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Challenges, Attractions and Possible Impacts of Commercial Generators Based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions

Challenges, Attractions and Possible Impacts of Commercial Generators Based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions

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David J. Nagel
NUCAT Energy LLC and The George Washington University

Abstract Commercialization of LENR sources of power and energy has several challenges. But, if they are overcome, attractive potential advantages and important impacts should follow. These challenges, attractions and possible impacts are cited and discussed. The next few years might reveal which of these factors are realistic.

Proceedings ILENRS-‘12
Williamsburg, USA, July 1-3, 2012
Paper 3-2

David J. Nagel
NUCAT Energy LLC and The George Washington University

Abstract Commercialization of LENR sources of power and energy has several challenges. But, if they are overcome, attractive potential advantages and important impacts should follow. These challenges, attractions and possible impacts are cited and discussed. The next few years might reveal which of these factors are realistic.

Proceedings ILENRS-‘12
Williamsburg, USA, July 1-3, 2012
Paper 3-2

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Proceedings
ILENRS-‘12
Williamsburg, USA, July 1-3, 2012Paper 3-2
Challenges, Attractions and Possible Impacts of Commercial GeneratorsBased on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions
David J. Nagel
 NUCAT Energy LLC and The George Washington University
 Abstrac
Commercialization of LENR sources of power and energy has several challenges. But, if they are overcome, attractive potential advantages and important impacts should follow. These challenges, attractions and possible impacts are cited and discussed. The next few years might reveal which of these factors are realistic.
Keywords: Low energy nuclear reactions, LENR, commercialization
1. INTRODUCTION
Engineering connects science and business. Itrequires overcoming challenges to achieve desiredgoals. This is as true for possible LENR generatorsof power and energy as it is for both proven and new products of other types. In this paper, we address thechallenges to development and production of commercially successful LENR generators. Themany and attractive possible products, which driveattempts to overcome the challenges, are also listedand examined. Possible larger-scale impacts of overcoming the hurdles and realizing the advantagesof LENR generators are noted.The next section addresses the challenges in gettingfrom the basic to the business levels, as shown inFigure 1. The third section deals with what fuels theoptimism that LENR generators will be verysuccessful commercially. Then, the fourth sectionconsiders the possible higher level impacts noted inFigure 1. Some conclusions are noted at the end.
2. CHALLENGES TO COMMERCIALIZATION
The impediments to successful commercialization of LENR power and energy generators fall into two broad categories. The first applies to all products,and the second is more specific to LENR. We notethe general challenges, and then focus on those moreunique to LENR.In general, the development and selling of productsinvolves an often-daunting sequence of steps, wherefailure in any one of them can be lethal to the effort.The development of concepts for, first, prototypes,and then, products is key to success in later steps.Setting of requirements, which document what a prototype or product must do, and specifications,which are numerical embodiments of therequirements, are also critical. Not aiming for high performance increases the likelihood of getting a product to market, but reduces its chance of success.Designing objects involves choices of materials andgeometries, usually done with sophisticated software.Design-for-manufacturability is important. Oncedesigned, a potential system can be simulated, againwith modern software. Iterating the design and
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Figure 1. Sequence of phases for moving a promisingtopic from the scientific laboratory to its achievingcommercial success and major impacts
.
 
Proceedings
ILENRS-‘12
Williamsburg, USA, July 1-3, 2012Paper 3-2
simulations steps is better and cheaper than actuallymaking and testing variations of a design. After adesign is frozen, the procurement of parts by purchasing or manufacturing them is the next step.Assembly on all levels from components throughmodules to entire systems requires skilledtechnicians, especially early in the life cycle of a product. Integration of components and modules,and even systems, from other manufacturers iscommonly required. Testing of performance for comparison with the specifications is unavoidablyimportant. Reliability testing is needed to insure thatthe product will last long enough in the hands of customers. Some type of safety testing is alsomandatory for most products. Regulatory approval isneeded for many products. Distribution, sales andcustomer service are all critical to the success of a product. Maintenance and end-of-life considerationsare also significant. All of these factors apply to possible LENR generators. But, they also have somemore specific challenges, as described now.
A. Reproducibility and Controllability
It is well known that the reproducibility and controlof LENR experiments have been, and continue to bemajor problems. Promises by Leonardo Corp andDefkalion Green Technologies to have products onthe market in 2013 imply that they have overcome both reproducibility and controllability challenges.However, they have provided no information to makethat case.Reproducibility is a fundamental requirement. It iswidely thought that there are materials issues withLENR systems that are still not understood, whichdetermine whether excess heat is produced and atwhat levels. If that is indeed the case, it will benecessary to tightly control the materials that are atthe core of LENR generators. Also inescapable is therequirement that the materials remain effectiveduring the lifetime of the generator or betweenrefueling events. The need for precision materialsmight turn out to drive up the cost of power andenergy from LENR. Maintenance of materialseffectiveness, especially at high temperatures for adequately-long times might also be costly. That is,the overall generator must be made to operate in sucha fashion that it produces power at sufficient levels, but does not self destruct in the process. LENR aregenerally thought to occur on surfaces. Hence, themanagement of impurities within a system at theoutset, and control of their migration duringoperation, are critically important. It is known thatsome materials poison the production of energy byLENR.Concerning controllability, the automobile is again agood paradigm. LENR generators, like cars, must beable to be turned on, up, down and off at will. If needed, they must also produce output at desired andsteady levels, much as a thermostat in a room willkeep the temperature nearly constant. Figure 2 showsthe most basic control loop as it applies to LENR generators. Either people or a programmed computer will input the set point for the system. That willcause the operation of some actuator to determine theoutput of the generator. Sensors will feed back theachieved level of performance for comparison withthe set point, and possible further actuation. Theconcept is simple, but there are many questions.What are the control parameters? Will hydrogen pressure, in the case of a LENR generator usinghydrogen, provide sufficient control? Or, must thetemperature in the reactor also be controlled? In thecase of units that work on the basis of interior  plasmas, will the level of plasma ionization provide auseful control parameter? What actuators will beeffective? There are multiple ways to control pressure, temperature and plasma characteristics.Which will work, be durable and prove cost-effective? What sensors are needed? Will simple point sensors for determination of pressure or temperature suffice? Or, will more sophisticatedsensors or sensor subsystems be needed? What arethe response times of the actuators, sensors and the
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Figure 2. Control loop for a LENR thermal energygenerator showing a person setting the output.
 
