25 January 2017 13:43:49 IST

Scientists may have cracked cold fusion!

Pic credit: brillouinenergy.com

A California-based firm says it is close to selling its energy device based on cold fusion

I have been writing fairly regularly in these columns about the possibilities of a clean, very cheap source of inexhaustible energy being found — something that can completely rearrange geopolitical equations and transform the way we live. Regular readers of this column would know of the experiments done by Italian engineer Andrea Rossi and the problems he has been having with his investors . More recently, I brought to your notice the seemingly successful invention of an energy producing device by an American company called Brilliant Light Power .

The need has now arisen to continue that thread, as a few more interesting developments have taken place in the US, bringing the strange phenomenon called ‘cold fusion’ — which is fusion of neutrons of atoms at near-room temperatures — closer to fruition.

For a quick recap, energy is given out in the form of heat when you split a nucleus, or any atomic particle. Energy can also be produced when you fuse together nuclei or atomic particles, such as neutrons. But while nuclear fission is easy and happens all the time in nuclear power stations, fusion is very difficult.

Commercial energy

Science’s long-held belief is that production of commercial energy through nuclear fusion is silly, because a lot more energy would be needed to fuse two particles into one — much more than what the fusion can produce.

There had been efforts to get nuclear fusion to take place at not-so-high temperatures, but scientists had, by and large, given up. But now, thanks perhaps to the unrelenting efforts of a controversial, mercurial, maverick US-based Italian inventor Andrea Rossi, the scientific world’s interest in ‘cold fusion’ has been re-kindled.

Many companies are following Rossi’s example and doing their own research and, by Jove, at least one has got its process peer-reviewed and is about to light the lamp for commercial cold fusion energy!

Meet the other maverick

California-based Brillouin Energy Corp says it is close to begin selling its energy device, which is based on cold fusion. It has got its process reviewed and tick-marked by a peer, an institution called SRI International (part of Stanford University), also based in California.

Out of the handful of companies that have said they are interested in developing a cold fusion-based energy device, Brillouin Energy is the only one to have not only made the highest progress, but also explain the physics behind its process explicitly.

Without delving into technicalities, Brillouin has said that its technology is based on a phenomenon that has been known to scientists for over a century — the capture of an electron by a proton, which results in the proton becoming a neutron.

Brillouin uses electro-magnetic pulses — imagine it as a shot of X-ray that you get in the labs — to first make neutrons and then convert Hydrogen into Helium. To those more interested in this science, go through Brillouin Energy’s FAQ section .

Take note

Today, we have a number of companies in this field, of which four are worthy of note.

~ One is Andrea Rossi’s Leonardo Corporation, about which plenty has been written in these columns.

~ Two, Industrial Heat, which was Leonardo’s partner until a bust-up. Industrial Heat is acquiring technology from researchers and research institutions and moving in quite fast.

~ The third company is Brilliant Light Power, about which I had written recently.

~ The fourth is Brillouin Energy. And with the progress it has made, it looks like this company will pip others to the post in launching a commercial device.

The pity is that India, unfortunately, does not seem to be paying enough attention to these developments. Being an energy-guzzling country, we have a lot to gain and ought to have well-funded research into this. But, regrettably, there is no evidence of Indian involvement in the area.