Skip to comments.This investor is chasing a new kind of fusion
Posted on 10/06/2015 8:56:26 AM PDT by AZLiberty
A prominent North Carolina investor is backing a new kind of fusion that operates at much lower temperatures than thought possible, which would make it easier to commercialize. So far the early results show promise.
Tom Darden, the founder and CEO of the $2.2 billion private equity fund Cherokee Investment Partners, made his mark by acquiring and cleaning up hundreds of environmentally contaminated sites. Today he is also an early stage investor in clean technology, having put his own money into dozens of companies in areas ranging from smart grid to renewable energy, and prefab green buildings. More recently hes backed a new approach to fusion, a potentially abundant and carbon-free form of energy that would operate at a much lower temperatures than big government projects around the world, which require temperatures of 100 million degrees centigrade and more.
This new technology, called Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) is related but very different from the cold fusion technology that in 1989 researchers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have licked when they revealed to the world a simple tabletop machine designed to achieve a fusion reaction at room temperature. Their experiment was eventually debunked and since then the term cold fusion has become almost synonymous with scientific chicanery.
What does Darden, a no-nonsense, investor with a sharp eye on the bottom line and a successful track record, see in this new, risky technology? Fortunes Brian Dumaine spoke to him to find out.
Q: How did you get involved with low-temperature fusion?
A: Well, I thought the issue was moot after scientists failed to replicate the Fleischman and Pons initial cold fusion experiments. I was literally unaware that people were working on this in labs. Ive made about 35 clean technology investments, and I thought that if someones doing this I should have heard about it. Then three years ago I started to hear about progress being made in the field and I said, Damn, you have to be kidding, it doesnt make sense.
As it turns out, many of those early efforts to replicate cold fusion did not correctly load the test reactors or attempt to properly measure heat. The scientists trying to replicate the work of Fleischman and Pons were mainly looking for nuclear signals, like radiation, which generally are not present. They missed that heat was the main by-product. In addition, I learned that there have been nearly 50 reported positive test results, including experiments at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, EPRI, and SRI.
Q: The conventional wisdom is that LENR violates the laws of physics.
A: Thats right. To create fusion energy you have to break the bonds in atoms and that takes a tremendous amount of force. Thats why the big government fusion projects have to use massive lasers or extreme heatmillions degrees centigradeto break the bonds. Breaking those bonds at much lower temperatures is inconsistent with the laws of physics, as theyre now known.
Q: What changed your mind?
A: Scientists get locked into paradigms until the paradigm shifts. Then everyone happily shifts to the new truth and no one apologizes for being so stupid before. Low temperature fusion could be consistent with existing theories, we just dont know how. Its like when physicists say that according to the laws of aerodynamics bumblebees cant fly but they do.
Q: So you licensed the technology of Andrea Rossi, an Italian scientist and entrepreneur whos been having some success with cold fusion.
A: Thats right. Rossis was one of the first investments we made. Weve been seeing the creation of isotopes and energy releases at relatively low temperatures1,000 degrees centigrade, which could be a sign that fusion has occurred. We have sponsored tests and more research for Rossis work. A group of Swedish scientists tested the technology, and they got good results. A number of other people say they are also getting positive results but these havent been confirmed. A Russian scientist, for example claims to have replicated Rossis work in Switzerland and got excess heat. Thats a good sign.
Q: So youre optimistic?
A: Yes, In fact, Rossi was awarded an important U.S. patent recently, which is part of what we licensed, covering the use of nickel, platinum or palladium powders, as well as other components, in his heat-producing device. This is one of very few LENR-related patents to date.
But let me make one thing very clear. We dont know for sure yet whether it will be commercially feasible. Weve invested more than $10 million so far in Rossis and other LENAR technology and well spend substantially more than that before we know for certain because we want to crush all the tests. (Recently, we have been joined by Woodford Investment Management in the U.K., which has made a much larger investment into our international LENR activitiesso we are well funded.)
Cold fusion has such a checkered past and is so filled with hypesters and people with a gold rush, get-rich-quick mentality. We need to be calm, prudent and not exaggerate. I dont want to say that cold fusion is real until we can absolutely prove it in ten different ways and then persuade our worst critics to join our camp.
Q: If it does work, what are the implications?
A: Im doing this for the environment. If cold fusion works, it would address air pollution including carbon. It could be a game changer.
I hope they find it
“...temperatures of 100 million degrees centigrade and more.”
” in hopes of making serious money.”
He says he’s doing it for the environment.
Fusion is a chimera that shall not be an established technology anytime soon. We shall have dilithium crystals available sooner than we shall have a reliable fusion power plant.
