Deep in the frozen north woods, in front of a glowing hot chunk of high alumina ceramic with wires attached and several cameras pointed at it, a discovery unfolds...
Alan from California, Bob from the UK and Czech Republic, and Ryan from Minnesota are discussing via Google hangouts with Mathieu from France and Bob from New Mexico the meaning of what they are seeing in the experiment in front of them. Just as importantly, the discussion is being streamed live to the internet and is being watched by more than 50 other people. A complete recording of the event is available on Youtube:
There was no place to hide anything about the results of this experiment. It was totally live and open science, the hallmark of the Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project (MFMP). Our group is a loose collaboration of labs and volunteers from around the world, working to demonstrate the validity of LENR through totally open replication efforts. This openness has built a crowd following and a reputation for high integrity.
Background of the Experiment
After the October 2014 release of the report for the extended test in Lugano of Rossi’s Hot Cat, many questions were raised about the method used to measure the heat output with a calibrated Optris infrared thermal camera. So we proposed to replicate the physical environment, the cast alumina device and the instrumentation to see what we could learn about the accuracy of the Lugano test results. We also planned a test with a secondary internal heater replacing the LENR fuel, so the energy output needed to reach reported temperatures would be known.
Figure 1. Apparatus set-up (left to right): spot of Aremco 840-CM high emissivity paint, B thermocouple, pyrometer
aiming spot and K thermocouple on Dog Bone, with the Williamson PRO 91-65-C pyrometer sensor and Optris PI160
camera head on the metal frame.
We designed our setup to be as close replication of the Hot Cat as possible, given the limited details known. We developed the tooling and technology to duplicate the shape, size and surface finning of the Hot Cat reactor, and called the resulting design The Dog Bone, owing to its shape and color. We followed what could be learned from the Lugano report and from subsequent comments by Rossi. Then we added some “best guess” details and instrumentation for cross-checking measurements:
Similarities to the Lugano test
Differences from the Lugano test
Similar size and shape and weight
Similar open environment and mounting rack
Similar cast alumina material
Identical Optris PI160 camera and PCE-830 power monitor
No LENR fuel in the core
Added thermocouples to check temperature measurements by the Optris camera
Williamson PRO 91-65-C dual wavelength pyrometer used to measure emissivity and spot temperatures
Secondary heater coil to simulate the possible heat of the LENR fuel
Materials vary greatly in the way they emit infrared light when heated. This property is called “emissivity” and ranges from 0 for empty space to 1 for a perfect “black body” radiant surface. Our most important finding was that the Optris thermal camera needed an emissivity setting in the range of 0.95 in order to match the same range of temperatures seen by the thermocouples and the dual wavelength pyrometer. A spot of black Aremco 840-CM high-emissivity coating was compared with the Dog Bone surface in a process recommended by the Optris operating manual:
Figure 2. Option 3 in the Optris manual for calibrating the camera is the only one viable for high temperatures.
The Lugano team used the emissivity given by Plot 1 in their report, ranging from 0.8 to 0.4. We found that when we put those ranges of emissivity into the Optris camera, the apparent surface temperature went from 950°C up to between 1200 and 1500°C over much of the surface. This is enough to account for some but not all of the excess energy reported for the E-Cat. We also identified other possible sources of measurement error such as surface texture and color change from aging of the castable alumina at high temperature. Our finding was in line with the suggested value for ceramic in the Optris manual, as can be seen in Figure 3 below.
Figure 3. Experiment showed that an emissivity value of 0.95 gave comparable results to other sensing
methods. Subsequently, we found the Optris manual suggested the same value for ceramic.
After testing the Dog Bone, we confirmed the accuracy of the Williamson pyrometer measurements with a sample of the Cotronics RTC-70 castable alumina ceramic in a furnace. This standard process for calibrating emissivity eliminates the possible effect of uneven temperature in the sample, and you can see that this device is very accurate.
Team member Bob Higgins has done an in-depth analysis of the emissivity behavior of alumina and why it’s such a difficult material to measure with an IR camera like the Optris. His full analysis and conclusions are presented in an excellent paper at http://tinyurl.com/kbkzdco
After completing the first full power calibration of a Dog Bone using the Optris thermal camera, we started setting up for the next test after suggestions and questions from the crowd. That’s when tragedy struck! The Optris camera and the computer it was plugged into died from a power surge, leaving us with fewer options for investigating things.
Figure 4. The color calibrator in operation. The EEEE is due to over-heating of that display, despite the foil covering it.
It consists of an alumina tube with four different heating coils inside it, creating four temperature zones. Each zone has a thermocouple adhered to it with a ceramic cement, a patch of the high emissivity black ceramic paint, and a spot coated with the same high alumina material used to cast the Dog Bone.
Figure 5. Color calibrator in operation, with the hottest zone on the left.
Figure 6. Color calibrator after test run showing changes in both the high emissivity paint and castable alumina
from the temperature to which each sample was exposed. The left alumina sample has crystalized and turned bright white.
