The following guest post was submitted by Michael Lammert.
Response to Ethan Siegel and Comments on the E-Cat 32-Day Test Report
Michael Lammert (AKA Dr. Mike)
I hadn’t planned on posting any comments on the recent E-cat Report as I felt the review posted by Michael McKubre and the summary posted by Hank Mills already contained most of my opinions on the report. However, Ethan Siegel’s negative comments on the report do require a response. I will also include some of the comments on the E-cat report that I sent out to my friends when I sent them links to the Report and to Michael and Hank’s reviews.
My response to each of Ethan Siegel’s five points is as follows:
Self-sustaining energy reaction, unpowered by an outside source of any type
Siegel claims that that any device demonstrating LENR must be “a device that demonstrably was generating its own, self-sustaining energy reaction, unpowered by an outside source of any type.” Why should self-sustaining and unpowered be requirements to demonstrate LENR? What is wrong with a device that operates in a mode where you must put a little energy into the device to get a great amount of energy out? Brillouin has presented a theory of LENR whereby energy pulses must be supplied to the Ni lattice to create neutrons that then react with protons to form deuterium, and then have further reactions to eventually produce He. Once energy is supplied to form a neutron, all of the cascading neutron reactions produce a great deal more energy than was originally used to create the neutron. If this theory is correct, it may never be possible to achieve a self-sustaining energy reaction in LENR. All that is required for an LENR device to demonstrate its usefulness is that it outputs significantly more energy that is put into the device. Note that the same is all that is required of a “hot fusion” device!
Siegel’s second requirement of “a quality, closed-calorimeter measurement of the energy output of the device” would make sense if the E-Cat were outputting only a little more energy than the input. The open calorimetery used in the 32-day E-Cat test was quite adequate to demonstrate that a significant amount of excess heat was being generated, but perhaps not to the accuracy claimed in the report. (I’m fairly sure the first operating “hot fusion” device will not have the excess heat measured using a “Bomb Calorimeter”.)
Detection of gamma rays
Siegel claims that “detection of gamma-rays coming from the device” is a requirement to prove that fusion is occurring in the device since gamma rays are always detectable in fusion reactions. At the present time the physics of what is going on within the lattice of the Ni in the E-Cat reactor is uncertain- even Rossi was surprised by almost all of the Ni being converted to 62Ni in the current experiment. The reactions that Siegel shows of protons reacting with Ni atoms are likely incorrect. (My guess is that the appropriate reactions are low energy neutrons reacting with protons, deuterium, tritium, Ni nuclei, and Li nuclei.) It may be a while before we have a proven theory of what is happening in the Ni lattice, but I will predict that the theory will be able to explain the following:
- why Cu is observed in the “ash” of the original E-Cat,
- why almost all of the Ni is converted to 62Ni in the current test,
- why no Cu was observed in the “ash “ of the current test,
- why most of the remaining Li in the current test was 6Li, and finally
- why no gamma rays are observed in the E-Cats.
Verify that a nuclear transmutation took place
Siegel requires that an” examination of products and reactants to verify that a nuclear transmutation took place” should have been made. In my opinion the researchers did a good analysis of both the “fuel” and the “ash” for the 32-day run. I was actually quite surprised to see that Rossi let them do this analysis as it generated some information that was not yet public knowledge. Siegel asks a good question: Where is the Cu in the “ash”? Actually that data is presented in the report. Examining Figures 4, 9, and 11 in Appendix 3 one clearly can observe that there is no Cu in the “ash”. (Figure 10 in Appendix 3 shows that Cu is detectable by the SIMS analysis as it can be seen in the Fe rich sample as the atomic weights 63 and 65.) No Cu in the “ash” was probably as much of a surprise to Rossi as having all of the Ni being converted to 62Ni. The abundance of 62Ni and the relative abundance of 6Li clearly indicate that some nuclear reactions are taking place, even if the anticipated transmutation of Ni into Cu was not observed in the current experiment.
The final question Siegel asks is: “Is this a true independent test, from legitimate scientists with no outside interference from Rossi?” My response to this question is independent enough! In the first place Siegel has no right to question the integrity of the professors and scientists who ran the 32-day test. It is only logical that Rossi would only let those he trusted run a test on a device that is not yet protected by patents. He also has to trust this group would do a good job of running the test as poor results due to the way the test was run could take a long time to overcome. (Does anyone remember what MIT’s and Cal Tech’s poor experimental technique did to Pons/Fleischmann’s “cold fusion”?) One might question the independence of the test if they hadn’t mentioned that Rossi helped with some aspects, and only later was his help revealed. Why do I think Rossi helped with aspects of the test? He ramped up and down the power of the dummy run probably because he knew that the Inconel coil could be burnt out without proper ramping. He loaded the reactor because it probably took a special procedure to uniformly distribute the fuel over the reactor. The reactor may have been turned slowly to get the fine powder to coat the sidewalls of the reactor before the reactor was sealed. Rossi also probably wanted to verify the reactor was properly sealed as the reactor would not have produced good results if the hydrogen released from the metal hydride leaked out. The temperature ramping of the reactor is probably critical enough that Rossi did not want anyone else to perform this task. Critical issues with the ramp-up may include the rate at which the hydrogen is released from the metal hydride and possibly getting some of the Li to diffuse into the Ni. (Li might help in the initial formation of neutrons or in initial reactions that heat up the Ni.) I can’t think of a reason why Rossi would need to help with the ramp-down. If the experiment was done, turn off the reactor and let it cool down! I assume that Rossi helped with getting the ash out of the reactor because he knew this was a difficult task from previous experience. Those doing the analysis claimed to have very little ‘”ash” sample to work with. Also, my interpretation of the report is that Rossi didn’t take away the “ash” in the test tube and then bring it back for radioactivity testing. It was immediately given to Bianchini for testing.
