Nanalyze

Brillouin Energy – Is Cold Fusion or LENR Possible?

In a recent article we touched on nuclear fusion and the development of the tokamak (pronounced toke-a-mack) fusion reactor that needs to achieve temperatures of 100 million degrees in order to do its thang and give us an abundant supply of cheap, clean energy that we can use to spread some freedom around. The situation with tokamaks is kind of like this.

There’s a huge tokamak called the ITER that many countries are working on which costs tons of dollars and then there are startups which claim they can be nimble by avoiding all the bureaucracy and everyone’s guesstimating they’ll crack this nut collectively around 2025-2035. There are already more than 200 tokamaks around the world sucking up energy and now they just need to give some back. Here are just a few:

Updating everyone on fusion technology is a pretty easy task it seems. You just go find the latest press releases which talk about “milestones”, you move the target date forward by one year, and then you rinse and repeat every 365 days. That’s certainly what it has seemed like, and this often makes people start to become suspicious. Just maybe someone already nailed fusion but those big bad energy companies are suppressing it. While we don’t shy away from conspiracy theories that make for a good story, as investors we often hear those sorts of spiels from companies like Scuderi that provide some very compelling “evidence” that they’ve created a replacement for the combustion motor when in fact they keep promising and promising and never deliver a thing. The whole thing starts to look and feel like a ponzi scheme and the people who fell for it don’t want to admit they’re wrong so they become the company’s biggest supporters.

What is Cold Fusion or LENR?

In researching our last article on fusion, we came across something quite interesting called LENR or Low Energy Nuclear Reactions. Otherwise known as “cold fusion”, this is the idea that you actually don’t need to achieve those high temperatures to generate “net energy” from nuclear fusion. The idea was first floated back in the 1920s, and then in 1989, scientists at the University of Utah claimed a breakthrough experiment that “proved” that the technology was feasible. Since then, LENR hasn’t been commercialized yet which has led to a great deal of controversy around the topic.

On one side you have the critics who believe it’s all a big hoax and then the other side, you have a whole slew of advocates who believe that it’s all a big conspiracy theory and the powers that be are keeping this technology from being developed. Using common sense, investors would take a position that if someone can prove that net energy actually works, there would be no shortage of people lining up to fund it.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of “cold fusion” or LENR. It seems like we can take the same approach with “hot fusion” which is to update the topic about once a year and be done with it. In this article though, we’re going to take a look at one LENR company that’s trying to raise money – Brillouin Energy.

Who is Brillouin Energy?

While getting ready to research our article, we popped onto Youtube and opened up the first interview we came across with the CEO of Brillouin Energy which was back in May of 2016. At one occasion during the interview, the interviewer makes the following statement:

As you were saying in the last segment, some water about the size of a pencil combined with your device would power your home’s energy needs for about 10-15 years, that’s an amazing and transformative technology, but it’s difficult for you to get this out into the market place because Wall Street has some invested interests in the invested energy infrastructure.

We’re not liking that setup statement very much because it implies that something other than raw technological feasibility is keeping cold fusion from being commercialized. Surprisingly, the CEO takes the bait and says:

Absolutely, when we took it to Wall Street, they looked at the upside potential of this kind of technology and said it’s worth trillions, you’re only trying to raise 15-20 million dollars, it makes no sense, we can’t do that.

Firstly, if you showed that idea to any VC worth their beans, they would ask you to prove the concept. If you could prove the concept, they would invest the “small” sum you’re asking for. What they wouldn’t do is tell you that your idea makes no sense because they’re all part of some big conspiracy. You do your company no favors when you start towing this line. With that said, let’s take a quick look at the history of Brillouin Energy.

Founded in 2009, Berkeley California startup Brillouin Energy had taken in an undisclosed amount of funding before announcing their “Series B” of $7 million about 4 months ago which implies they had a prior Series A or seed funding round (no record of amounts found). The individual who led the Series B goes by the name of Jim Farrell and is Managing Director of a firm called “Beyond Carbon Energy”, an entity we could find little information about in the public domain.

So after raising their Series B, they now have decided that they need a Series C to the tune of $15 million. It seems odd that they couldn’t just ball the whole thing up into a single funding round, but maybe they felt that the need to show they raised money from “Beyond Carbon Energy” to lend some legitimacy to their request for more funding. We’re just not sure about that, but this is a good segue into our next topic.

