Are excess heat and isotope changes in e-cat LENR reactor real? Part 1
Are excess heat and isotope changes in e-cat LENR reactor real? – Part 1A group of Swedish and Italian scientists published technical papers[1,2] that seem to confirm excess heat in a low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) device called e-cat. Even more remarkably, in the recent paper, the scientists found in the ash of the spent fuel dramatic isotope changes in nickel (Ni) and lithium (Li), from Ni-58 to Ni-62 and from Li-7 to Li-6, without any harmful radiation. If this finding would be correct – LENR as transmutation of elements without radiation – it would turn our present knowledge of nuclear physics on its head. It would be a true scientific sensation, one the most important discoveries of the century.
The papers were not published in a respected peer reviewed science journal. Instead, they were published in arXiv.org, the electronic preprint service of scientific papers at Cornell University, and on the Swedish sifferkoll.se website.
The e-cat (energy catalyzer) device is developed by Industrial Heat, a US start-up company, whose chief scientist is Andrea Rossi, the inventor of the e-cat device. Rossi is a controversial character with a shady history[3,4]. Hence the e-cat always had a credibility problem.
We reported about the e-cat before, it was on our radar screen since 2012.
25 years ago Fleischmann & Pons announced cold fusion at low temperatures. But subsequent attempts by most scientists to replicate the effect failed and since then most scientists are sceptical about cold fusion experiments.
Hence the response of the media and academic community has been very muted (so far). Physics Nobel laureate Brian Josephson, British physicist and professor emeritus of physics at the University of Cambridge, commented on the Seven Days page of Nature, one of the world´s most respected science journals, on the release of the E-Cat report:
„the most important news of the year, perhaps, ….The report not only confirms output power far in excess of anything possible by chemical reaction, but also gives a clear indication that a nuclear reaction is occurring, on the basis of a substantial change in the isotopic proportions of Li and Ni over the period of the run. ……. As before, I predict that pigs will fly before Nature makes any mention of the report…“
The scientists who contributed to the research are Giuseppe Levi (University of Bologna), Evelyn Foschi (Bologna), Torbjörn Hartman, Bo Höistad, Roland Pettersson, Lars Tegnér (Uppsala University) and Hanno Essen (Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm). The Swedish R&D company Elforsk AB, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Industrial Heat funded the research.
The latest paper  was a follow up after a first report in May 2013  of essentially the same authors who reported a COP (coefficient of performance) of 5.6 and 2.6, in two experiments that lasted 96 hours and 116 hours, respectively.
This time the experiment was conducted with an “improved” model at higher temperatures in the range of 1260-1412 °C, continuously over a period of 32 days and yielded a COP in the range of 3.2 to 3.6.
The e-cat device has a history going back to 2008 when Andrea Rossi filed a patent application which was never granted, neither in US nor in EP (priority date 9.4.2008). In 2010 Rossi and Sergio Focardi ,an Italian physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Bologna, published a paper claiming a transmutation of nickel to copper with a remarkable COP of 200.
Several demonstrations of excess heat have been given which were controversially debated in internet forums. All these demonstrations had in common that they were controlled by Andrea Rossi, the inventor of the technology, and the design of the device always changed from test to test. But the device was never confirmed by independent experts, nor was the nature of the reaction convincingly explained by a scientific theory. Rossi never provided scientific evidence of the underlying process what he claimed, a nuclear transmutation of nickel to copper. In 2012 Rossi made it clear that the alleged transmutation was probably only a side effect, but did not reveal further what was in his opinion the nature of the reaction.
Already in 2011, Rossi claimed to have installed a 1 MW E-Cat device with the military and also claimed to have sold several 1MW units. We summarized the history in January 2013 in this blog.
In 2012 Rossi established licencees (agencies) to sell 1 MW E-Cat units for industrial customers, but till date not a single case is independently confirmed that an e-cat was ever used by a real customer. There are doubts that this ever happened: on the website of E-Cat-Deutschland GmbH, the German licencee, there is a remark that the licence has been given back since no e-cats were ever supplied and due to lack of a proper contract framework.
