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Clean Energy from Hydrogen-Metal Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CleanHME (Clean Energy from Hydrogen-Metal Systems)

Reporting period: 2020-08-01 to 2021-07-31

The production of clean and renewable energy is a major concern of our modern society, with the demand rising at an alarming rate and fossil fuels responsible for the rising CO2 emission, the need for a viable industrial alternative that can meet with today’s exigence in terms of efficiency is more and more urgent.
This project is devoted to an alternative way of producing energy from hydrogen, apart from the classic high-temperature nuclear fusion that is the main topic of research in this field. The aim of our work is to establish with rigor and certainty the reliability and, later, the feasibility of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions as a new way to generate heat and electricity at affordable costs and with no harmful emissions.
The main objective of the CleanHME project is to develop a breakthrough advance in the development of a new generation of innovative, powerful thermal energy generators. The energy is released when hydrogen reacts with some metals under particular conditions. This energy is called here Hydrogen-Metal Energy or HME. The race for the technological mastering of HME is actively concerning the USA, Japan, and China.
It is one of the objectives of the CleanHME Project to develop reliable methods to enhance the production of heat, to develop better Active Materials (AM), and to master the key parameters for their practical utilization, like their maximum lifetime, operation temperature, and gas pressure.
Based on previous experiments, it is assumed that HME results from radiation-free nuclear reactions strongly enhanced in metallic environments due to the electron screening effect. Changing the electronic structure of AMs by nano-structuring and exploiting specified crystal lattice defects can increase reaction rates by many orders of magnitude. Some other effects as resonance transitions and the creation of quantum correlated states can also contribute to observed power production. Therefore, laboratory experiments to test the theories and check their predictions are scheduled. The project encompasses a combination of accelerator experiments and gas-loading experiments carried out in special reactors at moderate temperatures.
The heat produced can be used directly for various heating uses and it can be converted into mechanical power and electricity for mobile and stationary applications. If it will be confirmed that this new form of energy works as expected, it has the potential to revolutionize the world energy balance with incommensurable positive consequences for the society, the competitiveness of the industry, the geopolitics. It can ultimately provide solutions to address the climate change challenge.
Our topic is Hydrogen-Metal Energy, and our research work is mainly focused on the interaction between Hydrogen and its isotopes and metallic materials at temperatures up to 1000°C. Such interactions have been reported to produce traces of helium, hinting at nuclear reactions. However, these reactions have never been observed directly with certainty and the theory behind this phenomenon is still debated amidst the scientific world. Consequentially, one important objective is to prove in a definitive way that these reactions occur, quantify excess heat generated and find reliable start-up and running processes allowing to obtain long-term stability of heat production for both domestic and industrial applications.
The work which has been performed from the beginning of the project aims to test small gas-loading reactors of different types to find optimal running conditions by choosing appropriate active materials, reactors design, and operating modes. Key objectives are maximizing the power density (heat power /fuel mass) and find reliable start-up and running processes to obtain long-term stability of heat production.
Special attention is also paid to the occurrence of any kind of emission around the reactors, when running, both for safety reasons but also as a means to identify the reaction channels responsible for heat production.
Even if the experimental activities, mainly in the early stages of the project, have been slowed by the COVID pandemic, starting from winter 2021 significant anomalous heat excesses (AHEs) have been detected during several experiments.
Indication of nuclear events, typically weak neutron emissions and strong anomalous exothermic reactions have been detected during experiments based on Ni/C, Ni/Cu, Ni/Al, and other catalyzing elements both under hydrogen or deuterium atmosphere. Several potentially active materials have been designed and are being tested in different laboratories of our consortium. During a significant number of successful experiments, strong AHEs have been measured, thus demonstrating the effectiveness of the applied reaction activating procedures.
Detected AHEs produced commercially promising COPs even if the most powerful exothermic reactions still last for relatively short periods. The power density achieved, however, is extremely promising. Bigger reactors will be tested next year. The cooperation between WP3 (Gas loading experiments) and WP4 partners (Materials preparation) has proven to be synergic and fruitful.
The gas-loading experiments have been combined with the accelerator experiments in which some chosen pure metallic targets and different alloys have been investigated to understand the enhancement process of nuclear reactions by means of the electron screening effect. First experiments induced both by deuterons and protons show very large screening energies that leads to increase the nuclear reaction rates at thermal energies by many orders of magnitude. The theoretical description of the processes occurring in the DD reactions at extremely low deuteron energies could be developed and explain very high tunneling probability through the Coulomb barrier as well as altering the nuclear branching ratios. The theory will allow for a fast analysis of different compound materials and prediction of results of the gas-loading experiments.
The progress made so far is very impressive, although further experiments are still needed. During the first year, we have already developed new materials and activation processes which showed extremely promising results in terms of strong AHEs. It is very likely that at the end of the project we will be able to have a demonstration unit capable of producing large amounts of energy with a high Coefficient Of Performance.
Such a working demonstration unit would open new perspectives for energy production in Europe and worldwide. A new source of green energy at low cost, easily available everywhere would allow for a new industrial applications and the actual development of extremely efficient smart grids. Additionally, the total absence of climate affecting emissions from the HME generators could give a real, effective contribution to the containment of ongoing climate changes.
We could also demonstrate very large screening energies determined in proton and deuteron induced nuclear reactions observed in the accelerator experiments on some metallic alloys. The results will allow to understand the enhancement mechanisms of nuclear reactions at extremely low energies and propose special materials for gas-loading experiments. The corresponding theory of the deuteron-deuteron nuclear reactions predicting the nuclear reaction rates at thermal energies has been developed.