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FAQ

Who is Brillouin Energy?

Brillouin Energy Corp. is a research and development (R&D) clean-technology (clean-tech) company that is developing reactors that produce thermal and electrical energy from Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (“LENR”).

Brillouin Energy was founded in January 2009 by its current President and Chief Technology Officer Robert Godes, who began formally working on his specific insights into LENR in the early 2000’s. Currently Brillouin has a staff of approximately twelve scientific/engineering professionals who are especially concentrated in advanced engineering disciplines, plus executive management, working in the Company’s headquarters laboratory in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Company also draws on the expertise of several outside technical consultants or entities. In addition, Brillouin has a formal Research Partnership with SRI International in Menlo Park California, under which SRI provides high-level scientific and engineering services to Brillouin Energy.

What is a Controlled Electron Capture Reaction (“CECR”)?

CECR refers to the process by which a proton combines with an electron to form a neutron. This reaction is the critical first step in the sequence of reactions through which hydrogen nuclei—i.e., protons—are fused to form helium. Brillouin’s key innovation has been the development of a process by which conditions are created within a crystal lattice that stimulate CECR to occur. CECR is the critical first step in the sequence of reactions through which hydrogen nuclei fuse to from helium. The CECR process is a critical initial step that Brillouin employs to achieve and control a LENR, potentially making it industrially useful, in terms of generating thermal energy.

For more information, see the discussion of CECR in the “What are the physics underlying Brillouin’s reactor FAQ below.

What is LENR?

Broadly speaking, there are two types of nuclear reactions: fission and fusion. In fission, large nuclei break apart into smaller ones whereas with fusion, small nuclei combine to produce larger ones. Nuclear power plants in operation today employ reactors that are based on the fission process, specifically, the splitting of uranium nuclei. There are no commercial reactors in operation today employing the fusion process. Research has been underway since the 1950’s to develop reactors based on nuclear fusion; in such reactors, hydrogen nuclei would fuse together. Almost all of that effort has focused on creating very high temperature plasmas such as occurs within the sun. Such an environment is extremely difficult to create and control and none of these approaches is even remotely close to producing a commercially viable reactor. The most recent high temperature fusion research reactors have cost billions of dollars to construct yet, arguably, none of them has, to date, produced even as much power as is required to run it. Both fission and high temperature fusion also have the added challenge of generating hazardous radioactive waste materials.

A Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) is also a fusion reaction, but one that can be induced in solid materials at much lower or near-to-room temperatures. Scientific and engineering evidence has been building since the 1990’s that increasingly points to the possibility that LENRs may be much cheaper and easier to control and built on a smaller scale than either fission reactors or high temperature fusion reactors. Current leading LENR research efforts are also increasingly pointing to much higher energy output ratios than those yet seen in high temperature plasma reactors. Besides being potentially very low cost, a LENR reactor has the important added benefit of also likely being a pollution-free energy generation source.

For more information, see the discussion in the “Safety of LENR” FAQ below.

Why is the company named “Brillouin”?

Brillouin zone is a way to mathematically describe the lattice structure of a crystal that is particularly useful for understanding the physics of crystal lattices. In recognition of the key importance of the quantum mechanical behavior of lattices to the LENR, Robert Godes named the Company after Brillouin.

Are LENR and CECR related to “cold fusion”?

Yes. They are different terms for the same phenomenon. However, cold fusion is also often popularly misunderstood, leading to the inaccurate implication that energy is being created out of nothing, when in fact the accurate implication is that LENR are actually what is occurring.

How do you pronounce “Brillouin”?
Brillouin Energy is named after a French physicist, Léon Brillouin (1889–1969), who invented an important scientific concept several decades ago called the “Brillouin Zone”. In French, the word would be pronounced in two syllables as “Brie-ohnn”. In English, the word is pronounced in three syllables as “Brill-oo-in”.

What could LENR be used for?

The energy produced by LENR ends up taking the form of thermal energy. This heat can be used directly as thermal energy for space heating, to heat domestic hot water, or in a wide range of various other industrial processes. LENR can also generate high temperature thermal energy, which can be used in a boiler to generate steam to drive a steam turbine in exactly the same way as fossil fuel or nuclear fission power plants generate electricity.

For more information, see Products in the Technology section.

What is the source of energy for LENR reactors?

