(PhysOrg.com) -- Italian scientist Andrea Rossi has spent the past year giving demonstrations of a device that he claims can generate large amounts of energy due to a little-understood nuclear process. His latest demonstration, performed on October 28th, has attracted some of the most mainstream media attention yet, with coverage by outlets including Fox News, Forbes, and MSNBC, among others. But the big question still seems to be whether Rossis E-Cat (energy catalyzer) device is a huge breakthrough or a huge scam. Whats making the answer so difficult to determine is the lack of a clear, scientific explanation of what exactly is going on.
On October 28th, Rossi invited a few dozen people, including a group of engineers from an unnamed potential US customer, as well as a handful of journalists. For the demonstration, Rossi connected dozens of modules in parallel. Inside of each module, a nuclear reaction between hydrogen nuclei and nickel nuclei occurs, releasing heat that is used to turn water into steam. According to Rossi, each module received an initial energy input of 400 watts and produced a self-sustaining, continuous output of 10 kilowatts for the next few hours. Altogether, he claims that the device produced an average of 470 kilowatts in the form of steam for more than five hours.
Impressed with these results, the unknown US customer accepted delivery of a commercial E-Cat device. In the days since then - and likely due in part to all the media attention - Rossi has reported on his blog that he has sold more than two devices to other customers, which are also unnamed. The devices are being sold through Rossis company, Leonardo Corporation, and he says that the customers will reveal their identities when they choose.
While the news of the first customers is exciting, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the device itself. Rossi continues to face criticism for not carrying out an experiment for a long period of time, not performing tests that would help clarify where the excess heat is coming from, and not publishing the results of any of his tests in a peer-reviewed journal, other than his own (Journal of Nuclear Physics), among other things.
Without knowing further details, it seems that onlookers are having a difficult time knowing what to make of Rossi. Theres not enough information to fully discredit the E-Cat device, nor to fully support it. The AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson was among the spectators at the October 28th demonstration, but so far the AP has not published any coverage of the event. (In response to a query on a possible story via Twitter, Svensson responded, Stay tuned.) Meanwhile, other journalists have been criticizing each others coverage for being too accepting or too harsh of Rossis claims.
One piece of evidence that suggests Rossi sincerely believes in the E-Cat is that he reportedly sold his house two months ago in order to fund the ongoing development. He has been working around the clock on the technology, and says, as he has previously said, that the final word will come from the customers who use the devices to generate electricity, not from his critics.
As for the critics, they only hope the customers know what they're paying for.
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