fredag 28 juni 2013

Comment on the "independent" E-Cat report

The so-called Energy Catalyzer, or short E-Cat, of Andrea Rossi has been around for quite a while now. The interest in this device seems still high despite all criticism and the fact that a proof that the device works as claimed is still pending. A good timeline can be found here (even though the author of this webpage, Steven B. Krivit, seems to be a supporter of the general idea of cold fusion, he is far from convinced concerning the E-Cat). A detailed history and critical investigation can also be found here (in German).

My interest in this story has nothing to do with serious doubts about what is called cold fusion and LENR. It has nothing to do with the business of Mr. Rossi. Using Occam's razor and given the history of "the inventor" a la Petroldragon, and given the secrecy that revolves about the device, my best explanation of the whole story would simply be that this is a question of fraud.

What does trigger me, and in fact surprises me, is the positive response that the E-Cat receives from some people on the academic side, especially when this response comes from my own Alma Mater. Hence I have earlier posted a comment about a public lecture given by Sven Kullander in 2011.

Now a report authored by G. Levi et al. titled "Indications of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder." appeared in its first version on arXiv on May 16, 2013. The claims by Levi and co-workers put forth in the arXiv report have of course been noted in both the blogosphere and other media, e.g. Forbes. And it has also led to prompt severe criticism by Peter Ekström and even research ethical questions have been raised.

My colleague Göran Ericsson and I have written a comment on the Levi report, which is now available on arXiv. Here is the abstract:
In a recent report titled “Indications of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder” and published on arXiv, G. Levi and co-workers put forth several claims concerning the operations and performance of the so-called E-Cat of Andrea Rossi. We note first of all that the circumstances and people involved in the test make if far from being an independent one. We examine the claims put forth by the authors and note that in many cases they are not supported by the facts given in the report. The authors seem to jump to conclusions fitting pre-conceived ideas where alternative explanations are possible. In general we find that much attention is drawn to trivialities while important pieces of information and investigation are lacking and seem not to have been conducted or considered. These are characteristics more typically found in pseudo-scientific texts and have no place in a technical/scientific report on this level. We also note that the proposed claims would require new physics in not only one but several areas. Besides a cold-fusion like process without production of any radiation also extreme new material properties would be needed to explain what rather seems to be a problem of correct measurement. Therefore, it is clear to us that a truly independent and scientific investigation of the so called E-Cat device, convincingly demonstrating an “anomalous heat energy production” has not been presented in the arXiv report and is thus, to-date, still lacking.

Update September 2013: An improved version of our comment is now available on arXiv. Major changes include a 4 page appendix explaining our wording in the abstract.