In a word: Hydrogen. More specifically, LENR is a multi-step nuclear process that starts with hydrogen and typically (ideally) ends with helium. This process would not be considered Fusion by most people. Brillouin Energy’s LENR reactor systems are designed to drive what we believe are the underlying physics of LENR. This involves protons being converted to neutrons, which is an endothermic event. Because this event is converting energy to Mass those neutrons are Ultra cold upon formation in most cases. The neutrons are being accumulated on to other hydrogen ions moving within the lattice. If they do not interact with hydrogen ions they can also cause isotopic shifts and transmutation. This type of result has also been observed in this field of study. Hydrogen is an abundant element that, along with oxygen, is a constituent of water, so it is available everywhere and at low cost. When hydrogen nuclei combine to form a helium nucleus through a sequence of nuclear reactions in an LENR reactor, the mass of the resulting helium nucleus is a bit less than the combined mass of the hydrogen nuclei. That difference in mass is converted into a relatively large amount of energy in the form of heat in the reactor (the conversion of mass to energy is encapsulated in Einstein’s famous formula: E=mc2). This means that a small amount of hydrogen, when fused to form helium in the reactor, can produce a huge amount of heat energy, far more than would be produced if the hydrogen were combusted in a chemical reaction with oxygen to form water (or in any other conventional chemical reaction such as the burning of fossil fuels). For all practical purposes, hydrogen, obtained from water and “burned” in a LENR reactor, is an inexhaustible and inexpensive source of energy.

For more information, see the Science section.

How does the safety of LENR compare to that of fission and high temperature fusion?

It is dramatically safer. In contrast with LENR, in both fission and high temperature fusion processes, high energy neutrons are created. These neutrons do not remain localized – they pass out of the reaction zone. Because these neutrons are harmful, the reactor core must be shielded. In addition, the high-energy neutrons are able to penetrate nearby materials and react with the nuclei in those materials, including those in the structural materials that make up the reactor vessel. Some of those reactions produce radioactive isotopes, which retain their radioactivity for long periods of time. The disposal of this radioactive waste has become a serious problem, characteristic of the nuclear fission industry. There is no permanent disposal site where the waste can be stored for the thousands of years it takes for radiation levels to decline. As a consequence, all waste from nuclear power plants is currently stored in temporary storage facilities.

A second problem with the radioactive isotopes is that they continue to emit radiation, which generates heat even after the reactor is shut down. As a consequence, commercial fission reactors must have elaborate control systems and safety mechanisms and procedures to prevent them from overheating and melting down. A great deal of expensive effort goes into ensuring that highly reliable cooling systems will operate following the worst of disasters.

LENR does not create high-energy neutrons. The low energy neutrons created in LENR remain localized within the core of the reactor. For this reason, the potential for transmuting the structural materials of the reactor into radioactive isotopes is greatly minimized. Since the Company was founded in January 2009 (and in Brillouin’s pre formation period of early research), measurements from radiation detectors in Brillouin’s laboratory, have consistently shown no radiation levels exceeding background to date, supporting this conclusion.

As a consequence, reactors based on LENR are not expected to generate material quantities of nuclear waste or to pose safety hazards to humans.

What are the advantages of LENR-based energy generation systems?

Brillouin’s approach to LENR has multiple advantageous characteristics:

  • Aside from hydrogen, no other raw materials are consumed in Brillouin’s LENR reactors.
  • No exotic or expensive materials such as platinum or palladium would be needed to construct Brillouin’s LENR reactors. While LENR can occur in palladium, Brillouin has found that nickel, an abundant and relatively cheap metal, serves equally well.
  • LENR does not produce high-energy neutrons, which greatly minimizes the potential for nuclear transmutations to produce problematic radioactive isotopes. While tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen is produced, it is an intermediate product in the sequence of nuclear reactions that take place in Brillouin’s reactor; it is produced in one nuclear reaction and immediately consumed in another that occurs in the next nano-second, so there should be no dangerous build up of tritium.
  • LENR reactors can be shut down within seconds.
  • No greenhouse gases are produced.
  • There are no air emissions.
There has been a lot of controversy about LENR. Has LENR actually been observed?

A number of scientific teams have experimented with LENR reactors over the past twenty-five years with varying results. Multiple researchers have reported observing LENR but then have had difficulty reproducing the results. Other groups have explored the phenomenon but have failed to ever achieve LENR. For this reason, a great deal of skepticism has developed that the phenomenon actually occurs.

