Many of us believe that life on this planet is in a lot of trouble. The climate is becoming unstable; there are too many people; oceans are dying, sea levels are rising; and water, food, clean air, and minerals are coming into short supply. For many, the economy refuses to grow fast enough to maintain living standards.
Although appreciated by only a handful, the evidence continues to build that, unless we have reached some kind of a tipping point, there may be a way out of our mounting problems. A few minutes’ reflection should be enough to convince most that a source of unlimited clean, cheap energy just could reverse global warming, provide unlimited water, food, and a better life for all.
While there may be sources of clean cheap energy that as yet we have no idea exist in this universe, for the present, cold fusion or the preferred term Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) looks like the only solution currently extant with the potential to save us. It may not be a stretch to say that either we develop and put into widespread use this technology or it is “game over” for life as we know it.
For the last 25 years, the U.S. government, at the urging of its scientific advisors who unfortunately had, and in some cases still have, axes to grind on the LENR issue, has been denying that the “cold fusion;” or LENR phenomenon, actually exists. According to the government, the anomalous heat that so many have been reporting on since 1989 is only experimental errors or scientific fraud or even wishful thinking. When the U.S. government says there is no such thing as “cold fusion” then naturally most other governments and the mainstream media with minor exceptions say the same.
This position may be changing however. While a few scientists at NASA have been saying that the LENR phenomenon is real for some time, the Department of Energy which reigns supreme in these matters remains pretty firm in its denial despite occasional reviews. Recently, however, we may have seen the beginnings of change when a component of DOE which funds exotic energy R&D efforts said it would entertain proposals to fund LENR experiments. Now this may simply be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, but it would be nice to believe that at least somewhere in DOE, a few are coming to their senses,
So where are we on this revolutionary and likely disruptive technology? There are dozens of independent laboratories around the world experimenting with low energy nuclear reactions at the lab bench scale, but only three or four saying, and in some cases demonstrating, that they have devices producing enough energy that commercially useful products should be available soon.
Readers of this column know by now that there is a small but devoted blogosphere out there in cyberspace that not only fervently believes that cold fusion is real and someday will save humanity, but follows and comments on developments daily.
For several years, interest has focused on the Italian inventor Andrea Rossi and his E-Cat nuclear device, which many still consider a scam despite numerous validations. Nearly a year ago, Rossi told his cyber space followers that he had partnered with a well-healed American firm that was helping him develop a commercial product. Until last week Rossi’s American partner was a well-kept secret with speculation focusing on industrial giants such as GE or United Technologies who have much to gain if LENR ever becomes a commercial product replacing combustion of fossil fuels as the principal source of heat in the world.
Last week a hint leaked out when one of Rossi’s associates noted in his biography that he was consulting for an obscure hedge fund called Cherokee Investment Partners LLC, located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The blogosphere jumped on this clue and within days enough information about Cherokee and its new subsidiary, Industrial Heat LLC, was brought to light to conclude that this organization is indeed Rossi’s new American partner in the development of LENR. Cherokee, which has a capitalization of circa $2 billion and has invested $11.5 in the E-Cat project, has a record of investing in cleaning up polluted properties and funding renewable energy projects.
The most interesting feature of last week’s revelations was that the CEO of Cherokee seems to have relationships with Chinese firms, and recently signed an agreement to setup some sort of facility in China’s Baoding Industrial Development Zone which specializes in developing new forms of energy such as wind and solar. Although Thomas Darden, Cherokee’s CEO, will say nothing about the agreement; he acknowledges talking about Industrial Heat LLC with the Chinese. In discussing the meeting in China, a Chinese web leaves little doubt that nickel-based LENR was discussed and that representatives of the highest levels of Chinese government planning attended the meeting.
Perhaps of even more interest than the Rossi-Cherokee-China disclosure was the announcement by Brillouin Energy, who claim to have the best understanding of the LENR phenomenon, that they have signed a multimillion dollar licensing agreement with an unidentified South Korean firm. Under the agreement, Brillouin would give the Koreans the plans for its “hot tube” steam generating boiler which has been under development at SRI’s labs in California. The deal would allow the Koreans to engineer and build prototypes of Brillouin’s boiler which is intended to provide steam for electricity generation. Brillouin hopes a prototype will be functioning before the end of the year.
If the Chinese and South Koreans latch onto LENR, it will make little difference what the US government, nay-saying physicists, or fossil fuel lobbyists and their friends in the Congress say about the technology — it will come.