There's a nuclear fusion arms race on, you know. Investors are sinking increasingly formidable amounts of cash into companies with ambitious plans for large-scale fusion projects. And after the breakthrough at the NIF in California, the fusion dream seems more alluring than ever. But if you want to preorder some nuclear fusion for yourself, you're going to have to go to Italy—and plunk down $1.5 million.
That's where the University of Bologna scientist Andrea Rossi's infamous and highly controversial E-Cat, or Energy Catalyzer, has just been made available for order. For the cost of a McMansion, you could—supposedly—be the proud owner of a cold fusion generator powerful enough to light up your block.
Rossi and his crew have been working on making both "home" and "business" size cold fusion reactors available—the home reactor has a capacity of 10 kilowatts of "clean, green and safe" energy, but is currently awaiting further testing and certification. But apparently, the bigger unit, which is essentially made up of a collection of E-Cats, is ready to roll off the assembly line.
The E-Cat allegedly produces 1 MW of power, and consists of 106 of the smaller units mounted together in a shipping container.
Brian Wang explains how each of those units works over at Next Big Future: "It's a seemingly simple device, consisting of a metal tube containing a small catalyst of nickel powder in nano size. The tube is filled at startup, including small amounts of hydrogen and is stated to produce a significant excess heat for several months."
Unlike typical fusion reactions, which require immense amounts of energy to fuse hydrogen atoms together, cold fusion is a low energy nuclear reaction that fuses nickel and hydrogen into copper. The catalyst by which this process occurs in the E-Cat system is still a secret—and that's partly why it's remained so controversial among scientists.
Rossi and his mini-cold fusion plant have plenty of skeptics, especially because no one has been allowed to see the technology up close. In 2011, however, scientists were permitted to observe as the E-Cat was subjected to a highly controlled test. The device succeeded in generating 470 kw for more than five hours, but fell well short of its intended 1 MW output due to a mechanical failure.
Many skeptics were left unconvinced. But the customer that the E-Cat was being tested for—which Wired UK says was rumored to be the US military's DARPA—was satisfied, and purchased the unit.
Now, you can too. As the site states, "Production & Manufacturing plans are under way 2013. Current delivery time is estimated to four months. Warranty for functionality is two years ... and the plant has an expected life span of 30 years."
If the E-Cat can even come close to delivering on its promise—clean, safe, sustainable power on the relative cheap, it could stand to make some serious waves in the energy game. But until someone actually plugs one of these cold fusion fiends in, the jury's still out in a big way.