What has become clear through these years of research is that the conditions for LENR to occur are difficult to achieve and to maintain. Even if LENR is initiated, the materials in which it is occurring may be altered sufficiently by the LENR process itself that the materials no longer provide an environment where reactions can continue. The varied and seemingly unpredictable research results have been compounded by the lack of a broadly accepted, well-understood theory of LENR that would provide a basis upon which R&D efforts could be based.

Through its years of research, Brillouin Energy has developed a theory as to how LENR works. Based on this pioneering theory, Brillouin has further pioneered in designing a reactor and developing operating procedures, which provide an environment in which LENR can take place reliably and can operate continuously.

For more information, see Is LENR The Real Deal? and the Defense Intelligence Agency Analysis Report in the News section.

What is Brillouin’s method of generating LENR?

The key component of Brillouin’s reactor consists of a cylindrical stainless steel metal rod, which has been sequentially coated with thin, concentric layers of various materials. This rod is also called the “core” and it is fundamental to the design of BEC’s system.

The outer layer of the core is nickel and it is in this layer that the LENR reactions take place. Hydrogen is adsorbed into this nickel layer and a very short duration, high power electromagnetic pulse is repetitively applied to the rod. When the pulse is applied to the rod, the hydrogen nuclei (which are protons) undergo a sequence of nuclear reactions. The net result is that four hydrogen nuclei end up yielding one helium nucleus plus energy, which can be extracted from the core in the form of heat for useful purposes.

For more information, see Products in the Technology section.

How does Brillouin’s reactor differ from that of other groups working in this area?

The primary differences between Brillouin’s reactor and those of other groups with which Brillouin is familiar are the process for fabricating the metal rod, the mechanisms for loading hydrogen into the nickel, and the repetitive application of a very short, high-powered excitation pulse to the rod core. Brillouin has determined that precisely how the core is fabricated, the hydrogen is loaded, and the pulse is applied affect whether or not LENR occurs and the intensity of the reactions.

For more information, see LENR Peer Reviewed Papers in the Science section.

Does Brillouin have research results that demonstrate that its approach to LENR works?

To date, Brillouin Energy has been able to demonstrate the following:

  • Net energy output ratio: Ratios exceeding four (“4X” or ‘four times excess heat’) have clearly been achieved.
  • Reproducibility: LENR can reliably be initiated in Brillouin’s reactors.
  • Continuous operation: Reactors have been operated continuously for several weeks at a time with no apparent degradation of the core’s elements or other phenomenon occurring that would limit long-term, continuous operation.
  • Controllability: LENR can be started by applying pulses to the metal rod and stopped by ceasing the pulsing of the rod; no one else in the field has demonstrated this level of control to date.
  • Reactor design: The reactor design employs readily available materials and, except for the fabrication of the metal rod, does not require esoteric manufacturing techniques. Compared to reactor concepts being considered for hot fusion or to reactors in conventional nuclear fission power plants, LENR power plants should be much easier to construct and maintain.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.

What does Brillouin mean by “net energy output ratio”?

By “net energy output ratio”, Brillouin refers to the ratio of the thermal power produced by LENR in its reactors, as compared to the electrical power input required to run its reactors.

In Brillouin’s reactors, electrical power is required for the pulses being applied to the rod. Additional electrical energy is required to run the pulse generator and for other peripheral equipment such as fluid pumps, an electrolyzer (low temperature reactor), and a hydrogen generator (high temperature reactor). In its present stage of development, energy is required to maintain Brillouin’s reactor at operating temperature. Power consumed for such purposes is known as the “parasitic” load or consumption, i.e., the cost of energy required to run the system.

IIn a commercial LENR reactor, the parasitic power consumption for the peripheral equipment other than the pulse generator should be a relatively small percentage of the power output and the startup power requirements would be a very small percentage of the overall power output. A LENR reactor would likely have to achieve a net energy output ratio of 6X or more on a controlled basis to be commercially viable. Brillouin is presently approaching these ratios in its latest testing as it continues to scale its system.

How does Brillouin measure the thermal energy generated by its reactor?

Brillouin always establishes the base level temperature of the core through a separate set of initial non-LENR runs. Precise sensors continuously measure the temperature of the core. After establishing the base level temperature, LENR reactions are then initiated, which add thermal energy to the core, raising the temperature of the core above that base level. Through knowing the relationship between increases in the temperature of the core, and how much thermal energy is required to bring about such temperature increases, the thermal energy that was specifically generated by LENR is then determined.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.

Is there any firm evidence that the thermal energy produced in Brillouin’s reactors is nuclear in origin?

