No, Italian Scientists Have Not Discovered Cold Fusion

Two physicists recently announced they had figured out the secrets of cold fusion, which is a low energy nuclear reaction that, if it exists, could solve the world's energy problems. But to call their story fishy is a massive understatement.

Cold fusion is sort of like the alchemy of the modern world - yes, there might be a trickle of real science behind it, but the idea that it could provide free, limitless energy is almost certainly a pipe dream. Cold fusion became infamous in the late 1980s with the extremely controversial and largely rejected findings of Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, and since then cold fusion has largely gone from legitimate line of inquiry to the domain of cranks, laughingstocks and hoaxers. For more background on cold fusion, check out this post from last year.

That more or less brings us to today, as physicists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of Italy's University of Bologna have unveiled their supposed massive breakthrough. They don't just claim to have figured out how to make a cold fusion reactor, the actually say that they have built one and already tested it, with lots of new reactors ready to ship within the next few months.

Before you get out your checkbook, let's examine what's going on here. The scientists claim that a reactor has been running a factory for the last two years, but nobody knows what they're talking about and the physicists did not elaborate on where or what this factory is.

They also don't have any theoretical foundation for their work. They say the reactor takes in nickel and hydrogen, and then it produces copper and tons of energy, all at room temperature. But they admit they don't know how any of that is going on, and there's a ton of theoretical work that says reactions don't work in the way the pair have described. It's not impossible for an empirical discovery to precede the theoretical understanding, but in this case it's an excellent reason to be very skeptical, if not outright dismissive.

The scientific community definitely wants nothing to do with their work, as Rossi and Focardi have had to create their own journal, the Journal of Nuclear Physics, just to get their scientific paper published. The European Patent Office has also pretty much rejected it out of hand, as a preliminary report explains:

"As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible. … In the present case, the invention does not provide experimental evidence (nor any firm theoretical basis) which would enable the skilled person to assess the viability of the invention. The description is essentially based on general statement and speculations which are not apt to provide a clear and exhaustive technical teaching."

Indeed, even the internet - which just last week managed to conflate the Betelgeuse supernova with 2012 prophecies - doesn't seem to want any part of this. Cold fusion is, if not outright impossible, then certainly highly implausible. If - and that's a big if - cold fusion ever does become a legitimate field of inquiry, it will likely come in several small incremental stages, as scientists first work out how such reactions could even work in the first place. The future of human energy is unlikely to come in the form of self-published scientific papers and vague pronouncements about a factory.

Still, co-discoverer Andrea Rossi deserves a chance to mount a rebuttal:

"We have passed already the phase to convince somebody. We are arrived to a product that is ready for the market. Our judge is the market. In this field the phase of the competition in the field of theories, hypothesis, conjectures etc etc is over. The competition is in the market. If somebody has a valid technology, he has not to convince people by chattering, he has to make a reactor that work and go to sell it, as we are doing."

So, there you have it. We'll know what's the deal with these cold fusion reactors in three months. I'm pretty sure we know what's going on already, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with keeping an open mind... just a highly sceptical one.

[via PhysOrg; artist's conception of fusion reactor by Aaron Gage]

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    Keep us up to date on this one would you Alasdair, it will be interesting to see what comes of it, Ta :)

      ok fine, they want to make such a claim, fine...but if their fucking quaks, could we please put them in a mental institution?

      let set an example so this sort of shit doesn't happen again.

        All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
        Arthur Schopenhauer

          Nicely put. As I understand it, they even made more progress.

    So, by logic:
    They are telling the truth,
    They are lying, or
    They are crazy.

    Unfortunately, because of the secrecy, i dont think we can rule any of these options out. For the same reason though, i am personally leaning towards the conclusion that they are lying.

    It would be really great to get some more info...just have to wait a few months i guess.

    Perhaps the author should have done a little bit more research, and perhaps delved into the mysteries of the 'fine structure constant' and 'velocity of quantum transition', together with reading all of Frank Znidarsic's papers.

    This will point you in the right direction:


      Link to Frank Znidarsic's paper:


      Benjamin, absolutely correct reasoning .. just few months .. even less I think, since there are claims that Italian Navy has bought this device, but it is still all under the vail of secret.

    What we really need is clean, dense, always available source of energy. There is a possible source that needs to be investigated, but it threatened very powerful people.

    It is a bit dense but people should Google the document mitcfreport.pdf and read at least part of it. Then call your representative and congress critters and ask for a full inquire on the material in that document.

