Shhh! New Energy Breakthrough Is Quietly Powering Up

Richard Samson's picture

Within a few short years we could see an energy explosion that changes everything. It promises to come years to decades sooner than conventional (hot) nuclear fusion. And it could be a lot cheaper, more scalable, and more transformative.

(But keep it to yourself. Most media people are.)

Back in 2009, CBS News's 60 Minutes boldly announced: "Cold Fusion Is Hot Again." Great news, one would think, because if real, the technology could end carbon pollution, lower the cost of everything, and revitalize whole cultures.

But the news failed to catch fire in the general media. Why? (More on this later.)

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Screenshot of CBS NEWS video online, replaying 2009 broadcast 
CBS News website

Since 2009, research has blazed ever hotter on exotic new energy technologies, most of which avoid the once-defamed term “cold fusion,” best known for describing it. The technologies go by names such as Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), Lattice Assisted Nuclear Reaction (LANR), Chemical Assisted Nuclear Reaction (CANR), and Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat). “LENR” is now the most common name for this new area of super-clean, super-cheap potential energy solutions.

INSTITUTIONAL BOOST

LENR researchers and developers are quietly beginning to be supported by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, SRI International, and other institutions:

NASA offers a Technology Gateway for licensing advanced technologies. Developers may enter terms such as "LENR," "nuclear," and "energy" to see what’s available. See this video featuring Dr. Joseph Zawodny, Senior Research Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center. Also in development at NASA: designs for LENR-powered aircraft.

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Video about LENR technology, on NASA’s Technology Gateway
Screenshot from NASA Technology Gateway website

The U.S. Department of Energy began, without fanfare, offering funding opportunities for LENR research in 2013, as reported by New Energy Times.

SRI International researches energy and green tech along with other advanced technologies. Their leading LENR scientist, Michael McKubre, who was featured in the 60 Minutes report, has patiently been evaluating and guiding advances like Brillouin Energy Corporation’s for years (see below). Click here for recent print and video interviews with him.

COMMERCIAL THRUST

A healthy number of developers are pursuing a smorgasbord of products for --

  • generating electricity,
  • heating industrial or commercial operations,
  • driving cars,
  • powering spacecraft,
  • cooking food,
  • assembling products,
  • activating everything in our fast-evolving world.

Some of the developers are years away from marketable solutions. Others are licensing their technology to manufacturers and distributors now, although the reality of practical field installations is not yet clear. A few are preparing open-source specifications to let local entrepreneurs experiment with devices on their own. Here’s a sampling:

Mitsubishi has been granted a patent for transmuting nuclear waste into energy using LENR technology.

Brillouin Energy Corporation is developing what they call Controlled Electron Capture Reaction (CECR) technology with broad applications. Others might call it LENR, LANR, or cold fusion. A South Korean industrial company recently signed a license with Brillouin, hoping to develop manufacturing and distribution plans for CECR by 2015. One key application is to provide a safe, clean and economically compelling solution to retrofit and repower smaller “stranded asset” conventional fossil fuel or biomass power plants with Brillouin’s CECR technology. “Stranded asset” plants are those idled for any number of environmental, economic or operational reasons.

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Schematic illustrating Brillouin’s CECR technology
Brillouin Energy Corporation

Industrial Heat LLC has acquired the rights to the Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat), a form of LENR developed by Andrea Rossi of Italy. Industrial Heat was recently funded by individual investors and senior personnel of Cherokee, a significant private investment company based in Raleigh, North Carolina. (The CEO of Cherokee, Tom Darden, also invested in Brillouin.) Industrial Heat is expected to pursue the goal of making E-Cat technology widely available as a low-cost, green alternative to fossil fuels. China is reportedly looking into it as a solution to its mounting pollution problem and to gain leverage in the alternative energy sector. 

LENR Cars has filed a patent application for a “Low Energy Nuclear Thermoelectric System” to power land, sea, and air vehicles for long distances with zero emissions at very low cost.

