A notable talk at ICCF5...
A Development Approach for Cold Fusion
by Bruce Klein
Abstract: A plan is presented for the investigation
and development of the cold fusion effect, ultimately leading to
implementation of commercial devices. The plan represents a methodical
approach for identifying and addressing theoretical, scientific,
engineering, and economic concerns. The plan is presented from the
perspective of a large architect/engineering corporation which performs
work in established energy industries and which is not currently
involved in cold fusion. The plan consists of a number of phases
designed to establish the corporation's level and method of involvement
in the field. The phased plan provides a number of decision points;
at each decision point a commitment to a higher level of funding
is made on the basis of additional information which has been generated
by the plan to that point. In this way, the corporation can control
its financial outlay, yet funding is appropriate so that pursuit
of the plan is not hampered.
1. Introduction and Premise
Successful development of commercial
cold fusion devices has the potential to substantially impact a
corporation that is presently involved in traditional energy markets.
This impact could be negative, if the corporation ignores cold fusion
developments and finds itself reacting to fundamental changes in
its market. Energy companies have already been buffeted in the United
States by deregulation of the electric utility industry, a declining
market for new energy production facilities, and falling prices
for new construction due to intense competition. The impact of cold
fusion could be much greater.
The impact could also be very positive, if the
energy company were to position itself properly for future developments.
This requires involvement early (i.e. now) to assist in the development
of the technology, to establish what a profitable future corporate
position is, and to prepare accordingly. This paper presents a plan
for an energy company to do these things.
There are two premises upon which this paper is
based. The first is that the cold fusion effect in its various forms
is real. There exists sufficient experimental evidence at this time
that this issue no longer needs to be addressed. It is not justified
to devote additional resources to demonstrate the existence of the
The second premise is that it is not in the company's
interest to try to develop cold fusion by itself, without cooperation
from others who are already working in the field. Commercial cold
fusion will come to fruition more quickly if cooperative arrangements
can be made with those who are knowledgeable in the field, and if
joint ventures are established with individuals and companies that
have the requisite expertise.
It is well known that the involvement
by large corporations in cold fusion research and development is
very limited. Nevertheless, there are a variety of strong reasons
for an established energy company to become involved with cold fusion
at this time. These reasons are all economical, and deal both with
current market conditions as well as those which may come to pass
in the future. The discussion which follows is presented from the
viewpoint of an architect/engineering (A/E) corporation.
In general, an A/E does not build hardware, such
as boilers, pumps, or electronic control systems. An A/E specifies
the requirements for these components and designs their interconnection
(civil foundations, piping, cabling, and electrical distribution,
etc.). In short, an A/E does all the design and engineering work
required to assemble the many thousands of different components
that make up a power plant or other large industrial facility. In
general the A/E will purchase all the equipment and will oversee
the manufacture of this equipment by its vendors. Finally, the A/E
will construct the facility or will provide construction management.
From the perspective of the energy-related A/E,
energy use can be broadly classified into four categories. The type
of work the A/E performs in each area, and the changes which could
occur to the respective markets are discussed below.
a. Electricity generation and consumption
of electricity generation and consumption, a typical A/E designs
power plants, mining, and fuel processing facilities, waste disposal
facilities, and environmental remediation projects. The economics
of cold fusion electric power generation devices may dictate that
they are large-scale facilities like the central generating stations
that exist today. This would support a traditional A/E role of system
integration and construction.
On the other hand, economics
may indicate that the preferable method of implementation is smaller-scale
devices either located in neighborhoods or individual homes and
businesses. This would disrupt the traditional A/E involvement in
this market and would suggest that a different, non-traditional
approach is necessary.
In either case, if cold fusion
power generating devices are developed and if they are economically
attractive in comparison with other methods of electricity generation,
an energy-related company would want to be involved in a positive
manner. This industry is ferociously competitive around the world.
There is an oversupply of engineering and production capacity for
producing power plants; establishing a competitive advantage is
essential for a company's survival.
b. Propulsion (internal combustion engines,
gas turbines, etc.)
A/E is typically involved in projects required to produce and process
fuel for propulsion. For almost all propulsion the fuel is petroleum,
and example projects would consist of oil production facilities,
refineries, and pipelines.
If cold fusion devices can be
developed that are sufficiently compact and powerful that they can
economically replace the internal combustion engine, petroleum use
will drop precipitously. Existing industrial capacity will be sufficient
to supply chemical, lubrication and plastics use of petroleum for
the foreseeable future. The market for large facilities in this
energy sector may virtually disappear. This suggests that a substantially
different approach would be required by an A/E interested in staying
involved in this market.
c. Industrial uses
energy use typically consists of electricity and heat. Often these
are supplied by fossil-fueled power plants which produce steam;
some of the steam is used for heating purposes and some of the steam
is used to generate electricity. A typical A/E role is to design
and construct the steam and electric generation plants. The same
changes which cold fusion devices will make to electric power production
will occur to industrial energy facilities.
d. Home use (heating, air conditioning,
and electrical loads)
typically not involved directly in this area. Instead the involvement
is with the industrial base required to supply energy to the home.
