Thoughts on Alpha and Beta Nickel-Hydride Formation in E-Cat Replication (Hank Mills)

The following post was submitted by Hank Mills

(WARNING: Performing replications of LENR systems entails significant risks and exposure to chemicals, electricity, and harmful elements. Many risks, potentially life threatening, are involved if non-experts proceed with experiments. One breath of certain chemicals can bring near immediate death, other chemicals can induce explosions when exposed to moistures, certain elements can spontaneously combust in atmosphere to produce burns, and the dangers involved when utilizing hydrogen are many, varied, and severe. Only academics and highly trained professionals in proper settings, utilizing all safety precautions, should consider attempting E-Cat replications)

All information in this document is speculative and composed by a non-scientist. Don’t bank on any of it.

Molecular hydrogen approaches a metal surface (rod, wire, or wire). The two hydrogen atoms are attracted to the nickel, are dissassociated into atomic hydrogen, and each individual atom is absorbed into the nickel lattice. This process is stimulated by a combination of pressure and heat; however,  the rate of absorption is also increased by a greater surface area. For example, nickel powder allows quicker absoption. This process allows for the formation of alpha phase (a-phase) nickel hydride, NiH.

At the lowest concentrations of a-phase NiH (nickel hydride) in the nickel, the absoption of hydrogen is most significantly impacted by the pressure of the hydrogen gas. If an adequate temperature is held constant, as hydrogen pressure is increased, a saturation point of a-phase NiH will be reached.

After the saturation point of a-phase NiH is arrived at, the conversion to b-phase NiH (nickel hydride) begins. This is driven by temperature as well if pressure is held constant.

At some point a plateau will be reached and the dissolution of hydrogen into the nickel to create additional b-phase NiH (nickel hydride) will be governed by pressure alone. At this point all the a-phase hydride has been converted to b-phase. By increasing hydrogen pressure, additional b-phase NiH will be formed in the nickel lattice. The creation of b-phase NiH allows a much greater total hydrogen concentration in the bulk nickel, resulting in an increased volume.

After removing oxides from his nickel bar and/or wire, by a combined process of heating the sample (to 900K or 625C) and flushing with hydrogen, Sergio Focardi began the process of a-phase NiH loading by maintaining a constant temperature while filling the cell with pressurized hydrogen. Every time the pressure dropped due to absorption into the lattice, he would add additional hydrogen from a tank. Eventually, after the nickel was seemingly saturated with a-phase NiH, he would begin the triggering process to produce excess heat: by first dropping and then increasing power to the cell — exposing the nickel to elevated temperatures — or dropping and then increasing pressure. This would commence the production of excess heat, elevating the temperature of the cell. Hence, the triggering process would convert more of the a-phase NiH into b-phase NiH. Perhaps a sudden, rapid conversion of a-phase to b-phase (or an increase in the total amount of b-phase if saturation of a-phase had been reached) is the primary triggering mechanism by which excess heat mode is driven. Once triggered, such a mode of operation may continue for an extend period of time — potentially without continual input of power to the resistors.

The addition of a form(s) of lithium seems to be the key to increasing the output of a stimulated sample of nickel rich in b-phase NiH (nickel hydride). Early E-Cat reactors are thought to possible utilize pure lithium — rather than lithium aluminum hydride (LiAlH4). If pure lithium was utilized, along with an external hydrogen source in the form of a tank, a lower operating temperature could be the result. Concurrently, the energetic potential of the fuel mixture could be lower than if only elemental lithium was used. The aluminum content of LiAlH4 might block, hinder, or decrease the likely hood of proton-lithium nuclear reactions. Producing a greater quantity of energy than nickel-hydrogen fusion, if the rate of proton-lithium reactions (resulting in the emission of ionized helium atoms with high kinetic energies called alpha particles) were reduced, the overall COP of a reactor could be lower. Since COP increases with temperature, a positive impact of the use of LiAlH4 could be greater control and stability at increased temperatures (1200C or above) where previously reactors repeatedly “ran away.” At these higher temperatures, a significant COP could still be achieved with less likelihood of a structural failure.

