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Fleischmann to Work on Commercial Fusion Heater 245

deeptrace writes "California company D2Fusion has announced they are hiring Dr. Martin Fleischmann (of 'Pons and Fleischmann' fame). The company belives that they can produce a commercial fusion based home heating prototype within a year. They are also looking at other applications, such as using it as a heat source for a commercially available Stirling electrical generator."
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Fleischmann to Work on Commercial Fusion Heater

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25, 2006 @11:28AM (#14993575)
    I'm gonna short-sell and be rich in a year!
  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @11:30AM (#14993579) Homepage
    A lot of businesses rely on stupidity of people. Usually on stupidity of consumers. This one just relies on stupidity of investors...
  • "Within a year" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @11:34AM (#14993595)
    Most of them say that. "Within a year". "Within two years". "Within four years".

    But never "now", or "in the stores next week", or "come, see this working!"
  • by hairykrishna ( 740240 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @11:52AM (#14993641)
    A company press release explains that, in brief, "cold" fusion involves the fusion of two nuclei of deuterium or heavy hydrogen into a single helium atom, accompanied only by a burst of heat. Unlike "thermonuclear hot fusion" that requires the plasma-inducing inferno temperatures of the sun or a hydrogen bomb, solid-state fusion reactions can be produced at normal temperatures in certain hydrogen-loving metals without unleashing hot fusion's dangerous radiation.

    Genius. They can't detect any excess neutrons so obviously there's a new, radiation free, type of D-D fusion going on.

  • by mikerand98682 ( 961847 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @12:05PM (#14993689)
    ...Windows Vista
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @12:12PM (#14993716) Homepage Journal
    Lets hope Dr.Martin Fleischmann doesn't embaress himself again.

    What has he got to lose? Work out the possible scenarios

    1. Fleischman is a crank and...
    1.1 He succeeds by accident.
          Success through monumental incompetence is indistinguishable from briliance to the general public.
          See Christopher Columbus. Fleischman will spend the rest of his life unjustly rubbing his
          detractors' noses in their public humiliation.
    1.2 He fails.
          Nobody's opinion of him changes. The only people who profess to believe him are credulous people
          and those who would exploit them. The people who've been saying he was a crank will be vindicated.
          The wait and see people will also feel vindicated, and continue to wait and see, as it's no skin of
          their proverbial noses.

    2. Fleischman is a misunderstood genius and ...
    2.1 He succeeds by dint of preserverence.
          Vindication is sweet. Fleischman will spend the rest of his life justly rubbing his
          detractors' noses in their public humiliation.
    2.2 He fails through no fault of his own.
          Nobody's opinion of him changes. The only people who profess to believe him are credulous people
          and those who would exploit them. The people who've been saying he was a crank will be vindicated.
          The wait and see people will also feel vindicated, and continue to wait and see, as it's no skin of
          their proverbial noses.

    The moral of the story will either way: it never pays to give up. The only thing at stake is whether future generations of school children will be forced to produced earnest essays drawing this conclusion from the story.

  • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @12:30PM (#14993788) Homepage
    That's kindof the crux of the problem, actually. Assuming their measurements are right (that's a bit of an assumption, but there are quite a few people who claim that Pd-D cells generate excess heat, so maybe it's not THAT crazy) they're correct that it has to be nuclear - the energy density required is too high for it to be chemical.

    But it doesn't have to be -fusion-. Palladium is past iron, so -in theory- you can gain energy by transmuting it downward, and some of them are claiming that they're seeing elements after the cell was run that weren't there before.

    I'm not saying they're right, of course. It's still physics that would break with standard nuclear physics, but I'm always surprised that they keep pushing it as -fusion-, when they clearly don't understand (and admit that they don't understand!) what (if anything) is going on.

    Note, incidentally, that if you read, for instance, the DOE report on anomalous heat from D-Pd cells, that both sides of the discussion are at fault here. A fair number of the criticisms ("your explanation doesn't agree with current theory, so it must be wrong!" even when the explanation is essentially "it must be nuclear, but we have no idea how") and arguments on both sides are pretty crappy.
  • Re:neutrons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by barawn ( 25691 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @12:40PM (#14993830) Homepage
    Wait, that's a crappy argument. I mean, a really, really crappy one.

    By that argument, you could say that Ray Davis's experiment didn't work, because it didn't agree with the Standard Model, so it obviously must have been wrong.

    Ray Davis built the first neutrino detection experiment [bnl.gov] and found that there was only about a third of the neutrinos coming from the Sun that you would expect.

    We now know that he was right - the Standard Model was (slightly) wrong, although in hindsight it should've been relatively obvious.

    Saying "their experiment doesn't work because it doesn't agree with the Standard Model" is horrible science. The Standard Model is a theory. It doesn't describe reality. It's a -guess- for how the world works - a well founded, well supported guess, and the best one we have, but still a guess. If you find that the world works in a different way, that doesn't mean your experiment must be wrong.

