This is a re-post (revised) from 10/27, which was taken off the front page due to the 10/28 e-Cat test. It provides some historical perspective to cold fusion relevant to current events.
News that Dr. George Miley has been able to replicate the work of James Patterson has created quite a buzz, as it has provided yet further evidence to the reality of cold fusion, as well as given further credence to Andrea Rossi’s claims by mentions made to him and his work in the report. It has also brought to light to many the work of James Patterson and his Power Cell.
The Patterson Power Cell received some of the same fanfare 16 years ago as Andrea Rossi’s e-Cat is receiving right now. It was featured on television programs and documentaries. Like the e-Cat, it was touted as being the answer to all our energy needs and even for its ability to neutralize some forms of radioactive waste. There were multiple public demonstrations of the Power Cell and it was validated by multiple scientists and an independent lab. So what happened and why did it seem to go from great promise to relative obscurity? Will the e-Cat suffer the same fate? I remain hopeful, even optimistic, about the prospects for the e-Cat but my enthusiasm is tempered by history.
James Patterson had been doing work on his device for many years but, because the heat output of his device was small and seemingly inconsequential, he had abandoned his research 6 years prior to the Pons and Fleischmann announcement in 1989. While the exact time-frame of his experimentation is unknown, he reported having documented his research as far back as 1949.* The announcement of cold fusion in 1989 renewed Mr. Patterson’s interest in his previous work and he resumed his research and experimentation. He set about to improve the heat production of his cell. He began to modify variables in his experiments and subsequently obtained significantly improved results. Mr. Patterson’s grandson through marriage, Jim Reding, had started a company, Clean Energy Technologies, Inc., to market Mr. Patterson’s invention and he hired outside consultants to validate and optimize the Power Cell. One of the consultants was Dr. Dennis Cravens, who is an expert in calorimetry, holds numerous patents and has served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense. Another consultant was Dr. George Miley, who even at that time was a well-respected nuclear engineer and editor of the publication Fusion Technology.
With improvements made to the cell, it now was reported to be producing a significant amount of excess heat. Mr. Patterson is on record as saying it was producing 200 times over the input and some of those who saw the device demonstrated at the PowerGen Conference in 1995 reported heat output of up to 1000 times input. The Power Cell and James Patterson were featured on ABC’s Nightline and Good Morning America and were subject of a British television documentary (all of which have served as resource material for this article). CETI developed research relationships with the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light, according to Mr. Reding.
Motorola was interested in the device, meetings were held and a demonstration of the Power Cell took place. This part of the story is corroborated in comments made recently by a gentleman who worked for Motorola back in the 1990s and still does, as well as an article in Wired Magazine. A demonstration was held for Motorola and they made a conditional offer of $15 million dollars for a buy-out of the Power Cell. The offer was conditional because apparently Motorola did not have the resources available at the initial demonstration to validate claims. A source familiar with the proceedings also claims that the demonstration was intentionally less than robust because CETI did not really want to sell the device to Motorola.
The deal with Motorola fell through and plans were made to manufacture and market the device independently through CETI. Additional staff was added including executives from such big name companies as NEC, IBM and Exxon. Initial plans were made to market a water heater based on the Power Cell. However, problems arose when attempting to industrialize the manufacture of the beads that served as a catalyst and were crucial to the reaction.
It is important to point out that the MATERIAL PREPARATION IN THE FUNCTION AND RELIABILITY OF COLD FUSION DEVICES IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. Dr. Melvin H. Miles worked at the China Lake Naval Warfare Center in 1989 and stated that he was initially skeptical of the claims of Pons and Fleischmann because his research team was unable to replicate. It was 6 months later that he realized the importance of material preparation in facilitating the reaction and is currently a LENR advocate and researcher. He stated “It’s a materials problem. If you don’t have the right materials, you aren’t going to see the effect.” This issue was also pointed out in the 60 Minute segment regarding cold fusion, with the Italian lab ENEA being mentioned as experts in this area. The preparation of the nano nickel powder used in the e-Cat has frequently been mentioned as being one of the critical elements and has been kept a closely guarded trade secret. It should also be mentioned that Dr. Miley has been working to perfect the beads of James Patterson, or a similar preparation, since he began working with the Power Cell 16 years ago. His recent presentation indicates that he may have in fact succeeded, although his documented work still does not indicate a reaction as robust as those reported by the Power Cell.
