Monday, November 14, 2011

Cold fusion debate heats up after latest demo

Italian physicist and inventor Andrea Rossi has conducted a public demonstration of his "cold fusion" machine, the E-Cat, at the University of Bologna, showing that a small amount of input energy drives an unexplained reaction between atoms of hydrogen and nickel that leads to a large outpouring of energy, more than 10 times what was put in.

The first successful cold fusion experiment was reported two decades ago, but the process has forever been met with heavy skepticism. It's a seemingly impossible process in which two types of atoms, typically a light element and a heavier metal, seem to fuse together, releasing pure heat that can be converted into electricity. The process is an attractive energy solution for two reasons: Unlike in nuclear fission, the reaction doesn't give off dangerous radiation. Unlike the fusion processes that take place in the sun, cold fusion doesn't require extremely high temperatures.

But the experimentalists who have supposedly demonstrated cold fusion over the years have been unable to explain the underlying mechanism that drives the miraculous reaction they claim to observe, and so the scientific community has largely turned its back on this line of research. Most physicists — as well as the United States Department of Energy (DoE), academic journals, and the U.S. Patent Office — consider cold fusion machines to be hoaxes, because they say physics rules out the possibility of room-temperature nuclear fusion. more