SUGAR/LENR

SUGAR: Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research
Phase II: N+4 Advanced Concept Development

(NASA contract)

January 5, 2012
Full text. (148 pages, 3.0 MB)
Selected pages relating to LENR

Abstract (emphasis added)

This final report documents the work of the Boeing Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) team on Task 1 of the Phase II effort. The team consisted of Boeing Research and Technology, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, General Electric, and Georgia Tech.
Using a quantitative workshop process, the following technologies, appropriate to aircraft operational in the N+4 2040 timeframe, were identified: Liquefied  Natural Gas (LNG), Hydrogen, fuel cell hybrids, battery electric hybrids, Low Energy Nuclear  (LENR), boundary layer ingestion propulsion (BLI), unducted fans and advanced propellers, and combinations.
Technology development plans were developed. [. . .]

I came across this report studying Krivit’s treatment of Widom-Larsen theory and critics of it, covering it briefly on this page. Then I looked more closely at the report. It’s actually remarkable, showing that some government contractors have their heads screwed on straight. Boeing also was involved in an attempt to confirm Rossi technology, working with Industrial Heat. Same as Industrial Heat, they found nothing. Of course, the fuel for that attempt was prepared by Tom Darden for IH, and Rossi, quite likely, if he ever had a secret formula, did not not disclose it to Darden, thus violating the agreement. But that’s another story for another day.

This report does mention Rossi and Defkalion, and Krivit, of course, faulted them for it, though the mention was perfectly normal for the time, i.e., this was written in 2011. This page will look at the details of the report, with my comments. Take it away, SUGAR!

Page 15

Concept 8 (LENR) [. . . ] The group identified that the LENR concept could have tremendous benefits, but the technical risks are extremely high.

Right. Exactly. Quibble: the “LENR concept” sucks (more accurately, it is almost meaningless, it’s so vague), but the reality of at least some of the observed and confirmed “LENR effects” could lead to major breakthroughs in many areas. Or not. The evidence is already overwhelming that “something is happening,” and that heat is being generated by a nuclear process. That debate was actually over by the mid 1990s (when Miles heat/helium correlation was confirmed), as far as any reasonable examination, but Undead Science. There is still high risk. Reality is not automatically practicality.

Page 18

LENR-powered via heat turbines
LENR:
• Flight weight
• Conversion of heat to mechanical power
• Electric generation via gas or steam turbine?
• Hot fluid transfer to heat exchanger in core?
• Possible need for radioactive shielding

Most LENR reports find very low radiation, probably below levels of concern. However, WL theory suggests the extensive involvement of neutrons, and if LENR devices are optimized for energy generation (instead of modest levels of transmutations as is the normal focus of WL theory), it is possible that there would be a larger radiation issue. Like most LENR issues, this is a bridge better crossed when we come to it.

It is extremely likely that practical LENR will involve gas-phase loading of active materials. The Rossi fraud purported to show reactions close to the melting point of nickel, and if energy generation at such high temperatures could be managed, flight applications might be possible. However, there is little or no confirmed work at high temperatures, but there is work at more modest temperatures. Even the electroytic approach might be more efficient at above the boiling point of water (using a pressurized system). The technology is not close to ready for practical work with commercial power levels.

Page 19

As with the Virtual East team, the West team identified that the LENR concept provided the highest payoff.

[. . . ]

The Onsite team also identified the LENR concept as the highest payoff, but with
an associate high risk.

Page 20

• LENR high payoff, but high risk [. . . ] 1) LENR – Very high payoff/very high risk. Recommend small study to set goals and watch
tech feasibility and development

This is getting closer to what I recommend. I’ll come to that, because they get even closer.

Page 21

1) LENR
• Study to set goals
• Watch tech feasibility and development
• Investigate system architecture options
• Develop baseline system design and system performance targets

For NASA, LENR is not worth high investment yet. But they did create some study efforts, I’ll get to that.

Page 23

Flying LENR
High power density LENR

LENR was high power density when first discovered, it was even higher than the estimate by Pons and Fleischmann because it it was a surface effect, whereas they believed they had found a bulk effect. However, high power density is not of much use unless it can be scaled and applied to generate high overall power.

