Cold fusion claims leave many doubtful
Italian scientists say they have finally discovered the fabled source of cheap power. But does their research hold water?
Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Photo: CottonI Joe/Flickr
For decades now, the theoretical power source known as cold fusion has been a holy grail for many scientists around the world. Theorists say that cold fusion — also known as "low energy nuclear reaction" — promises to deliver huge amounts of energy without first expending much energy, similar to what happens in a nuclear reactor but at room temperature, Theoretically, cold fusion could promise near-endless amounts of cheap, clean energy, although many in the scientific community believe it is not possible.
Cold fusion claims have been made and debunked several times since 1989, but that hasn't deterred two Italian scientists from announcing last week that they have not only developed a cold fusion device, but that it could start mass production by the end of the year.
Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna made their announcement and showed off their device at a press conference on Jan. 21. Their device, they claim, is capable of producing 12,400 watts of heat power with an input of just 400 watts, according to a report on PysOrg.com.
Rossi and Focardi have self-published their research on a blog they started called the Journal of Nuclear Physics. They say that peer-reviewed scientific publications rejected their paper because they observed the cold fusion reaction but did not put forth a theory as to how it works.
Their paper — available here as a PDF — outlines the results of their research but leaves out many of the details. Rossi and Focardi write that they used "a process and apparatus not described here in detail and protected by patent in 90 countries." They say their device fuses the nuclei of nickel and hydrogen, causing a reaction that produces copper and enough energy to covert 292 grams of water into steam, which can then be used to produce electricity at a cost of less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour, according to PysOrg's report.
Not everyone is convinced. Discovery says taking their device "directly to the press and public ... is a strong sign of pseudoscience, and smacks of a mistake, if not an outright hoax." Popular Science calls the discovery "dubious."
But Rossi and Focardi aren't worried about the naysayers. They intend to take their device to the marketplace and say the free market will prove them right. Either way, we should have an answer soon: They plan to start shipping their devices in as little as three months.