The Anthropocene Institute

What spurred our initial investigation into Brillouin was an email from the folks over at the Anthropocene Institute who published a very comprehensive 79-page report on global LENR activity. Some of the findings were that at the beginning of 2017, 114 entities were engaged in LENR research and development across the globe with 45 in the U.S. alone. More than $250 million has been raised in the past 5 years to support such research, and “investment in LENR Makers is expected to double to $500 million by 2020“. If you think that’s optimistic, what about this survey they conducted with a number of LENR Makers:

If we go back to looking at the timelines for “hot fusion” and the fact that these companies have been working on this for decades, we find it hard to believe that suddenly we’re on the cusp of energy greatness. Perhaps that optimism is needed though in order to get funding directed towards LENR. We had quite a few email exchanges with one of the two authors of the report, Grant Draper, who offered up lots of interviews for us. That made sense when he told us that he works for a PR firm called CapgeminiX:

Regular readers will know how we feel about PR firms, but in this case Mr. Draper was very helpful and seemed genuine about trying to get more exposure for LENR. Can you run a PR firm and then be purely objective when compiling a research report that discusses a controversial technology being used by one of your clients? Of course you can, but the relationships here need to be pointed out.

The catalyst for Brillouin to raise a Series C is a 19-page report published by SRI International (a very notable research firm) back in December of 2016 which is said to contain some positive findings.

Given that SRI International has been testing Brillouin’s technology for the past 5 years, we would hope that something positive comes out of it. Whether or not these positive findings merit an investment (preferably by an institution with a reputation) remains to be seen.

As investors, we’re very skeptical about companies that hint about conspiracy theories preventing them from accomplishing their goals as opposed to some sinister plan. We like to use logic that goes something like this.

If according to Anthropocene, LENR makers have been demonstrating net energy for decades now on three continents, we’re going to assume that Brillouin is able to demonstrate net energy in a controlled experiment conducted by a third party of a venture capital investor’s choosing (pretty much a requirement to raise funding guys). This will also serve to validate the SRI findings as well. If they are not willing to do that, then that either means they cannot or they are not serious enough about pursuing commercialization.

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  • As the Anthropocene Institute’s report illustrates (download a copy at https://goo.gl/6srqSF), LENR has evolved a lot from its origins and the funding is beginning to find success, i.e. Brillouin Energy. As more companies and research organizations engage in developing LENR reactor cores and run independent tests to demonstrate over-unity energy, more resources will pour in search of commercial applications.

  • A link to the Anthropocene Institute’s report on LENR :
    https://thenewfire.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/lenraries.pdf

  • AlainCo

    You have a rational approach in that article.
    Like you I dislike conspiracy theories, and LENR history don’t need any. it is an epistemology fiasco, involving mostly academic and followers (editors,journalist, agencies).
    I advise you to read Excess Heat by Charles Beaudette for an introduction to the key knowledge on LENR, on calorimetry, on epistemology, and the early history of that phenomenon discovery.

    To be clear, except Brillouin, I see no serious company (yet many scam artists and deluded joker) tha propose something of a credible maturity. One reason to trus Brillouin is the modesty of their claim, and the support of some SRI scientists who reproduced the measurements in their own lab. I’m not 100% sure, but is seems much above average credibility.

    However, the science of LENR itself is quite established.
    First I claim that there is no credible theory, and advise you to flee any theory claim. the best and most modest theoretical proposal is for me, the one of Edmund Storms, a key experimentalist and one of the widest reviewer of LENR papers.
    His main book “The science of LENR” is a review of experimental resulst, a synthesis of the experimental challenges and theoretical problems.
    His latest boot, the explanation of LENR, take a similar toad with a reviw of experimental results, of theories classificatsion, and the challenges facing each theory. It takes the great risk to propose an embryo of a theory, probably erroneous in detail (my opinion), but good in eliminating all impossible theories outside.

    What make the LENR science stall from 2 decade, is a mix of missattribution and dysfunding.
    LENr was discovered as a calorimetric effect in electrochemistry context. it was replicated by the best electrochemists, after a year of work.
    However the tragedy is that since the origin of the heat was clearly not chemical, thus nuclear, the physicist felt concerned by the phenomenon and like a cowboy trying to undertand bee hives, they failed, but they failed by accusing the more competent experimenters. (Beaudette explains well how the only 4 papers proposing LENR anomalies explanation were deeply erroneous, or misinterpreted).
    This social phenomenon, where hihly recognized caste of scientist have greated credibility outside of their competence zone, over more competent but lower caste, is key to the tragedy. This led to a groupthink, that finally led to the fear to even criticize LENR, to even study it, except few maverick or protected scientists.
    This stigamtization and ostracization of the domain les to underfunding, and worst than that, to dofficulty to organize good reviewing, serious publications, information sharing. Such effeorts was tried by edmund Storms and many others, but without funding and expert participations it was insufficient.

    Finally the last and worst problem of LENR is intrinsic. The book of edmund Storm on “the explanation of LENR” is nice to make you understand that LENR is at the edge of the today’s physics.

    LENR, and the physicist were strong at telling it, is impossible if you assume few body QM interactions. It is impossible in crystaline material.

    LENr, ans the experimental data show it well, is a problem where metallurgy, nanostructures, rare structures, surface effects, complex and badly characterized layes, play the key role.

