Issue 12
infinite energy
new energy foundation
who are we?
apply for grants
donate to nef
infinite energy magazine
  about the magazine
back issues
read ie
author instructions
change of address
contact us
gene mallove collection
  lenr-canr magazine index in the news
in the news
  mit and cold fusion report technical references
key experimental data
new energy faq



infinite energy

Cold Fusion and the Future
Part 1 - Revolutionary Technology
by Jed Rothwell
(Originally Published January-February, 1997 In Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #12)
The heavy hydrogen in the seas can drive all our machines, heat all our cities, for as far ahead as we can imagine. If, as is perfectly possible, we are short of energy two generations from now, it will be through our own incompetence. We will be like Stone Age men freezing to death on top of a coal bed. . . .

"In this inconceivably enormous universe, we can never run out of energy or matter. But we can all too easily run out of brains."
        — Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, Harper & Row, 1963, chapter 12, "Ages of Plenty"

"All the energy we can possibly ever use for free. Enough energy, if we wanted to draw on it, to melt all Earth into a big drop of impure liquid iron, and still never miss the energy so used. All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever."
        — Isaac Asimov, "The Last Question," Science Fiction Quarterly, November 1956, a description of a space-based solar energy collector

"Historians will look back on 1973 as the year the era of cheap energy ended and Americans began to confront the illusion that unlimited energy would always be available. It was also the year we realized that cheap, abundant energy was the all-pervasive factor in making the United States' success story the adventure of the ages. For the United States, it would mark a turning point--a new maturation and awareness of the bitter truth: we had overshot and were making an overdraft on our own, and the world's, resources."
        — Stewart Udall, Charles Conconi, David Osterhout, The Energy Balloon, McGraw-Hill 1974

Energy is the most abundant resource in the universe. The sun produces 3.8 x 1026 watts,1,2 enough to vaporize the earth in about a half-day. The energy crisis is caused by ignorance, not by any natural shortage.

I do not see the energy crisis as a purely moral issue. I disagree with the Spartan philosophy advocated by Udall, former President Carter and Vice President Gore. The energy crisis is a technical problem that should have been fixed decades ago. Americans do not use too much energy. The problem is that our energy sources are inefficient, expensive, dangerous and polluting. It does not have to be that way. Energy is a moral issue only in the sense that energy shortages cause terrible suffering in the third world. This cannot be fixed by taking fossil fuel away from Americans and Europeans and giving it to people in Africa and India. We would not be willing to part with it, and they cannot pay to transport it, store it, or use it effectively. There should be no need to conserve energy. There should be no need to pollute the air or blight the landscape with high tension power lines, or windmills or solar collectors. Even so-called "green" energy technology is destructive. Hydroelectric dams ruin the ecology, threaten to flood vast areas in Canada, and destroy ancient artifacts in China and Egypt.

With pollution-free energy, the only limit to our use of energy will be the capacity of the atmosphere to radiate waste heat from machines into space without excessively heating the surroundings. Cold fusion will not only eliminate pollution, it will also reduce this waste heat. Today's electric generators are about 30% efficient. Internal combustion automobile engines are only 15 to 19% efficient.3 Carnot efficiency is poor because the engines have to pump through copious amounts of air to keep the gasoline burning. Cold fusion does not require oxygen, so a heat engine will be able to extract more heat from the working fluid. Internal combustion engines are also inefficient because they cannot stop. When the vehicle stops, they idle, wasting energy. At low speeds they are inefficient.4 Other heat engines can store up energy when the vehicle is not moving. Steam and electric engines are efficient across a broad range of operating speeds.

