Time to dispel the streetlight paradox of energy

streetlight_jokeThe current development in LENR, where things seem to be moving fast towards confirmation of a new energy source, could finally open a way to dispel what I call the streetlight paradox of energy.

It’s about time.

You’ve probably heard the joke about the drunkard who is searching under a streetlight for something he lost. A policeman sees the man and asks him what he’s searching for. The drunkard tells the policeman that he lost his keys, and they both start searching under the streetlight. After some time the policeman asks if he’s sure he lost them there. “No, I lost them in the park,” the man answers. “But then why are you searching here?” the policeman asks him, and the man replies “Because here’s where the light is.”

This is pretty much how we’re searching for ways to produce energy, looking in a narrow field of scarce energy sources, when there’s an incredible abundance of energy everywhere around us, stored in matter. It’s just a question of extracting it, but essentially we haven’t even started to try yet.

To explain, let me first quote what Bill Gates stated in his annual letter 2015: “The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide.

So this is what we’re looking for. And while there are several ways to categorize current energy sources, let me divide them in three types:

The first is by burning fuels like wood, peat, energy crops, oil, coal and gas. These sources are basically on-demand — energy available when you need it — and quite transportable, but apart from wood, peat and energy crops they’re not CO2 neutral.

The second is energy harvested at the moment from natural sources, such as wind, hydro, wave and solar energy. They are CO2 neutral, but not on-demand (except for hydro power at a certain extent).

The third is power from nuclear power plants — a nuclear process known as fission. It’s on-demand, CO2 neutral, but not very transportable.

Let me first note that the first two categories (i.e. everything except nuclear) are all derived from solar energy. Wind and water movements are caused by the sun, and all fuels in the first group originally derive from plants which grow by solar energy.

Since we want a CO2 neutral energy source, and since nuclear power is associated with significant safety risks, people mostly investigate energy crops from the first group, and everything in the second group. And in order to make energy from the second group on-demand, we store it in batteries or as hydrogen gas or other producible fuels.

Influenced by the ease of use of oil and gasoline, we end up with similar solutions — fuels or batteries that are on-demand and often transportable. They all rely on chemical reactions to produce energy, like most natural energy producing processes on Earth, including fire and the energy consumed by all living animals.

This is what I mean by the reference to the streetlight joke. Chemical reactions are abundant on Earth, but they have no importance as energy sources in Universe where nuclear reactions dominate completely. All the stars, including the sun, get their energy from nuclear reactions, and consequently energy from category one and two above is originally derived from a nuclear source.

Chemical reactions involve electrons — the tiny particles that surround the nucleus in the atom — whereas nuclear reactions involve the much heavier particles in the nucleus itself. And the crucial difference is that nuclear reactions release about a million times more energy compared to electrons, from the same amount of fuel.

In other words, one gram of nuclear fuel will yield the same amount of energy as about a ton of chemical fuel such as gasoline or wood, or the energy stored in a ton of batteries. Nuclear power sources are hugely more compact.

And here comes the hook.

In the end, all energy comes from matter, which was described by Einstein in his well known formula E=mc^2 — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. And since the speed of light is so high, this means that there’s an enormous amount of energy stored in matter.

To be precise, one gram of matter, if transformed into energy, will yield about 25 gigawatt-hours, roughly corresponding to one day’s production from a nuclear power plant or to the energy from burning 568,000 US gallons of automotive gasoline.

And in fact, in any energy releasing reaction, be it chemical or nuclear, the energy corresponds to a slight decrease in mass of the ‘ashes’ compared to the fuel. In chemical reactions this decrease is so small that it’s hardly measurable. In nuclear reactions it’s a million times bigger, which means that nuclear reactions are a million times more efficient in turning mass into energy.

Yet they’re not very efficient. As an example, the first atomic bomb contained about six kilos of plutonium, but only about one gram of this mass was turned into energy at the detonation, corresponding to the amount of energy mentioned before.

By now I believe you might see where I’m heading.

There’s no lack of energy. The energy stored in matter all around us is simply immense.

The challenge is to harvest this energy at will in controlled situations. Chemical reactions, including batteries, have lousy performance. Yet, this is where we’re focusing our research, like the drunkard under the streetlight. Two single nuclear reactions are also found under the streetlight — fission (in nuclear power plants) and hot fusion which occurs in the sun and the stars, and in which researchers have poured billions of dollars for decades to turn it into a controlled energy source, without much success. The problem with both these nuclear reactions is that they produce lots of deadly radiation and radioactive waste, and require big structures to be run safely.

Yet nuclear reactions are desirable. They’re much more efficient than chemical reactions, they’re on-demand and they’re CO2 neutral.