In January 2014, it was announced that Rossi sold the technology to Industrial Heat, a start-up company established by the US private equity firm Cherokee. Cherokee already holds investments in renewable energies such as solar photovoltaic projects (Cherokee Renewables, LLC).
Industrial Heat (IH) announced at the time „performance validation tests were conducted in the presence of IH personnel and certified by an independent expert“ and „IH acquired the intellectual property and licensing rights to Rossi’s LENR device after an independent committee of European scientists conducted two multi-day tests at Rossi’s facilities in Italy.“
The first report of Levi et al. in 2013  seems to have played a crucial role for IH´s decision to buy Rossi´s technology. Whether they carried out a further technical due diligence is not known, apart from the above remark in the press announcement. No further details are known.
The early e-cat models were operated at much lower temperatures in a copper reactor, with nickel and hydrogen gas under pressure.
In 2012 Rossi changed the model used in testing to so called hotcats which operated at much higher temperatures and he changed from fluid calorimetry to thermal imaging, which is a more qualitative, not quantitative method. Fluid calorimetry measures the whole energy of a particular reaction. IR cameras in thermal imaging measure only the temperature at the outside of the reactor in one direction, and use Stefan Boltzmann´s formula for calculation of the energy (energy is proportional to T4 so accurate temperature is crucial).
The e-cat device which was examined by Levi et al. [1,2] was no longer a copper tube. It was replaced by steel surrounded by ceramic material (2013), and alumina (2014). The Lugano hotcat now looks similar as a commercial ceramic heater.
Apparently no more hydrogen gas is loaded. Instead, it seems that a metal hydride is used as a source of hydrogen, or nickel is preloaded with hydrogen. The authors of the present paper  suggested that Lithium aluminium hydride (LiAlH4) could have been used as a source of hydrogen which could release hydrogen in situ during operation. The implication of this are discussed below.
The pictures show the “evolution” of the various e-cats over the years.
The scientists found significant excess heat in all the experiments. The energy output was found roughly three times higher than the energy input, “one order of magnitude larger than any known conventional energy source”.
In principle there are three explanations for significant excess heat:
1. wrong measurements
3. the effect is real, a case of uncharted science territory, possibly new physics
With the participation of physics professors, who confirmed excess heat, one would expect that 1) and 2) are declining in probability and 3) is increasing in probability. But things are not that clear – the circumstances how the tests were operated have always been suspicious.
The experiments of the alleged independent tests were not run in self sustaining mode (SSM), in contrast to Penon´s report in 2012. Running in SSM after initiating the reaction, by removing all possible energy input, would have been a far more convincing argument. It is also strange that an electrical heater is required not only to initiate but also to control a highly exothermic reaction; normally a cooler is used for this purpose.
During the experiments for the first report released in May 2013, only two of the authors, Levi and Foschi, attended the first test in December 2012 which was tested a COP of 5.6. All authors attended the test in March 2013 which found a lower COP of 2.6, which fall far below the guaranteed COP of the device which is sold in the market, but it would still be a significant excess heat, provided that the results would be correct. These experiments were carried out in operating ranges 300-450 °C, and they lasted 96 hours and 116 hours, respectively.
Criticism was raised on the credibility of the results with respect to the choice of the location, the participants´ prior involvement with the e-cat, the experimental procedures, the input of electrical energy to activate the reaction, the equipment, and the methods to measure temperatures of the reactor by IR camera rather than fluid calorimetry.
For example, the independence of the tests can be challenged: The first experiments (2013 paper) took place on Rossi´s factory premises in Ferrara, Italy, Italy. Guiseppe Levi, a professor from Bologna University, and member of the E-cat trio of 2011 (Rossi-Focardi and Levi), provided most of the equipment. Sceptics have suspected hidden wires and additional energy input which was unaccounted by the measurements. Wiring manipulations were suggested as one possible explanation how the energy input could have been manipulated. Even the magnitude of the COP ~ 3 was explained. Several other technical mistakes have been pointed out, such as omitting control on DC current input and the assumption that the output heat is released by a perfect black body.
