The Engineering Challenge of Putting the E-Cat’s Heat to Work

An important thing to remember when considering the current status of the E-Cat, and one which Andrea Rossi has emphasized, is that in it’s current design it is currently only a water heater/steam maker. Numerous people have asked Rossi whether his E-Cat produces electricity, and he has said that currently he is not. The 1 MW plant to be delivered to Defkalion in Greece will only produce steam and hot water — it’s not exactly clear yet whether Defkalion has plans to use the steam for only heating purposes, or whether they will be trying to generate electricity.

While many people are extolling the breakthrough that Rossi has made with the E-Cat, the technology  is currently in a very primitive state, and to maximize its usefulness considerable engineering will need to be done.

Rossi has addressed some of these engineering issues on his web site. One questioner asked, “Since this device primarily creates heat. Are there any plans to construct steam engines around this device? It seems a backward step, but steam technology is already here and there should be little concern for efficiency.”

Rossi’s answer: “Yes, we are also studying steam engines fit for our E-Cats: not an easy task.”

A steam engine converts the pressure provided by steam into mechanical energy. It will be interesting to see whether the cheap and cleanly generated steam the E-Cat produces will bring about a renaissance of the steam age. Could we again see the production of a new generation of steam locomotives or even steam powered cars to pick up where the Stanley Steamer (last manufactured in 1928) left off ?

Another obvious use of steam is for electricity generation. Most electricity used in the modern world is generated by steam turbines and Rossi has been asked about the suitability of the current E-Cat for producing  electricity. Here’s one question:

1) Do you already know if only one version (3kW) of the eCAT will be sold?
2) It will be sold as an steam generator?
3) what will be the maximum pressure and temperature of the output steam?
4) can you tell us, what are the main difficulties in obtaining electricity, so we can try to aid you for free at Bologna or at Genoa simulating  the system in some way?

Rossi’s Answers:

“1- no
2- maybe
3-550 °C, 50 bars
4- efficiency”

http://www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com/?p=473&cpage=10#comments

Efficient and powerful electrical generation requires superheated steam to drive the turbines, and the temperatures Rossi mentions here match the temperatures of superheated steam used in current power stations. We don’t know exactly what configuration of E-Cats produce the 550 °C steam; Mats Lewan reported that the steam produced from the single 2.5 KW E-Cat that he tested was measured at 100.5 °C, so Rossi has clearly been experimenting with some special configuration of E-Cats to reach those higher temperatures.

Steam is the primary product of the E-Cat, but another avenue of  research will very likely be in the field direct production of electricity from heat through using solid state thermocouples. Right now thermocouples are not very efficient, but as with all technologies, with the right amount of  money, motivation and brainpower they could be improved greatly.

Once a working E-Cat is on the market there will doubtless be a massive amount of work done by engineers trying to find out efficient and creative ways to us the heat it creates.

  • http://wermenh.com/ Ric Werme

    On a smaller scale than Ag, I suspect that physical plant managers at every research site in Antarctica are drooling over replacing their oil fired space heating systems with something that needs to be refueled once a summer.

    Heck, just having something to keep their diesel fuel warm would pique their interest!

  • http://wermenh.com/index.html Ric Werme

    Just found this site today.

    Farms use a tremendous amount of propane to dry products like grain, and I figured this would be a good market for a device that generates a lot of low grade heat.

    Every since someone pointed out that genetic engineering would have the biggest impact on the Ag segment, not on human health care, I’ve looked to the Ag segment as a major market for just about everything.

    • admin

      Great point. A very good first market for the E-Cat I would say.

  • http://www.pdfernhout.net Paul Fernhout

    Rossi apparently previously worked on heat-to-electricity conversion systems; see:
    http://dodfuelcell.cecer.army.mil/library_items/Thermo%282004%29.pdf

  • Waiting

    @MLW,

    That’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought of that. It would be a great early market.

    @Wesley Bruce,

    The thermal to electrical conversion efficiency may be better than you’re estimating. It looks like you’re assuming that the cooling water has to be at least 300 C before it reaches the reactor, and anything below that will stop the reaction. Rossi hasn’t told us what conditions would stop the reaction. But in the demos, he cooled it directly with tap water for multiple hours without hurting the reaction. The water wasn’t preheated, and it wasn’t kept under high pressure (the steam was at one atmosphere). There wasn’t even a heat exchanger to allow the hot water at the exit to preheat the incoming cold water. So it looks like the efficiency calculation could actually use room temperature for T1.

    Of course, this assumes the system was real and didn’t use any of several mechanisms that could have given fraudulent results. We’ll have to wait until October to find out whether it was real.

  • MLW

    Electrical generation plants that create steam to drive turbines need to heat water from an ambient temperature upto the high levels needed for the turbines. Placing a series of E-Cats as a pre-heater of the water to the coal or gas boiler reduces the energy requirements of the total plant.

