Where does a nuclear fusion usually take place?

Great idea! What happened to it?Nuclear fusion in refrigerator format

At the beginning of 2019, the Italian engineer Andrea Rossi presented his invention in an Internet presentation: a blue box, 40 centimeters wide, 93 centimeters high. The device is called E-Cat, looks like a small boiler and is actually supposed to generate heat: up to 22 kilowatts of power - as much as an ordinary boiler delivers. However, according to the developer, it is unusual how the heat is generated: not, as usual, by chemical combustion of gas or oil, but by a process that usually only happens inside stars - the fusion of atomic nuclei.

The whole thing does not work chemically, but nuclear, explained Rossi in front of the camera: "However, not with substances like plutonium or something like that. Instead, there are nuclear processes that hardly generate any radiation. LENR - the abbreviation stands for low-energy nuclear reaction and is a new term for an old technology that raised great hopes 30 years ago, the so-called cold nuclear fusion.

The 'energy catalyst' (E-Cat) developed by Andrea Rossi - here at a presentation in 2019 - is supposed to generate heat by fusing atomic nuclei, but experts doubt that. (Youtube)

Controversial technology in a new guise

However, the research field 'cold fusion' has been scorched earth since 1989. Because at that time the two chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons reported a supposed sensation in the USA. While extremely high pressures and temperatures, such as those found only inside stars, are normally required to fuse atomic nuclei, the two claimed that they succeeded in doing this at room temperature with a simple experiment: "It seems that it is possible to realize a continuous fusion reaction with a relatively inexpensive device. "

Pons and Fleischmann had fed deuterium - heavy hydrogen - into a rod made of palladium. There the deuterium nuclei should have fused to form helium, with energy being released without any extreme pressures or temperatures. At first, the professional world was electrified, because it seemed as if Pons and Fleischmann had found an alternative to the huge test facilities with which physicists had tried for decades to ignite the solar fire on earth.

No one was able to reproduce the experiment by Pons and Fleischmann

But disenchantment followed quickly, says Sadri Hassani, a physicist at the University of Illinois, who has dealt intensively with the subject: "Theorists have proven that the assertion of Fleischmann and Pons was an impossibility. And experimental physicists could simply see the effect not reproduce, and not until today. "

Nevertheless, some still believe in the cold fusion to this day and carry on cheerfully, albeit off the usual academic path and under a new label - the low-energy nuclear reaction, or LENR for short. Above all Andrea Rossi, the Italian engineer. In his E-Cat, the nuclei of nickel atoms and hydrogen nuclei are supposed to fuse to form copper, using mechanisms that are highly speculative, using completely exotic physical force fields. "These are all just assertions. Rossi's theories and assumptions have nothing to do with physics," says Sadri Hassani.

Andrea Rossi does not reveal any technical details

Rossi got a boost in 2011 when Swedish researchers looked at his patent and certified that energy was coming out of the device and that no attempted fraud was apparent. Andrea Rossi, however, denied the Swedes a deeper look into the inner workings of his fusion machine - as did other experts. When asked about the details of his invention, the Italian always replies that he cannot reveal them. Confidence-building measures look different. And Rossi does not want to make his E-Cat available to researchers who would like to take a critical look at the device. Reason: fear of stealing ideas. That's why he only delivers his E-Cat on a leasing basis, says Rossi, and the devices are controlled by his company.

Suspicion is appropriate - experts speak of fraud

Andrea Rossi's claims cannot be verified. Upon request, the Italian inventor refuses to give the name of a single one of his customers. Experience in the USA shows that mistrust is appropriate, says Sadri Hassani: "In the USA, some companies had invested in Rossi's technology, but it turned out to be unusable. That ended in court, the proceedings are probably still ongoing today. The whole thing is a hoax, it just doesn't work! "

Hassani believes that there is only one reason why people keep falling for it and investing money in the supposed miracle technology 'cold fusion': a blatant lack of scientific understanding.