The online world is alive with amazement over the “cold fusion” being currently trumpeted (with very little evidence) by Andrea Rossi.
It is in fact very likely bad science at best, or outright fraud, and the fact that the alternative energy community has leaped upon it with such uncritical (one might even say, fanatical) joy, says very poor things about the state of critical thinking among many alternative energy advocates.
The Energy Catalyzer supposedly fuses protons to copper atoms in a low temperature reaction, producing heat with no (or very little radiation). Or at least that’s what it is supposed to do. As yet, nobody has seen it actually work. Oh there have been shows, but that’s all they were– shows. No proof was shown.
And that’s the first strike against this rather strange story. At no point have any outside scientists been allowed to examine the unit. Much like the mythical 200 MPG carburetor, or any one of a dozen (or hundred) other advances to science that briefly entice the gullible, before vanishing, the secret is so important that nobody can be allowed to view it.
In fact, it would be wise to note some common unifying factors about the various scientific scams that have existed throughout history:
1. The discovery is something that is beyond the current ken of mainstream science.
Also, it suddenly produces real and impressive results. This is usually something you can contrast with the fact that most scientists tend to, if anything, underplay their results, preferring to avoid the risk of individuals getting the wrong idea.
Rossi here of course is claiming that he will be shipping out one megawatt units, “Very soon.” (Very soon has changed, as we will see below).
2. There are demonstrations, but they are controlled demonstrations and not peer reviewed.
If you’re running a scientific scam, the last thing you want is real scientists free to examine your discovery. They tend to ask inconvenient questions and are far more capable of poking holes in the demonstration than a reporter, even a science reporter is. At no point has the E-cat had anything like a rigorous review by qualified scientists.
3. But that’s okay, because the inventor needs to protect his invention!
The only patent issued for the E-cat is currently Italian– a European patent application was rejected due to the deficiencies in description, but much of the concern held is that if anyone looks inside the magic box they will suddenly steal the invention.
Well yes– one can look inside a car and steal that invention, because it is very difficult to patent a natural process, and in any case when the magic box goes on sale, all one will have to do is purchase it, open it up and get a look. Contrary to many pulp novels, there are very few reactions that are dependent on a truly “Secret” ingredient that cannot be detected and duplicated. Of course as you’ll see below we have an answer to that…
But… Once again it serves the scam artist well– because obviously it has to be real, otherwise, why would he be concerned about it?
4. Anonymous customers.
This is an old one. You have someone who is just about ready to purchase, or who has signed a letter of intent, or is about to get in on the ground floor. They’re always secret, and they somehow never materialize. A very old scam is pointing to some group who won’t say anything or who you can say “are involved.” In Rossi’s case, we’ve heard that anonymous buyers have purchased, or are in the process of purchasing or are very, very serious about purchasing the 1 MW “e-cat” units.
Now, Let’s hold up here. Everyone has seen shows on TV about how important the environment it, and how many companies are making attempts to reduce their carbon and environmental footprints. A fusion generator, especially one that mysteriously produces neither gamma radiation nor neutrons, or for that matter any dangerous ionizing radiation isn’t just a holy grail for power, it’s a PR win of the first magnitude.
And yet all the purchasers are secret. They want to ah, keep their energy lights hidden under a bushel.
Let’s also point out that at this point Rossi is claiming that he will be selling units or has already sold units. That means, that if this is real, the design is either finalized or very close to it.
And yet we have a few “Secret” clients.
Remember, a buyer means its real and a secret buyer means its even more real– best get in on the ground floor.
The other possibility, mind you one that only comes to nasty suspicious sorts, is that their are no buyers– what their are are people who are pretending to be buyers– if you’ve been involved in Ebay you’ve probably ran in to them, phantom bidders who turn out to be the very same people who put the item up for auction, trying to drive the price up.
5. The qualifications of the scientist do not stand up to close examination.
There are many scammers out there with so many letters behind their names that you have to wonder how they found time to go to all those schools, often schools that are quite prestigious sounding– say the Oxford Institute for Genetic studies or some such. Sounds almost like Oxford, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. That’s something called a “Diploma Mill” or a school where you can get a degree without the hard work in actually going through the effort. Rossi has a degree in engineering from Kensington University.
Rossi is an engineer, right?
Well, no. While he has an earlier degree from The University of Milan, his work isn’t exactly what one expects, and in fact his earlier biography states that he appears to have been self taught.
But he got a later degree from the University of Kensington, in Engineering. Unfortunately, the University of Kensington is a diploma mill, or was, since it was shut down by both California and Hawaii.
6. Somehow, units never get sold– the great day of unveiling is always just in the future.
Two companies have claimed to be just about to purchase the Ecat, yet both have backed out. The first company was Defkalion, a Greek company which was supposed to start production in 2011. Now, note this, it was supposed to start production. However, in August, this announcement was made:
EFA – Energia da Fonti Alternative S.r.l., the Italian company through which the rights for the production of Andrea Rossi’s E-CAT were granted to PRAXEN Defkalion Green Technologies LTD, publicly announces that the License and Technology Transfer Agreement between the two companies has been recently terminated. All business relationships with PRAXEN, the Cyprus based company that owns the Greek company DEFKALION Green Technologies S.A., have been cancelled and as of today neither PRAXEN nor DEFKALION, nor any other Greek company whatsoever holds any rights for the production of the E-CAT of for any other exploitation of Andrea Rossi’s technology.
Furthermore Andrea Rossi and EFA announce that no information, nor industrial secret nor any technology whatsoever has been neither transferred nor disclosed neither to PRAXEN nor to DEFKALION, nor to any other Greek Company whatsoever and currently Andrea Rossi and EFA are not planning to deal with any other project in Greece.