And guess what — just outside the light from the lamppost emerges another nuclear reaction — LENR — which few people believe is possible, simply because it’s not under the lamppost.

Yet LENR promises what we need — an energy source that is cheap, can deliver on-demand and emits zero carbon dioxide. And since it’s nuclear it’s a million times more compact than chemical fuels. One gram of LENR fuel corresponds roughly to a ton of gasoline. And unlike fission and fusion it doesn’t produce radiation, nor radioactive waste. It just couldn’t be better, it seems.

But let me put it like this — if we can make LENR work, that is just the first step outside the light from the lamppost. It would be a solution to the energy problem for a long time. Still, given the amount of energy stored in matter there’s much more to discover, potentially letting us extract a large portion of the energy in every gram of matter in controlled forms.

LENR just means finally opening the door to dispelling the streetlight paradox of energy. And the beauty is that it probably also could open a door to important new knowledge on matter, physics and the universe.

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11 comments

  1. Anyone who says that these nuclear reactions (popularly known as ‘cold fusion’) defy known physics is wrong. Go back to school and study a bit. (In the 1940’s Wilner (6) actually observed the fusion reaction at the center of the current cold fusion controversy…) I’m the layman here… go figure why I know more.

    Rossi went from a gas loaded reactor to an advanced metal hydrides system (no gas loading of the reactor required – just pour the powder in) Hydrides containing deuterium are known as deuterides. Some deuterides, such as LiD, are important fusion fuels. According to the general definition every element of the periodic table (except some noble gases) forms one or more hydrides; reduced to nano particles interesting effects are observed. Doping and mixtures of such increases the research set. LENR has many avenues for advancement through Edisonian exploration, improvements are being made even as I write this. The Edisonian approach to innovation is characterized by trial and error discovery rather than a systematic theoretical approach.

    LENR Conversation between a Researcher, Chemist, Astronomer, Quantum Theorist, Student, and a Layman http://gbgoble.kinja.com/lenr-conversation-between-a-researcher-chemist-astron-1681637829

    Quote Chris Multi-Disciplinary Generalist at Minding My Business

    There are about 35 models contributing to comprehending nuclear behaviour. That they are all variously successful indicates that threshing for commonalities is paramount. It also allows that we just don’t know it all.

    Hydrogen is the simplest atom. After that, neutrons are thrown in the mix and things get complex and comprehension gets complicated. However, Hydrogen is the simplest chemical element and has provided much elucidation across chemistry.

    We have atomic and diatomic hydrogen. Atomic hydrogen may present as a cation (a bare proton), the neutral atom or the anion, hydride. The same applies to Deuterium, with Deuteron cation as the bare nucleus. Further, both appear as diatomic, with a single or doubly positively charged cation, the neutral element and a singly or doubly charged anion.

    Simply, bare protons and bare deuteron are entirely ionized and, therefore, may be defined as plasma particles, regardless of the ambient temperature of their environment or of their energy of translation. Their diatomic double cations stand as the same. Clearly, the simple structure of Hydrogen and Deuterium allow consideration of their behaviour that is independent of the behaviour of all heavier more complex nuclei. The energy to drive complete ionization of heavier nuclei rises rapidly with atomic weight and complexity.

    So, yes, plasma and plasma states must be considered as a contributing factor. One contributing factor.

    There’s still that whole right place, right time thing and the matter of intentionally ensuring those. -end quote.

    1989 1990 Texas

    PALLADIUM METALLURGY AND COLD FUSION: SOME REMARKS

    L.E. MURR Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering The University of Texas at E1 Paso, E1 Paso, TX 79968-0520 • (Received January I0,1990) (Revised February 14, 1990)

    The recent confusion surrounding claims for the observation of cold fusion involving palladium electrodes in electrochemical cells containing deuterium (1,2) might be clarified to some extent if the palladium metallurgy, particularly in the context of fundamental microstructures, were accurately defined. Both the palladium/hydrogen and palladium/deuterium systems have been extensively investigated, and Lewis (3) asserted more than two decades ago that the palladium/hydrogen system was perhaps the most extensively, experimentally investigated metal/gas system.

    In fact, Paneth and Peters (4,5) claimed during the 1920’s that ordinary hydrogen absorbed in palladium fused to form helium, while in the 1940’s Wilner (6) actually observed the fusion reaction at the center of the current cold fusion controversy: d + d ~ ~He + n (where d = :H represents a deuteron, and n is a neutron). In the experiment by Wilner (6), a deuterium-saturated palladium sheet was bombarded with accelerated deuterons. The product neutrons (n) were slowed by paraffin wax and detected by the activation of silver.