Again, this consists of electricity, petroleum, and natural gas.
If self-contained home heating and/or generating units are developed,
the need for external energy supply to the home will decrease. The
impact on the industrial energy supply structure is obvious.
An A/E would have to adopt a
very non-traditional posture to continue to generate revenue from
this energy market sector. So, the impetus to become involved in
the cold fusion field, should it ultimately prove successful, is
3. The Important Questions
As mentioned previously, the
important question is not, "Does cold fusion occur?" Instead, for
a company interested in becoming profitably involved in the cold
fusion field, the important questions which require answers are:
- Can cold fusion be used as
the basis for useful, practical energy producing machinery?
- Will that machinery achieve
- Can the machinery be made
available in the foreseeable future?
- If the first three questions
can be answered in the affirmative, how can and should the company
To answer these questions, a phased approach to
investigation and development is recommended. The phases, their
purpose, and the methods used to accomplish them are described in
4. Phase 1 - Survey the Field
This purpose of this phase
of the investigation is to develop a solid corporate understanding
of the state of the cold fusion field. This phase of the plan is
intended to generate the following information:
a. A detailed understanding of the different techniques
known to produce the cold fusion effect.
b. The state of development of each of the cold
fusion techniques, including:
- Method and apparatus
- Level of excess heat or energy
- Known parameters and unknown
factors requiring additional investigation
- Materials involved
c. An understanding of the theoretical explanations
for the effect, along with supporting evidence for each theory.
d. An acquaintance with the researchers in the
field; an understanding of their capabilities, funding, and plans;
and an understanding of their willingness to participate with a
To the maximum extent possible,
this phase of the investigation will be performed on a first-hand
basis. Researchers will be visited at their laboratories, and their
experimental apparatus will be observed. Theoreticians will be contacted,
and their theories will be discussed in depth. A corporate cold
fusion library will be established, and a systematic review of key
publications will be performed.
5. Phase 2 - Establish the Broad Parameters
of Practical Machinery, Economic Attractiveness, and Time-table
The purpose of this phase of
the investigation is to make educated guesses concerning the form
commercial cold fusion devices may take. The cost of commercial
devices will be estimated based on these guesses. Approximate timetables
for the development of each technique will be generated, based upon
the state of development the technique. This will involve performing
the following steps for each of the techniques known to produce
the cold fusion effect:
a. Select a device configuration. A reasonable
approach would seem to be to choose an existing experimental cold
fusion device which has demonstrated high levels of excess heat
in a repeatable manner.
b. Estimate the size of the device needed to
produce power at usable levels. A prudent approach would be
to examine three sizes which will cover the range of possible devices:
Electric power plant size (hundreds of megawatts), home heater/generator
size (tens of kilowatts), and an intermediate size.
c. Estimate the cost of the devices if they
were to be commercially produced. There is the possibility of
large errors in this step, but one approach would be to identify
existing industrial machinery for which a production cost is known
and which is similar in form to the cold fusion device under study.
The production cost could then be adjusted to account for differences
in the materials of construction, difficulty of manufacture, and
expectations of production volume.
d. Estimate the life-cycle cost of the device.
This would include replacement of materials, operating costs, fuel
costs, etc. Again, the most promising approach would be to make
comparisons with similar machinery in use today.
e. Perform economic sensitivity analyses.
These would examine the impact on device costs of changes in the
parameters which are presently uncertain. This would include:
- Performance of the device:
For example, how would the cost of the machine vary if a higher
level of excess power were achievable? Is there a minimum level
of excess power which makes the machine economically viable?
- Cost of materials: For example,
if increased demand for palladium were to substantially increase
its cost, what impact would this have on the cost of the total machine?
- Size of the Device: The machine
may be most economical in a particular size range. This will impact
the way the device is ultimately implemented in the marketplace.
f. Based on the above estimates, compare the
cold fusion device with energy sources available today. Determine
the implications for the ultimate economic attractiveness of the
g. Make a realistic estimate of the size of
Establish an approximate timetable for development of the device.
This timetable would be based upon the current state of development
and the amount of additional work and research required to bring
the device to a state of commercial viability.
6. Phase 3 - Examine the Legal Implications
The purpose of this phase of
the plan is to attempt to define the legal arena in which the company
will be operating.
