When in January, for the first time in Italy, in front of experts and journalists, was claimed a process of cold nuclear fusion , in that shed in the industrial area of Bologna, he was there too, Antonio Zoccoli, Professor of Physics at the University of Bologna and Director of the Bologna section of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).
Together with other colleagues, Zoccoli observed what the professors Sergio Focardi and the engineer Andrea Rossi were showing, but the request to provide more details on the prototype able to fuse the nuclei of cold-nickel and hydrogen, from which the production of energy, has not received sufficient answers, hence the doubts and perplexities.
"This is not skepticism," explains Antonio Zoccoli in Panorama.it, "but before we say that we are facing a cold nuclear fusion reaction, let us look inside the machine."
Prof. Zoccoli, what is it not convincing in the system "nickel-hydrogen" of Focardi and Rossi, which can produce a high amount of energy entering the machine about 1 kw?
The main problem is that we didn’t perform an experimental verification of these results, which also other research groups claims to have obtained. In fact, Rossi and Focardi up to now didn’t want to make public the details of their researches.
Why do you think?
Probably to preserve a possible patent. This is quite understandable from a commercial perspective, not from a scientific point of view since it is difficult for a scientist to recognize from outside, without knowing the details of the experiment, whether it is cold fusion or not.
What do you mean by "details of the experiment"? Was not present when it was made? What more?
Basically, myself and others, we would like to look inside the machine, moreover we would like to make measurements longer than three quarters of an hour, to operate the equipment for two weeks or longer in order to verify that the production of heat is actually as claimed and is constant.
At that point, in fact, what would change for you?
What we can say that the fact that it produces so much energy for a long time cannot be explained, for example, by a simple chemical reaction. The fact is that there are many different ways to produce energy in three-quarters of an hour. An important test is given by the length of the energy production: if it goes on for a long time then probably it is not a chemical reaction but it is something different.
Is there a final test to establish if we are in front of a nuclear reaction?
Typically a nuclear reaction produces nuclear products, such as gamma rays, which we didn’t detect during the experiment of Focardi and Rossi.
Speaking to us, Professor Focardi said that in reality the gamma rays are produced, but because they are dangerous to health they have managed to eliminate them by using small thicknesses of lead.
In principle this can be done, but I think "small thicknesses of lead" are not enough to shield all the gamma rays, in fact in order to produce all this energy through the nuclear reactions they claim a very large number of gamma must be produced.
If it was not a nuclear fusion, or a simple chemical reaction, what would it be?
I can not say, at least until it will be possible to do all that series of tests necessary to determine what kind of reaction it is. The information we have so far are too fragmentary.
If this discovery will survive all the tests, and will cancel the skepticism of the scientific community, how big would it be?
If this would be a nuclear fusion reaction obtained under these conditions there, it would be a discovery of global proportions: the resolution of all the planet's energy problems.
We would hope so and cheer. Do not you think?
Certainly. That's why if I happen to make a discovery like that I would publish all the details of an international scientific journal and probably I would win the Nobel Prize. However, what I can say is that the Department of Physics, University of Bologna is in contact with Focardi and Rossi to make a series of checks on their equipment and to understand the real nature of this phenomenon. I know Focardi since many years, and I think he is a reliable person, therefore I take seriously al this matter looking forward to express an opinion based on facts.
Talking about “hot fusion”, do you agree with the suspension of the Italian nuclear program decided by the government after the disaster of Fukushima?
No, but I think the problem was presented in a misleading way from the beginning when it was decided to open a nuclear program in Italy without first defining a national energy plan. But now the program is started, and now I am wondering what has changed due to the disaster of Fukushima. The Fukushima incident had nothing to do with the atom itself, but was due to the fact that the nuclear plant was constructed on the coast and designed to withstand tsunami waves 6 meter high and instead have been high 15.
Nevertheless this event had a strong emotional impact on the Italian population
This is because Italians are not sufficiently informed.
So do you think is right or wrong for Italians to express their opinion trough a referendum?
In my opinion, once a country decides to change the strategy to produce its energy is right to have a referendum. The problem is that here in Italy you take certain decisions based on political affiliation. In fact, on average, If one is from a party from the right wing of the parliament then it is pro-nuclear, on the contrary if it is from the left wing is against, but these opinions are not based on the real risks and benefits and if the use of the nuclear plants fulfill our needs or not.