Nikola Tesla, the enigmatic Serb who led the world to a deeper understanding of electricity, once said, “Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe.” His inquiry into what is called “zero point energy” has baffled physicists ever since. Is there a force — as yet unknown — that could power the world cheaply and efficiently, freeing us all from the tyranny of fossil fuel companies, nuclear power proponents, and greedy utility companies? A small device that would heat our homes or power our vehicles for little or no money?
At cocktail parties, physicists sit around and discuss abstruse notions like “dark matter,” the theoretical something that exists in the nothingness of deep space where temperatures fall, by definition, to absolute zero. Stripped of its jargon, the idea comes down to this — there can’t be nothing, there has to be something, even if we can’t see it, taste it, feel it, or quantify it in any meaningful way.
That something is said to contain enormous potential energy. If we could figure out how to harness it, the world would have an abundance of electrical power that is virtually free. After all, no one can explain exactly what electricity is. Is it a wave? A particle? Both? Neither? Even though we can’t answer those questions, that hasn’t kept us from harnessing it for the betterment of humanity.
Advocates for dark matter or zero point energy argue that the utility industry has been keeping knowledge of this new source of power secret for over a century, much as the auto industry hid the 200 mpg carburetor or the cutlery industry covered up the electric fork for their own nefarious reasons.
According to a report published by Aftenposten, Norway’s largest daily newspaper, a group of scientists gathered recently in Stockholm, Sweden, to witness a demonstration by professor Andrea Rossi of a device he claims can produce lots of heat from just a few weak pulses of electricity. If true, Rossi’s invention would allow people living in cold climates like Norway to heat their homes using a reactor the size of a basketball, some metal that needs replenishing every 6 months, and ordinary household current.
Yes, this is the same Andrea Rossi made famous a few years ago as the father of the Energy Catalyzer, a cold fusion device said to create more heat than it consumed. Rossi was roundly booed by the scientific community for that stunt, but now he’s back with his new and improved version he calls a Low Energy Nuclear Reactor.
He set up his equipment in an auditorium in Stockholm and let all who cared to do so walk around and observe his creation in person. He just wouldn’t tell them much about it. His feelings are still raw from that last contact with the public. A reporter from Alfenposten is in the room, primarily because it is one of the few news organizations that didn’t give Rossi a black eye last time around.
What the assembled scientists saw was a container of water, some plastic tubing, a small pump, and a white box. What’s inside the box? Rossi is tight-lipped about that. Apparently, there are three Ecat QX plasma reactors in there that operate at 2600 degrees. Each reactor uses a small amount of hydrogen, nickel, or lithium. When Rossi pushes a switch, the pump whirs and a small amount of steam is emitted from one of the tubes.
For just over an hour, the experiment continues. At its conclusion, civil engineer Richard Hurley, an independent monitor, declares that one kilogram of water has been created from condensate. He measures the temperature of the water and declares that for every 1 watt of electricity Rossi’s device consumed, 506 watts of energy were produced. The Aftenposten reporter sticks his finger in the condensed water and finds it is warm. Something is going on, but what?
Rossi claims his intent for this demonstration is only to show that the system works. He is searching for financial backers but is very worried that others will try to copy his invention if he reveals too many details. That makes it hard for the real job of science — to test each new hypothesis to see if it stands up to scrutiny — extremely difficult.
One scientist in the room was impressed. Plasma physicist Elisabeth Rachlew of the Royal Institute of Technology is an expert on plasma physics. She tells Aftenposten, “I’ve never seen Rossi’s work before, this was awesome. Not least, it is sensational that the device was so small. Some of what he did, I can do a lot about it, and I could see that he went right. She thinks what she sees on the table in front of her is truly an energy source.”
Going on: “But it’s not as simple as he thinks to exploit it. It seems likely that neutron radiation of the experiment is created. As soon as this is detected and measured, research will have to be carried out with much stricter security measures. Therefore, I do not think that [device] could be used in small reactors that fit into cars or inside the house of people. “
Swedish physics professors Rickard Lundin and Hans Lidgren at the Swedish Institute for Astrophysics are in agreement. “Applied correctly, this process has the potential to become a huge and virtually unlimited energy source, without long-term radioactive waste,” the duo concludes in a report.
Others are far less impressed. “The potential of the technology is obviously great. But, my task is to show that this experiment really works by repeating it,” says physics professor Bo Höistad at Uppsala University, who has been following Rossi’s experiments for years. “It’s not possible. There is too much that is kept hidden. In order to awaken the interest of scientists, he must publish something that can be verified and repeated. There may be an unknown source of energy here, but the truth is that we do not know if that is the case.”
Others in the room refuse to speak with the Aftenposten reporter. They do not want their names associated with Andrea Rossi in any manner. But Dieter Röhrich, a physics professor at the University of Bergen, is not afraid to speak up. “I see no reason why I will begin researching this field after this demonstration,” he says. “If this process had been possible at such low temperatures as this allegedly goes on, we would see it elsewhere in the universe too.”
He asks, “Why did not they set a meter so we could see if it was radiation from the experiment? This is trivial to get to. I do not want to say that [it] is just tears or nonsense. I just want to point out that those who believe in it must show us an experiment of high scientific quality that can be verified. It is the …. supporters who must convince me and the rest of the physics world, not the other way around.”
For his part, Rossi is unswerving in his convictions. He tells the reporter, “Today I have had a public demonstration for the first time and it has shown that we have a device that used 0.09 watts and which produced about 20 watts. In addition, consumption was only cyclical for three seconds at a time before it was turned off for 4 seconds to avoid overheating. That’s basically all I want to say. The numbers are the only thing that matters.” He adds, “I only used 30 percent of full capacity because I wanted to be absolutely sure nothing would go wrong during the demonstration.”
Asked about Professor Röhrich’s complaint that no means of testing for radiation was included in the demonstration, Rossi replies, “Our process does not generate neutrons. This is precisely what makes it an anomaly. Therefore, we did not put up a meter. See our theoretical explanation for more about this.”
But what about his refusal to disclose more details so that others can verify his claims? “In the ’80s I shared some of my waste recycling patents. It was a big mistake, because the technology was not further developed. Nobody was interested in it. Philosophically, I agree with the idea of sharing, but in reality, you must retain the rights if you want to develop technology.”
A classic case of scientific fraud like cold fusion? Or a glimpse behind the curtain of a new and exciting energy source that could transform human society and eliminate the need for fossil fuels forever? In a time when “Fake News!” is the norm, people have every right to be skeptical. But it wasn’t that long ago that scientists believed it was impossible to travel faster than the speed of sound. On the eve of the new millennium in 1899, Charles H. Duell, the head of the US Patent Office, reportedly told a colleague, “Everything that can be invented has now been invented.” Is Andrea Rossi a charlatan or a prophet without honor in his own time? Inquiring minds want to know.
Thanks to the inquiring mind of Leif Hansen of Bergen, Norway, for suggesting this article. All translations of the original text conducted by Google.