This concept has "a new kind of chain reaction" at the heart of a complicated theory known as ZPED - zero point enhanced decay. Several related old posts have been revised and included here for convenience.
Many observers have become increasingly open to the suggestion that what Andrea Rossi has discovered, serendipitously and possibly unknown to himself, can be characterized as a critical mass. "of something" operating for large non-chemical gain, with mild radioactivity. Obviously, the 'something' is not directly related to nuclear fission, since neutrons are absent. The most puzzling detail is the lack of sufficient radioactivity to account for the excess heat. However, energy from nuclear decay or isomeric transition (IT) can be involved at a secondary level, if most of it can be coupled to an exchange mechanism with the zero point field. This overall modality is related to a physical mass of reactants, but it could easily be leaning towards having additional intangible considerations - which casts everything into a different light. Rather than change the well-known phrase 'critical mass' to the more precise: 'critical accumulation' (in order to accommodate intangible considerations) it seems prudent merely to acknowledge that this process is not directly connected to standard uranium fission, except metaphorically; but it does demand threshold levels of at least one variable and possibly several. The important behavior of the underlying system becomes "emergent" - in the way Ball describes in Critical Mass - How one thing leads to another, which is online at Google Books. This does not delve deeply enough into quantum mechanics to be helpful in the precise pursuit (explaining Andrea Rossi's E-Cat discovery). However, the insight on emergent systems is helpful for those who do not appreciate how a large jump in gain can arrive in such a surprising way. The irony here is that QM and critical mass are antithetical on one level of understanding - the small juxtaposed to the large. One intangible consideration in the operation of any quantum mechanical process is that 'probability' itself, in the sense of 'correlation fields,' is responsive to accumulation - and/or to 'trigger' levels (leading to emergent behavior) in systems which depend on a flux of neutrons-substitutes, which will be called a "vector". A moderately high stable temperature is one such trigger or vector, which operates to maximize stress within nanocavities. 'Probability' is also found at the underlying level of 'critical mass' via neutron interaction (fission chain reaction), but in this new form it is related to the zero point field in two steps. There is a secondary, accelerated nuclear decay (an isomeric conversion or a weak force reaction) which can seem at first to be primary, without looking at all the clues. This process is mediated by a dense form of hydrogen known as 'pycno'. This hypothesis is the merger of QM, cavity QED, and Casimir mechanics with mainstream nuclear reactions, and it will lead to a theory called ZPED, or zero point enhanced decay. The ultimate energy source is the atomic nucleus. Let's make that clear, even though the way it arrives is not straightforward and involves quantum mechanics, time shifting, and two distinct stages. Here are specific details: There is an unusual subset of heavy elements - four elements in the periodic table which are heavier (in a.m.u.) than the next element above them in the table. For instance, element 92 is heavier than element 93. There appears to be only four such elements in this category. As you might imagine (even not knowing the identity of the four) this characteristic could be strongly indicative of nuclear instability. The first three are quite well-known as the elements involved in nuclear fission: thorium, uranium and plutonium. The 'nuclear fission' common denominator of these elements is a "too-heavy" atomic mass, comparatively, and this property might indicate that the fourth element in this grouping is heavy enough to have its decay rate altered. However, this lesser known element is not known to undergo fission via neutron capture, as are the three above - and it does not participate in a chain reaction. At least not a chain reaction which is vectored by neutrons. It is also the lightest of the four. It is also a singularity in having the highest spread of atomic weight between its lowest and highest stable isotope of any element. Does that make it special in any way for a new kind of nuclear reaction, not involving neutrons as the active modality, but possibly involving another vector such as "pycno", f/H or IRH (inverted Rydberg hydrogen) or other names which were once more closely identified with the Mills' hydrino? This fourth element is tellurium - element 52. It is best known in the compound bismuth-telluride, used in thermoelectrics, or cadmium telluride in photovoltaics. It is photoactive and tends to form into 2D layers in a way that seems to mirror the dense hydrogen state - pycno which is also 2D. "Topologically protected surface states" are the important 2D feature of bismuth telluride. In the presence of spillover hydrogen, this points directly towards the critical