Report from the World Sustainable Energy Conference 2012 in Geneva, 10-12 Jan 2012

Thanks to the invitation of conference chairman Gustav Grob, Francesco Celani and I, representing the International Society for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, had the opportunity to introduce the state of research in the field, recent developments regarding Rossi/Defkalion, and offer a glimpse into a possible future where energy is provided by Cold Fusion.

Francesco told how he and his group tried to disprove CF in 1989, found neutrons, decided to spend some time to see what is happening, and over time became convinced that it's neither fraud nor error, instead something difficult but quite solid. After a very turbulent beginning with poor reproducibility of experiments, the field had by now improved the quality and reproducibility of the results obtained and the most innovative experiments were cross-checked by other groups. He criticized that a confirmation of energy production by NASA in 1989 was not immediately made public, because publication could have helped the feld gain support and funding.

The occurence of transmutations was reported and work by Iwamura's group at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which has developed a method for the controlled transmutation of elements, was stressed. But the presentation was focussed on energy production.

A history of excess heat production and breakthroughs was given. Two different systems have been studied extensively: the Palladium/Deuterium system, pioneered by Fleischmann/Pons, and the Nickel/Hydrogen system, pioneered by Francesco Piantelli. Both systems have been shown to have potentially large power densities. In designing a working reactor, the materials issue is central. The biggest breakthroughs, according to Francesco, were the use of nano-particles and alloys, both pioneered by Yoshiaki Arata. Excess heat production using a ZrO2-Pd alloy (Arata) was independently reproduced by Akito Takahashi/Akira Kitamura, even though the latter used material from a different, industrial provider. This is remarkable because in CF not all materials behave similarly, not even from the same producer.

Recent important results include the finding by NASA that heat was produced not just when Deuterium was loaded into Palladium, which is expected, but also when it was unloaded. Takahashi/Kitamura found a temperature dependency of excess heat prouction using Cu-Ni-Zr alloy. Francesco reported own work in progress that excess heat production in a thin, micro-nano coated Cu-Ni wire was positively correlated with a slight decrease in electrical resistance at room temperature but with a strong decrease at higher temperatures (300-500°C). All in all, experiments using nano-sized materials are highly reproducible. Operation in the gas phase enables higher temperatures which further improves reproducibility.

The facts that no greenhouse gases are produced, dangerous radiation or residual radioativity can very likely be completely eliminated, and energy sources are small, are good preconditions for commercial products. Recent, extraordinary claims by Andrea Rossi and Defkalion Green Technologies, who claim to produce energy in the kW-MW range, had to be regarded with both attention and caution. The field was not considering the Rossi/Defkalion claims to be impossible in principle, but they should be verified independently as soon as possible.

Apart from the Rossi/Defkalion claims, the quality of experiments worldwide was so high and the results obtained so widespread, that an international program, well funded and based on a multidisciplinary approach, had the possibility to build a device producing even electricity with very low, overall, emissions.

I gave an overview of claims by Rossi/Defkalion. Rossi has publically demonstrated a plant generating 1MW heat power and claims to have already sold 14 devices to a military customer and another one to a non-military customer. Within 2012 or 2013 he wants to put one million 10-20kW devices on the market to be able to push the price below 1ct/kWh. As a matter of fact, National Instruments, a company also providing control systems to tokamak Hot Fusion systems, is cooperating with Rossi's US company. The Greek company Defkalion wants to put reactors producing 5-45kW thermal power on the market, starting with the Greek market probably in 2012. Rossi/Defkalion claim to receive safety certificates within 2012. No party has an international patent, Rossi has protection in Italy.

According to a trusted source of Jed Rothwell, Defkalion's science, engineering, and equipment are first rate and the upcoming products revolutionary. I concluded that, even though there was no indication of fraud, neither Rossi nor Defkalion had lent their devices for independent testing and that there was no certainty that their devices work as claimed, including long term reliability.

If Cold Fusion devices can be turned on and off with the push of a button and work reliably over a long term, they would quickly replace existing heat and electricity sources. Relying on prospects by Rothwell and Arthur C. Clarke, I said that oil and gas used for heating and cooling would be quickly replaced by CF. Much of the energy currently consumed as electricity in water heaters, clothes washer and dryers, and dishwasher, would be supplied directly as heat from CF. A 10kW Cold Fusion heat generator should be sufficient, even for a large house. CF would be an ideal energy source for facility management. A new era of steam engines may be looming on the horizons, with obvious applications like locomotives. Even if CF turned out to be „only“ 10% of the world's energy supply, it would be important.

Desalination, the removal of salt from sea water to be used in e.g. agriculture, was an obvious application that could be realized early on. Since it has been shown by Iwamura and others that radioactive elements can be transmuted into stable elements, remediation of nuclear waste is another potential application in the also not too distant future. Because of this potential, some people in the field believe that CF will cause the return of fission power plants. But others, like Rothwell, argue that centralized power production will not be able to compete with home devices on the market.

Because of demands for plastics the oil industry would probably have a future until industry is completely turned upside down by the controlled synthesis of desired elements, which Clarke envisions for 2040. Finally, NASA sees CF applications in space travel and for the military.

To see if these prospects are realistic, a coherent explanation of the nuclear process was required for mainstream science to take notice. Science policy should be informed about the state of research and fund this kind of research to speed up research and development.

Other presentations on the conference dealt with the state of research on other energy sources, the work of NGOs, or the energy strategies of governments. Within the next days recommendations will be worked out to be submitted to the UN's Rio+20 conference held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.

Haiko Lietz, 15 Jan 2012

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