Page 24

3.0 LENR Requirements Analysis
The idea of using a Low Energy Nuclear Reactor (LENR) was discussed at the N+4 Workshop, both as a ground-based source of energy to create electricity or hydrogen, and an aircraft-carried power source for primary propulsion. Given the potential of clean zero-emissions energy, further work was identified for both applications. Nuclear energy is a potential source of clean low cost energy that should be considered in a detailed energy study (see Section 4.0). In this section we will discuss the potential and requirements for a flying LENR application for aviation.

A hybrid technology approach is likely both for the short term and the long term. As a zero-emissions system, biomass used to create clean fuels for combustion would recycle carbon; solar electric can be used to generate hydrogen, and so clean energy technology is possible. At this point, the reviewers were looking at claims of kilowatt-level power from small reactors, i.e., Rossi’s e-cat. That device was not optimized for efficiency, and, as a result, had a relatively low COP, requiring continuous power input. My own speculation is that it was designed this way to provide excuses, because a different approach to control would have allowed operating at maximum efficiency.

(Rossi actually claimed to have a megawatt reactor, but this was actually a pile of much smaller reactors.)

Since a LENR is essentially a source of heat, a heat engine of some kind is needed to produce useful work that can create an integrated propulsion system for an aircraft. It was decided to do a relatively simple study to determine the range of LENR and heat engine performance that would produce an aircraft competitive to a conventional fueled aircraft

[. . .]

Since the power requirements are significantly different at cruise compared to takeoff and climb, we also investigated a hybrid case where batteries and an electric motor are used to supplement the heat engine + LENR at takeoff. This yielded significantly improved results (Figure 3.3) which required lower LENR and heat engine performance levels (Heat engine > 0.4 HP/lb, LENR > 1 HP/lb, & Batteries > 225 Wh/kg). These numbers are illustrative only, as other combinations could yield useful propulsion and power systems, and the results are dependent on cost and performance assumptions. However, the numbers should be useful in establishing initial system goals for LENR concepts.

Doncha hate it when an author mixes units like that? For batteries, the figure is 0.137 HP/lb. Their point is correct, I think, but something is off about how they have expressed it.

Page 82

6.2.3 Low Energy Nuclear Reactor Technologies
Goals and Objectives:
Develop technologies for Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) propulsion systems.
Performance Area and Impact:
Traditional fuel burn and emissions will be reduced or eliminated by using LENR energy.
Noise may be reduced by using LENR heat instead of combustion in the engines.

Well, consider the whine of the pseudoskeptics. “Impossible! Poppycock! Nonsense!”

NASA was hit by some of this. See

Where were we?

Technical Description:
LENR energy has the potential to eliminate traditional fuel burn and associated emissions. In the current concept, a LENR reactor generates heat that is distributed to heat engines that use the LENR heat instead of combustion. This concept is dependent on successful development of LENR technology, which has reportedly had some success in generating heat in a catalytic process that combines nickel (Ni) with hydrogen (H) gas(8).

8. Rossi, Andrea. Method and Apparatus for Carrying Out Nickel and Hydrogen Exothermal
Reactions. WO 2009125444 October 15, 2009.

In 2011, this looked possible. Rossi did have some success, not necessarily at extracting energy from nickel and hydrogen, but definitely money from investors. Evidence that became public at the trial (Rossi v. Darden, covered extensively on this site, see the case docket) makes it clear that, even if Rossi had something at one time, which is not impossible, he lied about it and nothing from him can be trusted. That was already apparent, by the way, but Rossi fully played the “eccentric inventor” card, and one hypothesis that was difficult to rule out was that he was deliberately trying to look like a fraud and a clown, in order to throw possible competitors off track. However, what we know for sure is that people with very deep pockets, seeing the potential value in spite of the risk, gave up all access to the technology, just to walk away, having invested $20 million. That makes no sense unless they, with years of experience with Rossi and testing his products, actually found there was nothing worth even completing the lawsuit over, a few million more for something that, if real, could be worth a trillion dollars.

This process is reported to produce safe byproducts, such as copper, with no radioactive materials used and no long-lasting radioactive byproducts generated.

Copper was reported by an analysis of Rossi ash. However, this was later retraced, and may have been salted, Rossi liked to plant red herrings to throw others off. Or it was contamination. Or it really is a product. “Reported to” was correct as to most reports in the field. “The process” is undefined. There are many processes, but this would then have been referring to Rossi (and Defkalion).

