I propose a theory that I personally feel confident about but I cannot prove at this time: that Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat Effect primarily revolves around the continual, dynamic interaction between various forms of carbon, low work function dopants, and atomic hydrogen (ideally plasma) to produce “Negative Electron Affinity” diamond nano-structures for the generation of spheromaks, also known as Kenneth Shoulders Exotic Vacuum Objects. Moreover, I propose the same process to be the mechanism by which other claimants of high powered LENR generate massive excess heat. For example, an individual going by the name of me356 who has previously been active on various forums.
Before going any further, I want to stress that I’m going to try to keep this post brief and concise while hitting all the most important points: otherwise you may not read to the end! I also won’t be providing references, but all the information I provide about diamond doping and CVD synthesis (among other related issues) can be verified in mainstream literature with a minimum of online research.
Kenneth R. Shoulders discovered that he could produce anomalous self organizing toroidal structures from the tip of a sharpened cathode upon a fast, high voltage discharge. He called these balls of electrons and sometimes positive ions Exotic Vacuum Objects (EVOs), although they have been called by many other names in the past. Upon striking a target, they would induce a number of different nuclear reactions via different mechanisms all evident by a number of different proofs: radiation, transmutations, isotopic shifts, and more.
An inventor and engineer by the name of Andrea Rossi has alleged to be capable of producing extremely high levels of excess heat in his E-Cat (Energy Catalyzer) reactors. The saga of this technology has been going on publicly for at least seven or eight years and is filled with controversy. Although he has utilized many additional elements and fuel additives over the years, three main ingredients have been publicly proclaimed repeatedly: hydrogen, nickel, and lithium.
The mystery of how his systems seem to have, in at least some tests, produced high levels of excess heat has been an enigma in the minds of many. However, by applying an understanding of the EVO phenomenon, diamond CVD synthesis, and diamond doping to those three ingredients, the true catalytic mechanism becomes apparent. No longer do we have to search for some magic pixie dust catalyst that will magically boost COP to high levels; we have a more complete understanding that can allow for countless different system designs all capable of very high performance.
First, let’s consider the type of nickel he has used for years: carbonyl nickel powder. This type of powder, due to the method by which it’s synthesized, contains some quantity of carbon as a contaminant. I’ve even heard some brands can have an excessive amount of carbon. Me356 has claimed to use Ni 200 alloy “nickel vaping wire” in some of his highly performing reactors. This alloy has a significant carbon level and the official documentation warns that using it beyond a specified temperature range can induce graphite precipitation.
Secondly, let’s keep in mind that in every single variation of the E-Cat, Andrea Rossi has utilized some form of atomic hydrogen – from a hot tungsten filament, a radio frequency generator, or some other source. When atomic hydrogen at high temperatures bombards a nickel surface, a molten layer can form at approximately 1150C which is the approximate melting temperature of nickel hydride. Established mainstream “CVD” techniques use these conditions to synthesize diamond on nickel surfaces – one of only a few elements including copper that is highly compatible. There are many variations of this technique that use different carbon sources, different temperatures, different ratios of elements in the plasma, and sometimes different “seed” material. But a common theme is that if carbon is available in such an environment (either precipitating from the metal or added in gaseous form to the plasma) graphite will start to form on the nickel surface. However, both a surface film of nickel hydride and/or the continual bombardment of protons from a hydrogen plasma will preferentially ensure that diamond is synthesized rather than graphite. In some cases, the addition of only one percent carbon monoxide or methane is sufficient to generate significant diamond growth. Interestingly, adding too high a concentration of hydrocarbon to the plasma can be a bad thing: producing graphite growth instead of diamond. Also, to get diamond growth off to a good start, the thin film of liquid nickel hydride can be seeded with a dusting of nano-diamonds that will typically float on the surface. From these seeds various additional diamond structures can be grown.
Thirdly, these diamond layers will be highly doped with impurities that will reduce the “work function” of the material, allowing for a “Negative Electron Affinity.” To explain this in a simple although inadequate way, this means that the quantity of energy required for the diamond to emit an electron is reduced and the barrier to ejecting the electron off the diamond surface has vanished (due to the Negative Electron Affinity condition). Hydrogen “terminations” on the surface of a diamond surface are sufficient to achieve this state. However, to achieve an even lower work function and more negative electron affinity, a primary layer of oxygen can be applied to the diamond before a secondary super thin coating of lithium. Oxygen-lithium has proven to be one of the most advantageous combinations in diamond doping, capable of withstanding high temperatures and rough environmental conditions — even exposure to atmosphere or washing with water. Normally, using only hydrogen as a dopant, high temperatures can unbind the protons from diamond. However, in a heated hydrogen atmosphere or hydrogen plasma, the diamond surface can be continually regenerated so the NEA is maintained: even beyond 1000C.