The beads for Mr. Patterson’s cell were quite unique. They were so perfectly round that they have not been widely duplicated. The beads were composed of a coating of two-layers of nickel separated by a layer of palladium. This coating was laid on top of a shell of styrene divinylbenzene , a copolymer commonly used as an ion exchange resin. Mr. Patterson developed the shell for these beads while employed at Dow Chemical and they are still commonly used in water softeners, surgical gloves and cosmetics. He received over 100 patents for his work and retired in his words “better than a millionaire.” The origin of the metal coating is not clear but it contained microscopic corrugations which allowed for the largest possible reactive area. Ion exchange resins have a highly developed structure of pores on the surface. In these sites ions are easily trapped and released. The trapping of ions takes place only with simultaneous releasing of other ions; thus the process is called ion-exchange.
CETI was never able to mass-produce Mr. Patterson’s beads. They spent millions of dollars trying and eventually branched out into other businesses in order to raise capital to do so, including filtering tritium from the water of nuclear reactors and neutralizing other forms of radioactivity. These were businesses based on the beads. It was reported that the Power Cell could neutralize radioactive waste based on the structure of the beads which, as mentioned above, are commonly used in water filtering systems.
Unfortunately, Mr. Reding died unexpectedly at age 31 in 2001, I believe of a brain aneurysm or a heart attack. James Patterson had already started to turn his attention to other inventions he was working on before Jim Reding’s death and afterwards he seemed to lose all interest in the Power Cell. He passed away in 2008 at age 85.
CETI is still in business, now selling solar equipment and other green technologies. It is unknown if they are still trying to perfect the beads and the Power Cell. If they are not, hopefully Dr. Miley’s work will be able to move from beyond the realms of the laboratory, although CETI still holds many pertinent patents so the commercial prospects for his research may be limited.**
While the tale of the Power Cell may be sobering and even discouraging, there are some important differences between now and 1995. The most important of these is the Internet. Regardless of the ultimate success of the e-Cat, Andrea Rossi has shed a spotlight on this field of research and has a created an unprecedented level of interest unimaginable in any other time. The prelude to the e-Cat has no parallel and I doubt the aftermath of October 28 will have any either. There are other players in the game as well, including Francesco Piantelli and Defkalion Green Technologies, to name just a few. Cold fusion research now has a much stronger basis and broader support (although still relatively narrow) from the scientific community and government agencies.
Also, do not underestimate the intelligence of Mr. Rossi. He is a student of history as well as an inventor. He has a knowledge and understanding and of both history in general and the history of cold fusion in particular. It is such a knowledge that has likely led him to this point. He is aware of the pitfalls and traps that have ensnarled those who have come before him. Let’s just hope that he remains mindful of them and is able to overcome them.
*See A Brief History section for additional information. For additional information on the work of James Patterson click here.
**New video is now available of Dr. Miley from the World Green Symposium, where he states that his recent work is now approaching commercialization. While his work was initially based on the work of James Patterson, he was never able to get the same results in terms of heat output as James Patterson. He is now using a method more similar to Rossi, i.e. gas-loading and nano-particles, and is getting results similar to Patterson and Rossi. In the video linked to below, he lays out plans for the first commercial products. Details are covered in this article and this video, starting at 5:15 mark.
For all news and talk related to the test of Andrea Rossi’s 1MW cold fusion device on 10/28, see Countdown to Cold Fusion in the top or side menu bars or click this link. For latest news and updates see Headlines/Chatterings.
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