    There are plenty of other reasons to criticize cold fusion (the lack of repeatability being the main one) but "it doesn't agree with current theory" is about the worst criticism you can give.
  • FTC? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by curtvdh ( 738461 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @01:18PM (#14993974)

    Not that I have much faith in the Federal Trade Commission (after all, Sunday morning TV is still peppered with those infomercials for the handy-dandy Quattro (or whatever they're) called 'healing magnetic bracelets'), but someone is going to be mighty pissed when they find out that they've forked out 5 or 10 grand for what is effectively just a bunch of clever heat exchangers (i.e. Stirling engines) that they could have bought for a less than a thousand bucks. Probably pissed enough that they complain to the feds. Methinks that this unit will be available 'any day now' until Fleischman takes the money and skips off to the Bahamas...

  • by ribuck ( 943217 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @03:36PM (#14994443) Homepage
    > Under ideal conditions, one gram of hydrogen fuel is equivalent
    > to billions of watts of energy.

    If they think that energy is measured in watts, I don't think there's much chance that their other physics will hold up.

  • You have to admit, subjecting these claims to the marketplace should prove whether or not there's anything to them. The number of people willing to believe their houses are warm when they are cold is probably a lot smaller than the number of people willing to believe they've been cured by quack medicine.

    Don't these cold fusion devices supposedly require electrical input to initiate fusion? If you run current through a resistor, it will generate heat, and how many people hook their space heaters up to calorimeters and multimeters to see if power out exceeds power in?
  • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @03:54PM (#14994506)
    There is no question that Pons and Fleischmann discovered some kind of previous unknown phenomena in their U Utah lab in the late 1980's. The question is what?

    One of the basic principles of science is parsimony: choose the simplest explanation that fits the facts. I don't know what happened in the lab because I wasn't there, but if I'm offered a choice between assuming (A) some previously unknown phenomena, which nobody has been able to reliably reproduce, or (B)malfunctioning equipment or outright fraud, (B) seems a lot more parsimonious. Scientific experiements go wrong all the time, and scientists commit fraud more often than we'd like to think (the Korean cloning guy comes to mind).

  • A contradiction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @04:02PM (#14994529) Homepage Journal
    "Fleischmann was a good scientist..." AND "...his research was not reproducible..."
    Science is all about getting reproducible results, and a scientist who fails to do so is, by definition, not a good one.
  • by viscous ( 455489 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @07:46PM (#14995512)
    ...and Fleischmann is no scientist. He probably never was.

    Actually, Fleischmann was definitely a real and successful scientist at least up until 1989. He's a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was head of the chemistry department at Southhampton University. Not someone you would expect to turn crackpot.

    But this doesn't mean that Cold Fusion isn't bunk. The point is that even serious scientists like Fleischmann can go fringe.

  • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @11:24PM (#14996194) Homepage Journal
    The original Pons-Fleischman experiments suffered from several defects:

    1) The test tubes containing the D2O were open to the air. Diffusion thus removed very quickly the deuterium. Hence the claim that they had Deuterium in their "fusion" is wrong.

    2) The calorimetry was done poorly. Again, the system wasn't closed. The electrical power input was measured as if it was DC, but my measurements of such cells show that the signal has significant frequency components in it - probably due to bubbling.

    3) The test tube temperature was measured in a way that could be sensitive to local hot spors.

    4) Because the calorimeter was not a closed system, the amount of heat loss due to evaporation, and the energy carried off by the liberated hydrogen and oxygen were calculated, not measured. Furthermore, the energy calculations used the D2O hydrolysis energy rather than the H2O energy, even though the D had diffused away very early in the experiment.

    5) The calculation of excess power involved a denominator that was the difference between two large quantities that were very close in value and had significant error bars. This is a classic mistake that greatly inflates the apparent effect, and also the error.

    6) The calculations that showed that the "pressure" in the palladium on the adsorbed deuterium was very high were meaningless, because the quantity calculated was not a true pressure.

    In other words, the original experiments and the backing theory were meaningless - rather surprising given the good qualifications of Pons and Fleishman.

    It would be one heck of a coincidence if the same people who made this large number of experimental mistakes now happened to produce a valid result.
  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:24AM (#14996820)
    Even if what they discovered (and the jury is still out on that) is some kind of magic radiation free D-D-fusion, it still doesn't work.

    The whole contraption operates at atmospheric pressure, so what you get is at best steam at 100 deg. C or 370K. Converting this to electricity in a perfect (but unobtainable) Carnot machine with a heat sink at 300K gives an efficiency of a measly 20%.

    Well, assuming (which I doubt) that all they can do is heat water, there are a whole lot of industrial uses for heated water for "process heat", or for home water heaters, or just plain home heating, for that matter.

    If they can build some alamagoosa which takes cold water in, and puts hot water out, that puts out a lot more than 3.4 BTU per watt-hour of input power, then who cares how it happens?

    (Well, the aliens whose broadcast-power network they're tapping, they might care. A lot. :-)

    The problem is, I've heard all this before. In January of 1996, someone by the name of Patterson had a hot water heater that supposedly worked on this principle, little resin beads plated with layers of nickle and palladium. There was an item on the ABC news magazine program. (20-20?) They were supposedly going to have home hot water heaters on the market "Real Soon Now."

    Obviously, it didn't happen.

    I expect it to "not happen" this time, too.

    But I'd love to be surprised.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton