July 30, 2010
Issue #35


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14. Larsen's Vision of LENR Technology

By Steven B. Krivit

Lewis Larsen, co-developer with Allan Widom of the Widom-Larsen theory of LENRs, has a vision for the potential of low-energy nuclear reactions.

When Larsen began looking into LENR in the mid-1990s, he noticed that, scientifically, it had very attractive features. Whereas conventional nuclear fission technology has complex hurdles to overcome with radiation emissions, massive and costly shielding and containment structures, not to mention waste disposal requirements, LENRs have virtually none of these problems.

Thermonuclear fusion technology, whenever it becomes technically and economically feasible, is expected to have some of the same problems as fission but to a lesser degree.

The key difference is that, unlike fission and fusion, which principally release energy through strong interactions, LENRs release energy through a mixture of weak and strong interactions, along with a mechanism that suppresses gamma radiation by converting it to infrared photons. (For more information on weak interactions, see New Energy Times article "Weak Interactions Are Not Weak Energetically.")

The strong interaction processes in fission and fusion are also responsible for the creation of the waste material with long-lived radioactive isotopes that presents environmentally sound storage challenges.

Larsen wrote six articles for the Institute of Science in Society between November 2008 and January 2009 that are excellent entry points for the layperson.

The articles explain Larsen's vision of the potential practical applications of LENR technology. They also provide excellent comparisons between LENR and conventional nuclear fission energy. The articles can be accessed free online at the following Web addresses:

  1. Low Energy Nuclear Reactions for Green Energy – Nov. 13, 2008
  2. Widom-Larsen Theory Explains Low Energy Nuclear Reactions & Why They Are Safe and Green  – Dec. 4, 2008
  3. Portable and Distributed Power Generation from LENRs – Dec. 10, 2008
  4. LENRs for Nuclear Waste Disposal – Dec. 11, 2008
  5. Safe, Less Costly Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning and More – Jan. 26, 2009
  6. LENRs Replacing Coal for Distributed Democratized Power –Jan. 27, 2009

Larsen has also been producing a series of highly technical slide presentations since January 2009. New Energy Times lists these on our Widom-Larsen Theory Portal. In his Jan. 30, 2009, slide presentation, however, he provides a non-technical perspective on his views of early practical development of LENR technology.

Larsen characterizes early LENR products as "small, long-lived power generation systems." Based on his understanding of the potential of LENR, Larsen envisions several phases.

He foresees the first phase as follows:

  • Initial products with custom form-factors will target high performance, mission critical applications in military and civilian markets that are not price-sensitive to cost of power source. For example, military and police emergency radios, small portable electronic devices, and small stand-alone, off-grid distributed stationary power generation systems. Production in low to medium unit volumes.
  • Power output of market-entry systems will probably be in the 10s of Watts for battery-like devices to several kilowatts for stationary systems, all having duty cycles of at least 500-1,000 hours at full output capacity. This would provide greater than 10 times the performance of chemical batteries.

Larsen sees the second phase as follows:

  • Over time, manufacturing cost curve drops, similar to development in microprocessors, memory chip, personal computer and cell phone technology.
  • Production in this phase is characterized by larger unit volume and much more price-sensitive market applications as the manufacturing experience accumulates and costs drop. For example, battery-like power sources for commodity mobile phones.
  • High-volume market applications for LENR-based battery-like form factors could vastly reduce manufacturing costs of LENR power generation systems. Continuing economies of scale ride down the cost curve, displacing competing technologies.

Over time, Larsen sees a third phase in which the total output capacity of LENR power sources increases, further disrupting and displacing prevailing technologies:

  • As manufacturing costs drop and applications proliferate, total electrical power output of LENR-based power generation systems could be scaled up dramatically, ultimately reaching 100s of kilowatts — enough to power some types of motor vehicles, aircraft (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), and smaller commercial buildings.
  • Similar to the market penetration of personal computers and mobile phones, use of progressively less expensive, LENR-based distributed power systems could spread rapidly worldwide, especially to rural areas where an electrical power grid is either absent, uneconomic, or unreliable. LENR-based power devices could also eventually displace internal combustion engines.

Larsen envisions LENR technology improving the quality of life for billions of people.


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