A team of Italian scientists claim to have found the holy grail of energy sources – Cold Fusion.
Cold Fusion is one of those things which exists quite happily as a mathematical formula but has failed to see the light of day.
The idea is that you can manage a near-room-temperature reaction in which two smaller nuclei join together to form a single larger nucleus while releasing large amounts of energy.
Every now and then someone hits the headlines saying that they have managed to do it, but everyone else seems to have difficulty reproducing their experiment.
Despite the intense skepticism from other boffins, a team of Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W.
They demonstrated a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor which they say will be .shipped as a commercial device within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.
Rossi and Focardi say that when the atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen are fused in their reactor, the reaction produces copper and a large amount of energy. The reactor uses less than 1 gram of hydrogen and starts with about 1,000 W of electricity, which is reduced to 400 W after a few minutes. Every minute, the reaction can convert 292 grams of 20°C water into dry steam at about 101°C. Since raising the temperature of water by 80°C and converting it to steam requires about 12,400 W of power, the experiment provides a power gain of 12,400/400 = 31.
On a large scale the boffins think that electricity can be generated at a cost of less than 1 cent/kWh, which is significantly less than coal or natural gas plants.
On the plus side it does not produce any CO2 or radioactive waste and will be economical to build.
The boffins are manufacturing a 1MW plant made with 125 modules. Although the reactors can be self-sustaining so that the input can be turned off, the scientists say that the reactors work better with a constant input. The reactors need to be refueled every 6 months, which the scientists say is done by their dealers.
One reactor has been running continuously for two years, providing heat for a factory. They provide little detail about this case.
However, Rossi and Focardi's paper on the nuclear reactor has been rejected by peer-reviewed journals. They published their paper in the Journal of Nuclear Physics, an online journal founded and run by themselves.
They say their paper was rejected because they lack a theory for how the reaction works.
No word on how much their reactors will cost. They published a paper here but the site is overloaded. We just hope that does not happen with their reactors.