Upon further investigation, it is thought that low level radiation may be generated during active energy cycles, but that it could be easily shielded and would stop quickly after reactor shutdown.

Nobody participating in this report, as far as I know, is familiar with the LENR literature. “It is thought” is a passive statement that takes no responsibility. The description covers WL theory, and is generally true for most reports. There are wildcat reports of dangerous radiation, though, all unconfirmed.

For a long-term speculation, which is what this report is, as far as LENR is concerned, this is fine. Probably no radiation problems. The best-known effect, most widely studied, apparently converts deuterium to helium, with no significant radiation. There are indications that if the deuterium contains significant hydrogen, that some tritium is produced. That will need attention, but the levels of tritium generated are very low and not likely an issue.

Further development of LENR would be required to produce heat at a high enough temperature to support heat engines in a flight-weight installation. LENR physics analysis and evidence of high temperature pitting in LENR metal substrates indicate that temperatures appropriate for heat engines may have been achieved. It is thought that LENR would use very small amounts of fuel.

Uh, what LENR physics analysis? That pitting is with electrolytic LENR, where it appears that local temperature exceeded the melting point of palladium, creating micron-sized “volcanoes,” with frozen melt. This is transient. It does indicate that a high temperature was “achieved,” but not that such could be maintained. LENR probably depends on the physical structure of the catalytic material, which would disappear if the material melts, or even if it rises above a critical temperature.

Yes, fuel consumption in the known reactions is low. Deuterium conversion to helium is one of the highest-energy reactions known, per unit mass. Antimatter conversion could beat it. Good luck!

Initial LENR testing and theory have suggested that any radiation or radio-isotopes produced in the LENR reactions are very short lived and can be easily shielded. In addition, some prototypes(9) that may be harnessing the LENR process can be controlled safely within designed operating parameters and the reaction can be shut down in acceptable time frames. This heat generating process should reduce radiological, shielding and hazardous materials barriers to entry of aviation LENR systems

9. Defkalion Green Technologies. Products. Defkalion Green Technologies. [Online] [Cited:
January 28, 2012.] http://www.defkalion-energy.com/products.

The page as of January 18, 2012. It has a link to a spec sheet. I found it.

It was a carefully and beautifully prepared and formatted fantasy. Defkalion was going great guns, with Rossi-killer technology. Rossi claimed that they stole his secrets. What actually happened? Nobody who really knows is talking. But Defkalion, unlike Rossi, was in communication with the CMNS community. It looked good. The technology was more plausible than Rossi’s, though based on the same concept, hot NiH. Defkalion appeared to have more direct control.

In fact, they had an artifact, caused by a flow meter that was not designed to measure very low flow in the presence of “bumping,” where flow would momentarily reverse. So the flow was being over-reported, drastically. And Defkalion rejected attempts to confirm, until their European representative blew the whistle and they disappeared, literally vanished, almost overnight.

A cautionary tale. Essentially, nothing about LENR can be concluded from Defkalion claims. They had some remarkable results (variation of heat based on isotope of nickel used) that made no sense if the reactor didn’t work. So there we are: mystery. The world is full of them. Maybe they were straight-out lying. Maybe not. Maybe the Men in Black got to them. After all, trillion-dollar, disruptive technology!

In this field, commercial claims cannot be trusted. Period. Even straight-out scientific experimental reports, by credentialed scientists, should be confirmed before leaning on them.

Should LENR development prove successful, a few technology components will need to be developed for LENR-based aircraft propulsion. Heat engines, which run a thermodynamic cycle by adding heat via heat transfer instead of combustion, need to be developed. A system for distributing heat from the LENR core to the heat engines also needs to be developed. Additional systems may need to be developed for supporting the LENR core, including systems to deliver reactants and remove byproducts. The Ni-H LENR system would use pure hydrogen and a proprietary nickel and catalyst substrate. Hydrogen usage would be small compared to systems that combust hydrogen. Initially, hydrogen storage might involve cryogenics. The cold liquid hydrogen (LH2) fluid might be used in a regenerative system whereby cooling is supplied to super-conducting generators, electric feeders, and motors while the gas would be used as a fuel in the LENR reactor. The primary LENR byproducts that would require periodic removal from the aircraft are the catalyst and nickel that are contained within the reactor core. Through thoughtful design of the reactor core, preliminary information suggests that these can be easily removed and replaced. The reactor core might then be recycled at low cost, due to the absence of toxic products in the core.