    It is thus connecting multibody QM like you find in superconductors or nanotechnology, metallurgy like in nanotechnology, and complex chemistry like in accumulators or biochemistry, but in a very uncommon way.

    the lack of reproducibility of LENR is explained by that deep complexity, with a missing theory.

    If like me you know the early history of semiconductors, the lack of reproducibility of LENR (the reproducibility is improving however, but with difficulty), is just normal when you have a device involving metallurgy, quantum mechanic, impurities, and no theory.

    My position is that without a deep experimental efforst, leading to understanding of the phenomenon, and fairly predictive theory, there is no commercial hope.

    I wonder if it is the effort of Tom Darden in Industrial Heat, but his recent troubles with a con artist, may have cooled his projects… It seems no, but who knows for sure.

    Note also that once LENR get accepted, it will be a gold rush, and the early player will have to run fast and collaborate with their peer, or be eliminated like AltaVista or Betamax.

    By the way I thanks the many individual support, and corporate non opposition, in Oil companies, in Japanese corps, in Atomic energy institutions, in Asian Universities, who paint a very different picture than the popular conspiracy theory of vested opposition.

    Don’t blame malevolence when you can blame stupidity.

    • Nanalyze

      One of the things we enjoy most about covering topics like this is hearing from the subject matter experts on what they think. Thank you for taking the time to provide such detailed feedback.

      As investors, we try to detach ourselves from all the technical aspects of any given emerging technology and simply ask “how far are we away from commercialization and what milestones need to be met in order to get there?”. The conversation becomes much simpler that way.

      We had no idea this was such a controversial topic before we wrote the article and we’re glad to have learned so much about this from people such as yourself who have a genuine interest in seeing it succeed for reasons other than just good old capitalism.

  • Bloke001

    Brillouin claim a coefficient of performance of 1.4 in their SRI paper. When you look at the numbers it turns out they are not creating 40% more energy than they put in. They calculate their COP by conveniently omitting the energy required by the heater to raise the temp to 300 degrees. I did my own calculation and came up with energy out / energy in between 0.97 and 1.04. I wanted to believe, but I think they are frauds.

    • AlainCo

      You are right that they gain they cite is not the (abusive name) CoP.
      However the gain, ration of excessheat/excitationIn, is the meaningful number of what can be obtained, once you exploit efficiently the excess heat to heat the reactor itself.
      I advise you to read the article of Jacques Ruer (retired of oil industry, SAIPEM)
      https://www.iscmns.org/CMNS/JCMNS-Vol21.pdf#page=18
      “Basic Design Considerations for Industrial LENR Reactors”

      The gain of 40% is maybe a recent number of a single test (Maybe the test done by an expert of LENR-Invest), but Robert Godes reported gain about 4 at ICCF19… Not fantastic, but interesting.
      The interest of Brillouin Energy technology is that they can control totally the reaction (with their Q-wave), and thus that a usual feed-back loop can, once the reactor is enough insulated, transform the gain into a CoP.

      One other result of Jacques Ruer analysis, based on usual industrial engineering, is that if, as observed, the reaction is improved by temperature, a modest CoP can be transformed into a good one.

      About the lack of precision, all is a question of precision, if signal over uncertainty, and the usual “it is too small”, without claim of low sigma, is just unscientific.

      Sigma of many LENR experiment have been sometime very high, above 50.
      the literature is huge and basically ignored by critics, or dismissed with wildcard excuses.

      You can start with that article from the LENR special section in Current Science
      http://www.currentscience.ac.in/cs/Volumes/108/04/0535.pdf

      Best evidence are He4/heat correlations, because it is impossible to have artifacts that correlate such phenomenon in a coherent way.

      This does not mean Brillouin Energy will sure be able to make an industrial application, but sure provided the evidence there is a real potential that need to be unlocked by fundamental science.

      It is a complex domain and to be sincere, one need months to have an educated opinion.

      You can start by reading the Current Science special section
      http://www.currentscience.ac.in/php/feat.php?feature=Special%20Section:%20Low%20Energy%20Nuclear%20Reactions&featid=10094
      and Edmund Storms books (the Science of LENR and The Explanation of LENR).
      And afterward, hundreds of articles may be to read.

      Note however that here, the risk is a “good option” as Taleb explains, with bounded loses, and huge possibility of gain. Just the possibility it may be true, should justify huge investments.
      That fact that it does not happens tels much about current academic culture, and the way modern business and administration obey to social rules.

      • Nanalyze

        AlainCo, your point about the risk here being a “good option” for investment is interesting when you consider that the same “good option” has been exercised by many big players for developing fusion using heat.

        General Fusion – $75 million USD in funding so far from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Braemar Energy, and Chrysalix Energy.

        Trio Alpha Energy – $140-$200 million in funding so far from the likes of Paul Allen’s venture capital firm Vulcan Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Venrock.