Fourth, these synthesized diamond structures can come in many geometries: flat coatings, nano-tubes, whiskers, spires, cones, and others shapes. The parameters of the reactor environment will have a huge impact on what shapes are produced. For EVO ejection via field emission or thermionic emission (electron ejection due to heat), sharp needle like tips are likely the best shape, providing an electric field amplification effect – reducing the work function to ultra low levels.
My conjecture here is that all along Rossi has been producing these doped diamond nano-structures in his fuel; they are likely his “tubercles” that he claimed early on to be so important. When exposed to heat, light from his plasma, or external EVO strikes (such as spheromaks popping out of a hydrogen plasma), they will emit copious electrons. Some of these will be in the form of EVOs that can induce nuclear reactions via multiple possible pathways. One such pathway could be the production of what might be considered the most minuscule version of an EVO possible – a negative hydrogen ion. This would be a proton with multiple extra electrons. Such negative hydrogen ions (H-) are speculated by many LENR researchers to be the catalyst of many LENR reactions, perhaps functioning in a manner similar to muons in “muon catalyzed fusion.” Interestingly, not even considering EVO production, mainstream literature (not mentioning any LENR connection) describes how up to 50% of the positive hydrogen ions impacting a NEA diamond surface can be converted to negative hydrogen ions. This may be one source of the excess heat produced by the presence of these ultra low work function diamond emitters.
Strange radiation, another term for a specific type of EVO that could be described as weakly interactive with matter or “black” by Kenneth Shoulders, also seems to be emitted by some LENR systems. These EVOs or spheromaks are capable of traveling through matter, sometimes completely escaping the various apparatuses that create them, and destabilizing and depositing their energy up to a meter away in certain experiments. The recently discussed LION reactor, if verified and replicated successfully by third parties, seems to be producing this type of radiation. If so, the only likely source in the LION reactor would be the deuterium doped nickel-diamond discs. The inventor of this specific setup alleges self sustained reactions lasting days at ultra high temperatures. One possible sign of strange radiation in his system could be the detection of excess heat both visually (due to a glow) and via a thermocouple in a secondary fuel tube port hole inches away from the active reactor. This would require the heat to travel through a significant quantity of foamed alumina which seems unlikely via any conventional explanation. If the device was producing strange radiation, the excess heat in the empty port with only a thermocouple could be explained by the particles traveling some distance and then releasing their energy.
I suspect that such “strange radiation” or a similar mechanism was used as the “mouse” in some of Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat models. The “mouse” (providing stimulation) in these systems could be producing strange radiation that penetrates layers of reactor walls until stimulating the “cat” containing embrittled nickel or other metals. This could explain how an interior reactor could remotely stimulate reactions in other layers of the device through barriers.
Eventually, I believe that Andrea Rossi decided that instead of going to the sometimes significant trouble of growing nano-diamond emitters on his fuel (striving to achieve the optimum geometries), an effective yet perhaps not always as efficient shortcut could be to utilize pre-manufactured industrial diamonds. These diamonds could be pre-doped outside of the main reactor either separately from the nickel or during the preparation of the nickel fuel. If a few principles were adhered to, this could be an effective method of producing excess heat.
1) Make sure the diamond is doped sufficiently before being placed in the reactor. This may not be too difficult depending on the desired dopant and method used. If specific nano-structures are required to be formed on the diamond, additional stages could be required.
2) Make sure the diamond is well connected to the nickel. This is what will make sure that electrons and heat energy can flow from the nickel into the diamond with the greatest efficiency.
3) Make sure the diamond surface, if at all possible, will be exposed to the vapor/plasma of the desired dopant (for example hydrogen or lithium). This will make sure that even at high temperature additional atoms will be added to the diamond surface to compensate for those that are lost. Just mixing the diamonds (bonded well to nickel) into a powdery mix may or may not be optimal. Likewise, allowing the diamond surfaces to be slathered with liquid LiAlH4 may not be helpful. I imagine a hollow cylinder coated with slightly sintered nickel powder and doped diamonds continually exposed to plasma (perhaps produced by a hot tungsten wire, glow discharge, or radio frequency generator) might work well.
In addition, there are many other techniques and dopants that could be added to the process. A layer of graphene oxide, transition metal oxides (titanium oxide is said to work especially well), and other elements can be used to produce a NEA surface on the diamond. Papers also are available that describe C60 buckyballs deposited on a diamond surface lowering the work function.
What’s also important to understand is that even if the diamonds are pre-doped and the nickel processed ahead of time outside of the reactor, every process continues once the reactor is turned on. There is a constant dynamic as protons from the plasma embrittle nickel to create material that can experience fracto-emission (probably a big component of LENR heat generation), new diamond material of various geometries are created by the interaction of carbon and atomic hydrogen, and the surface of the diamond (originally doped and new) is constantly replenished and regenerated – or not if something goes wrong – with new layers of dopant atoms or molecules.
Every parameter changed – such as temperature, pressure, or atmospheric composition – can have a effect on other aspects of the system. As an example, a drop in temperature could begin to hinder the continual replenishment of a low work function diamond surface. Or, likewise, a surge in temperature when using a dopant that typically doesn’t handle high temperatures well, could quench the LENR reactions and then produce a drop in temperature. Basically, there’s a LOT we don’t know about these systems, and most of the know how about each reactor built will only be capable of being learned by hands on experience. In some cases, diamond may not be produced, but potentially an even lower work function material called “diamond like carbon” that contains a mixture of sp2 (graphite) and sp3 (diamond) bonds.
The good news is that I don’t think these processes are as complex or difficult as they might sound. In some cases, diamond can be doped with O and OH bonds by simply exposing them to water or high temperature water vapor (better). The use of an actual plasma isn’t always required. Moreover, the basic principles here do seem to simplify what used to represent challenging tasks: like tediously forcing hydrogen uptake into nickel via ultra-high pressures, high temperatures, and multi-day long bakes. As me356 has stated, the equipment to treat his fuel is commercially available. A quick search on the internet reveal multiple companies that build corona discharge sputtering devices, compatible with many different gas combinations. Either with a professional or laboratory built corona discharge device, a sample of nickel could be rapidly loaded with hydrogen, a sample of diamond quickly loaded with hydrogen, or even hydrocarbons used to synthesize diamonds on a nickel, copper, or nickel/copper substrate.
My guess is that Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat QX, if verified by third parties after rigorous testing, operates on similar yet different principles. I suspect that the E-Cat QX may utilize nano-diamond structures on the nickel electrodes; however, I think the functionality of the device is closer to that of a semi-traditional spheromak “hot fusion” device than a cold fusion reactor. My hypothesis here is that permanent magnets (produced perhaps by the electrodes themselves if they are simply nickel coated samarium cobalt magnets (with a high curie temperature that would help prevent demagnetization) or backed by permanent magnets behind them) produce a classic “magnetic mirror” electron trapping effect. The magnetic field not only assists in the formation of the emitted spheromaks (EVOs) from the cathode by adding helicity, but also tends to trap some portion of these structures in the center of the reactor, in the quartz capillary tube. We know from Shoulders work that EVOs tend to remain stable for the longest periods of time in low pressure (but not vacuum) tubes of such a nature! With some of the EVOs trapped in the center, additional pulses of DC or AC power may send new EVOs from the cathode crashing into these in the center: inducing nuclear reactions. The heat of such reactions, due to the magnetic mirror effect, may be kept mostly away from the electrodes and permanent magnets – especially if cooling water is continuously applied. If this hypothesis is correct, E-Cat QX reactors will not be extremely difficult to build. Moreover, using hydrogen and lithium as fuel (avoiding deuterium) the excess heat produced may be relatively free of dangerous emissions. Maybe qualified individuals will attempt replications soon!
Finally, it seems like we may possibly have a more complete understanding of how Andrea Rossi and other claimants are processing their fuel to produce massive excess heat, strange radiation, transmutations, isotopic shifts, and other effects. The creation of doped “Negative Electron Affinity” diamond structures of electric field enhancing shapes seem to be key. My hope is that this theory, if proven correct by qualified individuals in safe, professional laboratory settings, will be used to aid the proliferation of LENR technology far and wide without restraint.