    While neutrons in cold fusion cells have been confirmed by a number of laboratories (most recently Los Alamos National Laboratory), many experiments, while producing heat when deuterium is present in identical electrochemical arrangements, show no evidence of fusion reactions (d + d + 3He + n; d + d , ‘He + ¥, etc.). Although it might be possible somehow for the energy to go directly into the palladium lattice as heat, it is more likely that the creation of proximity conditions necessary for tunneling-induced fusion of absorbed deuterium is very dependent upon the microstructure, and correspondingly the palladium electrode metallurgy.

    It is unclear from the literature that anyone has even observed the grain size or grain size differences in the palladium electrodes, let alone specific defects, defect arrangements, or defect densities introduced by processing or fabrication. It is also interesting to note that palladium is surrounded by elements in the periodic chart with which it forms solid solutions: Co (27), Ni (28), Cu (29), Rh (45), Ag (47), Ir (77), Pt (78), and Au (79) (7).

    Alloys (solid solutions) of Pd/Ag allow the stacking fault free energy (¥,r) and correspondingly the micrcstructures, to be varied over a wide range: planar faults/twin faults for Ag (¥, ~ 22 mJ/m ‘) to dislocation cell structures for Pd (¥,, & 175 mJ/m*) (8). These features are illustrated in the comparisons of flash-evaporated PVD single-crystal films epitaxially grown on large (001) NaCl substrates as shown in Figs. 1 and 2, under identical conditions. The Ag films (Fig. I) are characterized by a high density of micro twin-faults even in the island growth stage (Fig. l(a)), while such faults are generally absent in the Pd films (Fig. 2) which permit rapid permeation of hydrogen and provide a convenient method for separating it out of gaseous mixtures.

  2. Faraday discovered electromagnetism around 1831. Surprisingly he was not offered $millions and did not become a millionaire that year. Obviously, if MaryYugo had been around there would have been much talk of pink unicorns as the theory was not exactly clear.

    Moritz Jacobi made the first usable electric motor in 1838 but it was not until 1839/1840 that others managed managed to build ones similar. In 1835 the two Dutchmen Sibrandus Stratingh and Christopher Becker built an electric motor that powered a small model car. This is the first known practical application of an electric motor. In February 1837 the first patent for an electric motor was granted to the US-american Thomas Davenport.

    However, all the early developments by Jacobi, Stratingh, Davenport and others eventually did not lead to the electric motors we know today..
    http://www.eti.kit.edu/english/1376.php

    I’m tired of the pathological critics who say that if the E-Cat were real Rossi would have retired as a multimillionaire already and the devices would be available commercially. It is not that easy.

    I think you make a fair point Mats, but there are other known solutions for cheap clean power,just sitting there, like LFTRs or even Moveing Pebble Bed Reactors. At least they are being developed in China but America seems to be sitting on its hands – apart from Rossi.. What we really need are anti-stupid pills or even anti- groupthink pills would go a long way to solving the problems.

  3. At the moment, getting energy from my pink, invisible, flying unicorns seems more likely than getting it from the likes of Rossi, Defkalion, Brillouin, Nanospire, Miley, Swartz, etc. etc.

    And by the way, Parkhomov and MFPM are not “replicators”. “Replicators” implies that they know what Rossi is claiming to have used and he has never said what it is. In fact it has changed from some sort of mysterious catalyst to now, some sort of mysterious ingredient presumably at the nuclear level. How the heck do you replicate something you know nothing about other than specious claims about what it supposedly does?

  4. When a good fairy gives you three wishes we all know from the fairy tales how easily everything goes wrong. Unlimited free or very cheap energy may well be a wish that eventually turns sour. Just look at how we use the practically free energy that was deposited in the ground during geological times. We overpopulate the earth at the cost of most other species, build megacities and make war.

    Actually, we already have access to clean and unlimited free energy. Not only is the energy free, it has an equally important quality: you cannot access it at more than a predetermined rate and this property prevents excessive use, i.e. abuse. Not only is the energy free, the distribution is also free and very fair: each country receives free energy in proportion to the area of the country. The source of this wonderful free energy of course is the sun, and we are making good progress in learning how to harvest this energy.

    So if I were given a wish from the almighty fairy, I would not wish for the E-Cat to work. To make it work would take for the fairy to change the laws of nature in a way that probably would make life as we know it impossible due to radiation damage caused by spontaneous LENR reactions.

    Instead I would wish for the fairy to stop messing with reality and instead stick to the fairy tales.

