National Commentary

Peak Oil Crisis: Brilliant Light Power – Progress Report

Last month, Randell Mills, the founder, and CEO of New Jersey’s Brilliant Light Power, put on another of his infrequent briefings on the progress his laboratory has been making in developing a new source of energy.

Mills has been working on his technology for over 25 years; has raised over $100 million to finance his experiments; has some major, if unnamed, investors and collaborators; and as yet has received close to zero attention in the media. No one has yet proved the key parts of Mill’s theories wrong; they have just ignored them or said they are not real off the top of their heads. These assertions are mostly based on life experiences, such as “water does not burn” but in some cases, they come from individuals with a deep understanding of scientific principles.

Claims of a phenomenon that appear to violate what we currently hold to be the laws of science are immediately seen as an experimental error or even fraud rather than a sign that we do not, and probably never will, know all there is to know about God’s universe. Most of us believe there is such a thing as nuclear energy – A-bombs, suns, stars, nuclear power plants, etc. However, to suggest that there may be ways other than nuclear fission or fusion to access this energy sets off howls of skepticism, especially from those who earn a living knowing or perhaps teaching about science, for some of their knowledge might be wrong.

When considering claims about possible new sources of energy, it is important to remember the mess that we (humanity) currently are in with fossil fuels. Some 100 years or so from now it is going to be so hot, so dry and so wet at the same time, that this planet will not be much of a place to live on – unless we can stop burning fossil fuels and keep our civilizations running at the same time. Given the importance of new and non-polluting sources of energy, any claim no matter how far fetched it seems is worth watching.

Unlike the claims and controversies surrounding cold fusion, Mills and his brilliant light power colleagues are our only source of information. All that we know about his technology has come from his published papers and briefings. Although Brilliant Light has numerous organizations collaborating, financing, and supporting the Sun Cell project so far they have said nothing.

For those coming in late to this story, Mills says he has developed a way of changing hydrogen into another stable form of matter that is non-polluting and gives off colossal amounts of energy in the form of light during the transition to the new form. The light given off by Mill’s reactions is to be directed into solar cells that produce electricity at very low cost.

In recent years, Mills has been saying that the science behind this technology is now well understood and that work has started on devices that soon will be producing commercial amounts of electricity. The first such device, called a “Sun Cell” as it produces a miniature sun inside, has been under development for the past year and is now being fine-tuned for efficiency, reliability, safety, and field testing.

The latest Brilliant Light Power briefing was released to the public in the form of power points rather than a video of the briefing. This change signifies that the gee-whiz stage of flashes and clouds of vaporized silver is over as the reactions now take place in a closed container. The data from trial runs and the information concerning schedules and possible scenarios for deployment of the Sun Cell constitute most of the recent briefing. The PowerPoints recent briefing and a considerable library of background information are available at brilliantlightpower.com.

In the past six months, Mills has closed in the top of his experimental Sun Cell allowing him to make measurements of the power consumed vs. the power emitted of the prototype. These show that for an input of 6.6 kilowatts, his sun cell is producing 1,260 kilowatts of energy in the form of heat and light. As today’s concentrated solar cells can only convert light into electricity at about 30 percent efficiency, the device should be capable of producing some 250,000 kilowatts of electricity.

Assuming the technology works as advertised, it will take some time to convert a working prototype into a commercial device that can start replacing other sources of electricity. Mills say that the current schedule envisions a device which will include the conversion of the reaction’s light into electricity that should be available for field testing in the first half of 2017. Should prototype testing go well, commercial production could begin by the end of next year.

If the science and engineering works reliably and the requisite safety checks are passed, the cost of sun cell produced electricity will determine the commercial success of the technology. Here is where the disruptive part of the technology comes in for the only fuel is small quantities of water resulting in a cost of power generation on the order of .001 (1/10th of a cent) per kilowatt hour as compared to an average of 12 cents from the grid.

The cost of a 250 kilowatt Sun Cell is currently estimated at $30,000 with half of the cost going for the photovoltaic cells used to convert light into electricity. Given that a Sun Cell has no moving parts its life is estimated at 20 years with annual maintenance of a few hundred dollars.

We are still a few years away from knowing just where this or similar low-cost energy producing technologies are going, if anywhere. Much of the briefing which was aimed at Brilliant Light’s financial backers explores the economics of various segments of the energy consuming markets where the Sun Cell technology might be sold.

For now, Brilliant Light’s technology has not had enough outside verification to convince skeptics that it is for real. If Mills can come up with working, electricity-producing prototypes that can be field tested by potential customers and manufacturers in the next year or so, the world could change very quickly.

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