    If you have a 500MW power plant and you put 5MW worth of E-Cats into pre heating the water going in, you can cut back on your coal or gas by 1%. I think you would find that many power plants would pay a lot to reduce their fuel costs by 1%. You get a verifieable measureable system without the expense of building an entire generating plant. No need to try and hit a home run your first time at bat.

  • http://appliedimpossibilies.blogspot.com/ Wesley Bruce

    Cold Fusion has been around long enough, 22 years, for many of us to have looked at the heat engine/ steam engine problem thoroughly. The top temperature of the cell matters but so does the bottom temperature. Below 82 degrees C the F & P reaction stops working so you can’t put water into a heat exchanger at or below that temperature. Due to measuring lags and errors the temperature must be 83 C. This is the cells T1(356K). Water boils at 100 degree’s. This is it T2(373K). Efficiency = 1- T1/T2 So the F & P system had a temperature range to work with of only 17 degrees and an efficiency of ~4%. This is an extremely low delta T and very low efficiency. Pressurisation helps getting the top temperature up to 200 or 300, yielding a delta T of 117 to 217 degree’s C, yielding better efficiency but not good enough due to the low COP of the F & P configuration.
    The Rossi E- Cat is a gas loaded system with a higher ignition temperature below which the reaction should stop. With an ignition temp of 300 (T1=573K)and an upper temperature of 550 deg,(T2=823k) 50 bar pressurisation, the delta T should be 250 K and efficiency about 30% still lower that some early coal fired steam engines. In reality due to other losses it could be lower. I may be wrong about the ignition temperature, it may be lower. Its a common mistake to think that the T1 should be the ambient temperature but without a heat pump moderating the heat flow than T1 must be a little above the ignition temperature or it will quench the reaction.
    With a probable efficiency around 30% we could get 300 watts-e per kW thermal. To run the cell we would need a COP [including pumps, electronics, etc] of 3.4. The E-Ca is significant because its reliable with a COP over 10 and runs for a long time. .
    There are 4 ways to go.
    1] A reasonably good sterling or ammonia/ water steam system.
    2] A compressed air system where cooled compressed air is passed through a secondary heat exchanger with the primary heat exchanger keeping the cell above ignition.
    3] An endothermic chemical reaction that coverts gasses into fuels in a closed cycle. A good option if you want to run a cell all day to power a big intermittent load.
    4] A thermal transistor system where the heat from one unit heats an absorption heat pump pushing the heat from another unit up to much higher temperatures. This yields higher efficiencies for the second cell but averaged efficiency is lower that 30% for both. However the thermal transistor effects allow much higher temperature that are essential for jets and rocketry.

    Note: I’ve left thermoelectric’s out for good reason. They max out at 18% efficiency. Above that level the heat flow begins to mix the P and N metals or dopants removing the P/N boundary that makes the effect work. High efficiency thermoelectric systems don’t last log as a result. Some people are working on it but you don’t want to mix two experimental things in the one invention, If it breaks you don’t know which bit broke and why.
    With a stated COP of 30 for some units and a temperature range that supports moderately good heat engines. Someone should close the loop quite quickly.

    There is one catch small thermal fluctuations should cause larger power fluctuation at the input side of the E-Cat if the heat engine is powering a generator. A storage cell, flywheel or something will be required. Sceptics will reject the technology it it has any storage anywhere in the system. Perhaps they are unwinnable but it must be considered a direct drive closed loop unit will be less reliable.

    I hope this analysis helps. Wesley Bruce.

  • Lande

    Regarding temperatures; Rossi stated the units can be coupled in series, so that’s how he reaches 550 degC.

    This being a limit may be connected to both the catalyst and Nickel itself…

    But why he states 50 bars as a maximum pressure I don’t quite understand, should be merely an engineering challenge.

    I also thought the current power stations runs at higher maximum pressure, and may be that’s where the efficiency issue comes in….

  • http://www.zerwellenergy.com Chuck Bagwell

    For those interested in learning more about Tesla Turbine research, Here is a nice link: http://www.fieldlines.com/board/index.php/topic,135031.html

    I haven’t found a 1300 HP one yet, which would be required to handle the 3,400 pounds of steam per hour produced by the 1 MW E-CAT.

    But, I’m still looking.

  • jonathan

    @BB, click the contact tab at the top which will reveal his email address.

    • admin

      Yes, just added that tonight. Glad you noticed!

  • BB

    A Stirling engine would be something. Or the turbines tha are sugested by Eric Ashworth and Chuck Bagwell. Note that a steam engine and a turbine are essentially the same thing, it just differs in efficiency.

    BTW, is there a way I can contact you?