LENR Resurrected by MIT – The Early Detractors

(Image Credits: Rossi ECAT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looks to be one of the first academic institutions to validate the claims that cold fusion is real. Cold fusion is now more commonly called Low-Energy-Nuclear-Reactions (LENR), partly to avoid the stigma the term “cold fusion” evokes. And in a strange twist of fate, MIT – who was one of the most aggressive detractors of cold fusion in the 1990s – is now leading the charge in resurrecting the technologies it once vilified.

Dr. Swarts and Prof Hagelstein of MIT publicly demonstrated how a device can not only run itself indefinitely, but their experiment also produced ten times the energy output that was input. They ran the experiment for two days to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology using a NANOR by Jet Energy. The device, as of this publishing, has been running for five days straight.

How Does LENR/Cold Fusion Work?

Understanding the theory about how LENR works has been the primary stumbling block for the technology. Only in the last few months have legitimate explanations for how and why a device like Andrea Rossi’s E-CAT could work.

While jumping into nuclear physics is beyond the scope of this article, theories to explain the phenomenon are leaning towards a “Lattice Assisted Nuclear Reaction” or LANR (sorry, it’s just another acronym for LENR). For the folks looking for a high-level, technical explanation, I like this one from a comment on a Digg posting and cited by New Energy Times:

It is looking more and more that “cold fusion” isn’t fusion at all. The best theory out there that doesn’t invoke any new physics is the Widom-Larsen theory (which has been published in a reputable peer reviewed journal). In a nutshell, it states what is going on is a multistep process. The plasmon modes in hydrated metals (think of them as surface electrons that all act together) get energized (many ways to do this) and get absorbed by protons. This produces a very low energy neutron (reverse neutron decay due to the weak nuclear force). Low-energy neutrons get absorbed quite easily by anything. This starts a cascade of creating unstable isotopes which beta decay. During the beta decay, gamma ray photons are released, but when they hit that metal plasmon they get shifted into mostly IR (heat) with a soft X-ray tail.
The challenge is that this phenomena requires very high energy densities (order of 10^11 V/m). So it more often will happen in small nano-crevices in materials.

For the less technical version, the chemical reactions invoked with LENR-type processes starts a chain reaction:

  1. Two chemicals are introduced to each other (Hydrogen + Nickel is a popular choice)
  2. Elements in these chemicals become excited (the “plasmon modes” in the above explanation)
  3. The plasmon modes emit electrons that get absorbed by protons
  4. This process causes very low level gamma radiation
  5. The gamma radiation produces heat

So that may be more information than your brain was ready to absorb but the point is that we now have several theories to explain why Cold Fusion/LENR/LANR works.

Why Do We Need a Theory?

In short, you can’t get a patent if you can’t explain how your technology works. If you can’t get a patent, you won’t get paid for your discovery as anybody who comes along can legally reproduce your work. This is the same thing that happens when we get a generic equivalent of a prescription drug.

So now that we have working theories, the hope is that the academic community will embrace cold fusion once again. With the support of academia, the technology can be improved upon and viable commercial units – cold fusion in your home – can be created.

When Can We Expect Cold Fusion in Our Homes?

Some inventors like Andrea Rossi and Defkalion are trying to get commercial and home-ready units into stores as early as the Fall of 2012. Rumors were circulating that Home Depot would be the first major retailer to carry Andrea Rossi’s E-CAT later this year.

And if you still have doubts, here’s an example of a working version by Defkalion:

You can see the video here

As more academic institutions get behind cold fusion again, my hope is to see this technology made huge leaps in the upcoming year. Who knows, maybe we’ll see home-ready devices by Christmas 2012. Here’s hoping!