Pollution is misplaced resources. We need mercury, but not in our water supply. We want ozone in the upper atmosphere, not at ground level where automobile engines produce it. No law of nature dictates that our energy sources must produce pollution. Fossil fuel sources always produce carbon dioxide, which might lead to global warming. Other sources, like wind and solar energy, produce very little pollution: only the solid waste of used solar panels and worn out windmills. Cold fusion energy will produce less junked equipment than solar or wind, because it is highly concentrated. There will be less solid waste when the machinery wears out. Under some conditions cold fusion will create tritium waste, but I expect these conditions can be avoided, and the danger of tritium eliminated. In that case, the only measurable reaction by-products from cold fusion will be tiny amounts of helium, and probably small levels of metal transmutations in the cathodes. These may include more precious metals than unwanted, dangerous elements. In any case, the cathodes will be inside permanently sealed heat cells, in engine blocks, impervious to all but the most severe accident. Some U.S. spacecraft employ thermoelectric generators powered by fissioning uranium oxide. In one case, a rocket went out of control and was detonated on launch. Divers found the thermoelectric generator on the ocean floor in perfect condition. It was installed in a replacement satellite and launched into space.5

How Much Heavy Water?
Cold fusion with palladium requires heavy water (deuterium oxide). Cold fusion with nickel appears to work as well with ordinary water as with heavy water. I expect nickel will become the dominant cathode material, in which case the fuel cost will be as close to zero as any fuel imaginable. Even heavy water fuel would be cheap. Heavy water costs about $1000 per kilogram retail, even though it is ubiquitous (it is 1 part in 6000 in every drop of water on earth). It is expensive because a lot of energy is required to separate it from ordinary water, and because demand is limited, so new separation technologies have not been developed.6 But you get a fantastic amount of energy out of a fusion reaction. Even at $1000 per kilogram, heavy water would be thousands of times cheaper than oil. In a heavy water cold fusion economy, a fraction of a percent of the fuel would have to be recycled to keep the heavy water separation plants working, whereas today 7% of oil goes to refinery use and loss.7 There are some indications that the cathode metal itself plays a role in the reaction. It may be transmuted, in which case it would be used up. A cold fusion reactor may require new metal from time to time, the way a fission reactor requires new uranium. Palladium and nickel are cheaper than uranium, and all three produce energy cheaper than oil does.

How much heavy water would it take to run the world economy, and what byproducts would it produce? Let us assume that cold fusion works like plasma fusion (hot fusion), converting deuterium into helium and releasing energy. Actually, it is probably more complicated than hot fusion, but broadly speaking it releases energy on the same scale, with roughly the same amount of fuel, and it does produce helium. Worldwide annual production of all fuels, converted to an equivalent mass of oil, equals approximately 6.8x1013 kilograms of oil.8,9 This produces 2.7x1015 megajoules (at 40 megajoules per kilogram). A kilogram of heavy water contains 200 grams of deuterium. Converted to helium in a d-d fusion reaction, this produces 1.2x108 megajoules, with 1.3 grams of matter annihilated.10 Thus, present world energy needs could be met with 2.3x107 kg of heavy water, or ~24,000 metric tons. Actually, as I pointed out above, Carnot efficiency is likely to improve with cold fusion, so less fuel will be needed. Byproducts would include 18,800 tons of free oxygen and 4,700 tons of helium. Thirty tons of mass would be annihilated, the same amount we lose today with chemical fuel, which also obeys Einstein's mass-energy equivalence law. To put it another way, a kilogram of heavy water has as much potential energy as 2.9 million kilograms of oil. The earth has ~2x1013 metric tons of heavy water,11 enough to last 851 million years at this rate, and there is plenty more in Rings of Saturn and elsewhere in the solar system.

What it Will Take for Cold Fusion to Succeed   
 Three conditions must be met for cold fusion to succeed in every energy sector:

1. Cold fusion devices must be made safe and nonpolluting. Most scientists believe that before this can happen we must understand the physics of the reaction. Others say there are gaps in our theoretical understanding of related technologies like catalysis, yet we can make safe, effective catalytic processes.

2. Cold fusion generators, motors, heaters and other devices must have high power density, so they can be roughly as compact as competing motors. Data from some experiments shows that high power density can be achieved. In a few cases power density has been better than a conventional nuclear fission reactor. This kind of performance must become routine in all experiments.

3. It should be possible to build a wide range of devices from thermoelectric pacemaker batteries, to automobile engines, to marine and aerospace engines.

