Progress on building the Peer Pressure prototype, see the photo on the right for the current status. A small 0.6 inch ID, 4 inch tall, stainless steel reactor-tube is capped at both ends with clamped caps that accommodate 1/4 inch NPT threaded fittings. On one end a 250 Watt cartridge heater is mounted centrally in the reactor-tube, on the other end 1/8 inch OD stainless steel tube is mounted for in and outlet of gas. The 3.5 inch long cartridge heater is only active over the center 2.5 inch, leaving 3/4 inch at both ends of the reactor tube that remain unheated. Together with ceramic spacer rings inside the reactor tube, this should prevent the end packing gaskets from becoming too hot. The small reactor size, the 1/4 inch OD cartridge heater and the alumina spacer rings together make the reactor space small (about 10 cc) which limits the test load size and makes measurements easier and more cost effective.
The two solenoid valves can be controlled directly with the BeagleBone (using a suitable relay) with a 5V, 1A signal. Orifices at both the inlet and the outlet enable pressure control when using the solenoid valves in an automated recipe. In addition, the input orifice also functions as a safety precaution. In the event of a leaking setup, the amount of gas escaping is limited and, depending on lab ventilation, severe build-up of dangerous gas should be nearly impossible. The pressure transducer is a simple 5V Wheatstone bridge strain-gauge type transducer and can be read out directly with the on-board ADC of the BeagleBone to have a feedback on the internal pressure. Finally the pressure relief valve will open in case of an overpressure of > 600 PSI in case that occurs despite all other precautions.
In the coming weeks I plan to build the electronics to control the solenoid valves and cartridge heater as well as to measure the pressure transducer, the k-type thermocouples and cartridge-heater power consumption. Detailed plans and most of the building blocks are ready, but actually putting things together is expected to reveal some detailed problems that haven’t been accounted for yet.
The big step
Design objective was to make a cheap apparatus able to measure power input and output with high resolution. Rather than using expensive Dewar insulation, multilayer cells and controlled thermal baths, plan here is to put extra effort in the data analysis. Inaccuracy of the inexpensive electronics due to thermal drift and instability can be accounted for by measuring the environmental temperature and modelling of the instable components. Tolerances of cheaply manufactured thermocouples can be nihilated by swapping them. Accuracy can be further improved when one also realizes that it is not the actual temperature that we need to measure but rather the temperature difference and then only the repeatability thereof. Finally, some heat will escape from the system without being measured. This, again, can be captured by careful modelling and an overall power efficiency factor (expected to be >90%) can be obtained. This efficiency is likely dependent on environmental temperature, reactor loading, power input, and reactor temperature. In the coming months I plan to characterize this and publish detailed analyses of the various error sources. The higher the repeatability the smaller the chances for false negative experimental outcomes and thus the larger our chances to find the LENR active materials, if they exist.
Is Cold Fusion still true?
I must say, I don’t feel as confident in Andrea Rossi’s experiments as I did a year ago at around the same time. Since the demonstration for the Swedisch skeptics Hanno Essen and Sven Kullander no public and credible information has surfaced. Maybe Andrea Rossi is, as he claims to be, busy with setting up mass production in cooperation with investors and/or big corporations or maybe he had indeed deluded himself (and the people around him) with false or wrongly interpreted results. Maybe he only found out about the error when he powered up his 1MW plant and learned that he needed a 1MW generator to keep it going, in October of last year. But then, at the same time, I find it hard to believe that so many people have been fooled into believing the results. Besides the Swedisch there are Focardi, Celani and Levi who all had witnessed an early demonstration and all came out in support of the Rossi reactor. Maybe there are some very peculiar pitfalls in measuring power that they, as well as myself, didn’t realize. If that’s the case then lets find them, document and report it so that we can get over this cold fusion syndrome once and for all. I still maintain that there is no proof against the cold fusion claims and that there are no fundamental laws of physics that forbid the possibility. The fact alone, that LENR research is so forbidden at most universities in fear for loss of funding, tells us that something is wrong. It’s this denial and fear for being laughed at that we need to solve before more serious work can be done, and with our community research plan we hope to make the first steps. Enough reasons to carry on with carefully crafted experiments!