Now Defkalion claims to be creating their own ecat based devices…with a similar lack of proof, but regardless, lets look at this announcement. This company which was theoretically almost to the point of producing E-cats, had no information? No technology? Starting production lines doesn’t work that way, but…it’s another excellent case where the E-cat– our magic box, is suddenly a no show at the party.
Another company, AmpEnergo supposedly obtained the rights to make use of the technology in May, but due to ” Contractual difficulties” the magic box wasn’t shipped to them. Now note, this is all happening before the demonstrations in October–in other words, the claim is that production level units actually exist– yet nobody has seen them. Their website is also sparse, very sparse in fact. They appear to have no factory, no large employee list– no nothing in fact. An oddly small group for a company that was supposedly ramping up to produce these E-cats. The claim from Rossi was:
“We had a preliminary agreement with a very important party in the U.S., but when we received the final draft, it included conditions that our lawyers said that we should not accept”, Rossi told Ny Teknik.
Shipment of the plant was then blocked; according to Rossi, however, the launch will still take place in October as earlier promised, though he could not yet disclose where this will take place.
Again, a very convenient controversy– one that effectively puts the “put up or shut up” point in the future. The technology is working, but, horror of horrors, those kill joy lawyers aren’t letting things go through.
7. A previous history of …unusual events.
Many scammers have a long history of great developments that somehow didn’t happen–and like cobra commander, they chose to never revisit their last “world changing invention” in favor of finding new world changing inventions. In Rossi’s case it was thermoelectric generators. His company Leonardo Technologies, Inc., was contracted to produce these generators to convert heat to power for the Department of Defense in order to reduce the use of other fuels. What happened? The test unit produced vast amounts of power at a very high efficiency. Rossi in fact claimed that full up units would produce 800-1000 watts. The actual units, those that worked, produced 1 watt of power.
LTI was incorporated as a response to the thermoelectric power generation research
by Dr. Andre Rossi. Dr. Rossi indicated that his devices would produce 20
percent efficiencies, a vast increase from the current science of 4 percent conversion
of waste heat to electrical power. Dr. Rossi believed that he could increase
the physical size of the TE Devices and maintain superior power generation. In
furtherance of his research, in early 2000, LTI had tests conducted at the University
of New Hampshire (UNH), Durham, NH, using a small scale LTI TE Device.
Over a period of 7 days, the UNH power plant staff recorded voltage and
amperage readings every 1/2 hr. The TE Device produced approximately 100
volts and 1 ampere of current, providing 100 watts of power. After this initial
success, and a fire that destroyed his Manchester, NH location, Dr. Rossi returned
to Italy to continue the manufacture of the TE Devices. In Italy, Dr. Rossi
believed that LTI could manufacture more cost-effective TE generating devices
with lower labor and assembly costs. Accordingly, Dr. Rossi engaged a subcontractor
to fulfill the requirements of manufacturing and assembly.
Unfortunately, the Italian subcontractor was unable to provide secondgeneration
TE Devices with satisfactory power generation. Nineteen of 27 TE
Devices shipped to CTC, Johnstown, PA, were incapable of generating electricity
for a variety of reasons, from mechanical failure to poor workmanship. The remaining
eight produced less than 1 watt of power each, significantly less than
the expected 800–1000 watts each.
There is no information on the ultimate disposition of the prototype that did so well, but well, suffice to say the promises of incredibly efficient TE devices has remained unfilled.
8. Bizarre claims and excuses for not deploying the technology.
Evidently another problem with the E-cat is that as yet, Rossi hasn’t figured out a way to put an effective self destruct device in it.
No. I’m not kidding.
Dear Mr Riccardo:
I think that the household targeted items will arrive later. We have to resolve the problem to make them self-destructive in case of opening the reactors. Otherwise, with few thousands of dollars anybody has access to the confidential aspects of the technology. In industrial plants this issue is more easy to afford and has been resolved.
Now, there are two problems to this. First of all, Marvel comics has already done this plot, and so you can’t sell it. But more importantly, such devices are fantasies. If you can open a device to maintain it, you can get it open to have a look inside it. The Chinese, Russians, Americans, etc, will all have it open.
But there are some other problems with this, ones that make this even more insane.
First of all, nobody is going to buy a reactor that they can’t look into. Beyond safety issues, only a madman would tie himself to a single supplier. Secondly, a self destruct device would be illegal in just about any jurisdiction outside of oh, say, Somalia.
Thirdly, even if you could invent a fool proof self destruct device, no government would let you ship it without looking at it. And that means a serious look, especially if they believe the magic box involves any form of nuclear reaction. OSHA, EPA, FCC (because they do check for things like EM interference), many agencies are going have it opened and look at it. That’s not negotiable, because they’re not going to trust your good word that your seeeecreeet machine isn’t going to explode, or start spraying ionizing radiation, or just suddenly decide to catch fire. They sure as shooting aren’t going to accept your word that a self destruct device is perfectly safe and friendly.
But…and here we come to the brilliant part– maybe that’s the point. After all, if that mean ‘ol government is keeping you from sharing your bounty with the world, save for wise investors who will pay you, it’s not your fault. You can’t possibly be expected to do what every other corporation on the planet does, now can you? And so, once again, outside factors intervene to prevent that simplest method of proving your system of all– putting up a unit, away from the lab, away from any ability to play with the readings, and running it, for days and weeks, well beyond the point that any chemical reaction could explain it.
Finally, for those interested, Steven Krivits has an appendix with a time-line and link to the Rossi affair.