SpaceWorks Engineering, in partnership with NASA, is working on a LENR heat source to power space launch systems including reusable launch vehicles with water as the only propellant. 

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LENR-driven craft envisioned by NASA and SpaceWorks
SpaceWorks Engineering

Pure Energy Systems, an exotic-energy information aggregator and technology champion, is crowd-sourcing a heating device that can be assembled from standard components by anyone anywhere. The hope is that it can be proved successful and scaled to a wide range of applications from home heat and electricity to anything larger.

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Components of Pure Energy Systems’ open-source heating device
Pure Energy Systems

AWARENESS VOID

An energy advance that could save the planet and power unprecedented prosperity is virtually invisible to the public, in spite of heated activity around the world.

Why do most reporters seem to be ignoring it?

Possibly because they got burned for hyping cold fusion when it was first announced, back in 1989, before it was fully vetted and mainstream scientists saw fit to consider it. This post explores the possible motivations.

Why should the public be open to it now?

  • The technology is getting respectable. Dozens of prestigious organizations, from the American Physical Society and the Army Research Labs to the University of Rome and Kobe University, have held conferences on it. The U.S. Navy’s SPAWAR research center quietly conducted research since 1989, which “left no doubt that anomalous excess heat was produced in their (LENR) experiments,” as reported in the CBS News 60 Minutes broadcast. MIT has been offering an introductory course, Cold Fusion 101, for the past three years; and since 1989 has been hosting a professional conference, the Cold Fusion Colloquium.
  • Investors are starting to get interested. More contenders than Industrial Heat are attracting significant funding. For example, Brillouin has raised a significant amount of seed capital, early adopter license fees, and has contingent milestone offers for a lot more. Another exotic energy developer, which prefers not to be named here, has also received significant investor backing.
  • Steps are being taken to develop supporting infrastructure. For example, see this plan for training workers needed for the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of the new technology.
  • General media nibbles may be starting. See this Forbes article and this broadcast on KSL TV, Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 25th anniversary of the announcement of “cold fusion,” achieved by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, at the University of Utah. 

With so much going on around the world and down the street, it seems only a matter of time until trusted sources such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and NBC News start informing their audiences.

Why is the shift to clean, safe, very low-cost energy so important?

Dirty energy is like bad integrity; over time it doesn’t work.  If we don’t find a way to power human activity without polluting the planet, we risk degrading the quality of life far beyond what we have known in the past, while ruining our children’s future.  If, however, we transition to super-clean, super-cheap energy soon enough -- with no one and nothing compromised or left out -- then we may have a shot at survival and sustainable prosperity.

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Dirty energy's impact: NASA tracks climate change

NASA

The icing on the cake may be the new energy’s decentralized nature, which helps make individuals, families, and communities more independent. This speaks to our most passionate needs for freedom and fulfillment, allowing entrepreneurship and cultural contributions to flourish as never before.

Note of caution / Note of promise

For most of us, the new technology may not seem real unless and until we see it working in a power plant, an industrial or commercial business, or possibly someone’s basement or car. And no one can say for sure that it’s real until it’s obvious. Certainly it will take more time. But that’s no excuse for inattention or glass-half-empty thinking. At the very least, we should find the unfolding story interesting; and in due time, the media may start to tell it.

For some of us, the new energy may be an unprecedented professional or investment opportunity. Developers are making great headway, but they have further to go before completing the R&D basics and delivering devices that are 100% market-ready: practical, reliable, scalable, affordable, and safe.

Serious commercialization requires high-level engineering and business commitments. More capital will continue to be needed, until viability is clearly at hand. The investment risk is high, but the rewards can be stratospheric. As Michael McKubre has said, “Energy is the biggest business opportunity there is. There isn’t anything more important than energy. With clean, cheap energy you can create everything … money, clean water, health, the basis for a higher standard of living.”

Is more backing really called for?

