In December 2011, Dick Smith was asked to invest $200,000 in the licence to bring Italian inventor Andrea Rossi's free energy-producing "Energy Catalytiser", or E-CAT to Australia. Some 15 scientists, including a few from NASA, have so far given the E-CAT the thumbs-up, after running their own tests (or watching a sufficiently-convincing demo) to prove its validity. Confronted with this information, did Australia's most outspoken philanthropist become believer #16... and an investor?
Fortunately, Smith wasn't about to unload $200k into the project without giving it the once-over. He's a patron of Australian Skeptics, after all. He approached aeronautics engineer and fellow Australian Skeptics buddy Ian Bryce to check out device. Bryce has some experience in this area, having debunked the magical qualities of Lutec's free energy machine.
Update: Looks like the contact was made by a possible Australian distributor as Rossi says he "never approached Dick Smith, I do not even know who he is." And as you'd expect has he different feelings on the promise of the E-CAT. (-Thanks William!)
Bryce soon discovered some issues he felt the E-CAT had. A technical paper in PDF form provides the following details:
Bryce firstly examined all six published tests of Rossi's E-CAT from December 2010 to July 2011 ... In all the tests after July of E-CATs known as the 27kW and the Megawatt models, there was no valid output power measurement due to poorly-placed thermometers, and hence no proven extra power. Thus, Bryce believes all results of E-CAT tests are accounted for without involving LENR [Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions, another name for cold fusion].
According to Bryce's analysis, the E-CAT did not produce extra energy -- Rossi just failed to adequately measure all input sources. The paper also alleges Rossi, during his tests, started a nuclear reaction without proper coolant levels. All you have to do is read up on Fukushima to know that heat dissipation and nuclear power go hand-in-hand.
So, Smith hasn't given Rossi much of anything, except a press release and report stating the guy is full of it. Smith and Bryce are unwilling to give the E-CAT another look until "the chance of this accidental misconnection (an easy thing to happen) is ruled out by a further test". In the meantime, their recommendation is for investors and the public to stay the hell away.
Note: This story's original headline read "Did Dick Smith Invest $200,000 Into An Alleged Cold Fusion Device?". We appreciate that this headine could have be made clearer and an adjustment was made.