Siegel accuses Rossi of tampering with the experiment: “So Rossi himself, the person whose device must be tested independently to ensure that he is not tampering with the results, tampered with the only portion of the test that showed a compelling, positive result!” (I believe Siegel is referring to the analysis of the “ash”.) If Rossi had wanted to tamper with the “ash”, would there be any way he would do so by acquiring some pure 62Ni (with a similar morphology to the starting Ni), then add in a little Li that was excessively rich in 6Li, all for the privilege of getting to tell the world that even he could not explain these results? Siegel’s statement also indicates that he does not consider the COP of 3.2-3.6 a compelling result of this experiment since he claims Rossi influenced all compelling, positive results when all of these calculations were done by the professors. Besides the logical conclusion that Rossi would have preferred the “ash” contained constituents that he would have predicted from his current theory (which now needs some revision), it seems doubtful that Rossi had anything to do with ramping up the reactor temperature to ~1400 oC after 10 days operation. I am really surprised that random fluctuations in temperature did not cause some local melting of the Ni fuel, which of course would have been seen as diminished output in the latter portion of the test. (This did not happen!)
Finally Siegel seems to have a problem with scientists that are fooled by poor experimental work: “even the most scientifically literate among us — even those of us who are scientists ourselves — often don’t recognize what differentiates solid, valid science (and scientific conclusions) from studies that are biased, incomplete or wholly invalid”. Well, I have a problem with scientists that don’t bother to seek out the information available on a subject before forming a conclusion. If Siegel believes the E-Cat is a fraud, what does he think of the work everyone else is doing on LENR? What does Siegel think of the results of Pons and Fleischmann from 1989? Does he still believe MIT and Cal Tech’s reports that the “cold fusion” proposed by Pons and Fleischmann is a fraud?
Comments, Recommendations, and Questions on the 32-Day E-Cat Test
As stated previously, I believe Michael McKubre and Hank Mills have done a good job of reviewing the 32-day E-Cat test. I’ll try to avoid going over any minor points that they made, but will address a few of their major points.
- Dummy Run Power Level
The dummy run power level should have been run at least as high as the initial active power level for the first 10 days of the experiment. Since Rossi was present for this step, he should have told the professors what power input was expected for the active run. It would only have required about a 30% increase in coil current to raise the power level from the 486W actually used in the dummy run to the 800W level of the first 10 days of active operation. Also, there doesn’t appear to be any need to run this test for any longer than necessary to reach a steady state temperature and then take measurements. It would have been better to run the dummy test at three or four input powers, recording steady state temperatures at each power setting, than to run the dummy test for a long time at a single power level.
- Problem with the “Joule Heating” Calculation
The “Joule heating” calculation for the Cu wire for the dummy run on pages 13-14 seems to be fairly straight forward. The “Joule heating” is simply the resistance of the wire times the current squared flowing through that wire. Sum the Joule heating in the 3 Cu wires from the controller and the 6 Cu wires to the device and you have the power that comes out of controller, but doesn’t participate in heating the Inconel coils. This is such a simple calculation, that it seems unlikely that an error would be made in other calculations of Joule heating. However, the “Joule heating” in the Cu wires for the active run has been calculated in Table 7, page 22 as about 37W for the input power at 800W and about 42W for the operation at 920W. These “Joule heating” calculations imply that the current in the Cu wires was 2.35 times as high in the 800W active run as it was in the dummy run (SQRT(37/6.7) = 2.35). The only way for this to be possible is for the Inconel resistors to have a very large negative temperature coefficient of resistance. Although the report did not specify what type of Inconel was used in the coils, the data sheets for various Inconels show well less than 10% variation in resistivity over a wide temperature range. For example, Inconel 625 has a resistivity of 135.9 microohm-cm at 427 oC and 133.9 microohm-cm at 1093 oC. Other Inconels have a slightly increasing resistivity as the temperature increases. Also it should be pointed out that if the Inconel used in the coils in this experiment had a large negative TCR, then the Joule heating as calculated in Table 7 would have been much higher than 42W for the 900W portion of the test. The calculated “Joule heating” powers are directly proportional to the “consumption” powers, indicating no change in resistivity of the Inconel coils as the temperature increases from about 1260 oC to 1400 oC in the two portions of the active runs. Questions for the authors: 1. What is the source of the error in the “Joule heating” calculation for the active run? 2. What type of Inconel was used in the resistor coils? 3. What was the current flowing through the resistors for each of the active power levels?
