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24. Rossi and Focardi LENR Device: Probably Real, With Credit to Piantelli
(This article was originally published on the New Energy Times blog on Jan. 18)
By Steven B. Krivit
The report I received on Jan. 17 from Francesco Celani, a physicist with the Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Frascati, Italy (National Institute of Nuclear Physics), gives me new confidence about the Rossi-Focardi device. If the data provided to Celani is correct and complete, the device is real and is demonstrating some excess heat – on demand, no less.
In the last year or so, Andrea Rossi created a Web site with a deceptive name, Journal of Nuclear Physics. In fact, the Web site appears to be exclusively about his work. He also told me the editor was a “team of scientists,” but he acts on behalf of this team.
If confirmed, the Rossi-Focardi development would be a significant practical development for the LENR field. Despite my earlier misgivings about Rossi’s Web site promotion, I am upgrading my skepticism about the Rossi-Focardi device to cautious optimism.
What Is The Process?
Whatever the LENRs that are responsible for the device’s heat output, nickel-hydrogen reactions are not fusion, so this has nothing to do with the idea of “cold fusion.”
Researcher Jacques Dufour, retired from Shell and now a contractor with the French Laboratoire Des Sciences Nucléaires (CNAM), who has speculated on neutron or proton capture on nickel to explain the mechanism. Unfortunately, proton capture requires astronomical forces to overcome the Coulomb barrier and is effectively invoking “cold fusion.”
Neutron capture, on the other hand, is different and theoretically feasible. In his conclusion, Dufour has cited the Widom-Larsen theory, published in the mainstream press by the European Physics Journal C, Pramana, and the American Chemical Society. The theory has also been cited by NASA, Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Science in Society. (See New Energy Times Widom-Larsen Theory Portal for papers and references.)
“Strong nuclear signatures are expected from the Rossi energy amplifier,” Dufour writes. “It is of interest to note that in [Widom Larsen 'Theoretical Standard Model Rates of Proton to Neutron Conversions Near Metallic Hydride Surfaces'] a mechanism is proposed that strongly suppresses the gamma emission during the run (it is the same mechanism that creates very low energy neutrons, subsequently captured by the nickel).”
Despite the fact that the Widom-Larsen theory provides a viable explanation for the Rossi-Focardi work, a few cold fusion believers like radiochemist Edmund Storms (KivaLabs) and theorist Scott Chubb (Infinite Energy magazine) have suggested, in e-mails to their colleagues, that the Rossi-Focardi development validates “cold fusion.” The bad blood between Storms and Larsen goes several years. Storms is a disgruntled ex-employee from Larsen's company, Lattice Energy.
“The bottom line is that Rossi is initiating cold fusion and the reactions have all the characteristics observed when deuterium is used,” Storms wrote. “Nature has only one song but with different words.”
As a convenience to readers, the New Energy Times analysis of the characteristics of LENR is here.
The Storms analysis of the characteristics of “cold fusion” is here.
Chubb, knowing the improbability of proton-proton fusion at low energies, wrote that trace amounts of undetected deuterium in the hydrogen gas could explain the reaction as “cold fusion.” This assumes he can explain how D-D fusion occurs at low energies in the first place.
“How pure was the H2 gas?” Chubb wrote. “Magnetic effects and even a small amount of D2 could initiate the effect. The failure to monitor D2 in these experiments continues to be a question that has to be resolved.”
Chubb appears to be the only person who believes that not checking for trace quantities of D2 in the H2 is considered a failure and is a question that must be resolved.
Celani, who attended the demonstration, admonished his colleagues.
“Rossi-Focardi NEVER USED the words COLD FUSION energy/experiment,” Celani wrote. “They used the words “Energy Catalizer.”
Where Did the Idea Come From?
From what I know so far, the concept demonstrated on Jan. 14 by Rossi and his colleague Sergio Focardi, a retired physics professor from the University of Bologna, had been discovered by Francesco Piantelli, a retired professor of biophysics with the University of Siena.
In 2008, I chronicled the story of Piantelli’s discovery in two articles: “Deuterium and Palladium Not Required” and “Piantelli-Focardi Publication and Replication Path.”
Rossi and Focardi appear to have gone much further than Piantelli and taken the next steps toward development and practicality of their LENR device.
My confidence in the Rossi-Focardi work comes not only from Celani’s report but also, in large part, from my lab visits with Piantelli in 2007 and 2009 and my examination of his documentation. I remember that Piantelli let me take pictures of anything I wanted; he was not concerned that I might photograph anything proprietary. He explained to me that the proprietary aspects were the secret formulation of the nano-particle reactants and this was all in his head, he said, so there was no risk that I would reveal anything confidential.
As the expression goes, success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Many Italians, as well as Romanian Peter Gluck, who is also familiar with this history, have attested that the origin of this work comes from Piantelli. Rossi denies this.