Proceedings
ILENRS-‘12
Williamsburg, USA, July 1-3, 2012Paper 3-2
LENR generator itself? Different applications willrequire various response times. And, how stable will be the output power? Consider the desirability of consistent hot water in a shower.
B. Reliability and Durability
Reliability deals with the consistency of the output of a LENR generator for the same control parameters.What would it be like if an automobile did notrespond the same way each time the engine isstarted? Experimental demonstration of thereliability of production of heat by LENR is still in itsinfancy and far from what is needed commercially. No study of permissible variations in the output of aLENR generator is known to this author. It isobvious that what variations can be tolerated dependson two factors. The first is acceptable variations inthe temperature of the output, which will be veryapplication dependent. The second is the thermalmass of the material or machine into which theLENR heat is transferred. A large industrial vatmight be much less sensitive to temperaturefluctuations than a small amount of material or smallsystem. If a LENR generator is used to drive anelectrical source, quite steady thermal output might be needed. Will it be necessary to have an electricalgenerator that relies on LENR to be integrated withthe grid as a backup for uninterrupted power? Or,might LENR electrical generators be used themselvesas backup sources of electricity?Durability for LENR generators is another criticalaspect of their performance which is unknown.LENR generation of energy in experimental setups,at levels which are commercially interesting (say,greater than 100 W), has been demonstrated for weeks and a few months, but not the longer timesneeded for successful commercial products. Theheating and air conditioning (HVAC) units now inhomes are instructive. They often requiremaintenance annually, but the system must last for atleast a decade. It is a given that production andoperation of current HVAC units are based ondecades of engineering and commercial experience.Decades from now, LENR generators might enjoy asimilar base of empiricism in their manufacture,maintenance and use. But, it is difficult now to becertain that such will turn out to be the case, andwhen. Even if LENR generators are relatively cheapand perform well, replacing them is a hassle similar to switching out the heating and cooling unit in ahome.
C. Safety and Regulations
There is a significant probability that LENR generators will prove to be safe. In fact, this is one of their potential advantages, as discussed below inSection 3D. However, there are two reasons to beconcerned about the safety of such generators at this point in their development and commercialization.The first concern is due to the occurrence of suddenreleases of significant energy in past LENR experiments. The most notable is singular eventdescribed in a paper by Fleischmann and Pons in1989 [1]. They were conducting an electrolyticLENR experiment in which the cathode was a cubeof Pd 1 cm on a side. During the night, theexperiment suffered a thermal runaway, which leadto the following statement in their paper:“WARNING! IGNTION! We have to report herethat under the conditions of the last experiment, evenusing D
2
O alone, a substantial portion of the cathodefused (melting point 1554
o
C), part of it vaporized,and the cell and contents and a part of the fumecupboard housing the experiment were destroyed.”There have been a few other relatively large releasesof energy in LENR experiments that could not beascribed to chemical causes.The second reason for caution regarding the safety of LENR generators is the lack of full reproducibilityand controllability. These shortfalls make it difficultto produce several generators that are essentiallyidentical in design, construction and performance.Having such a set of generators would make it possible to drive them at different output power levels to experimentally determine when they become unsafe. Similarly, it is desirable to haveanother set of reactors that are similar in design, butvary in size and the amount of active materials theycontain. The second set would also enable key testsof safety. Of course, the generators that will becomeavailable from different vendors will have various
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