Leading developers know the challenges and risks as well as anyone. Depending on who you ask, they say it may take a couple, a few, or more years until products really go to market. So potential investors should be realistic and patient, treating all infusions as high-risk capital. But for those who are paying attention, this is an opportunity to make a huge difference and a tremendous return all at the same time.

“There’s now enough evidence of a potential commercial solution to suggest that further investment and commitment are warranted,” says David Firshein, an investment banker with 29 years’ experience in the private capital markets, half of it spent financing clean technology. “If you really care about the future of super-clean, super-cheap energy on the planet, and you are a wealthier futurist, funding this engineering is the place to be.”  Firshein is President of Cascade Capital Corporation and serves as Brillouin’s Chief Financial Officer.

Weighing this type of breakthrough energy technology against others, he continues, “The risk is not nearly as high as hot fusion pursuits, which require 20 to 500 times more funding than LENR does, and which are more uncertain and further away from commercialization by comparison, given their complexity.

What about federal or other research funding? “As for deeper institutional pockets of those that supposedly care about climate change,” Firshein observes, “it always amazes me that they will toss out billions to explore the esoteric nature of subatomic particle collisions for the next 10 years, but make it nearly impossible to get $10 million for something that could be commercialized in a year or so. What’s wrong with a side bet that costs nothing by comparison?  Given the risks of climate change, shouldn’t we be a little more intelligent about spreading our bets?”

The bottom line

Energy has always been the core driver of civilization, but most of today’s energy is dirty, expensive, and fraught with problems including climate change, threatening civilization itself. With the benign, abundant new energy, there’s an added return on investment, planetary survival, which is vital for any other bets to pay off.

LENR’s proponents argue that their new technology is the cheapest, fastest and surest way to have a chance to reverse the catastrophic potential of climate change.  Certainly for us to survive and thrive, we need energy that’s safe, clean, and dirt-cheap. And we need it very, very soon. Astute futurists and those with means, great or small, could tip the balance.

As has been true throughout history, the near-term opportunity may be for those with the means and moxie to see what’s happening before the general public does, and act on it.

# # #

The shift to decentralized, ever-cheaper watts and BTU’s (like the shift to dispersed, ever-cheaper bits) is a sub-trend of the highly-human megatrend that is now possible, the shift to an era of enhanced health, science, mind, economy, culture, and living.

More information and interaction opportunities are available at Highly-Human Focus.

About the Author

Richard Samson is director of the EraNova Institute and has served as a consultant to IBM, AT&T, and other large organizations. His work appears in the SuperLife social network; the Highly-Human Focus website (formerly Highly-Human Jobs); and The Futurist Magazine, published by the World Future Society. His books include The Mind Builder, Creative Analysis, The Language Ladder, and Mind Over Technology.

Comments

When will Cold Fusion Produce Anything More than Talk?

The latest Cold Fusion news is the symposium held at MIT in the last week of March. Lots of people attended. Lots of talk, but no commercial product to be seen anywhere. You have to wonder about the lack of patent recognition for LENR, particularly that created by Andrea Rossi who sold the rights to a Raleigh, North Carolina, company, and who has been promising to ship a commercial product for the last two years with nothing to show for it. Then there is Defkalion, who have demonstrated a cold fusion reaction experiment last year but still have no commercial product. Is that because the cold fusion reaction is never the same twice? Or is it because the amount of energy input to create the excess heat is demonstrating that the technology is non-competitive with other forms of energy generation.

I am fascinated by the many experiments that have been done to demonstrate the thermal reaction that appears to occur when nickel powder interacts with an electric current and heavy water. But I am a skeptic when it comes to the explanation that this is truly a fusion response and not a chemical one.

It is 25 years since Pons and Fleischmann introduced us to the process they dubbed cold fusion but we remain in the dark with not a single working low-energy nuclear reactor in use anywhere generating power. We have heard of companies like the one in Australia selling home power generators to customers, but nothing has been delivered. We have heard about a Tesla car being powered by cold fusion, and an old Ford Model-A being converted to be powered this way. But none of these projects have been realized.

