by David Niebauer

I recently listened to an astounding podcast of an interview with Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, talking about low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) and devices that are apparently generating significant energy in the form of heat, with very little input of raw material and no radioactive waste.

Bushnell credits Andrea Rossi, an Italian inventor, for the breakthrough. Rossi claims to have discovered a previously unknown source of energy, by extensive experimentation, using the early work of Pons and Fleischman as inspiration. Rossi has filed for international patent protection, but he is guarding the precise mechanism as a trade secret until the patent issues.

I first heard of Andrea Rossi in January of this year on the site Next Big Future where it was reported that Rossi had demonstrated his Energy Catalyzer (or E-Cat, for short) in Bologna, monitored by independent scientific representatives of Bologna University.  Ny Teknik, a Swedish technology magazine, reported that, “For about an hour it produced approximately 10 kilowatts of net power, loaded with one gram of nickel powder pressurized with hydrogen.” See Wikipedia entry for background.

Since that time Rossi has repeatedly demonstrated the device and it has received validation from the Swedish Skeptics Society, among others.  Demonstration devices have now been delivered to the University of Bologna, the University of Uppsala and the University of Stockholm for extended testing. Rossi has also entered into agreement with Defkalion Green Technologies, which anticipates having a 1 MW plant completed and operational at its facility in Greece by October 2011.

According to Bushnell, what is occurring in the Rossi device is a nuclear reaction, but it’s not cold fusion.  He claims it is a reaction of the Weak Nuclear Force.  Bushnell believes that heat is generated from beta decay of subatomic particles and that, applying quantum theory, physicists will soon explain the mechanism.  The physics is not well understood, which is fueling a certain amount of skepticism.

I recently met with Andrea Rossi and find him to be genuine and credible.  Rossi told me that he would like to have a 1MW plant operating in the United States by October of this year, in parallel with efforts in Greece with Defkalion.  Rossi is intent on moving his Energy Catalyzer from the testing lab into the field.  He recently entered into an agreement with a US company, Ampenergo, whose partners have links to the U.S. Department of Energy .

According to Rossi, Bushnell is on the wrong track, at least from a theoretical perspective.  “If beta decay explained the reactions in my device, I would have been killed already [by the radiation] and we would have found different isotopes,” Rossi told me.  He claims that he has a good handle on the theory, but he won’t disclose it until his patent is granted.

I don’t pretend to understand the physics, or to be in a position to know for certain whether the Rossi Energy Catalyzer is the breakthrough we have been waiting for.  Dennis Bushnell seems to think so. Here is how he summed up his interview with EVWorld: “I think we are almost over the “we do not understand it” problem. I think we are almost over the “this does not produce anything useful” problem. I think this will go forward fairly rapidly now. If it does, this is capable of, by itself, completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics, and solving climate issues.”

I want Andrea Rossi to succeed. Is his Energy Catalyzer the “New Fire”, as Rossi calls it? We don’t yet know for sure. But it is important that we forward a shared vision of a world with an abundant, inexpensive supply of clean energy.  Our future depends upon it.


David Niebauer is a corporate and transaction attorney, located in San Francisco, whose practice is focused on financing transactions, M&A and cleantech.

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