "This recent public demonstration alone is is a huge development, but what's more, they also claim to be going into production, expecting to have these available for purchase commercially within a year. This would become the world's first commercially-ready "cold fusion" device. The first units are supposed to ship in three months, with mass production commencing by the end of 2011."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:25PM (#34982146)

    What's your reasoning? Hydrogen is energy-packed so it should be exothermic. Anyway it's easy to find out. I chose the most stable compatible isotopes:

    mass(H-1) + mass(Ni-62) - mass(Cu-63) =
    1.00782503207 + 61.9283451 - 62.9295975 = 0.0065726
    mass(H-1) + mass(Ni-64) - mass(Cu-65) =
    1.00782503207 + 63.9279660 - 64.9277895 = 0.0080015

    The left side is heavier than the right side, so the reaction is exothermic.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:28PM (#34982188)

    If the mass of the hydrogen plus nickel atoms is more than the mass of the resulting copper, the fusion will release energy. Let's check some values (source: Wikipedia).

    So start with Ni-58 (the most abundant), mass 57.9353429 amu.

    Add hydrogen: 1.00794 amu.

    Total: 58.943283 amu.

    Get Cu-59, mass 58.9394980 amu.

    And you just lost 0.003785 amu - mass which has become energy. That's how you get the exothermic fusion.

    The problem here is that Cu-59 is unstable with a half-life of just 81 seconds; pretty hard to detect. Though skimming through their research paper I found that they say that the decay results in other isotopes of copper, or even decaying back into nickel. Anyway if this fusion takes place, there will be copper left, and energy is set to be released.

    Now whether this whole reaction takes place, that's for other researchers to figure out - "all" they have to do is "just" try to reproduce the results, which may not be easy. It seems something happens, and it may be interesting to figure out what it is. The amounts of energy they claim to have produced are significant, too much to be simply systemic errors. But what is going on - well that's nothing I can speculate on from here.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:31PM (#34982220) Homepage

    Trans-iron fusion with ITSELF is not exothermic, but trans-iron with Hydrogen?
    In small amounts this might happen in stars, but by the time a star has anything more than trace amounts of elements up to iron it has exhausted its hydrogen so any fusion of other elements with hydrogen is in the minority and doesn't contribute to the stars energy.

  • Re:Game analogy (Score:5, Informative)

    by gaderael ( 1081429 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [learedag]> on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:34PM (#34982264)

    Um, Duke Nukem Forever has a release date now, May 3rd, 2011. []

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:43PM (#34982404) Journal
    That's his point. You're getting out more energy than you're putting in electricity in this reaction, but it's combining nuclei into ones at a lower energy level, so it's not magic energy from nothing any more than setting fire to paper is.
  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:43PM (#34982410)

    I don't totally buy that it is making copper. It could be true, but unlikely. A few things to consider:

    Nickel isotopes have high nuclear binding energies. Ni62 has the highest binding energy. Very tough to get a nuclear reaction that produces power out of Ni, impossible from Ni62. Reactions with Ni62 are endothermic.

    Copper has 2 stable isotopes. The rest don't last long. Cu63 and Cu65 are stable.

    The Ni is ether absorbing or emitting a particle. Ni62 and lower seem like poor candidates. Wrong side of the tracks.

    Ni64 could become Cu63 from some sort of fission, but would also be endothermic.

  • Re:Riiight (Score:5, Informative)

    by xero314 ( 722674 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:53PM (#34982570)

    Call me when they can attach a generator to it, hook the output up to the input, and keep it running by just putting in cold water and getting steam.

    I think you mean by putting in Nickle and Hydrogen and getting out Copper and heat. The water itself should not have to be replaced as it just converts back from vapor after it cools and can be reprocessed. The nickle and the hydrogen on the other hand are replaced by the generated Copper.

    Some times it's like people don't even read the summary.