        To name just 2. Why then don’t we see similar risk taking for cold fusion then? People are not afraid to take calculated risks but cold fusion seems to be an exception.

        https://www.nanalyze.com/2015/12/3-nuclear-fusion-energy-companies-for-investors-to-watch/

        • AlainCo

          Very good question.
          The key to that irrational situation is a high level of stigmatization, ignorance and self-confidence by authorities of many kind.
          This is not helped by the various con-artist and deluded inventors who exploit the contradiction between the lack of mainstream support and the mass of available confirmation at the lab-level.

          Anyway some tycoon are more or less openly interested.

          carl page is supporting Brillouin, and was present at ICCF19 (a nice man visibly). Tom Darden, despite is fiasco with Rossi, continues funding basic science (the only good strategy in my opinion). Bill gates have finded Seashore Research headed by Robert Duncan of TTU (formerly in Missouri university wher he created SKINR, and hosted ICCF17, after a failed debunkin of cold fusion for 60 minutes).

          Anyway if you have a short term capitalist vision, the maturity of LENR, despite all claims, is very low.
          Brillouin is the only hope to have something applicable in medium term, but if I’m optimistic on their results, I am much less sure that without a theory that explains really most LENR results (their theory is not bad, and guide ideas like Q-wave, but we are far from something explaining the metallurgical secrets of LENR), they can improve their design seriously.

          Jean-Francois Geneste in LENRG conference before ICCF19, put the emphasis on the need of a theory (phenomenological of full physics) for the engineers to continuously improve the technology, allowing an industry to emerge. Without a theory (no need to be full physics), you cannot found an industry.

          Hot fusion is also an interesting subject.
          to be clear the challenges of hot fusion are thousands time the one of cold fusion, if you calmly look at data, but hot fusion have a basic theory, is well funded by government, is useful to develop the science of nuclear weapons (a big driver to it’s academic support).

          The comparison of LENR with hot fusion shows a deep fact in modern epistemology and academic mindset.

          Theory is the only important question today.

          Even capitalism today to fashion and is afraid to stigmatization.

          Another problem of LENR technology, is that from current data, once it is understood, it will be very easy to develop (provided you master nanotechnology, which is affordable), and this very easy to capture by big actors.
          It is like PC or Internet, IBM-like big actors who would have started the revolution will be washed away by competitors who will innovate with low demand of capital.

          My estimation is that less than 25Mn$ (LENR today is underfunded and uncoordinated), could be enough to fund a serious work (like what does SKINR, ENEA, Coolescence, darden, Technova/MHI, but with shoestring budgets), but well coordinated, with leading expert team in nanotech, tamed physicists (!), seasoned chemists, nanotech tools, instruments as used in accumulators and nanotech research, will allow the explanation of LENR to emerge.
          With current stigmatization of the domain, getting not only such funding, but employing required experts, and sharing knowledge publicly, is a huge challenges.

          An if a sociological miracle happens, then the result will be a technological tsunami that will wash away the initial team.
          For me it is very risky to expect making huge money with LENR technology (as it is to sell TCP/IP software). The real money will be obtained by selling applications.

          If you want to make easy money, invest 25Mn$ in LENR basic science (Why not with Brillouin, but for basic research), and 1 billion in real-estate, automatic transportation technology, tourism, emerging economy… That is IMHO much safer.
          You don’t make easy barbecue by setting fire to a forest, unless you run very fast.

          • AlainCo

            Jut tu see the kind of science that LENR would require, read that article which enthusiasmed reserashers like Melvin Miles
            https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14020

            Nicolas Armanet, an expert in hydrogen in metal (I2HMR) works on such questions, and from his papers and presentations I know this work by Stanford is exactly raising key questions of LENR.

            If you read Edmund Storms latest book, this is clear too.

            You can guess the budget required to fund few experiments of that kind, over few years.
            That is what supports my cost estimation.

          • The key elements remaining in the development of brillouin energy’s actual technology, is in the material science and Manufacturing engineering of the core. That doess not even include the reactive metallic Matrix layer. Turns out, if you’re driving the underlying physics the metallic grain structure / morphology is not important. This is a good thing as after any MeV event within a single Brillouin zone of the lattice the grain / structure changes. This is actually key to some of the not understood aspects of hydrogen embrittlement. The phenomena that caused the bolts on the new Bay Bridge in San Francisco to break. The other big difference difference between Brillouin Energy and everyone else in this field of study, is the diversity of disciplines being applied to solving the outstanding issue in development of our technology. We have electrical engineers with varying specialties within that field. Brillouin also works with various mechanical engineers chemical Engineers software engineers material scientists a PhD in nuclear physics and another with a PhD in fluid dynamics. We work very closely with more than 20 different manufacturing shops and a wide variety of other suppliers.

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