The sorry state of the cold fusion patent situation
is well known. Almost no patents have been granted, and most researchers
are operating without patent protection. This has probably had the
effect of limiting communication among researchers to some extent.
But this is not likely to be a corporation's major concern.
To a corporation interested in becoming involved
in this field, securing patent rights will be an important aspect
of that involvement. Several hundred patent applications have been
prepared for cold fusion devices, and they undoubtedly have many
overlapping claims. Detailed legal research will be necessary to
attempt to understand the legal necessities of operating in this
7. Phase 4 - Identify the Work Remaining
There are many issues which
must be addressed before practical cold fusion devices are developed.
The purpose of this phase of the plan is to identify the issues,
determine what work remains to be accomplished to address them,
and determine what talents must be assembled to perform that work.
Some of the more critical issues are discussed below.
a. Theoretical Basis
A sound theoretical basis for
the cold fusion effect will ultimately be required. Without it,
improving the performance of devices will be a trial-and- error
affair. A theory with predictive capabilities would be extremely
helpful. A series of experiments is required to test the more promising
Configurations that produce
higher rates of excess heat generation need to be examined. Examples
include electrode surface area and volume, and the role of grain
boundaries. A systematic examination of configuration effects will
need to be devised.
Most experimentation to date
has been at low temperatures. Producing practical devices at these
temperatures will most likely be difficult. The extent to which
more thermodynamically useful temperatures can be achieved requires
In terms of much cold fusion
research to date, repeatability means the ability to reliably produce
the cold fusion effect. This in itself will not ultimately be sufficient.
A practical device will need to reliably produce the cold fusion
effect at a power level which is known and repeatable.
To be truly useful as a practical
machine, it will be necessary to have a mechanism to throttle a
cold fusion device. This means the ability to turn it on and off
at will, and to vary its output. Mechanisms to accomplish this will
need to be explored.
The general attitude in the
cold fusion community is that radiation generated during experiments
is good, because it demonstrates that a nuclear process is at work.
The business perspective is exactly the opposite. Concerns about
radiation (whether those concerns are rational or not) have severely
affected the development of fission power in the United States and
other parts of the world. Even if the radiation emitted from cold
fusion devices is very low, irrational fears could be very damaging.
The levels of radiation that can be expected from practical devices
needs to be well examined.
g. Long-term Performance
Many cold fusion experiments
have been short-term. Longer term testing is required to determine
what periodic maintenance and replacement will be necessary with
a commercial device. In other words, will the electrodes or some
other parts of the devices "wear out" with time? How often will
these parts need replacement of replenishment? How will this be
done and how much will it cost?
A series of long-term experiments
will be necessary to examine this issue.
h. Power Conversion
Methods must be developed for
converting the excess heat generated by cold fusion devices into
electricity. Reasonably high conversion efficiencies are likely
to be required. It is not sufficient to say that the source of energy
is cheap and plentiful and therefore conversion efficiency is not
an issue. Solar energy is cheap and plentiful, yet low conversion
efficiencies have so far made widespread implementation of solar
So, potential power conversion
technologies will have to be identified. Modifications required
to match them to the output characteristics of cold fusion devices
will have to be explored.
8. Phase 5 --Establish Working Relationships
Phase 4 described above will
identify the areas requiring work. Based on this, the talents and
resources required to perform the work will be established. The
purpose of Phase 5 will be to establish relationships with other
organizations. In its traditional role as systems integrator for
large, complex projects involving many different organizations,
the A/E may be particularly suited to establishing consortium and
joint venture arrangements.
Participants would include researchers in the
field, companies and laboratories with the necessary expertise to
perform the work, and companies with an interest in sharing costs
9. Phase 6 -- Perform Directed Experimentation
The purpose of this phase is
to perform experimentation and research in a logical manner to address
the issues raised in Phase 4. The work would be performed by the
organizations assembled in Phase 5.
10. Phase 7 -- Develop Prototypes
Once a sufficient number of
the outstanding technical and economic questions have been addressed,
it will be possible to build and test prototype devices. By this
time in the process, the information which has been generated will
probably have narrowed the candidate configurations to a small number.
The most promising will be constructed.
11. Phase 8 -- Initiate Commercial Implementation
If all the earlier phases of
this plan achieve success, and the economic outlook is positive,
the ultimate goal of all the cold fusion efforts will be possible:
commercial implementation. It is not possible at this time to describe
the form this implementation will take; generating that information
is the goal of the first seven phases of the plan.
The potential impact of cold
fusion on a company currently involved in the energy industry is
too great to ignore. If a phased approach is used, in which each
phase represents an increment of financial and technical involvement,
the company can minimize its financial exposure while still establishing
a favorable competitive position. The benefits of such a plan are
further enhanced if the company pursues this work in cooperation
with others already involved in the field.