“My process has nothing to do with the process of Piantelli,” Rossi wrote. “The proof is that I am making operating reactors; he is not.”
When I visited Piantelli, I began to understand some of the reasons that he had not moved his LENR work into commercialization. His real passion is to help heal people with cancer through his innovations in biophysics. He claims to have a very high success rate. I covered this in more detail in my 2008 article.
But why Piantelli has apparently neglected the development of this important energy technology or, alternatively, not freely released it to others is a partial mystery. Regardless of the personnel conflict, Rossi’s device appears to have far more to do with Piantelli’s process than Rossi is acknowledging.
I am relieved that Rossi and Focardi appear to have gone further than Piantelli and advanced this work. On the other hand, I am worried, because I know that what I have written here will likely bring predators to Rossi and Focardi as well as to Piantelli.
All three men have a right to stake their claims and withhold their intellectual property from the public. Does Rossi have clear title to this intellectual property? (Only his name is listed as inventor on the patent application.) If Rossi does, will he be able to keep the formulation a secret?
Assuming the validity of the work, Rossi now faces the challenge of making development agreements that are agreeable to him, as well as protect against industrial espionage. Piantelli will face potential industrial espionage, as well, because I have now revealed that he holds some of these secrets. I do not envy either of them.
Rossi has, to his credit, answered all of my questions. In order to preserve his words as closely as possible, we have not edited them for clarity or English grammar:
Q. What is your academic qualification?
A. I am a doctor in the Philosophy of Science and Engineering from the Universita’ Degli Studi Di Milano [University of Milan].
Q. What is your affiliation or relationship with the University of Bologna?
Q. What was your objective to hold a public demonstration and seek media attention?
A. I had been requested from many sides to make this. I thought this could be useful. We are close to put in the market our product, and this has prepared the consequent necessary communication work.
Q. What has been the best total energy balance produced by your device?
A. I can say that in many tests, also made in the USA, where we manufacture our reactors, we turn off the resistance and the reactor is self-sustaining. In this case, the factor is very high. But it is dangerous, so we maintain the drive and stay below 10K for the reactors which have to be operated in the market.
Q. What has been the best power produced by your device?
A. Please see above.
Q. For how long did that power level sustain?
A. Until we maintained a proper hydrogen pressure.
Q. Can you please send me papers or documents providing the most scientific support and documentation of your device?
A. I will mail you the report of the Bologna test, which has been made rigorously by a third party. I didn’t know the three professors who made the test. They decided the circuit configuration. They certified the measurements instrumentation.
Q. Are you claiming this to be “cold fusion” or some new kind of low-energy nuclear reaction?
A. I think that the definition “cold fusion” is wrong in itself. What I claim is a weak nuclear reactions energy. As you already know, I think that there is still much work and study to do on the theoretical field to understand exactly why this reactor works. This path is difficult, because all physics can say to help you is that these reactions are impossible (thank you very much), while in the books, you can find nothing. Also, the more important books (for me, Greiner and Cooks) do not give solutions. We have to invent from the base also in the theoretical field.
As far as Rossi’s story of a self-sustaining reactor, I am inclined to believe it. It is very similar to a story that Piantelli told me. And I have seen the melted metal in Piantelli’s lab.
Here is an excerpt from my 2008 account:
Piantelli has an exciting story to tell of another experiment that, for few hours, was out of control. It was sometime around September 1993, before Piantelli-Focardi group’s first published paper on the subject. Around 7 in the evening, he looked at the monitor for the experiment. Something didn’t look right. The temperature was increasing rapidly. He wasn’t sure what to do. Should he kill the experiment, and if so, how would he stop it?
A rapidly increasing temperature in an enclosed steel container could be a big, big problem. He was afraid. He wondered whether he should leave the building. Instead he called Focardi in Milano—at 2 in the morning—and asked, “What should I do?” This was before Piantelli knew about the poisoning effect of deuterium. But Focardi came up with a workable idea: introduce nitrogen. And it worked. It stopped the uncontrolled temperature rise and killed the experiment.
Piantelli didn’t know how hot the experiment had gotten before he killed it because the monitor eventually blacked out. However, the metal thermocouples inside the cell melted. This told him that the temperature exceeded 1450 C. Understandably, he was angry because these experiments take a long time to run and he had to abandon it prematurely.
“It’s not good when they run too hot,” Piantelli said. “400 C is a much better range.”
William Collis, the founder of the International Society for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, questions Rossi’s ethics in his failure to tell the public and the media about Piantelli’s prior work.
“I find it disturbing that nobody mentioned Piantelli’s pioneering work in this field,” Collis wrote. “Worse still, yesterday’s financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore (page 18), reporting on the seminar, referred erroneously to work done in Siena by Focardi & Rossi!!”
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