This thesis report explores a current development occurring in Italy, where an engineer called Andrea Rossi has claimed to have created the world’s first commercially viable low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) based power source. This report reviews and analyses all the developments that have taken place in regards to this topic, discusses the potential application of such technology, and contains the design of a system through which the proposed power source could be tested and verified.
In January an Engineer called Rossi proclaimed to the world that he had achieved what hundreds of physicists have been striving towards over the past 22 years, a dependable LENR reactor that produced significant amounts of excess heat. If true, this is a potentially world changing discovery that could trigger a new industrial revolution which would shift away from the current dependency on fossil fuels and into an era of clean, plentiful energy. This is because LENR reactions run off the fusion of atoms at relatively low temperatures compared to hot fusion (what occurs in stars). In Rossi’s reactor Nickel and hydrogen go in, and copper and heat come out. What is impressive is that if it works as claimed, the energy produced is so large that 1 kg of nickel and 1.8 kg of hydrogen give the same amount of heat as burning a staggering 64 tonnes of coal.
Rossi is keeping the key details behind the reactor a commercial secret, and as such the authenticity of Rossi’s claims have not yet been successfully verified. There have been a total of 5 reported tests completed since January, and yet not one has been done to a level of accuracy that has convinced people it is genuine, with a large amount of people calling this a hoax. However there are many people who are also supportive of this, some of which a respected academics from relevant fields who were present at tests.
Rossi does not appear too worried about trying to convince the world of this devices capability, and seems to be focussing on getting it to the commercial market to let the results speak for themselves. The plan since January has been the construction and testing of a 1 MW plant by a customer at the end of October, who if satisfied would begin manufacturing and selling the device on a large scale. Unfortunately, the date of this test coincided with the due date of this report so that results of it are not included.
The analysis on how the reactor could be used in society was looked at over a range of areas, the key two being power generation and automotive. This was performed assuming that the E-Cat was a credible device and functioned as described by Rossi. It was found that according to data from 2008, the amount of nickel mined yearly could account for over 3 times the annual amount of energy consumed worldwide. Furthermore power plants that run off millions of tonnes of coal each year would be able to be replaced with a fuel source of less than 20 tonnes of nickel, and the emissions would decrease to zero.
In terms of the automotive industry, the E-Cat is unlikely to be useful as the direct propulsion mechanism, however there are ranges of other ways it will affect the industry, such as making electric cars more viable or using a range of E-Cats to charge a battery powered car.
The testing rig designed in this report was based upon the assumption that once the information regarding the reactor is released, it will need to be verified. The system designed is shown in Figure 1, with each component drawn up using and the manufacturing and assembling given in detail. It was decided to use a two circuit system through a heat exchanger to maximise the accuracy of the measurements, as there had been a lot of scepticism regarding steam quality of the measurements reported by Rossi. All relevant measuring and ancillary equipment (such as the pump) have been sourced and discussed.
A financial analysis was performed to determine the approximate cost (± 50%) of constructing this testing system. It was determined that the entire device, including the measurement equipment, could be constructed for approximately $4,345. This was determined to be a relatively insignificant number in regards to the worth of the results, however in order to perform the test first the reaction mixture needs to be known.