- Fuel Loading
What was the procedure used to insure that the “fuel” was loaded uniformly within the reactor? Does the fine Ni powder stick to the alumina reactor walls, or does gravity cause the “fuel” to form a line at the lower portion of the reactor?
- Electromagnetic Pulses
On page 1 of the report in the Introduction a sentence has been “slipped-in” with no further explanation: “In addition, the resistor coils are fed with some specific electromagnet pulses.” The wiring diagram on page 5 in Figure 4 shows no “electromagnetic pulse generator”, however, the picture of the experimental set-up on page 4 in Figure 3 clearly shows two separate pieces of electrical equipment hooked up to the reactor, one definitely being the controller and one possibly a pulse generator. The diagram on page 5 should be fixed to include this additional piece of equipment. Although I’m sure the output of the pulse generator is proprietary, some calculation of its input power to the reactor must be included in the “consumption” power calculation. The 5 kHz PCE 830 meters will not be measuring any of the input power from the pulse generator (assuming the pulse generator frequency is in the MHz range). What was the estimated power input to the reactor from the pulse generator for the “dummy” run, for the ~800W active run, and for the ~920W active run?
- Other Elements in the “Fuel”
On page 53 the statement is made: “Besides the analyzed elements it has been found that the fuel also contains rather high concentrations of C, Ca, Cl, Fe, Mg, Mn and these are not found in the ash.” What were the concentrations of these elements found in the “fuel”?
- Contamination of SIMS Samples
It appears that the samples for the SIMS testing were contaminated by placing them on a “carbon adhesive sticker”. Although these contaminates were cleaned away with a sputter etch, future sample preparation should not make use of the “carbon adhesive stickers”.
- Time Required to Convert the Ni to 62Ni
It would be useful to determine at what point in the test essentially all of the Ni has been converted to 62Ni. My guess is that although this conversion is providing some useful output energy, it is not the primary means of energy production. Perhaps the primary energy production mechanism becomes more efficient once all of the Ni is converted to 62Ni? Could this be the reason the required input energy to sustain a temperature decreased during the first 10 days of the test?
- “Ash” Recovery
Was it difficult to recover the “ash” from the reactor? Did Rossi help just because he was experienced in this task? Was the “ash” immediately given by Rossi to be tested by Bianchini?
- Decision to Increase the Operating Temperature to 1400 oC
Who made the decision to raise the operating temperature to ~1400 oC? Was anyone concerned about random fluctuations in the temperatures of individual Ni particles causing localized melting? What did Rossi say about raising the temperature this high?
10. Residual Gas Analysis
As an aid to resolving the theory of operation of the E-Cat, I would recommend analyzing the residual gas in the reactor at the end of the run. In particular, it would be interesting to determine if He was present after an active run of an E-Cat.
11. Self- Sustaining Mode
Although I’m satisfied with the resulting COP of 3.2-3.6, this appears to not be a big enough “WOW” factor to satisfy some of the skeptics. I would recommend any future experiment be run with a significant portion of the run done in the self- sustaining mode, even if this makes the output power harder to calculate. Assuming control is more difficult in the self- sustaining mode, it would be reasonable to run the E-Cat at well below 1400 oC.
12. Thermal Imagers
My background does not permit me to do a thorough evaluation of the radiative and convective heat calculations. However, the thermal imagers are only looking at one side of the reactors and the calculations appear to assume a radial symmetry. My recommendation would be to have a second set of imagers directed to the opposite side of the reactor. If radial symmetry is not observed, the output heat can be calculated for each half of the reactor independently. Also, if the Ni fuel is not uniformly distributed, such as mostly at the bottom of the reactor, it would be expected that the bottom of the reactor would be hotter. The thermal imagers would not pick up a higher bottom temperature based on their position shown in Figure 3 on page 4.
This report should be sufficient to convince most of the “cold-fusion” skeptics that it is possible to create nuclear reactions within a Ni metal lattice. However, it is obvious that much work still needs done to establish a coherent theory for LENR as even Rossi, who had previously claimed to have a theory for what was happening in his E-Cat, was surprised by the result of almost all of the Ni being converted to 62Ni. The key issue for the development of useful LENR devices is maintaining stable operation while extracting maximum heat. A good theory is a necessity for learning to control LENR to the point where it can deliver useful energy with adequate stability. Hopefully this report on the E-Cat will generate enough interest in LENR to get more physicists working on it.