I also would suggest that there is nothing quiet about the cold fusion community. They have a significant presence on the web and every time I write on the subject on my blog I get lots of comments defending and trashing the technology.

Are we 10 years from a commercial cold fusion reactor? Maybe or maybe we will never see one. If I were the North Carolina company, Industrial Heat, I'd put my eggs in another basket.

Thanks, and responses

Thanks for this detailed factual information, Len. I share your disappointment and skepticism. But don't the developers deserve at little slack? The most promising ones I've interviewed say they need more support (a fraction of the billions provided for hot fusion) to have a surer shot at delivering market-ready products. I'm sure you'll agree that hot fusion R&D has been a slow slog, with many disappointments, too. Which technology is closer to market?

I'd personally be fine with a chemical versus nuclear reaction, whatever works. Nothing is sure until it happens, of course. We may be years from a solution, but at least one commercial license has already been signed. The next few months and years should be interesting.

As for the funders, don't they deserve a little slack too? Some I know of put their eggs in multiple new-energy baskets, well aware that more startups fail than succeed, in all fields. They also, in my view, seek more than financial return. They care about the planet, risking much to help keep it livable.

Wait a minute ...

There are a few reasons to explain why it is taking so long for the LENR technology to make it to market. The most important reason is that the U.S. Patent Office (PTO) is reluctant to grant patents for this technology. That one issue alone can have a dramatic effect on the decision of releasing the owner of intellectual property to the public. Also, a catch-22 situation arises when the legitimacy of the LENR technology itself comes into question as a result of the PTO not granting patents.

In order for LENR technology to reach the marketplace in the United States, it first must be certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Thus far, nothing has been released to the public regarding UL approval. The main problem in connection with safety of this technology is achieving control over the volume of heat produced by these devices. Once heat is applied to the substrate, the reactions continue for while as the input heat is reduced.
The efficiency of the system depend on whether or not the input heat from the exhaust can be recycled back to input heat. Getting UL approval of this configuration might be difficult due to a lack of control over the input source. Using an external input source, would increase operating cost. However, considering that it is impossible to turn off a coal powered turbine at a moment's notice, a question arises about how it is that any different than turning off LENR powered turbine.

Finally, the release of LENR or any technology that would replace fossil fuel or nuclear energy resources for the production of electrical power would leave the producers of these fuels in a shambles. I doubt that investors in these industries would stand by and let this happen. With the corporate press lying by omission by not covering LENR technology or continuing to repeat the failure of scientists to reproduce the Pons and Fleishman effect, the American public is left ignorant of later success of this technology thus leaving virtually no voter pressure on Congress to embrace this technology. Suffice it to say that Congress is particularly sensitive to the needs of special interest groups and the so-called "energy producers" are no exception. Also, it is very obvious that special interest groups complete control of the White House. This one element, perhaps more than any other, will cause LENR technology to walk away in the wilderness, never to be seen again.

When will Cold Fusion Produce Anything More than Talk?

The answer to the question is probably somewhat complex. But it would appear to me that ultra rich Powers, the bloodsuckers who have cheated us so far, have found a way to suppress lenr technology. I'm sure this is made up mainly of the fossil fuel corporations but they are probably not alone. With their great wealth these powers can easily find a way to affect this suppression without anyone being the wiser and as it fades away, as did the steam driven auto many years ago, no one will be the wiser that it ever existed.

Thanks but upset about date line.

It is just mean to put out such a good factual article, on April Fools day. If it was dated some other day I would spread it widely. As it is, I have no use for it. There is enough doubt already.

Alternate date/site for "New Energy Breakthrough" article

Thanks, Susan! Fortunately, the same article (dated March 31) is available here: http://www.superlife.ws/profiles/blogs/shhh-new-energy-breakthrough-is-q...

Lenr

The longer we delay in
developing this
new source of energy

leaves us closer to
a planet becoming totally uninhabitable
for most species including
humans. See writings by
Guy McPherson.