The 2014 experiments were carried out at an facility in Lugano, Switzerland, a location claimed to be independent of Rossi and IH. The experiment was conducted with an “improved” model at higher temperatures in the range of 1260-1412 °C, continuously over a period of 32 days, and a COP of 3.2 to 3.6 was reported. Some of the criticism of the first report has been addressed, but not all. Basically the same team carried out the experiments, the basic designs of the energy measurements was unchanged, and Andrea Rossi, the inventor, personally intervened several times. Not surprisingly, sceptics immediately raised the red flag.
There is still criticism about the way of energy input, vaguely described and not ruling out manipulations by wiring tricks, inaccurate measurement of the output energy, and lack of proper calibration.
For the power input the scientists used a 3-phase electrical high power line, however, there was no explicit checks of wiring, and no clear pictures of how the experimental design was hooked up.A major point of debate is the fact that the dummy reactor was run at a substantially lower power input and a much lower temperature (~ 500 °C), far away from the operation temperature of the actual experiment (~1200-1400 °C), despite the difference in the emissivity and effective transparency of the alumina reactor and inconel alloy. This means no proper calibration has taken place. Speculations occurred about the real reasons why the dummy was not properly calibrated: “The ‘dummy’ run was kept at this low temperature so the size, location, and number of the resistors would not become known, among other things”, writes the known critic Gary Wright.
Besides, of the two IR cameras only one was calibrated to measure in the actual operating range.
With respect to measurement of the output temperature, there is further the undetermined influence of translucent alumina which superimposes the measurement. In the experiment, alumina was treated as opaque radiator of known temperature depending emissivity, however, sintered alumina is optically transmissive (translucent), and therefore infrared light of the Inconel heating wires (which obviously glow), will pass through alumina.
Michael C.H. McKubre, a long time LENR supporter, comments “at issue is the extent to which the camera measures directly the temperature of the heating wires and the putative source of the fuel directly transmitted through the alumina container, rather than the surface as assumed in the heat calculations.“
Rossi changed the reactor core from copper to alumina. Obviously, in the operating range above 1200 °C copper would melt. This makes me wonder once again why did Rossi make this change and not retest the previous device models? Why not test the model which is offered for sale in the market since 3 years (see website of various former licencees)?
The operating conditions during the Lugano test was reported in the range 1260-1412 °C from (inaccurate) IR camera measurements, measured at the outside of the reactor core. Besides, the numbers given are average numbers. No details are given for the different areas, but if one assumes a similar temperature variation as for the dummy run (which was done at much lower temperatures; it varied by 5%), temperature is certain areas would have gone towards a 1450 °C peak, on the outside of the ceramic reactor.
Inside the reactor was no agitation of the reaction mix; therefore local hotspots – assuming a highly exothermic reaction on surfaces taking place -would have presumably created even higher temperatures in some areas.
The temperature shown in the report were measured on the outside of the ceramic reactor. Inside of the reactor must have been even hotter.
It is also remarkable that thermocouple equipment (K types), which have a upper temperature limit of 1250 °C, was placed in the device, but surprisingly no data were reported. K type thermocouplers are made of chromel (nickel chromium alloy), a material which melts at 1420 °C.
Inconel (heating wires, made of nickel-chromium-based superalloys), would melt in the range of 1390 – 1425 °C.
Nickel would melt at 1455 °C (1728 K). But the charge is not pure nickel; in presence of hydrogen releasing reagents the charge would be probably converted to nickel hydride which has a distinctively lower melting point, depending on the hydrogen pressure. While the pressure inside the reactor is not known we can see that at high hydrogen pressures the melting point approaches 1680 K (1407 °C) which is slightly below the highest temperature measured outside the reactor.Under the operating conditions, there was a significant risk that the fuel charge, thermocoupler and heating wires would melt. But they did not melt, otherwise the power production would have collapsed and the ash would look very different. Was this luck? Or could it be that the real temperature was much lower? Remember the energy calculation in Stefan Botzmann´s formula is ~ T4, and therefore accurate temperature measurement is crucial.
The manufactures and the scientists must have known the melting points issues, opposite the operating temperature range. Let´s phrase it diplomatically: It is very surprising that the device is operated at the extreme limits, at conditions where a failure would be imminent any time.
Is LiAlH4 the source of hydrogen?