The nuclear reactions that take place in Brillouin’s reactors convert hydrogen into helium. This transformation does not occur in a single reaction step; rather, it occurs through a sequence of nuclear reactions. Tritium is an intermediate product in this sequence; i.e., it is produced in one reaction and consumed in another. This means that if the nuclear reactions are stopped at any point, there will be some level of tritium within the reactor that has been produced but not yet consumed. In Brillouin’s low temperature reactor, some of this tritium migrates into the electrolyte and displaces hydrogen in water molecules. Separated from the salt in the electrolyte, this water is a convenient source of test samples for tritium testing.

Dr. Thomas Claytor, a senior research scientist who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for many years, specializing in designing nuclear measurement instrumentation until his recent retirement, tested electrolyte samples from Brillouin’s low temperature reactor for tritium. Dr. Claytor found tritium in the electrolyte at levels significantly in excess of background levels. These results confirm, with a very high level of confidence, that nuclear reactions are taking place in Brillouin’s reactors.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.

How significant are Brillouin’s research results?

Brillouin is not aware of any other group that has been able to achieve the combination of the level of reproducibility, continuity of operations, control of reactions, and a net energy output ratio significantly exceeding 1X, which has been achieved by Brillouin. Coupled with the tritium tests – which confirmed that the excess heat generation can confidently be ascribed to nuclear reactions – Brillouin’s research results demonstrate that LENR can realistically be considered a potential future energy source.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.

What are the physics underlying Brillouin’s reactor?

In the early 1990’s, prior to forming his Company and beginning early R&D, Robert Godes first hypothesized that the key to achieving and controlling LENR (or at least one way of doing so) was to create an environment in which protons could combine with electrons in a metal lattice to produce neutrons. Once these neutrons are created, they are available for subsequent fusion reactions with other protons in the metal lattice. He referred to the critical initial step of creating the neutrons as a “controlled electron capture reaction” (“CECR”).

In practice, the environment required for CECR to occur is created by first, adsorbing hydrogen into the lattice of a metal such that the hydrogen nuclei – which are protons – become embedded in the lattice structure. Once this has been achieved, if the lattice structure is distorted on a sufficiently short time scale (which is induced by the pulse mentioned above), quantum mechanical processes will lead some of the protons to capture electrons from the lattice and be converted into neutrons. These low energy neutrons stay within the lattice structure and combine with other protons to produce a deuterium nucleus (one proton and one neutron). Subsequent nuclear reactions produce tritium (one proton and two neutrons) and, finally, helium (two protons and two neutrons). The energy released takes the form of heat.

It is noteworthy that the first fusion reaction (neutron-proton combination) is also enhanced by the application of the pulse. As a consequence, neutrons produced through CECR are consumed in a beneficial reaction before they participate in reactions that would transmute the nickel in the lattice and thereby degrade the lattice structure.

Godes’ “CECR Hypothesis” has guided how Brillouin has approached the challenge of designing a working LENR reactor. It is this Hypothesis, which is a unique, new contribution to the field of LENR, and which brands BEC’s potential to lead the way.

For more information, see LENR/CECR in the Science section.

Have any independent research groups replicated Brillouin’s results?

Brillouin is currently working with expert scientists and researchers at SRI International to provide ongoing independent verification of its results. In January 2017, SRI issued an Interim Progress Report reporting that they have successfully replicated “over unity” amounts of thermal energy (heat) for Brillouin Energy Corporation’s most advanced Isoperibolic (“IPB”) Hydrogen Hot Tube™ (HHT™) reactor test systems based on controlled low energy nuclear reactions (“LENR”).

Additionally, the PhD Director of the University of California Berkeley Electrical Engineering Lab replicated Brillouin’s Phase One, earlier open container excess heat test results, and later presented those results to an American Chemical Society conference.

Dr. Claytor, a PhD nuclear physicist, replicated Brillouin’s tritium results many times before testing Brillouin’s samples as described above, i.e., whether the tests were run by Brillouin, or by Dr. Claytor on an independent basis, the results were the same.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.

In what direction is Brillouin’s R&D headed?

Brillouin’s current primary research objective is to achieve higher net energy output ratios, which can form the basis for commercially viable applications. As such, Brillouin Energy is continuing its work with SRI International in the testing process to help it to engineer and develop its IPB HHT™ reactor test systems, with the goal of evolving them towards LENR prototype equipment systems, which potentially may generate commercial scale LENR Heat on demand for industrially useful applications.

For more information, see Experimental Results in the Science section.