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Cold Fusion: It’s Baaaackk

November 7, 2011

Scientists have been chasing this Holy Grail for decades. Here is the latest claim of success:

Italian physicist and inventor Andrea Rossi has conducted a public demonstration of his “cold fusion” machine, the E-Cat, at the University of Bologna, showing that a small amount of input energy drives an unexplained reaction between atoms of hydrogen and nickel that leads to a large outpouring of energy, more than 10 times what was put in.

The first seemingly successful cold fusion experiment was reported two decades ago, but the process has forever been met with heavy skepticism. It’s a seemingly impossible process in which two types of atoms, typically a light element and a heavier metal, seem to fuse together, releasing pure heat that can be converted into electricity. The process is an attractive energy solution for two reasons: Unlike in nuclear fission, the reaction doesn’t give off dangerous radiation. Unlike the fusion processes that take place in the sun, cold fusion doesn’t require extremely high temperatures.

Naturally, there is a lot of skepticism, as there should be. But whether it is cold fusion, or some other fantastical and revolutionary method to generate energy, this is the sort of unexpected, unpredicted, game-changer that we should all hope for. Because the energy equation powering humanity right now isn’t working out very well.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman has a nice column today on how steady advances in solar power could transform our energy future–particularly if the coal and natural gas industries had to include the costs of environmental and health damage in their prices (course all the lobbyists employed by those industries are spending plenty of money to make sure that is exactly what DOESN’T happen).

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