operative mechanism of the E-Cat device. To help in understanding how "topologically protected surface states" might relate to a new kind of sequential nuclear reaction of tellurium, it can be helpful to start with the information on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topological_insulator A topological insulator is a material that behaves as an thermal insulator in its interior while permitting the movement of charges on its boundary. In fact bismuth-telluride conducts electricity like a metal but conducts heat poorly - like glass for instance. The internal stress resulting for this contradictory set of physical properties on bulk bismuth telluride must be severe. This will create nano-cracking and cavity formation. On the surface of a topological insulator are special states which fall within the bulk energy gap to allow good conduction. They also may allow spillover hydrogen to accumulate via mirror charges and then further densify in the nanocavities, which are more like nano-pits. Heat is retained in the pit but not at the surface, providing a high stress-interface. Once densified, there are many possibilities for excess heat. Those who favor a nuclear-only pathway might look to the P-e-P reaction as the aftermath. Some deuterium is expected in the ash. However, there are said to be no detectable neutrons over background in the E-Cat, and there should be neutrons with any significant level of fusion. What is more likely, in my opinion is that the main initial source of heat is NON-NUCLEAR. This creates an immediate local state of energy depletion, which can the secondarily result in accelerated decay of a tellurium isotope in such a way that that there is little remnant radioactivity. The most likely isotope for this is Tellurium-125m, which should be responsive to this kind of "balancing the books" scenario. Another unstable isotope - previously mentioned is Zr-96, but bismuth telluride may best frame this theory. In either case, the "IT" kind of energy shedding may predominate. An "isomeric transition" is a radioactive decay process that involves emission of energy from a nucleus in a metastable state, referred to in an excited state or deformed nucleus. There can be few traces of transmutation, when IT operates to balance the energy withdrawn from the ZPF. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isomeric_transition I am pretty sure that zirconia is the corresponding active material in Arata/Kitamura/Takahashi/etc experiments, yet only used small quantities and with less grain. Rossi may have found a much better "catalyst" (which is of course his inaccurate description) or else he has found a critical mass level. In both cases the nano nickel or Ni-Pd alloy can serve as spillover catalyst. Rossi's one liter capacity reactor indicates that he could not be using more than a kilogram of powdered material - and for present purposes, it is assumed to be mostly bismuth telluride with a few grams of a spillover catalyst. To be a little more specific, then, in this hypothesis which I am calling ZPED (zero point enhanced decay), most of the extra thermal energy initiates in the first step from a known asymmetric manipulation of hydrogen - the Lamb shift operating at infrared frequencies with a GHz offset. Any excess energy is severely self-limiting at a low level unless there is provided an in situ way to replenish the zero point field. The replenishment can comes from weak force reactions in tellurium (or other candidate nuclei) and this effectively replaces the energy deficit. Most of the emitted gamma radiation couples to ZPF before it can be observed in out 3-space. Continuing operation "appears to be" nuclear, when in fact that characterization is not accurate, and the proximate cause in zero point, while the ultimate cause is nuclear. This mechanism happens in two steps beginning with an asymmetrical looping effect of QED - quantum electrodynamics, and can be interpreted as the influence of virtual photons from the ZPE which have been emitted and re-absorbed by the densified hydrogen atoms. The value of the Lamb shift to this explanation is by way of a tiny mass-energy equivalent, which is about 4^-6 eV = 1 GHz = 4^-23 joules which is not much to get excited about unless you can recycle (pump) the change (asymmetry) rapidly. With your oscillator in the terahertz range (higher than ambient - i.e. the 'trigger' temperature) then the slight thermal gain can be made additive and sequential, so long as the zero point field is continually replenished locally. The bottom line of the ZPED thesis is that the initial (non-nuclear) gain is via QM effects and the zero point field (the Lamb shift and/or relativistic acceleration) - in conjunction with the rapid IR (infrared) pumping mechanism at a thermal trigger temperature. This creates a local energy deficit - in which an unstable nucleus, like Te-125 or Zr-96 become far more susceptible to decay, and can effectively 'regauge' the depleted local field, while leaving some (but comparatively little) remnant radioactivity. As for moving this from paper to laboratory, a set of definitive experiments has been (is being) designed to falsify this theory. Jones