    Given the image at the top of this page I give a big thumbs up to the moderators if it is posted.

    If you are interested in what drives the reaction there is a paper / Hypothesis that has been reviewed by multidisciplinary groups at MIT labs, Amherst, kilpatrick townsend and several other Ph.D's. LISTEN to the power point at at least once before reading

    It's great to see a solid response to cold fusion silliness. It is incredibly frustrating, however, to see the article headed with a picture of a tokamak (like the one located about 100m from my office) which is a magnetically confined hot-fusion machine. The science of which is as far from cold fusion as astronomy is from astrology.

      David, it's evidence that the author isn't as qualified as s/he thinks they are.

    From everything that was seen and measured it is obvious that the cell has generated heat in excess.
    If it is a scam, than it is a brilliant scam. But you know for sure that it doesn't work. You have certainties and these will remain stronger than the facts. But there is no place for such certainties in science. In case the cell will be multiplied and will work in many places will you do intellectual seppuku?

    It is a pity, but the author of this report has not investigate properly to write it down. I have follow this anuncements since the first days and I have read here many things taht are not expressed accurrately by the author:

    1- They have research this type of fusion for decades. Even, they have some scientifical papers issued more than 10 yeras ago. not as the author states wrongly that they have no expertise in this matter

    2- The have said that this device has been runnigna factory. What they said is that this device has been heating some water in the crentral heating system of a building -which is quite different. Again another unaccurrate idea

    3- They don´t know the theory underlining this fact. But the fact exits. And it is what matter. It is completely fair -even humble- to admit that they can guest the theory which is behind. If it will so easy it will be reproduced years before now since in 1989 Fleishman and Pons stated that they have also find some extra heat but they could not reproduced it always because they neither know the theory

    Please, before writting a critic please be well informed

    Regards and good luck with this device to the inventors!!!

    Maybe it is a scam, why would they do it? Even if they manage to get some money from backers to supposedly commercialise the system, the money will disappear very quickly unless it works. Then lots of lawyers will become involved and they'll lose all the money and much more.
    Then there is the University of Bologna. Universities get very cranky with people who damage their reputation since students (and academics) chose the university they go to based on reputation and students are money to the university. Similarly, research funding bodies will not favour a University that employs scammers. If it is a scam these guys will either lose their jobs or have their working lives made very very hard for some time.
    I agree that it seems unlikely to be real, but I don't see what benefit there would be in a scam.

    [Incidentally, I was doing a physics degree around '89 when Fleishman and Ponds made their announcement and as an exam question had to show why it had to be wrong.]

    Here is the patent application online:

    Basically it is just a piece of pipe stuffed with nickel powder and a flask of hydrogen. Anyone could make their own set at home and try the thing for them selves... Strongly doubt any energy will come out though...

    I'm neither a chemist nor a nuclear physicist, but I wonder - is this apparatus really not a nuclear fusion cell, but a Nickel Hydride battery?

    And is the purpose of the second car battery simply to heat the Nickel Hydride battery constituents so that it puts out its power faster? That would be no more than speeding up a straightforward chemical process - with the Nickel Hydride battery putting out lots more power than the car battery can.

    If on the other hand there really is some transmutation of nickel, or nickel and hydrogen, into copper, then it does sound (to me) that this may be a nuclear and not a chemical process. But unless more investigation demonstrates that there really is a nuclear process I feel a bit skeptical

      The third official test (where two Swedish scientists were invited to check all equipment (except the inside of the E-cat) was pretty convincing. Total volume of the E-cat: 50 cc. Energy output: 25 kW. No fuel has that energy density. The size of the heating element (a resistor) also makes it impossible to claim that it was the source of the energy produced. The E-cat was "filled" with 0,1 gram of hydrogen (25 atm preassure / 50 cc) and then disconnected from the hydrogen tank. And the scientists were present when the lead shielding was put on and off, no fuel there either. The water pump was calibrated by the Swedish scientists, and calculating the energy needed for heating water from 18 to 100 C + evaporation is basic physics. 300W input, 4500 W output. Read the Swedish scientists report here, and watch the pictures carefully:

        Sorry -- energy output was of course 25 kWh, not 25 kW (power, not energy)... Just a misspelling.
        Power was 4.69 kW for about 5½ hours.