If the nuclear reactions that take place in the E-Cat do indeed occur in the micro-caves of the nickel powder (perhaps where greater pressures create regions of extremely high hydrogen loading), to achieve the highest levels of heat generation lithium may need to be present in these regions. This would necessitate the liquid or gaseous state of lithium.

To facilitate successful E-Cat replications the following suggestions are made. Please note these are not precise directions, and the order and duration of these steps are not set in stone. Various documentation found on the internet, beyond the references provided, can provide additional information.

1) In a vacuum and/or hydrogen environment, to remove oxygen from the nickel, pre-bake the nickel at elevated temperatures deemed suitable and safe. Certain sources reference the temperature of 625C being needed to “clean” the nickel in vacuum. Lower temperatures may be used (potentially for safety in order to reduce the chance of a hydrogen explosion) if the nickel is being exposed to hydrogen to remove oxygen. If nickel is not pre-baked to remove oxides, exposure to such temperatures in the reactor core during the active run may suffice. Also, exposure to aluminum when mixed with LiAlH4 may “clean up” the oxides at such temperature ranges without pre-baking. Suffice it to say, success in the early experiments by Focardi (the basis of  much of this document) depended significantly on the removal of oxides. Other LENR companies, such as Brillouin, also stress the extreme importance of removing oxides from the nickel power in their systems. Both heating in a vacuum and flushing with hydrogen at lower temperatures will remove oxides, but utilizing both methods may be preferable. Oxides = No Excess Heat.

2) To hydrogenate the cleaned nickel, heat nickel in a hydrogen environment to appropriate temperatures and pressures. Allow pressure to drop as hydrogen is absorbed into the nickel. After absorption slows significantly, increase hydrogen pressure. Repeat until increasing pressure stops facilitating further absorption to a significant extent.

– Consider increasing temperature somewhat along with hydrogen pressure to ensure that the nickel is saturated with a-phase NiH (nickel hydride) and b-phase NiH is being produced or converted from a-phase NiH. WARNING THIS MAY TRIGGER EXOTHERMIC NUCLEAR REACTIONS.

– Consider increasing hydrogen pressure significantly at the same temperature to increase hydrogen absoption and formation of b-phase hydrogen. WARNING THIS MAY TRIGGER EXOTHERMIC NUCLEAR REACTIONS

3) If utilizing an external source of hydrogen, add free lithium (very carefully utilizing all safety precautions, equipment, and a suitable laboratory) to the nickel. Whether or not the lithium should be added before or after hydrogenation is uncertain to the author, but most certainly depends on the design of the experiment and what is practical for the replicator. If added before hydrogenation, the chemistry of the hydrogenation process will become more complex. Adding lithium afterwards may prevent the formation of LiH unless the test is conducted with pressurized hydrogen in the reactor core. There are many combinations and order of operations to test.

4) If using LiAlH4 as a source of hydrogen in the active reactor, consider performing two tests. One with LiAlH4 and the nickel mixed and another with the LiAlH4 physically separated from the nickel powder — perhaps behind a gas permeable plug, screen, or barrier. If the presence of aluminum lowers the rate of proton-lithium reactions, considerable excess heat may be detected at a lower temperature far below 1000C, but probably above the melting point of lithium. Then compare test results to nickel powder mixed with LiAlH4 with or without a certain percentage of free lithium added to the mixture.

5) After hydrogenation, trigger reactions with drops and then increases in heat and/or pressure. Early “hot cat” E-Cat reactors, utilizing only external hydrogen canisters, repeated melted down into slag according to the online postings written by one of Andrea Rossi’s former associates. The amount of excess energy can be extreme: obvious even without precise measurement equipment. Runaways have produced temperatures of over 2000C (hot enough to melt aluminum oxide like candle wax) and momentary power outputs of up to a megawatt. Prepare accordingly by taking all safety guidelines, utilizing all safety equipment, wearing all safety gear, and preparing for any possible outcome — including catastrophic destruction of the reactor.


a -Thermodynamics of Metal Hydrides:  Tailoring Reaction Enthalpies  of Hydrogen Storage Materials

b – Large excess heat production in Ni-H systems

c -Fluid Heater

d -Control of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions in Hydrides, and Autonomously Controlled Heat Generation Module

e – Many long and extended conversations and communications with replicators and knowledgeable researchers.

Hank Mills