  5. Matts,

    Your lamppost analogy is very ingenious and funny, but it is also somewhat misleading. Science provides a powerful and very successful search light. Looking too far away from the illuminated area has never proven to be very productive. But in contrast to the lamppost, that searchlight isn’t stationary. We move it around all the time. And we should certainly shine it onto these new results. If there is something there, good illumination will be essential for developing whatever it is into something really useful.
    Finally, we shouldn’t ignore areas that have been explored before with our searchlight and found to be essentially empty. I am referring to violations of the baryon and lepton number conservation laws that would be required to tap into the energy content of matter beyond the binding energy differences. Such violations are somewhere between extremely rare and non-existent. And they don’t convert most of the mass into energy. For example, the never observed proton decay would result in a neutral pion and a positron.

    Best regards,

    Peter

  6. Searching under the streetlight for just a ‘quarter’… nice analogy when the sun ain’t shining. Whether Incandescent or florescent, the streetlight provides photons (both waves and particles) helping in the search, hoping to bounce off that quarter and put a glint in your eyes…

    Information (knowledge) about reality is like a photon,it’s both a wave and a particle. The wave is akin to advanced mathematical formulations accurately modeling reality. The particle is akin to applied sciences engineering the modern devices in use today.

    Energy as fire, sunshine, and the uranium ores were relatively easy to find. Searching for more of those is the ‘search for the quarter’ which you speak of. I’d point out that logically all the big players are searching for more than just a quarter…

    The race to cold fusion LENR energy… The race to space and a new frontier… The race to ‘scientifically’ and ’emotionally’ evolve beyond the ‘fire era’ or ‘found energy era’… all are taking place outside any solitary ‘streetlight’. The ‘important’ races are often run in the dark.

    The key race that will determine ones’ standing in the all the other races is the race new energy, that race is leading us to cold fusion LENR energy. I’ll place a prediction, formulated from both facets of facts and informed speculation (patterns in the wind) that the U.S will have commercial LENRgy on the world stage in the summer. Obama will announce U.S. technological advancements and the path forward with LENR; provided by NASA, advanced U.S. labs and scientists, and all the hardworking researchers and inventors in the world.

  7. Searching under the streetlight for just a ‘quarter’… nice analogy when the sun ain’t shining. Whether Incandescent or florescent, the streetlight provides photons (both waves and particles) helping in the search, hoping to bounce off that quarter and put a glint in your eyes…

    Information (knowledge) about reality is like a photon,it’s both a wave and a particle. The wave is akin to advanced mathematical formulations accurately modeling reality. The particle is akin to applied sciences engineering the modern devices in use today.

    Energy as fire, sunshine, and the uranium ores were relatively easy to find. Searching for more of those is the ‘search for the quarter’ which you speak of. I’d point out that logically all the big players are searching for more than just a quarter…

    The race to cold fusion LENR energy… The race to space and a new frontier… The race to ‘scientifically’ and ’emotionally’ evolve beyond the ‘fire era’ or ‘found energy era’… all are taking place outside any solitary ‘streetlight’. The ‘important’ races are often run in the dark.

    The key race that will determine ones’ standing in the all the other races is the race new energy, that race is leading us to cold fusion LENR energy. I’ll place a prediction, formulated from both facets of facts and informed speculation (patterns in the wind) that the U.S will have commercial LENRgy on the world stage in the summer. Obama will announce U.S. technological advancements and the path forward with LENR; provided by NASA, advanced U.S. labs and scientists, and the hardworking researchers and inventors in the world.

  8. Matts, let’s not forget solar energy. LENR is far from ready to market. My current estimation is that this will take at least 5 – 10 years. Meanwhile solar panel prices will decimate and fill in the gap that also will trigger investements in energy storage, which actually are already ongoing. And much lower prices will happen quite soon (there are much mass market examples from the past that showed similar price behavior e.g. look at what happened with flat panel TV prices once production technology matured. Toyota has started to roll out hydrogen fueled cars, which indicates fuel cell technology has significantly matured and will be financially feasible within 5-7 years from now. Fuel cells can be used in reverse to generate hydrogen from electricity (=solar). As a side effect, much lower solar panel prices will push wind energy out of the market within 5 – 7 years from now.

    LENR needs much more proof to stop solar and hydrogen filling in that gap and investments that go along with it. I just looked back 4 years. The progress is very limited on LENR and that will remain as long as Andrea Rossi will keep the technology for himself and his investors. Even if replicators like Parkhomov and MFPM make the desired progress to proof Ni/H LENR in a more solid way it will take years to mature a ‘basic engine’, get it certified and have it ready for market launch. I am very optimistic about LENR, but not on the short term.

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