        However -- even if I am ALMOST convinced, there is one thing i think is strange. Why the need for the 300W resistor after the "reaction" has started? If the unit produces a total of 4.7 kW of heat... why is 4.4 kW not enough for self-heating?
        Lets say that I had a strange kind of lamp that would only shine (producing 4.4 kW of light!) when I directed another lamp (300W) in its direction... Then why not just use a mirror instead of the 300 W lamp? Big enough it would reflect 300W of light, and the 4.4 lamp would keep shining without any help...

    The reactor works and has been proven by plenty of evidence. What is questioned is HOW and WHY. They mention Cold Fusion but measurements show lack of Gamma rays so there is doubt. However, there are other non conventional processes by which this is possible. The fact remains that the reactor is putting out much more than it takes to run it.
    Everyone can criticize as much as they want but if facts prove this thing is working, I guess we all have to reconsider some "theories" and take a step back. Oh, but this would mine the current "scientific understandings" and "academics" which is a no-no for the current black gold market pyramide who financed them in the first place. There's your answer.

      Perhaps the gamma rays are re-absorbed as part of the reaction? Maybe it relies on a laser-like resonance in a crystal lattice? I perused the history on Wikipedia recently, and what struck me was the dogmatic attitude by "scientists" that frankly - it almost sounds like a decades-long cover-up to protect the multi-billion dollar nuclear industry from competition. The disputed 1989 discovery sounds like a sad case of scientists being systematically silenced by a vicious circle of funding cuts and declining experimental quality. On the face of it, rejecting results due to low quality experiments is understandable, but the unproven dogma that "cold fusion is impossible" and resulting ostracism speaks volumes about the so-called mainstream scientists. Not to mention, the press having monopoly control on what can and can't get published in America sounds strangely familiar.

    I was, at first, very skeptical that you could run a path from Nickel to Copper, via hydrogen that didn't produce gobs of unstable isotopes, but it turns out that you could run the path ...

    26% of nickel is (stable) 60Ni .. adding neutrons (somehow collapsing a hydrogen nucleus with an electron), you would run the path through 61Ni and 62Ni (both stable isotopes, but rare in nature) then adding a proper proton, you'd end up with 63Cu.

    So it's not entirely infeasible to have a trail of stable isotopes between Ni and Cu -- now all we need (henh!) is some sort of mechanism to cause the necessary fusion reactions in that specific order.

    Without causing your average quantum physicist's head to explode.

    As of today, 15 May 2011, the prototype has been replicated several times over, produced in a smaller version (producing less output) and observed to be functioning as claimed by some well-respected personalities. If all this is to be believed, then there can be no doubt that the claim is true. There really appears to be a means to end of our dependance on fossil fuels and the eternal rise in fossil fuel prices. As someone said, there is much that is happening in the natural/physical world that cannot be explained by science. This could be one of them. The inventors are unable to describe what is happening because the process is just another of those inexplicable natuaral phenomena. After all, there is a parallel development of a similar system called the Blacklight Power Generator utilizing 'hydrinos'. Whoever heard of hydrinos before this? So you can be skeptical, but keep an open mind.

    Its a redox reaction hidden in the enclosing part (that one that is weighting a lot which they claim is made of Pb)... Typical magic trick, you think it happens in that 50ccm part, but it does not. It's also the reason they ALWAYS stop the experiment after some hours (reaction finished, no more energy). No test has ever run for more than a couple of hours. Meditate...

    Big Oil is behind a cover-up of cold fusion.
    Scientific research on cold fusion never receives any funds or gets published in mainstream journals because of their blockage.

    The last thing Big Oil wants is clean, free energy for the world.

    You cannot believe that this is a serious thing.

    Why is it only heating the factory, where if I go there I will be arrested ?

    Why isn't it running in the lobby of the university, where anyone can go and measure the input and output for himself ?

    Why not ? because Rossi wants to collect a few million investment, and disappear...

    Nikola Tesla produced free Electricity years ago.
    JP Morgan made him abandon his plans and after Otto killed him they stole his works.

    I definitely want this to be true. Schopenhauer's ridiculed, opposed, self evident acceptance is appealing. Plus the speed of light is the max, oh well maybe not. Transmutation is possible, maybe it has happened (hopefully)but on balance, it sounds like no.

    You naysayers cant say with certainty that these guys are making this up --you CAN say they have not proven the theory accuately or effectively. But you cant say this is a hoax--only a phenomena without theory that is explainable. When and if these guys are right, every one of u a-holes needs to shut your pie holes for the rest of your life. We knew the earth was flat 600 years ago, the earth was 100 million years old in 1900.

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