As mentioned above, Levi et al.  suggested that Lithium aluminium hydride (LiAlH4) could have been used as a source of hydrogen. This hydride would release hydrogen in situ during operation. LiAlH4 will release hydrogen upon heating by thermal decomposition. Its exact state can be be examined by XRD (X-ray diffraction) analysis.
But LiAlH4 is a very aggressive, extremely hygroscopic chemical which will react quickly with moisture (water) while getting rapidly decomposed. In this context it is very surprising that the team handled the fuel containing the hydride in an “envelope”, according to the report. On page 7 it is stated
”the powder had been previously placed in a small envelope, weighed (about 1 g), and then transferred to a test tube”.
It does not say how long the powder was kept in the envelope (and who took care of the envelope to avoid sample manipulation). That would have been important considering the hygroscopic property of the suspected compound. But anyway, this procedure is very unconventional; an experienced chemist would never proceed like this with a highly sensitive hydride such as LiAlH4, since it would decompose rapidly upon storage in air, in presence of moisture.
What happens in the following chemical reaction, reacting very violently
LiAlH4 + 4H2O → LiOH + Al (OH) 3 + 4H2.
Not knowing how long the material was exposed to air in the “envelope” it is impossible to judge what kind of material had been effectively used, but very likely it would have been decomposed already, at least partly, ending up in Lithium hydroxide and Aluminium oxide, losing the hydrogen which would escape from the “envelope”. Perhaps this is the source of the aluminium oxide which was found in the fuel.
To get an impression for the non chemist readers, how sensitive LiAlH4 really is, take the following citation from the literature 
“The water absorption up to 11.7% due to exposure to air for 1 h does not change in any drastic way the hydrogen desorption rate of ball milled LiAlH4 ……. Flammability tests show that the ball milled LiAlH4 powder does not self-ignite on contact with air but can only be ignited by scraping the cylinder walls with a metal tool and then the powder burns with an open flame”.
Every chemist knows that it is generally not advisable to handle a sensitive and chemical compound in an “envelope”. The guys at MFMP should be very careful when trying to replicate the Lugano test, for their own safety concern.
In the next article we will look deeper into the issue of the isotope changes in nickel and lithium, reaction kinetics and what the Lugano reports means for Industrial Heats patent situation.
To be continued.
 Levi, G. et al. : Observation of abundant heat production from a reactor device and of isotopic changes in the fuel
 Levi, G. et al: Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder
 Wikipedia on Andrea Rossi (entrepreneur)
 newenergytimes : Rossi’s Italian Financial and Environmental Criminal History
 Comment of Nobel laureate Brian Josephson (1973 prize winner in physics) on the e-cat report on the website of nature journal
 Elforsk to launch LENR research group in Sweden
 Sergio Focardi
 Rossi,A. Focardi,S. : A new energy source from nuclear fusion, 22.3.2010
 e-cat – the fading dream for free and abundant energy
 website of e-cat deutschland GmbH
 Industrial Heat Has Acquired Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat Technology
 Penon,F., Fabiani,F., Bianchini,D. : High Temperature Energy Catalyzer Test, 2012
 Stefan–Boltzmann law
 Ceramic heaters: example1, example2
 Penon High-Temperature E-Cat Test Results Posted
 Understanding the E-Cat Trio
 discussion about possible manipulation of energy input
 Martin Fleischmann Memorial project
 Inconel is a nickel-chromium-based superalloy, oxidation and corrosion resistant materials well suited for service in extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat.
 Gary Wright: Why Power for the ‘Dummy’ Run was Below 500 W in the Elforsk-Levi Report #2
 McKubre,M. : Analysis of New E-Cat Report
 Wikipedia on type K thermocouplers
 Properties of inconel alloys (oxidation and corrosion resistant material well suited for service in extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat)
 Wayman, M.L., Weatherly, G.C.: Bull. Alloy Phase Diagrams 10 (1989) 569
 Garner, W. E., Haycock, E.W., Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Vol. 211, No. 1106 (Mar. 6, 1952), pp. 335-351
 Varin, R.A., Zbroniec,L., Crystals 2012,2, 159-175
 Varin, R.A., Zbroniec, L., Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 504, 1, (2010), 89–101