  • Re:Riiight (Score:5, Informative)

    by ikkonoishi ( 674762 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:01PM (#34982702) Journal

    Nickle costs about four times as much per pound as copper. [] []

  • by soren100 ( 63191 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:04PM (#34982750)

    until no one else could replicate the results. ... but otherwise no one seriously (or rather, no serious scientist) chases that particular dream anymore.

    This is simply not true. There are many scientists who were able to get similar results -- Navy researchers got a paper published in Naturwissenschaften [] in 2007, and reported further significant results in 2009 [].

    As a matter of fact, the American Chemical Society hosted a 2-day conference on the subject [] at their 239th meeting last year in San Francisco.

    "Years ago, many scientists were afraid to speak about 'cold fusion' to a mainstream audience," said Jan Marwan, Ph.D., the internationally known expert who organized the symposium. Marwan heads the research firm, Dr. Marwan Chemie in Berlin, Germany. Entitled "New Energy Technology," the symposium will include nearly 50 presentations describing the latest discoveries on the topic. ...

    "The field is now experiencing a rebirth in research efforts and interest, with evidence suggesting that cold fusion may be a reality." Marwan said. He noted, for instance, that the number of presentations on the topic at ACS National Meetings has quadrupled since 2007.

    What happened is that to avoid the seemingly near-religious 'skepticism' displayed yourself and others, the actual scientists working on the subject had to refer to their results as "anomalous heat" and refer to the field as "Low Energy Nuclear Reactions" (LENR) to avoid controversy.

    So while you are busy deciding if anyone is replicating the results or if the field is worth looking into, a great deal of serious scientific effort has gone into the field for the last 20 years.

  • by number6x ( 626555 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:38PM (#34983290)

    It sounds to me like Pons and Fleishman all over again, except they were chemists and these guys are physicists.

    You are correct. However, from the reaction and results this looks like chemistry as well. They have built a very expensive and not very practical chemical battery.

    Reducing the layer of oxidized nickel in the presence of oxygen and hydrogen is an exothermic reaction that produces heat [] at about the levels shown in this experiment. This is chemistry they are doing. The hydrogen is combining with oxygen and producing steam. There are about 50ppm of copper in nickel and they are merely extracting it.

    Now, if they're not only physicists but good enough to do what was formerly thought impossible, why is it that they can't explain it?

    They should call up a mining engineer or just google the 'Sherritt-Gordon process' to learn more about what they are actually doing. What they are doing is seperating the nickel and the copper that occurs naturally.

    Move along folks, nothing to see here. (I hang my head in shame as a physicist. But I will tell my parents that paying for a physics degree from a school of mining finally came in handy!)

  • Re:no? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dex22 ( 239643 ) <> on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:42PM (#34983356) Homepage

    She decides what's hot and what's not.

  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @02:00PM (#34983638) Homepage Journal

    >>Also note that Cu-59 will decay into Ni-59, which is radioactive and has a halflife of 76000 years. So even if this did work, you haven't solved the problem of radioactive waste.

    What problem? It either has such a long halflife that it's barely radioactive, or it's active enough you can extract electricity from it.

    The waste problem is a political one.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @03:54PM (#34985326) Homepage

    How do you arrive at that conclusion? The extra proton comes from the hydrogen. One less water proton -> one proton heavier isotope. Although that does raise the question as to what source nickel isotope(s) they're using, since the most abundant nickel isotope is Ni-58, and Cu-59 only has a half-life of 81.5 seconds. The only persistent copper would come from Ni-62 (3.5%) and Ni-64 (0.9%). Most of the nickel would form transient copper isotopes which would then spawn decay chains (I seem to have lost my nucleonica account at the moment, or I'd check to see the net result).

    In general: I'm not about to declare "Cold Fusion Is Impossible!", but I think these people are a long way from passing the burden of proof.

  • Re:Well now.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @04:34PM (#34985888) Homepage

    No, they're describing fusion, period. Traditional hot fusion is a particular subset of that, in which the method to combine the nuclei (not atoms) involves heating them up to great temperatures in a maxwellian plasma, so that the nuclei with the highest energies (far higher than the average energy of the plasma) can fuse. There are also some less pursued hot fusion methods involving non-maxwellian plasmas.