Sure. Sort of. “Proprietary”? Why do they say that? Because someone with proprietary interests was feeding them BS. The technology may or may not be widely accessible by the time LENR is ready for applications. Actual implementations might be proprietary, to be sure. I’d imagine that a fuel core would be designed to be readily replaceable. It might contain enough hydrogen for a flight session. The cores might be light and many would be involved, quite likely, instead of depending on one. Nickel is toxic, but that’s easily handled. Nickel, by the way is the catalyst (for NiH). The involvement of other materials is speculative. Cryogenics will be totally unnecessary.

If WL theory is correct, there may be, from major power production, many transmuted elements, some of which could be toxic. Some will be valuable. Again, this is all way ahead of the actual state of the technology. The take-home is merely that LENR could have amazing possibilities. If.

Page 83

Technology Status:
Multiple coherent theories that explain LENR exist which use the standard Quantum
Electrodynamics & Quantum Chromodynamics model.

This would include any of the theories being advanced by physicists who know the field. It is commonly claimed, both by skeptics and by some “believers”  that if “cold fusion is real, then physics textbooks will have to be revised.” That is not known. I consider it quite likely that the physics involved in LENR will turn out to fit with known models, merely that certain circumstances had not been anticipated and studied. As an example, the Born-Oppenheimer approximation is a heuristic, a simplification to allow easy calculation in conditions that are, in fact, far more complex. It works. Usually!.

This is ironic: Pons and Fleischmann were not looking for a new energy source, that’s a myth that is propagated about them that does not match the history. They were seeking to test the B-O approximation! They knew that it was, indeed, an approximation, and therefore not accurate, so they were looking to see if they could see some deviation from it. They expected to fail. Then their experiment melted down, releasing energy that they could not explain with chemistry.

They did not understand what they had found. They made many mistakes. But . . . they looked where nobody had looked before. When we do that, we find things, some of which may never have been seen before. In fact, there is evidence that the FP Heat Effect had been seen, but never understood. It required very, very unusual conditions, difficult to set up. They were actually very lucky.

The Widom-Larson(10) theory appears to have the best current understanding, but it is far from being fully validated and applied to current prototype testing.

10. Ultra Low Momentum Neutron Catalyzed Nuclear Reactions on Metallic Hydride Surfaces. Windom [sic], Allan and Larsen, Lewis. 1, 2006, The European Physical Journal C – Particles and Fields, Vol. 46, pp. 107-111.

Indeed. And so “best” appears, to those who don’t actually review all the literature, but allow themselves to be led by the nose, by commercial actors with an agenda. The reviewers here, however, remained aware of the lack of validation and testing.

Limited testing is ongoing by NASA and private contractors of  nickel-hydrogen LENR systems.

My opinion is that the NASA work was premature. First of all, this is really DoE stuff. DoE should establish a LENR desk, to monitor the field on behalf of all the government agencies. Individual agencies might have a designated staff person, a “LENR coordinator” who works with the LENR desk to communicate special agency concerns. NASA is working, apparently, on hybrid fusion-fission reactors that use LENR as a neutron generator. Those don’t have to be cheap, the idea is to develop replacements for the plutonium RPGs that are used for long space missions. Even there I question the appropriateness, at this point, of a special NASA program. But maybe, and, after all, Pam Boss and Larry Forsley have a lot of experience. I.e., there, NASA IS working with contractors. AN overall LENR desk would provide some oversight and continuity. There are goats mixed in with the sheep.

Two commercial companies (Leonardo Corp. & Defkalion) are reported to be offering commercial LENR systems.

They were so reported. Lots of people believed them. Many were skeptical, both for unscientific reasons (“LENR is impossible!” isn’t science, because to know that something is impossible, one must know what it is, and nobody knows what is happening in LENR, beyond the simplest “deuterium is converted to helium,” — and that is merely one example of a whole class of effects that can be unexpected. Often we hear that “fusion” requires high temperatures, that it’s “impossible at low temperature,” but that’s an obvious error, because there is a known catalyst that can accomplish fusion at very low temperature, it’s routinely run at close to absolute zero. So could there be some other catalytic condition or other condition that allows low temperature fusion. This much is clear: this doesn’t happen much in nature, or else there would be effects that would very likely have been detected. WL theory, in fact, is being used to propose many common effects that are very, very unlikely. Again. Maybe. “Impossible” is not a scientific term.

