Dr. George Miley, affiliate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is set to re-emerge from what seems like winter hibernation. After announcing in late October (see video, 5:15 mark) that development of his LENR cell was reaching the stage of commercialization, very little was heard from him. He did give a report to cold fusion librarian and advocate Jed Rothwell on the progress of his work, and Dr. Brian Ahern did mention that Dr. Miley’s cell had achieved self-sustain capability in slides from a planned December 7 presentation that he abruptly canceled. Dr. Ahern has worked for several years in association with the Ames National Laboratory to produce the nano-materials used by Dr. Miley, and reportedly Dr. Ahern himself, in their LENR research.
Unfortunately, the last news about Dr. Miley’s research group was that it was disbanding due to both financial constraints and graduate students getting on with their lives. This seemed a curious and disappointing turn of events given Dr. Miley’s stated optimism about his work and how far along it apparently was. In multiple posts over the last several months Tom Baccei and myself have wondered aloud as to the fate of the work of the Miley group.
Thankfully, to many of us who continue to watch the unfolding cold fusion saga, Dr. Miley is still actively pursuing commercialization of his LENR cell. He is set to give a presentation on March 23 at the Emerging Technologies for Space conference in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston. An abstract of his presentation has been released and can be found here. It is entitled “A Game-Changing Power Source Based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs).”
Right now, development of Dr. Miley’s cell is centered on providing a replacement power source for NASA space probes. These probes are powered by what is known as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which currently use plutonium-238 (Pu238) as an energy source. Pu238 is being phased out as a power source for these probes and NASA is in need of a new one. Dr. Miley feels his cell can provide that. In October of 2011, Dr. Miley stated:
“We are talking to the NASA people about simply putting our own cell right here (pointing to red part of the below diagram) producing heat, the same way as plutonium-239(8), and so this lends itself to a fairly quick adaptation of the unit.
In October, Dr. Miley felt his cell did need some more development but not a significant amount. He stated:
“At the moment we can run continuously at levels of a few hundred watts. We would like to go to a level of about 300 watts.”
Accordingly to the above referenced abstract, the Miley cell can now reliably run at 350 watts/kg. Admittedly, 350 watts/kg is not a significant amount of power but Dr. Miley feels that this decisively provides proof-of-principle and…
“While our present test units are at lab bench power levels (multi 100s watts), scaling up to RTG power levels seems quite feasible using larger amounts of nano-particles and an improved heat management design.”
While to this point the development of the Miley cell has been with the view as a replacement RTG power source, Dr. Miley felt even in October that there were other potential commercial applications.
“You know each application would have to have a different structure to it to deliver the power. You know, it can range from hot water heaters, where you don’t convert to electricity, to something that uses electricity where you have something like this.”
As simple and mundane as a water heater sounds, the ability to produce one based on cold fusion/LENR would be a significant milestone in the emergence of this technology. This idea was recently reiterated by NASA senior scientist Dr. Joseph Zawodny in the NASA video released in January. Certainly, exotic uses such in space probes, space planes, rocket ships and the like draw interest and can be awe-inspiring, but when the technology can be used in something as ubiquitous (yet important) as a water heater, it will have truly arrived. Although many people don’t think of this way, current commercial nuclear reactors are just large water heaters, which produce steam to drive turbines to produce electricity.
Water heaters aside, once again NASA finds itself in the midst of the developing LENR story. In addition to discussions with Dr. Miley, NASA has also shown in interest in the devices of Andrea Rossi, Francesco Piantelli and, according to this investor’s blog, the NanoSpire LENR device of a one-time senior engineer at Lockheed, Mark LeClair. The co-author of the now “in vogue” Widom-Larsen Theory, Lewis Larsen, reportedly tutored NASA senior scientist Dr. Joseph Zawodny on his theory over the course of 6 months. Since the upcoming presentation in Texas is focused on emerging space technologies, I cannot imagine NASA representatives will not be present. The site of the conference is a 1 hour drive from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.
If NASA passes on the Miley device for implantation in its RTGs, hopefully Dr. Miley will be able to find the funding to upscale his device for commercial applications. He is a scientist, not a businessman and although he has laid out a road map to building a prototype, the road to commercialization is somewhat different and I would surmise he could use the help of a corporate or investment partner to bring his cell to market. The current power density reported by Dr. Miley for his cell are in line with those claimed by Andrea Rossi for the e-Cat.
As an important note, aside from the use of cold fusion/LENR as a power source, some cell designs have been reported the added benefit of the ability to neutralize radioactive waste from traditional fission reactors. While Dr. Miley does make this claim regarding his current cell, he did receive peer-reviewed funding from the DOE to study this capability in 1999. Unfortunately, before his group received even a dime of funding, the grant was revoked after protest by a group of vehement cold fusion critics including Robert Park and John Huizenga. After the grant was approved, the DOE subsequently held a “secret review” of the proposal and funding was subsequently withdrawn (read more). Robert Park will appear in the upcoming cold fusion film “The Believers.” I would recommend going to see that film when it is released, and booing loudly whenever he appears.
As a final note, in addition to the planned presentation by Dr. Miley in Texas on March 23, Dr. Y.E. Kim of Purdue University is also scheduled to give a presentation. Dr. Kim is the author of the Theory of Bose–Einstein condensation mechanism for deuteron-induced nuclear reactions in micro/nano-scale metal grains and particles, another credible LENR explanation (yes, it has been peer-reviewed). It would appear, according to the slides from Dr. Miley’s presentation at the World Green Symposium in 2011, that this is his preferred theory for the reaction.