The E-Cat coming out of the Bag?
With the help of his God-given creative imagination, Albert Einstein somehow discovered that all Matter (every atom and molecule) is actually composed of Energy. As a result, we can agree with Paul's statement that: 'Things which are seen were not made of things which do appear' (Hebrews 11:3). To test his statement, simply turn off the lights one night and you will realize that all objects (unless heated up or set on fire) are actually invisible in the absence of light. In fact, Paul also pointed that simple fact in another place, saying: 'Whatsoever doth make manifest is light' (Ephesians 5:13). Hence the major metaphor that compares truth and knowledge to light, resulting in phrases such as 'the Dark Ages', a time when men figuratively stumbled along in ignorance, enslaved by superstition, in bondage to manual labour, and totally ignorant of matters such microbes and the importance of hygiene.
The Knowledge Explosion
However, the situation has changed dramatically in these 'end times' in which we live, as beautifully described by the prophet Daniel: 'But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased' (Daniel 12:4). What an apt description of our modern world, with our electronic and nuclear technology and increasing masses of people swarming across the face of the planet in cars, planes and trains.
Part of that knowledge explosion has been a deeper understanding of Energy, the magical something which has transformed that world - existing in a range of forms such as electrical, thermal, kinetic, elastic, gravitational, potential and nuclear, and which can be transformed from one form to another. Originally, man obtained heat energy by burning wood, later discovering that the combustion process involves carbon and hydrogen chemically reacting with oxygen, thus releasing the solar energy stored in trees by the process of photosynthesis.
How amazing it is to think that the logs stored in my garage actually contain chemical energy that was originally in the sun, and that by eating the lettuce growing in my garden that also captured some of that solar energy, my body now contains some magical something that was once part of the sun, some ninety million miles away. The parallel seems obvious, and a second major metaphor emerges - namely that the energy which has transformed men's lives is a type of the power of the Holy Spirit, which like electricity can flow and be supplied as needed (Philippians 1:19).
Although we can now quantify and control that energy very precisely, we still have no idea what it actually is. Yes, we can offer trite definitions, such as 'energy Is the ability to do work', but they actually mean nothing. Just one more fundamental mystery to add to the list, along with time, electricity, gravity, matter . . .
Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, which he arrived at by a series of visualized mental experiments and a few calculations, shows that a tiny amount of matter equates to a vast amount of energy. And later research has shown that in the sun, by the process of 'nuclear fusion', matter is continually being turned into energy, which is then radiated across space to heat the earth.
Incidentally, in ancient times, it was thought that the sun was 'on fire', but then it was realized that the sun could not be burning, because out in space there is no oxygen. Of course, we now know that the sun is not burning like a log on a fire, but is undergoing nuclear fusion, a totally different process.
In the famous atomic bomb, nuclear energy was released by the process of 'fission' (splitting), in which the nuclei of uranium atoms were induced to vibrate then split apart when bombarded by neutrons. Uranium has the heaviest atoms and nuclei in nature, because anything larger would be too unstable to exist and would have broken up into smaller nuclei long ago. In the fission process, the nuclear fragments produced actually weight less than the original nuclei, the difference having been turned into explosive energy.
However, it was soon realized that at the opposite end of the scale, even more energy could be released if two hydrogen nuclei (i.e. protons), the lightest nuclei, could be made to join together to form helium nuclei, the process of 'fusion'. Unfortunately, because protons have a positive electrical charge, the closer together they get, the greater the repulsive force between them becomes. It was realized that the best way to induce fusion would be to heat some hydrogen to a very high temperature so that the nuclei would be moving incredibly fast so that some might just get close enough for the mysterious 'short range' attractive force grab them and fuse them into one nucleus, a bit like pushing a car over the top of a hill so that it can then run down the other side, resulting in a massive output of energy as yet more matter is converted to energy.
One Million Times
Of course, in line with Einstein's equation, the resulting helium nucleus actually weighs a bit less than the sum of the sum of the hydrogen nuclei used to create it – the difference being given out as energy. Incidentally, the energy released by the fusion of two hydrogen nuclei is about a million times that released by the combustion of one atom of carbon in a flame. Astonishingly, however, the combustion of a carbon atom with a molecule of oxygen also results in a minute loss of mass, hence the source of the heat energy released. Thank you Albert.
Although the fusion process has been able to be induced explosively and at high temperatures in the hydrogen bomb, a more controlled fusion reaction is required if we wish to use nuclear energy to generate electricity for domestic and industrial use. To date, some 30 billion dollars has been spent on that project with nothing to show.
Given the costs and evident dangers of trying to produce a high temperature fusion reaction mimicking that in the sun, is it time to give up on taming the fusion process? Could another bit of creative reversal be more helpful – i.e. would it be possible to make nuclear fusion take place at low temperatures, in some grotty little shack of a lab using a bit of equipment plugged into the domestic mains electric supply?
The amazing answer appears to be 'Yes!' In 1989, Martin Fleischmann world authority on electrochemistry, and colleague Stanley Pons were experimenting using palladium metal electrodes to pass electricity through 'heavy' water, the hydrogen molecules of which have an extra neutron. They reported that their little desktop apparatus, unexpectedly, heated up and generated an anomalous amount of heat ('excess heat'), of a magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes – i.e. the apparatus created more heat energy than the electric current had put into it. We are told that when they arrived at the lab one morning, the apparatus had disappeared througha hold burned through the bench top!
In the years that followed, many people tried to duplicate their findings, but failed. Others claimed that Fleishman and Pons had made overlooked errors, and had even been dishonest. Although some workers, however, did succeed in repeating the experiment, he scientific community was not convinced, and 'cold fusion' remained a myth. Sadly, Fleischmann was hounded out of this profession, and as a result of the lack of 'official' approval, public funding of the research was withdrawn. However . . .
. . . moving on some twenty-five years, dozens of labs that had been quietly working on the discarded project began to report positive results! - leading a major American TV news 'programme to recently report that: 'Cold fusion is now Hot!'
The problem is that despite the confirmation of cold fusion, nobody knows in detail how it works, or how to makee it work in a predictable manner. Somehow, when inside the crystal lattice of the metal palladium, hydrogen nuclei can apparently be persuaded to fuse together at low temperature and with no dangerous radiation or explosion resulting. However, the commercial potential is incredible, not just for devices having life-time batteries, but for each house having its own power source.
The latest news available is that Italian scientist Andrea Rossi has produced a commercial energy unit, with a megawatt output, using the process variously described as 'E-Cat' (energy catalysis) and 'Low Energy Nuclear Reaction' (LENR) - or simply 'Cold Fusion'. Just how Rossi's system works, nobody but him knows and he is not willing to explain until his current patent application is granted. So watch this space – or, why not check out the ECAT.com website!
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