Those systems are advertised to run for 6 months with a single fueling cycle.

That was speculation and hype and wishful thinking. Rossi did claim long operation for a reactor heating his warehouse. And Rossi lied about many things. Defkalion certainly had no reliability data to support this, unless it was based on that pump artifact. Yes, the pump fails to report accurate flow for 6 months! Very reliable!

Although data exists on all of these systems, the current data in each case is lacking in either definition or 3rd party verification.

Indeed. Rossi never allowed the collection of reliability data. He ran “demonstrations,” and they kept changing, so that results of one demo could not be compared with another. Possible artifacts would be found for a demo, and so the next demo was completely different, instead of testing for the artifact with the same system. Later, he set up what was called “3rd party verification” — maybe he read this report — but it was a complete fiasco. It wasn’t actually independent. In any case, the report here is totally accurate as to the time.

Thus, the current TRL assessment is low.

Yes. TRL-1. The base level, for the most speculative technology. That was completely appropriate.

In this study the SUGAR Team has assumed, for the purposes of technology planning and
establishing system requirements that the LENR technology will work. We have not conducted an independent technology feasibility assessment. The technology plan contained in this section merely identifies the steps that would need to take place to develop a propulsion system for aviation that utilizes LENR technology.

Right. I hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on this. Overall, NASA put about a million dollars, as far as we know, into LENR in the period of 2008-2012, see this information.

It is possible, though, that this was only for NASA Langley Research Center, there are other projects. For example, see this abstract from ICCF-21, (and audio), from Larry Forsley of Global Energy Corporation: “GEC has a second Space Act Agreement with NASA Glenn Research Center to develop a launch-compatible design, operating at the Plum Brook Station facility.” As well, see this abstract from Pam Boss ( and audio) on the basic experimental phenomenon behind this idea of a hybrid fusion-fission reactor.

I do keep in mind what I wrote above about commercial interests. . . . This is, nevertheless, quite interesting, and Pam’s experiment is one that I might be able to perform in my apartment. Maybe. So I looked up the price of uranium wire. Yikes! Uranium on the spot market is currently $23 per lb., but uranium as an item that one can buy as an individual is becoming unavailable. Could be $1000 for a gram.plus $500 for shipping. Pam’s experiment could use depleted uranium. It’s basically unavailable, even though it is not usable for nuclear fission weapons. Sigma-Aldrich doesn’t sell uranium wire any more. I found odd pieces of uranium, but if I wanted something like what Pam used, the pricing is utterly insane. As far as what I found. What I did find was uranyl nitrate, quite affordable, so it is possible that it could be plated onto a substrate wire (and then palladium would be plated over it. Will I do this? Probably not. But . . . sometimes we do things beyond what we think we will do. And I can dream. . . .

Page 85

Maturation Plan:
TRL 2 (a) Current
A concept for a LENR propulsion system has been generated
Basic principles of LENR are reported to have been demonstrated

That may have been a little optimistic. I will agree that some basic principles have been demonstrated, though not necessarily those needed for a “LENR propulsion system.” So this is a bit shaky.

Dependency:
Development of LENR reactor technology is assumed to be developed successfully in an
external program. An initial requirements assessment indicates that it is beneficial to develop a hybrid system to augment thrust at takeoff, so as not to oversize the LENR system for cruise conditions

Unless, of course, LENR systems are adequately able to supply peak power requirements. A green flight system might avoid high peak power. Techniques other than internal generation of high power to reach cruising altitude and speed might be used.

LENR technology is potentially game-changing to not just aviation, but the worldwide energy mix as well. This technology should be followed to determine feasibility and potential performance

Indeed. The skeptics who dumped on NASA as shown above are unaware that the Department of Energy reviews (both 1989 and 2004) recommended basic research on “cold fusion” or LENR under existing programs. In 2004, that recommendation was actually unanimous.

All they rejected was a crash program, which would still be a bad idea. The failure of the DoE was in not taking steps to monitor progress in the research, and to identify and support appropriate programs. Instead, the recommendation for further research was essentially ignored, and the DoE reviews were widely considered as complete rejections while, in fact, they were not.

 

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