Here’s an interesting exchange from the Journal of Nuclear Physics.
Q: In previous discussions you have expressed an interest in high energy photon direct conversion by means of a photo electric cell similar to the one described in expired U.S. patent 4178524.
Have you made any progress in this regard?
A: We have a team who is working specifically on this issue. Yes, we made progress, even if we are not ready with a working prototype, bu we have obtained a direct current someway. Much work to do. Honestly, we started from an idea of yours that I read on a paper you sent me.
The patent referred to here is for a “Radioisotope photoelectric generator” issued to James C. Ritter in 1979. The summary reads:
‘This device is a remote electrical generator which makes use of radioactive isotopes in combination with high-Z and low-Z materials to generate an electrical output voltage. X-rays or gamma rays emitted by the radioactive isotopes produce electrons in the high Z material which are captured by the low Z material to produce the output energy. The high-Z and low-Z materials alternate and are connected electrically together to form a “battery”.’
Direct conversion of high energy photons produced in E-Cat reactions to electricity could be a tremendous achievement, if it could be done efficiently. While the hot cat seems well suited to be coupled with steam turbines for electricity generation (a well understood process), direct conversion is certainly an attractive area of research. A solid state E-Cat generator without involving the expense and complexity of steam turbines could eventually prove to be the optimum means of electrical production.
For Leonardo to be devoting a team to work on this process shows that they see its potential, but I expect this could be a side project, while work continues on the more traditional steam-based electricity generation.