I have recently been in communication with Bastiaan Bergman, co-founder of California-based Fusion Catalyst, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization involved in research in the LENR field. Below is a Q&A conducted with him recently.
Could you tell us something about your nonprofit organization, Fusion Catalyst?
I felt I had to do something. I asked my fellow physicists and their response was often along the lines of “I’m appalled by this utterly nonsense pseudoscience”. Indeed when you Google “free energy” or “HHO” you get a lot of obvious nonsense, but between all the nonsense I believe there are a few reports that are worth further investigation.
The fact that things are happening that we cannot explain easily, tells me there is something to discover. Maybe it’s not free energy, maybe it’s energy storage, maybe its a new way of transferring energy, maybe it’s an efficient way to recover energy from some other source, or, yes, maybe it is cold fusion. It would be immensely weird if it really is, but it’s not forbiden.
What prompted you to start the project?
I have followed cold fusion on and off since 1989 and found the demonstration of Rossi for the Swedish skeptics very convincing, I think that formed the tipping point for me. We haven’t heard much credible from Rossi since that demonstration but through our non-profit organization I have come in contact with many other
inventors and interested people making it a very interesting journey for me. I’m still hopeful that something valuable might be hidden between all the non-information.
What are the goals of the nonprofit?
The goal is to get the science going, ideal would be to demonstrate beyond doubt that something real is happening. Once the science is making progress we can start focusing on helping with the commercialization. To get the science going we can ask our government to re-consider funding for LENR research. Our crowd-science project is a good first step to wake up the people and the government. Meanwhile we also do in-house verifications, where credible reports of LENR reactions are replicated and checked.
Who is involved in the nonprofit, and what are your backgrounds?
I am a physicist with a background in magnetic recording, nano-physics and magnetization dynamics. I currently work for the world’s largest manufacturer of hard-disk drives. In my free time I work on our non-profit LENR company. Fusion Catalyst. David Niebauer is an experienced attorney at law with a lot of experience in corporate finance, especially in the area of alternative energy. Recently we teamed up with Rob Woudenberg, a patent specialist. More details about our backgrounds can be found on www.FusionCatalyst.org/people/.
One of the interesting things you mention on your site is the Open Catalyst project. Can you explain what that and what is involved in carrying out the testing (in terms of time, hardware, software, analysis, etc)?
We made a completely open design of a Nickel Hydrogen reactor which we think is a close replication of Rossi’s and can also easily be modified to add specific instrumentation to replicate other Ni-H experiments. Scientists interested can take all or part of our design and start building out from there. For the specific task of long time runs (many days) doing prepared recipes and logging as much information as possible, we started an open source software project. At this point our software is becoming really comprehensive and I believe it will also be very useful for other scientific equipment, outside the field of LENR.
The basic philosophy of the software is rather new and uncommon in laboratory setups. The idea is that a small and inexpensive, but internet connected, card-computer can do all the real time work (collecting data and controlling actuators). No human readable outputs or inputs are present at the setup and all control, evaluation and troubleshooting is done through a web-browser interface on a laptop (any internet connected computer) either right next to the setup or far away. More information on the open source software project, (called “Peer Pressure” after the reactor design) is available on Github: https://github.com/fusioncatalyst/peerpressure. Several guys worldwide, are currently working on it.
When we obtain funding or a government grant for further research we want to replicated our own reactor to build an array of highly automated test calorimeter-reactors with which we can ‘scan’ across a large piece of parameter space of potentially working catalyst materials.
You mention that you are using a nickel-hydrogen reactor. What guided your design?
I made a replication mostly following Rossi’s Italian patent and all information I could get from posted video and other information sources.
Can you talk about some of the materials you have tested so far, and What kinds of results have you been getting?
So far I have concentrated on nickel powder and hydrogen. Several shapes of the powder and granular sizes have been tested. I have made one test with added graphite (carbon) and plan to make more tests with often noted potential “catalysts”. I did find some fairly surprising behavior which could easily be mis-interpreted as “anomalous”. I plan to publish some of these findings in a peer-reviewed physics journal sometime soon as I believe they serve the LENR research community even though I don’t claim to have observed any anomalous behavior.
Andrea Rossi claims that he utilizes micro grain sized nickel powder — have you been experimenting with different kinds of nickel powder?
Yes, 3-6 micron and ~100 micron sized grains.
One possible catalyst that has been discussed is carbon, in potentially multiple forms. Have you tested any form of carbon as a catalyst? How about Tungsten, which has a high melting point and has been used to create atomic hydrogen?
Have tried graphite (form of carbon). I think Palladium, Ruthenium, Rhodium and Platinum are interesting potential catalysts as they are known to be chemically active catalysts. Palladium is also often studied in LENR reports. Haven’t tried any of these as they are very expensive. I also believe the (physical) form might be of importance as highlighted by many experiments of Vittorio Violante. Unfortunately this means there is a nearly infinite number of potential possibilities that need to be tested. I try to read between the lines of (partly secretive) inventor reports and I try to find common characteristics between different reports. From that I select my most promising candidate catalysts.
Are you handling the nickel powder in an inert environment (such as helium or nitrogen) before putting it into the reactor core to avoid contamination?
My nano powder came in in the mail, didn’t get any special preparation and hence was already oxidized. With enough temperature and pure hydrogen atmosphere it can be reduced (de-oxidized) in-situ.
One seemlingly important aspect of Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat technology, is that he utilizes radio frequency stimulation to enhance and control the nuclear processes taking place in the reactor core. Have you tested any form of radio frequency stimulation?
No haven’t gone that path yet. I believe from video of the March 2011 demonstration that there was no significant “radio frequency” stimulation and there appeared to be no feedthroughs other than a temperature sensor and cartridge heater. Moreover there were no electronics present that could do very special things. One must know that radio-frequency is very hard to preserve, very easily reflections and interferences are formed. I don’t believe the Rossi reactor has the sophistication needed to do anything at high frequency. Nevertheless, EM waves, magnetic and electric fields of lesser sophistication (such as those produced by a power line) could play a role. Extremely high magnetic and electric fields can easily be present at a microscopic level due to electric dipole moments of molecules and magnetization of ferro-magnetic materials. This is something that falls under the realm of the “catalyst”.
A recent blog posts announces the Fusion Base project. What was your motivation in starting this project, and how do you feel it will be helpful for people in the LENR field?
As stated in our mission we want to help the commercialization of LENR technology. We witness an increased level of investor interest in the field and therefore a central place for companies to present themselves and investors to get a glance of the market seems useful. As the field is highly inventor oriented a central role for the patents was a natural choice. We expect companies with valuable IP are likely to be bought and merged in the coming years. For this we teamed up with Rob Woudenberg, a patent specialist at Philips NV the Netherlands, who is specialized in global commercial patent strategies. Rob is, on a private title, interested in LENR developments and helps with the collection and selection of LENR related patents.