Posts Tagged ‘Electric power transmission’

Wired 6.11: What If Cold Fusion Is Real?

December 14, 2013

Almost four stories high, framed in steel beams and tangled in pipes, conduits, cables, and coils, the Joint European Torus (JET) claims to be the largest fusion power experiment in the world. Located near Oxford, England, JET is a monument to big science, its donut-shaped containment vessel dwarfing maintenance workers who enter it in protective suits. Here in this gleaming nuclear cauldron, deuterium gas is energized with 7 million amperes and heated to 300 million degrees Celsius – more than 10 times hotter than the center of the sun. Under these extreme conditions atomic nuclei collide and fuse, liberating energy that could provide virtually limitless power.


High-tension lines run directly to the installation, but they don’t take electricity out – they bring it in. For a few magic seconds in 1997, JET managed to return 60 percent of the energy it consumed, but that’s the best it’s ever done, and is typical of fusion experiments worldwide. The US Department of Energy has predicted that we’ll have to wait another five decades, minimum, before fusion power becomes practical. Meanwhile, the United States continues to depend on fossil fuels for 85 percent of its energy.

Many miles away, in the basement of a fine new home in the hills overlooking Santa Fe, New Mexico, a retired scientist named Edmund Storms has built a different kind of fusion reactor. It consists of laboratory glassware, off-the-shelf chemical supplies, two aging Macintosh computers for data acquisition, and an insulated wooden box the size of a kitchen cabinet. While JET’s 15 European sponsor-nations have paid about US$1 billion for their hardware, and the US government has spent $14.7 billion on fusion research since 1951 (all figures in 1997 dollars), Storms’s apparatus and ancillary gear have cost less than $50,000. Moreover, he claims that his equipment works, generating surplus heat for days at a time.

Storms is not an antiestablishment pseudoscientist pursuing a crackpot theory. For 34 years he was part of the establishment himself, employed at Los Alamos on projects such as a nuclear motor for space vehicles. Subsequently he testified before a congressional subcommittee considering the future of fusion. He believes you don’t need millions of degrees or billions of dollars to fuse atomic nuclei and yield energy. “You can stimulate nuclear reactions at room temperature,” he says, in his genial, matter-of-fact style. “I am absolutely certain that the phenomenon is real. It is quite extraordinary, and if it can be developed, it will have profound effects on society.”

That’s an understatement. If low-temperature fusion does exist and can be perfected, power generation could be decentralized. Each home could heat itself and produce its own electricity, probably using a form of water as fuel. Even automobiles might be cold fusion powered. Massive generators and ugly power lines could be eliminated, along with imported oil and our contribution to the greenhouse effect. Moreover, according to some experimental data, low-temperature fusion doesn’t create significant hazardous radiation or radioactive waste.

Most scientists laugh at these claims. “It’s pathological science,” says physicist Douglas Morrison, formerly employed by CERN in Geneva. “The results are impossible.”

Impossible, and yet Edmund Storms has gotten net energy-positive results already.

Even hot-fusion scientists are saying there is strong evidence.

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, futurist, and funder of Infinite Energy magazine: “It seems very promising to me that nuclear reactions

English: deuterium-tritium fusion diagram, poi...

English: deuterium-tritium fusion diagram, point as decimal separator  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

may occur at room temperatures. I’m quite convinced there’s something in this.”