There is a huge amount of private sector activity taking place right now at small companies working on Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) devices. There is likely something real and important going on here with so many different companies claiming they are close to having commercial products ready. Some, like Andrea Rossi’s E-cat, are supposed to be available this year. Once in the public domain people can start tearing them apart and reverse engineering them. Yep, 2013 should be the year that LENR devices make their debut. We should all hope these devices live up to the hype because the potential benefits to the human race are enormous.
I found this short descriptive text added on Andrea Rossi’s website that nicely summarizes the processes and promise of LENR technology:
“The process that makes this possible is called Cold Fusion or Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). Nickel is fused with Hydrogen and transmutes into copper. This is an exothermal nuclear process that releases energy at around 10MeV per atomic reaction compared to the burning of Hydrogen which only releases 1.5eV per atomic reaction (Burning H2 in O2). Per atom, the exothermal process has an energy content of more than a million times the energy content of the most energetic (per weight) chemical process. The higher weight of Nickel and the fact one usually disregard Oxygen’s weight due to its presence in air makes the net factor around 200 000 when compared to oil.
The abundance of Nickel in the earth’s crust and the low price of Nickel make the ECAT one of the cheapest energy producers around. The ECAT does not pollute or release any carbon dioxide.”
A key point is that these Cold Fusion-reborn devices are claimed to produce nuclear reactions that give off orders of magnitude more energy per unit mass of fuel than chemical reactions. In fact – this is exactly why the Gen1 Enterprise will use electric propulsion engines powered by a nuclear power system. Using chemical rocket engines instead would require extremely large tanks for holding rocket fuel and the the Enterprise would not make sense.
And these LENR devices appear capable of running really hot. This is important because this means that they can efficiently be used in power plants on Earth to drive steam turbines. In theory, LENR devices could begin replacing coal furnaces in conventional power plants over the next decade.
And then there is the Enterprise, our spaceship. LENR technology could give a much safer nuclear power system for the Gen1 Enterprise. Concerns about a plutonium-filled Enterprise crashing back to Earth would be alleviated. Also, having a very hot heat source at the center of the nuclear power system is essential for helping to keep the size of the radiators within reason. Could the LENR devices run hot enough for the Enterprise, like the 1500 degrees C I assumed here? LENR researcher Dr. Luca Gamberale said recently:
“We can say that the technology Defkalion is now ready to face the market. reactor R5, using as active elements nickel and hydrogen treated properly, it can produce about 4.5 kW of heat energy in a volume of a few cubic centimeters with temperatures that in principle may get to the melting temperature of the nickel (1453 ° C). The limitation in temperature is given by the materials that make up the reactor, which have a certain degree of complexity and which will focus the effort of engineering.”
In 2013, I say bring on the LENR technologies! And I look forward to beginning to assume that the Gen1 Enterprise – the Really Big E – will be powered by LENR reactors instead of conventional fission-based reactors.