Also known as low temperature fusion, this phenomenon involves the nuclear fusion of an isotope of hydrogen – deuterium. Generally fusion takes place at high temperature and the energy released is massive. But in cold fusion the reaction occurs at around room temperature. Supporters believe that this reaction is characteristically different from hot fusion and a massive amount of heat is produced when it occurs. But the hypothesis of this much hyped reaction is still in development. It was brought into the picture by the renown electrochemist Martin Fleischmann who conducted the experiment with Stanley Pons. Along with heat, other byproducts like neutrons and tritium are also produced when the reaction occurs.
Fleischmann and PonsFleischmann and Pons described their experiments as generating considerable “excess energy”, in the sense that it could not be explained by chemical reactions alone.
Cold fusion first came up in a 1956 article published in the New York Times on the muon-catalyzed fusion carried out by Luis W. Alvarez. Then in 1986 when geo fusion or planetary core fusion was being studied, it was mentioned again by E. Paul Palmer from the Brigham Young University. Later the duo Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons from the University of Southampton and the University of Utah respectively brought the experiment back in limelight.
Another cold fusion experiment was carried out by Andrea Rossi in October 2011 and is called the E-Cat cold fusion power plant. The plant generated 470 kilowatts of heat energy in about five hours but couldn’t reach its goal of producing a megawatt of energy. The heat produced was measured by boiling water which evaporated and the trial was witnessed by a group of engineers who are also Andrea’s customers. In this E-cat or Energy Catalyzer experiment Rossi has used a secret catalyst to bring about a hydrogen and nickel reaction.
If ample of energy can actually be derived from cold fusion then it will put an end to emission of greenhouse gases as there will not be a need to burn fossil fuels anymore. The amount of smog, fumes and other air pollutants in the atmosphere will decrease drastically. These are responsible for a number of health problems. We could finally have an answer to the global warming woes.
In fact, it can revolutionize industrial production as a huge quantity of energy will be generated at a very low cost. This in turn will bring down the cost of goods in the market. Not only industrial production, but transportation will also become much cheaper. The incidence of blackouts will be reduced and there won’t be any need to install expensive power grids. Prices of food, travel, and construction will also come down. Coal mining, oil drilling, and natural gas exploration projects will become redundant.
If the cold fusion process is a success then the cost of energy generation will reduce drastically. The supplies of both Tritium and Deuterium are vast. Only helium gas is produced as a byproduct, no toxic fumes or carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming is let out in the atmosphere. The process doesn’t even produce any nuclear waste. So it is really environment friendly and safe.
The challenge is to make a cold fusion reaction last for a prolonged time. Only then the required quantity of energy can be harnessed. Otherwise the process will not be very beneficial. The short time period for which the experiment lasts is posing a hindrance in its implementation and many researchers as well as countries have therefore halted the experiment. Also, some people have expressed concern about controlling the fusion process once it is in operation. An explosion can occur if it is not in control.
Andrea Rossi claims that he has reached a breakthrough with cold fusion. If this is true then its net effect is going to be quite enormous for all of us. It can end the energy crisis we are facing, the fast depleting fossil fuels can be replaced easily now. To add to the good news, Rossi has used cheap materials to conduct the experiment. To generate the massive amount of heat only ordinary hydrogen deuterium and nano sized nickel particles were used instead of dear metals like platinum and palladium. So not only can large quantities of heat be generated, it can be produced at a very low cost. He claims that just one gram of nickel can generate energy equivalent to 500 barrels of oil!
Also, the energy production process is extremely safe and does not release any radioactive substances. Along with putting an end to the energy crisis, it can conserve scarce resources like water and oil. Instead of using it as fuel, oil can be instead used in production of plastic, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals. Water desalinization will become affordable and we will have access to sea water also to meet our needs. In fact, it has been proposed that cold fusion can end the financial crisis in the world. Cheap energy means that transportation and manufacturing costs will decrease and goods will be sold at lower rates.