A technology called “Plasma arc trash reduction”, a process by which ALL forms of trash are reduced to their constituent atomic structure, then the heat generated by this process is used to drive electric power generation. The primary products of this process are “syngas”, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, both of which are excellent fuels that may be used to drive the generation of electric power, and a silica slag which contains practically all other components of whatever went into the trash stream.
The volume of the slag that comes off is about a quarter to a tenth of the volume of the original trash, and it may be mined for various metallic content, as it is a higher grade of ore than is most of the material that is hauled up out of the ground by various mining operations all over the world. It may be hot-formed into building blocks, and depending on how it is cooled (rapid quench or slow radiant cooling), it forms various grades of igneous stone. Or it may be crushed as aggregate for concrete or for road building purposes.
Once up and running, the operating temperature of the plasma torch is about 33,000 degrees F., about three times the temperature of the sun’s surface. The syngas generated is about 2,200 degrees F., and is passed over a heat exchanger to generate superheated steam, in the process of cooling it. Once cooled, the stream of hydrogen and carbon monoxide may be separated, yielding up pure hydrogen which may be used to power a fuel cell, or burned directly in the presence of oxygen to yield a very hot flame, which may be used to further produce power through the medium of superheated steam. Carbon monoxide itself is an excellent fuel which when combined with oxygen, forms carbon dioxide, a safe, NON-POLLUTING fraction of our atmosphere, and one that is vital for the photosynthesis of oxygen and carbohydrates in green growing plants. The carbon dioxide may also be captured, cooled and compressed into either liquid CO2, or allowed to become “dry ice”, an intensely cold and solid form of CO2, and an important industrial product.
The hydrogen, of course, when combined with oxygen, becomes water vapor.
Empty out our land fills and turn those blighted acres back into “greenfields”, divert all the existing and continuing waste stream into electric power, reduce need for and dependence on fossil fuels, assure a continuous supply of building materials that will prove to be the equal of our current supplies, and provide a way of reclaiming metallic elements otherwise lost when merely dumped in a hole in the ground. And not only the land fills, the sewage sludge that is now dumped there could go through this plasma arc, with the decomposed fecal matter adding its bit to the “syngas”, and simultaneously extracting all the dreaded metals like cadmium and mercury from circulation in the soil and groundwater.
I don’t see a downside. Most elegant solution.
It has been estimated that perhaps fewer than a dozen of these processing units could both clean up all the existing waste dumps, and the current waste stream, for a municipality the size of New York City, and generate enough electricity to keep it lit and industry-capable, without tapping into outside sources.
There is a place to spend the funds for infrastructure that does NOT have to be only for the roads and bridges. This is infrastructure that actually IMPROVES our environment. And generates a number of useful by-products, not the least of which is relatively cheap electric power.
And carbon-neutral to boot. NO fossil fuels are used once the cycle is started.
Yup just like the Cubbies are going to win the WS this year!
Nope, they don't claim that:
So, no one "proved" that a bumblebee can't fly. What was shown was that a certain simple mathematical model wasn't adequate or appropriate for describing the flight of a bumblebee.
I'll leave it to the reader to ponder the significance of this statement, in the context of the "issues of today".
I enjoyed reading your post, but this: “a process by which ALL forms of trash are reduced to their constituent atomic structure” doesn’t make sense or mean anything.
Do you mean reduced to the trash’s elemental components?
The most efficient fusion fuel is a mixture of deuterium and tritium
Temperature: between 100 and 200 million degrees Celsius
Maybe because you didn't consider cost?
Darn. And I just sold my Delorean.
” fusion projects have to use massive lasers or extreme heatmillions degrees centigrade”
Gore says just go to the center of the Earth! Simple!
millions degrees centigrade?.................
Yes, hence a major problem (expense) in fusion power.
...And the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jags are gonna meet in the Superbowl........................
Which is why it will never be used. Too many fingers in the pie will get shortchanged..............
But you gotta B-E-L-I-E-V-E !...................(and have a zillion bucks)................
And the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jags are gonna meet in the Superbowl........................
Superbowl facts! The Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns (current iteration), Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans are the only current teams to have never played in a Super Bowl.
Detroit did play in NFL Championships prior to the establishment of the Super Bowl in the 1966-67 season, as did the original Cleveland Browns. The latter two are expansion teams (as is the new iteration of the Browns) so they don’t have as many years of history to work with.
Cleveland is weird because the original Cleveland Browns team that became the Ravens never played in a Super Bowl during their time in Cleveland, but did play (and win) as the Ravens. So the city of Cleveland is shut out over two franchises. Similarly, the city of Houston is shut out over two teams — Houston Oilers and Houston Texans — but the team that was the Oilers went on to the Super Bowl as the Tennessee Titans.
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