08 April 2016 14:09:21 IST

Inventor vs. investor

The US team working on the E-Cat | Pic Credit: andrea-rossi.com

Andrea Rossi has sued his investor for cheating, even as the world awaits his device’s ERV report

In my previous column titled Rossi and his money box , I wrote about the tense anticipation of the Expert Responsible for Validation (ERV) report, that was to be made public, in relation with Rossi’s device.

The back-story

Andrea Rossi, an Italian engineer, has been claiming that he has invented a device that can produce a lot more energy than what is put in. His trick was to cause what is called Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR), which is a nuclear fusion reaction where two nuclei of atoms fuse and in the process, release energy. But since this fusion has been known to be possible only at extremely high temperatures, such as those in the Sun, scientists have scoffed at claims of ‘cold fusion’.

But Andrea Rossi, who lives in Miami, Florida, did not give up. He kept at it, doggedly developing higher capacity and better working versions of the ‘E-Cat’, short for energy catalyser, the name he gave to the machine when he first made it.

In came an American company called Industrial Heat (IH) and bought licence from Rossi’s company, Leonardo Corporation, to sell the machines in named territories. But the agreement was predicated upon the ERV coming up with a positive report after one-year-long test and validation of the apparatus. IH paid Leonardo Corporation $11 million initially, in accordance with the agreement.

A turn of events

The test is now over and the report has come in. What did the independent expert say? On that depends an epochal event in the world of energy, for the machines can produce dirt-cheap, clean energy, and disrupt the existing global energy systems.

But even as the energy industry the world over is waiting for the disclosure of the ERV report, something unexpected has happened — Rossi has sued IH for breach of contract, saying the latter is due to pay him, as per the agreement, another $89 million, and is refusing to do so. He has also accused IH of stealing his secrets.

Thus the possibility of a major energy revolution has been stalled by a conflict between an inventor and his investor.

Positive updates

Yet there are positive updates on this available from Rossi’s Civil Complaint. Dispute aside, it appears that the machine indeed works. The complaint mentions that during the course of the 350-day validation testing, the machine sometimes produced 60 times as much energy as was put in. Around 50 times appears to have become normative.

Nobody knows the costing yet, but the reactor cannot cost much — the input materials are tiny quantities of nickel, lithium and hydrogen, none of which cost too much. Therefore, if the ERV’s report does validate the claim that the E-Cat can produce 50 times the input energy, then, commercial disputes notwithstanding, the world is getting a big, big gift!

Experts are keenly watching the unfolding developments. Their views are wildly diverging — some still cannot believe that cold fusion can happen — but many feel that there is “something” here. Whether or not that “something” is as big as Rossi claims is another matter, and perhaps the central point of the commercial fracas. The general refrain is: Rossi is not so naïve as to believe that he could sell a dud for $100 million.

And so, there is “something”.