I haven't written about this particular scam for several years but Anthony Watts' blog has regained some sanity concerning the cold fusion in the fresh guest blog
E-Cat crumbles: “Industrial Heat has worked for over three years to substantiate the results … without success”by Eric Worrall so it may be a good idea to recall the story and mention several rather predictable events that took place in recent days.
Nuclear fusion cannot be "cold". This fact must be comprehensible to every good undergraduate student who has gone at least through the first semester of some nuclear physics course or anything equivalent to it. The energy needed for two nuclei to overcome the repulsive Coulomb barrier and get very close – which is what the word "fusion" really means – is as high as many megaelectronvolts.
The electrostatic potential energy is \(Q_1 Q_2 / 4\pi\varepsilon_0 R\). In the \(\varepsilon_0=\hbar=c=1\) units, if you want \(R\) to be comparable to the QCD scale (nuclear radius), some \(1/150\MeV\), you will need the energy around \(Q^2 \times 150\MeV\) which is still megaelectronvolts because \(Q^2\sim \alpha\sim 1/137\). The energy gets even higher as \(Z_1 Z_2\) if there are many protons in the nuclei.
Because of the estimate \(E\sim kT\) in statistical physics, a single nucleus with this energy had to have the temperature corresponding to megaelectronvolts – many millions of degrees – to start with. Without this energy, the Coulomb barrier has to be "quantum tunneled through" and the resulting rates are negligibly tiny. If you want to increase the probability of tunneling to "reasonably visible" values, you simply need to equip the nuclei with the initial (kinetic) energy that is a sizeable fraction of the barrier, so it's still megaelectronvolts and millions of degrees.
Even if the nuclei were slow (cold) before the fusion, the very fact that megaelectronvolts of energy are produced per nucleus pair means that lots of energy per particle is produced in the fusion, to the neighborhood of the macroscopically fusing matter becomes hot afterwards – millions of degrees.
The Sun's core has 15 million degrees Celsius but the reactions proceed slowly – it's OK, the Sun lives for billions of years and the power is still high because the Sun is large – but realistic fusion reactors on Earth typically demand higher rates so they need temperatures comparable to 100 million degrees Celsius.
Nuclear physics and its events – especially fission and fusion – simply do take place at some energy scale that is about 1 million times higher than the energy scale of atomic physics. That's what makes the "energy in uranium" 1 million times more concentrated than the "energy in coal or lithium", for example. But it also means that the conditions in which the reactions are taking place are much more extreme.
I've explained these matters in 2011 when I reacted to Watts' article Andrea Rossi’s E-cat fusion device on target that has really shocked me (Watts hopefully agrees that the device is not "on target" now in 2016 LOL). Anthony wasn't the only "typically sensible" man who has promoted this self-evident nonsense. As recently as in 2013, CMS particle physicist Tommaso Dorigo was writing enthusiastic reports on these Rossi cold fusion papers, therefore showing Dorigo's complete incompetence in nuclear physics.
Most of the people who have supported this crap were some kind of "extraterrestrials are everywhere around us" and "restrictions sold as constraints from physics are just an evil propaganda – no laws of Nature can ever stop geniuses led by saviors such as Rossi". So with this concentration of a mixture of stupidity and fanaticism, you may perhaps understand that even a life-long criminal such as Andrea Rossi may keep on cheating and stealing and lying for years.
Incidentally, if you have forgotten, the experiments that have claimed to "prove" that lots of energy is produced in Rossi's gadgets were claiming to have vaporized lots of water, much more water than could have been vaporized from the electricity that the experimenters admitted to have consumed. However, the reality is that almost no water was vaporized. They just saw "just a little bit of vapor" and screamed that all the water had to be above the boiling point – while neglecting the fact that the water was actually safely below the boiling point because the boiling point is higher at higher pressure.
OK, nevertheless, some people think that even a self-evident charlatan such as Rossi should get the money to become important and some three years ago, the nutty Rossi cultists boasted that "they" have secured $100 million from a company called Industrial Heat LLC which defines itself by "ambitious" goals – mostly a "rigorous verification and development of low-energy fusion technologies" – but at least, the capital in the company is damn real.
When scammers such as Rossi start to build companies and team up with others, it may become confusing and all the companies may look similar but that shouldn't obscure the point that some companies are the thieves while others are the victims. So there may be lots of companies that are basically just "sock puppets of Rossi himself" (e.g. the company named Defkalion; only a small Canadian branch of it has survived). But Industrial Heat LLC was clearly a victim, the only company cooperating with Rossi, not led by Rossi, but paying him the real money of some independent entrepreneurs. When the thieves and victims sign an agreement, they cooperate. But it's obvious that nothing good could have come out of this cooperation because it's unscientific nonsense. So the actual difference between the two kinds of companies becomes clear later.
Three years later, the outcome was basically unavoidable. "Next Big Future" described a recent event in
You may want to read a short statement by the victim company, Industrial Heat LLC.
What happened is that after 3 years, Industrial Heat LLC has finally figured out that Rossi's "ingenious reactor" is complete fraud and doesn't produce a microjoule of energy. They have previously paid $11 million to Rossi and because the remaining $89 million in their contract depended on a successful replication etc., they obviously decided not to pay the remaining $89 million.
Rossi has abused the fact that he has managed to avoid the electric chair so far and sued them. They want to steal his "ingenious" idea that has been "proven" by many "independent" researchers and they are probably just pretending that it doesn't work. Industrial Heat LLC just states that the thing doesn't work and Rossi and pals have repeatedly breached their agreements in other ways, too.
But you see that the situation into which Industrial Heat LLC have maneuvered themselves is potentially dangerous for them because in other situations, it could be plausible that someone's business partner just pretends that an idea doesn't work, so that he can steal it for free. Obviously, Rossi's idea really doesn't work because if it did, it would be far more profitable for Industrial Heat LLC to make it work, mass produce the reactors, and pay the modest $89 million to Rossi. But it's plausible and this giant Italian criminal who should have been executed for many years is simply an experienced aßhole who has learned to deal with the courts, too.
Now, the Industrial Heat LLC is clearly not innocent. To some extent, they are parts of the same bogus industry as Rossi himself – and given their "mission", nothing good can ever come out of their work, either. So the wealthy men should have sent 10% of the money they have already paid to Rossi ($1 million or so) to your humble correspondent via PayPal instead. That would be a far more promising way to have a chance to develop new cool energy sources.
However, despite this incompetence of the Industrial Heat LLC which makes you think that they may deserve this hassle, I cannot overlook the fact that they are victims. They may have just idealistically wanted to find the truth and discover something useful that "could" work, and they just didn't understand why it couldn't, while Rossi is a cold-blooded criminal who just decided to steal some $100 million. Some of the money that Rossi has already stolen – and may steal, if his dirty tricks succeed – may have been paid by very good people who have worked hard for a long time, and so on.
So I obviously wish Industrial Heat LLC a lot of good luck in their new efforts to liquidate the Italian criminal, their former pal. But this sympathy cannot change the fact that people and companies simply have to be more careful when they pay lots of money to folks that others consider self-evidently and demonstrably fraudulent.