    Cold fusion is fusion in which there is no bulk plasma at all (although in some approaches it is theorized to exist at extremely small scales). More often, the idea is that you use an alternative method to overcome or reduce the coulomb barrier. For example, one hypothesized method of cold fusion is that under certain conditions, electrons are "dressed" with extra mass by quasiparticles (such as phonons), leading them to act like muons and catalyze fusion events by dramatically reducing the covalent bond length.

    Just because there is no definitive explanation for a phenomenon doesn't mean that it does not exist. We still don't have a complete, definitive explanation for high temperature superconductivity, but there's no doubt that it exists -- and there are a number of competing theories. There are lots of competing theories for how cold fusion would work which cannot be ruled out at this time -- many of them no more exotic than our theories of high temperature superconductivity (or even the accepted mechanism behind low-temperature superconductivity). At the same time, the evidence is subject to many different interpretations. The DOE's viewpoint on the subject is that research should continue to explain the anomalies, but no major projects should be launched.

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:50PM (#34990032) Homepage

    I posted to this to Andrea Rossi's website, and I'll post it again here in case that site ever goes down (with some added links and some typos fixed): []

    January 22nd, 2011 at 11:33 AM


    When Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons made their original cold fusion announcement, I sent them a copy of the book "Midas World". It is a collection of science-fiction short stories by Frederik Pohl on some of the socioeconomic implications of cheap fusion energy. It includes a funny satirical story called "The Midas Plague", originally published in 1954. Wikipedia has a page on the book, which reads in part: "... in this new world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. So now the 'poor' are forced to spend their lives in frantic consumption, so that the 'rich' can live lives of simplicity." In that imaginary world, only the "rich" get to have small homes, to eat plain food, and to work a lot both to help other people and to tend their small gardens; the "poor" are condemned to living in mansions, to eating vast amounts of fancy food, to being entertained endlessly, and they are not allowed to do meaningful work for others or themselves -- all to make an old-fashioned scarcity-based economic model still work out in an age of cheap energy. :-)

    In the last chapter of the book, there is a section quoted from the inventor's diary on his bitter disappointment about how humankind used his invention. He had hoped cheap fusion power would liberate humanity for a life of contemplation, creativity, or even just loafing around (see also Bob Black's essay "The Abolition of Work"). But instead that fictional world ended up with "a snowmobile in every driveway ... and a dune buggy plowing up every patch of sand".

    The inventor said he was shut out by large corporations etc. from advocating positive ideas about the social issues relating to his invention of cheap fusion energy, and his aspirations for humankind's social uplift. While he got a lot of money from the patents, the cheap energy soon made everyone rich in material terms, and so being financially obese did not mean much anymore. Fortunately, even though the inventor was pessimistic, humanity did expand into space habitats eventually in that fictional world (given room in the solar system for quadrillion of people in habitats built from asteroidal ore), and one could hope such a human proliferation (or even better robotics and AI) would bring some wider social diversity along with time for reflection by some individuals on a healthier relationship between consciousness and the universe.

    I'd recommend reading that book just for some general insights into the social and economic side of cheap energy (and some laughs for stressful times). As it is a satirical novel, I'm not saying its predictions are going to be 100% true (I sure hope not), but it is a useful cautionary tale to read none-the-less. James P. Hogan's hard sci-fi novel "Voyage From Yesteryear" is another good book on a similar topic, about the collision of a society rooted in scarcity assumptions with a society built around abundance assumptions and cheap energy.

    In reality, there are many non-paying activities most people would like to do more of, things that take a lot of time. These are essentially voluntary things, like to be a good friend, to be a good neighbor, to be a good parent, to be a good caretaker for sick relatives, or to be an informed citizen. I hope material abundance through cheaper energy and other innovations could make it more possible for people to have time to do those essential humane tasks as well as people want to do them; people may otherwise be prevented from doing those things well by the need to work just to get a basic subsistence income (even as meaningful productive work itself can be a very good thi

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"