Starts With a Bang: The E-Cat is back, and people are still falling for it!
Ethan critiques a “cold fusion” effort. I have a few comments.
Look, let’s get a few things out into the open first. If there is a cold fusion device that actually works, that can harness the power of nuclear fusion to create energy, it would change the world.
I think this is too strong a statement. The requirement for cold fusion to change the world is more than it simply existing. If the device produces energy but we can’t harness it, it’s not particularly useful — if it can’t boil water to make steam and drive a turbine, thus producing electricity (or the equivalent via some other means), all we’ve made is a nifty hand-warmer. Thus, the bar for cold fusion is a little higher than simply seeing it occur. What we really want is warm fusion, at the very least.
However, this particular claim is about a device that gets hot enough to do so. But Ethan is correct in terms of the tests one needs to run in order to confirm this as legitimate.
[T]hey’re again claiming that this is nickel + hydrogen fusion, which should result in copper. Now, it’s important to know, the last time this was claimed, the nickel that was analyzed was found to contain the isotopic ratios of normal nickel mined on Earth, while the copper (10% of the product) was found to contain the isotopic ratios of copper found naturally on Earth, not the ratio you’d expect to find copper in if nuclear fusion had occurred! (Since only Nickel-62 and Nickel-64 can fuse with hydrogen into copper, it’d be impossible to get a 10% copper product in any case!)
This, to me, is a dealbreaker, though it took me a few minutes to decrypt the statement*. Nickel has several stable isotopes, so at first glance one might think you could get many isotopes of copper. However, absorbing a proton to become Copper is only energetically favorable for two of them, Ni-62 and Ni-64, which would form Cu-63 and Cu-65, respectively (the two stable isotopes of Cu). All the other candidates that might become Cu undergo electron-capture to become Ni again, which means you have to add several MeV of energy to run the reverse reaction — and cold fusion only has a fraction of an eV of thermal energy. Even if by some miracle these reactions occurred, the decays are quick. By the time you assayed the sample, there would be essentially none of those isotopes left.
In a naturally occurring sample of Ni, only about 3.6% is Ni-62, and just under 1% is Ni-64, which why Ethan can correctly say that a sample of nickel could never become 10% copper — there isn’t enough raw material for that to take place! If fusion were actually happening, you would expect the sample to be depleted of only these two isotopes of Ni, and you would expect the Cu isotopes to be present in just short of a 4:1 ratio, rather than the ~7:3 split that we see in a naturally occurring sample.
Given the blatant impossibility of this result, I don’t really care if or how the energy readings were fudged, or if it was an error on their part. It doesn’t work as advertised.
*It turns out I could have gone to his previous post on the topic for the answer, but it was a nice exercise to figure it out. All the details are there. Same result.