Cold fusion: reality or utopia?
Italian physicists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi have invented a cold fusion reactor which fits on a table and requires no unprocurable components. According to the authors, such a device installed at a factory has been warming up water day and night over the last two years, producing 12,400 watts of heat with an input of just 400 watts.
The two physicists invited some 50 colleagues and journalists to attend their presentation in Bologna. They demonstrated a medium-sized blue box running on nickel and hydrogen, which, the scientists claim, produce energy not of chemical origin but as a result of a fusion reaction. First of all, heat is not obtained from hydrogen - the gas is not consumed at all. Secondly, the installation emits weak radiation. The third and most important thing is that the reaction produces copper, nickel’s “neighboring” element in Mendeleev’s Periodic Table. The emergence of a new element is a true sign of nuclear fusion.
Since Rossi and Focardi failed to intelligibly explain how nickel can be changed into copper, all their calculations were taken skeptically in the scientific world and ignored by authoritative magazines and patent bureaus. Press reviews, quite acid-tongued for the most part, focused rather on the two physicists’ personalities, recollecting Rossi’s long-forgotten sins of tax dodging and gold smuggling. At the same time, a Greek company said it is determined to produce Rossi-Focardi modules and will make an official statement to that effect in the nearest future. But all the same, is cold fusion reality or utopia? The Voice of Russia addressed this question to president of the Kurchatov Institute and Academician at the Russian Academy of Sciences Yevgeny Velikhov.
There is not a single study indicating that cold fusion is essentially impossible. There is a notion called muonic catalysis, in the course of which the nuclei of muons you use instead of electrons are drawn closely together, making the thermonuclear reaction possible at any temperature. Given several failed attempts to apply this to electrolysis, it is necessary to check this properly once again, Yevgeny Velikhov said.
In other words, cold fusion does not run counter to theory. The academician recalled the stir caused by the reactor invented by Martin Fleischmann from Great Britain and Stanley Pons from the US in 1989. It was a tin filled with deuterium (heavy hydrogen) and palladium electrodes capable of consuming hydrogen. During deuterium electrolysis, the tin was said to be self-heating, which could not be ascribed to the Joule heat effect. This experiment was unsuccessfully retried in many countries, including Russia. Although the interest in cold fusion started to decay gradually by the end of 1990s, some undisclosed research is still under way somewhere in the world, namely in the US or India, where several research institutes recently recommended for the country’s government to allocate funds for cold fusion experiments.
Meanwhile, Italian inventors insist that their device is already market-ready. Three months later, customers will obtain these “sources of cheap and pure energy”, Rossi and Focardi argue, pledging to launch mass production before the end of the year.
The countdown has begun. Soon we will find out what this Italian novelty really is - a great invention or just another hoax. Anyway, Focardi and Rossi will one day be replaced by other enthusiasts to determine who will get access to the sacramental thermonuclear energy after all: adherents of cold fusion or the traditional “hot” one. The latter include seven countries, Russia among them, which are now building the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France. Its launch is set for the 2020s.