The emissivity as measured by the Williamson pyrometer varied a lot, depending on the surface material, location, age and texture. In the end, our most important conclusion is that it’s not easy to reliably and repeatably measure the temperature of alumina using infrared. The varying emissivity and partial transparency of alumina make accurate determination of temperature via thermal imagery very tricky. In the Dog Bone, we also observed that the bottom of the device was cooler than the top and that the tips of the fins were significantly cooler than the groove between the fins, by as much as 100°C. All of these complicate the estimation of thermal energy by measuring infrared radiation.
Core Heater Test
Next, we tested the Dog Bone with a thin heater coil installed in the core, to simulate the heat that would have been generated by the LENR fuel in the Lugano test.
Figure 6a. The core heater coil, 120 turns of 18 gauge Kanthal wire on a 4 mm alumina mandrel.
The resulting test data suggest that even 1200 watts of heat from the core would not be enough to reach the surface temperatures reported at Lugano, and no known heater wire would be capable of greater power in such a small space. We also clearly saw the silhouette of the outer unpowered “fat coil” winding cast into the Dog Bone, by the glow of the core heater shining through the alumina ceramic. This replicates the effect seen in images of the Hot Cat in the Lugano report.
Figure 6b. The Dog Bone with core heater at 650 watts. The unpowered outer coil is clearly visible.
Factors still supporting the supposition that LENR was achieved in the Lugano device:
Shadows of heater coil windings against a core glow, showing that high heat originated from inside the core. This was seen in pictures in the Lugano report and replicated by us.
Reported shifts in nuclear isotopes in the fuel used at Lugano
Reported Hot Cat replication by Russian scientist Alexander Parkhomov. For the full report on this important work, see http://tinyurl.com/meo4jbo
Having a Blast Doing Open Science
On our final day in Minnesota, we did an experiment with LENR fuel, inspired by Parkhomov’s recent work, but with a key difference. His reactor and Rossi’s Hot Cat both use alumina-based cement to seal and encapsulate the reactor. To do faster and more repeatable experiments, we developed a technique to seal the fuel tube using off-the-shelf Swagelok fittings with soft aluminum compression ferrules (details at http://youtu.be/n9rWKhzj4SY). Previous tests had confirmed that this technique was reliable and leak-free at high pressure and temperature, but it had not yet been tested with hydrogen and LENR fuel.
So our first test (suggested by Parkhomov) used a small tube with some fuel and a heater coil.
Figure 7. Mini-“GlowStick” to test the hydrogen tightness of Swagelok fittings with aluminum ferrules.
We mounted this test cell in an open glass pickle jar lying on its side, and placed a hydrogen gas detector at the mouth of the jar. As we raised the temperature gradually to 500°C, the slow background ticking of the detector was unchanged, showing that the two seals were leak tight.
Figure 8. Peak temperature reached and held during Parkhomov style leak test of Swagelok fittings.
Based on that success, we moved on to our final test. We built and calibrated a silicon carbide heater designed to accept a Dog Bone fuel core. The calibration data showed that this heater was capable of sustaining the high temperature needed to possibly activate LENR fuel in the core.
Figure 8a. Silicon carbide heater calibration.
We loaded a “closed-one-end” alumina tube with T255 Carbonyl Nickel and LiAlH4 fuel powder, sealed it with a Swagelok fitting, and slid it into the center of the heating element.
Figure 9. Fueled core.
This was it, the culmination of the whole intense week of experiments. It was to be a fueled LENR/Parkhomov/Rossi test that might actually generate excess energy, streamed live on the internet for everyone to see.
Figure 10. Fuelled reactor core mounted in the silicon carbide heating element with type B and K thermocouples.
Many tedious hours were spent slowly ramping up the power and comparing temperatures (video at http://tinyurl.com/q6d9xfh). Then past midnight, in the last few hours we had available, we got to 1052 degrees as the temperature rose from a power input step, and … BANG! The hydrogen detector chattered and bits of alumina landed on the floor, with an arcing sound and a glow to salute the end of the test. The bang is at 2:30 in this video clip: http://youtu.be/dDfRaDY2R_A
What caused the tube failure? It was in the active temperature range reported by Rossi and Parkhomov. Was it a thermal runaway LENR reaction? Or was it simply too much pressure for the alumina tube? Our calculations (at http://tinyurl.com/pdrd224) show the pressure was 318 atm or 4682 psi, quite high but within the tensile strength of the tube. This is work-in-progress, so join the conversation to add your own expertise and critical thinking through our web sites listed below.
We’ll present a more detailed analysis of our data in a future article. We’re also working to define and fund more of these open science projects, culminating in a series of tests done with accurate calorimetry. Bob Higgins has designed and is building such a system, using our simplified “Glow Stick” reactor tube. The sealing method allows for inclusion of a pressure sensor and plumbing for gas sampling. And by the time you read this, Bob Geenyer will have visited Russia to speak at a conference and witness an experimental run by Parkhomov.
Stay tuned for news of these ongoing Open Science projects from MFMP. We expect reports of other Hot Cat-like replications at the upcoming ICCF19 conference in Padova, Italy. See you there!
We thank the following for generous support of our research: New Energy Foundation, Bobcat Sverige AB, Hunt Utilities Group, Magic Sound, Optris GmbH, Williamson IR and many private donors.