If condition one is not met, the technological revolution will be canceled. Without two and three it might be incomplete. We might end up with large, centralized cold fusion power reactors that make cheap energy. This will gradually reduce pollution, after electric automobiles are introduced.

Perhaps other over-unity devices like magnetic motors or the Correa device will pan out. Some of these would be superior to metal-lattice cold fusion (the Pons-Fleischmann effect). They would eliminate the need for heat engines and thermoelectric chips, thus reducing waste heat even more than cold fusion, especially when coupled with heat pumps. The broad technological and economic impact of these machines would be similar to that of cold fusion.

Before cold fusion can be commercialized, today's best, precious few laboratory prototypes must be made available to thousands of labs. Sustained boiling reactions have only been seen in one or two labs. They must be produced on demand, in any lab. Today, Edmund Storms spends months laboriously testing palladium samples to winnow out the ones that are likely to work.12 That process must be automated. Ways must be found to fabricate cathodes that always meet his most stringent standards, and then the standards must be raised. Today, cold fusion experimental results are inconsistent. Heat flares up and gutters out, like flames from green, wet firewood. When we learn to control the reaction, we will scale up the type of cold fusion we want. We will not scale up the uncontrolled, on-again, off-again heat, or tritium production. Once we learn how to build this new kind of fire, we will make only clean, hot reactions, just as we only build clean, properly vented, smoke-free coal fires.

The Big Four
All machines use energy. Even a needle pulling thread uses energy provided by you. Nearly every machine on earth can be improved with cold fusion, but four categories are critical. Their performance depends on efficient energy consumption, and they consume more fuel than all others combined. They are:
1. Automobiles, trucks, railroad locomotives
2. Space heating and other furnaces
3. Electric generators
4. Farms

If cold fusion energy can be used in these four categories, it will replace almost all of the energy used by mankind, and it will reduce air and water pollution drastically. If it turns out that cold fusion can only be used for large electric generators, then it will gradually replace other energy sources. We will use electric space heaters and heat pumps. Automobiles will use batteries, or energy derived from electricity, such as hydrogen from electrolysis.

These four have the largest impact on the environment, and they consume most of the world's energy. Other critical machines like airplanes use a lot of fuel, but there are relatively few of them, so they consume only a small percent of the world supply. The issue is complicated by some machines like blast furnaces and railroad locomotives, because some use electricity and some burn fossil fuel directly. Machines like televisions, telephones, computers and x-ray machines use little energy. Cold fusion may improve their portability and reliability, but this will contribute little to conservation. The Energy Star computer standards have made laudable contributions to conservation, but things like electric motors and lighting consume much more energy than computers. Electric motors consume 50% of electricity. Lighting consumes 20% directly, and another 5% in air conditioning to remove waste heat from the light fixtures.13

The fourth "machine" on the list is the farm. Few people think of a field of lettuce as a solar energy powered production line, but that is one way to look at it. (Clarke described it that way years ago; he thought of everything.) A farm is an outdoor factory, like an oil refinery. Putting a farm outdoors has one big advantage: free energy, the light and heat from the sun. Unfortunately, it has many disadvantages. You get too much light and heat, or not enough. Things go catastrophically wrong. Insects and rodents eat the food. Crops must compete with weeds, and fight bacteria. Floods wash away seeds and fertilizer, and cause mildew. Farms suffer from droughts. Crops are reduced when it does not freeze hard enough in the winter, or wiped out when it freezes too late in the spring . . . With cold fusion, we can eliminate these problems by bringing food production inside. This will save an immense amount of land, it will reduce water pollution, and it will let us grow unlimited amounts of cheap, organic, wholesome, natural, clean, fresh food. This will be one of the biggest bonuses of cold fusion. It is discussed in detail below.

Cold fusion is ideal for heating and electric power generation. It might provide both from a cogenerator. In summer, you would let 70% or 80% of the heat go into the atmosphere, wasted, as you do today with your automobile.

Continue >>

Copyright © 2014-2015. All rights reserved. E-mail: