So Rossi says he has an e-Cat and talks about a special catalyst needed to make it “go”. We know there is Nickel and Hydrogen involved. We know that external electricity is supplied to “trigger” the operation at the start, and to some degree to modulate it in the middle; potentially via a spark discharge of some kind. We know that a powdered form of metal is desired, that it is stable at higher temperatures, and that it has an affinity for Hydrogen. There is some speculation that “atomic Hydrogen” is needed or works better.
From all those clues, can we end up somewhere that looks interesting as a speculative LENR catalyst?
First up, looking into Nickel catalysts that are used with Hydrogen leads to several interesting things. One of them is a catalyst named “Raney Nickel”. But before we get into it, where it comes from is rather interesting as well. It is made from an alloy of Nickel and Aluminum. One of the common problems with making metal alloys is making an alloy of two metals that have widely different melting points (they tend to separate on cooling as one ‘sets up’ earlier). Nickel is a very high melting point material, Aluminum melts at barely a red heat. Yet it turns out that they can, and do, form an alloy. Several different ones can be made.
Nickel aluminide (Ni3Al) is an intermetallic alloy of nickel and aluminum with properties similar to both a ceramic and a metal.
There are three materials called nickel aluminide:
NiAl, CAS number 12003-78-0 (see also Raney nickel)
NiAl3, CAS number 12004-71-6
Ni3Al, tri-nickel aluminide
Well, that’s interesting. Fixed ratios of 1:1 1:3 or 3:1 so the presumption would be a fairly regular crystal lattice structure. That bit about properties like both metals and ceramics is also interesting. Cermets and related materials do all sorts of interesting things involving increased strength and heat resistance when compared with “light alloys” or even iron. To get that from a mix of two metals is interesting…
Nickel aluminide is unique in that it has very high thermal conductivity combined with high strength at high temperature. These properties, combined with its high strength and low density, make it ideal for special applications like coating blades in gas turbines and jet engines.
In 2005, the most abrasion-resistant material was reportedly created by embedding diamonds in a matrix of nickel aluminide.
So an aluminum alloy can be used for coating turbine blades? Golly! Not at all what I would expect. It can also hold embedded diamonds? (Or diamond dust…) That’s got to be an interesting structure to try making. Carbon usually likes to change from diamond into some other form under high heating. Heat a diamond enough, it becomes graphite.
Clearly this doesn’t sound at all like a regular Aluminum compound, and even less like a nickel alloy (think “stainless steel” as typical – often a little softer than ordinary steels).
Aluminum is also much more easily attacked by chemicals than is Nickel. Turns out that can be used to good effect with these alloys. But not what you would expect if you new that this alloy was used for its corrosion resistance:
The alloy is very resistant to heat and corrosion, and finds use in heat-treating furnaces and other applications where its longer lifespan and reduced corrosion give it an advantage over stainless steel.
But Aluminum is particularly sensitive to attack by alkali rather than acid, and fire creates ‘dry acid’ species in the gasses.
We get a clue where this is going from the reference to “See also Raney metal”. That is a catalyst commonly used to hydrogenate things, like cooking oils, and it is made in an interesting way. More important for us, it has a list of properties rather like one would expect to find in a LENR / Cold Fusion device. As it is a common catalyst, it is likely that a ‘tinkerer’ like Rossi would know of it, or would find it when looking for things like “Nickel Hydrogen catalyst”.
This stuff is a bit hazardous, and not something to have floating around in the air. If it is used (or something like it) there would be very good cause to not let anyone look inside the reaction chamber. It could make them very sick.
Raney nickel (pron.: /ˈreɪniː ˈnɪkəl/) is a fine-grained solid composed mostly of nickel derived from a nickel-aluminium alloy. A variety of grades are known, but most are gray solids. Some are pyrophoric, most are used as air-stable slurries.
The way it is made from Nickel Aluminum alloy is to leach out the Aluminum with strong hydroxide, leaving a molecular scale porous surface with a massive surface area. That “pyrophoric” is bad news. Powders that can spontaneously burst into flames are a bit hard to work with.
The Ni-Al alloy is prepared by dissolving nickel in molten aluminium followed by cooling (“quenching”). Depending on the Ni:Al ratio, quenching produces a number of different phases. During the quenching procedure, small amounts of a third metal, such as zinc or chromium, are added to enhance the activity of the resulting catalyst. This third metal is called a “promoter”. The promoter changes the mixture from a binary alloy to a ternary alloy, which can leads to different quenching and leaching properties during activation.
In the activation process, the alloy, usually as a fine powder, is treated with a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide.
The temperature used to leach the alloy has a marked effect on the properties of the catalyst. Commonly, leaching is conducted between 70 and 100 °C. The surface area of Raney nickel (and related catalysts in general) tends to decrease with increasing leaching temperature.
Macroscopically, Raney nickel is a finely divided gray powder. Microscopically, each particle of this powder is a three-dimensional mesh, with pores of irregular size and shape of which the vast majority are created during the leaching process. Raney nickel is notable for being thermally and structurally stable, as well has having a large BET (Brunauer-Emmett-Teller) surface area. These properties are a direct result of the activation process and contribute to a relatively high catalytic activity.
The surface area is typically determined via a BET measurement using a gas that will be preferentially adsorbed on metallic surfaces, such as hydrogen. Using this type of measurement, almost all the exposed area in a particle of the catalyst has been shown to have Ni on its surface. Since Ni is the active metal of the catalyst, a large Ni surface area implies a large surface is available for reactions to occur simultaneously, which is reflected in an increased catalyst activity. Commercially available Raney nickel has an average Ni surface area of 100 m2 per gram of catalyst
100 square meters of surface area per gram. Now that’s a lot of surface area… Loves to adsorb Hydrogen, too. As it selectively catalyses Hydrogen reactions, there is speculation that it forms something called Nascent Hydrogen on the surface; that is, Hydrogen atoms, not di-Hydrogen molecules.
Making atomic hydrogen
It takes 4.476 Electronvolt to disassociate ordinary H2 hydrogen molecules. When they recombine, they liberate this energy. An electric arc or ultraviolet photon can generate atomic hydrogen.
Atomic hydrogen can be formed under vacuum at temperatures high enough (> 2000 K) to thermally dissociate the molecule, or equivalent excitation in an electric discharge. Also, electromagnetic radiation above about 11 eV can be absorbed by H2 and lead to its dissociation.
Occasionally, hydrogen chemisorbed on metal surfaces is referred to as “nascent”, although this terminology is fading with time. Other views hold that such chemisorbed hydrogen is “a bit less reactive than nascent hydrogen because of the bonds provided by the catalyst metal surface”
Now this gets very interesting. Where have we seen “initiation” claimed? In the presence of an electric discharge in the Papp Engine, and with the speculated creation of a spark or discharge rich in UV Photons or X-rays. Also added temperature helps (both in the trigger events and in making atomic Hydrogen). The Papp engine also has an electromagnetic coil wrapped around it…
So now it looks to me like we are starting to see some bigger potential here (and not just the Volts kind ;-) A fine Nickel powder, that is a ‘mystery catalyst’ (perhaps with one of several ‘promoter’ metals added). Massive surface area, and very high Hydrogen adsorption. The Hydrogen tends toward forming individual atoms just from adsorption, but not enough. Added heat, then a “kicker” with a spark discharge mediated formation of UV / X-Rays and an Electromagnetic kick in the pants raises the formation of Atomic Hydrogen to a level suited to much higher reaction rates. At that point, all sorts of reactions may become possible. There are certainly enough reaction sites on all that surface for a “one in a billion” event to become common.
Right up front, I have no clue if this is or is not what Rossi is using. All I can say with certainty is that it is a logical path to have investigated, or to investigate now. As an “add on”, I would speculate that using a similar technique to make metal sponges out of things like Palladium and Iron and other metals might also be interesting to explore. There are a wide number of potential primary metals, leaching metals, and promoter metals, in many possible ratios. This could keep a couple of chemists busy for a lifetime or two searching the whole space. So if Rossi has found the more common one, there are plenty of places to look for others.
It also implies a potential for other methods of forming Atomic Hydrogen to have some benefit. It may not be needed, but it looks like it can help. It points toward why sparks might be a trigger method. Why the various discharge electrodes can show some anomalous heat issues. IFF true, this speculation starts to lay a conceptual groundwork for explaining the phenomenon and for systematic searching for conditions that lead to working cells.
Tidbits and Afterthoughts
The Nickel Aluminum alloys lead off to some very peculiar materials. Some with extraordinary properties. While they make these super abrasion resistant materials with micro-diamonds; I have to wonder if similar results could be obtained with some kinds of carbides or nitrides. It ought not to be too hard to test or figure out if it is worth testing. Take some carbide or nitride granules and mix them with some alloy. See what happens…
Scientists Develop Nickel Aluminide Composite Material that Can Cut Through Cast Iron and Granite
Published on September 5, 2005
A new material so sharp and tough it can cut through cast iron and granite without wearing out could make coal mining safer, cheaper and more productive.
Developed at Southern Illinois University Carbondale by materials scientists Dale E. Wittmer and Peter Filip, the composite consists of a mixture of nickel, aluminum, metal carbide and industrial diamond powders processed at temperatures over 1,400 degrees Celsius. Engineers at the Robert Bosch Tool Co., a manufacturing plant in Louisville, Ky., found this composite 800 times more wear resistant than the company’s toughest carbide now used commercially in making mining tools, drill bits, ceramic tile routers and other such tools.
“The first composites we did were made by ‘shake and bake,'” he said.
“I put everything in a plastic zippered bag, shook them up to mix them and then pressed them into four pellets in a steel die we have. Then I put them in ceramic boxes and sent them through my furnace (a unique, continuous furnace capable of reaching temperatures as high as 2,400 degrees Celsius).
The two best composites easily cut through cast iron and granite with hardly a sign of wear. In fact, when testers cranked up the power in the granite test, the granite exploded, while the composites, though red hot, remained intact. Mounted face down under 50 pounds of pressure for 30 hours on a diamond polishing wheel running at 400 rpm, the composites wore out the diamond disk.
In Louisville, where Bosch company officials agreed to run wear tests of their own, engineers used a diamond-bladed saw to try to cut through both the diamond composites and the firm’s toughest grade of tungsten carbide. It took a little over a minute to slice through the tungsten carbide, but even after 20 minutes, they failed to cut through the diamond composites — though they wore out the saw blades trying.
Very interesting stuff… Who knew Aluminum could be so useful for making ultra hard stuff.
I’m still of the opinion that Potassium brings something to the party, especially in some of the discharge / electrolyte cells. An examination of ion sizes for K and Ni and their lattice structures and spacings might be interesting. With a Raney Nickel powder, trying a variety of added ions in solution ought to be fairly quick.
Realize, though, that this stuff can have some serious modes of health impact.
Due to its large surface area and high volume of contained hydrogen gas, dry, activated Raney nickel is a pyrophoric material that should be handled under an inert atmosphere. Raney nickel is typically supplied as a 50% slurry in water. Care should be taken never to expose Raney nickel to air. Even after reaction, Raney nickel contains significant amounts of hydrogen gas, and may spontaneously ignite when exposed to air.
Raney nickel will produce hazardous fumes when burning, so the use of a gas mask is recommended when extinguishing fires caused by it. Additionally, acute exposure to Raney nickel may cause irritation of the respiratory tract and nasal cavities, and causes pulmonary fibrosis if inhaled. Ingestion may lead to convulsions and intestinal disorders. It can also cause eye and skin irritation. Chronic exposure may lead to pneumonitis and other signs of sensitization to nickel, such as skin rashes (“nickel itch”).
Nickel is also rated as being a possible human carcinogen by the IARC (Group 2B, EU category 3) and teratogen, while the inhalation of fine aluminium oxide particles is associated with Shaver’s disease. Care should be taken when handling these raw materials during laboratory preparation of Raney nickel.
One hopes that Nickel must be finely divided to be a cancer risk. All those nickels in coins circulating would be a bad idea if there was much “there there”.
Well, that’s my speculation of the day. That there is a chemical catalyst that looks rather like what would be needed in a LENR catalyst. That the formation of Atomic Hydrogen has many parallels with the reputed “trigger” conditions. That these things are readily found by a tinkerer trying to find a way to “make things go”, and that the list of properties is very suggestive of what is likely to work, even if Rossi is using some other “catalyst”.
So if you have a load of safety gear, running a LENR test on a beaker of heated, hydrogen saturated, Raney Nickel via heat and EMF / UV / X-ray stimulus just might well find something interesting happening…