Green Power Lacks the Energy Density to run our Civilization, LENR might provide it

To understand the incredible potential of low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) and nuclear energy in general, you must grasp the concept of energy density. Put simply energy density means the amount of potential power contained in an energy source or the more density, the more power.

The best explanation I’ve seen of this concept so far is in Robert Bryce’s fascinating new book Smaller, Faster, Lighter Denser, Cheaper. In the book, Bryce shows that density is the key to energy success and demonstrates that most green power sources simply lack the density needed to power our modern technological civilization.

Among other things, Bryce notes that wind turbines provide an energy density of .9 watts a meter. In contrast a cubic foot of natural gas provides 1,031 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of power or heat. He estimates that a barrel of oil contains the equivalent of 529 watts of electricity and 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas provide the equivalent of 3,819 watts of electricity or 36.79 kilowatt hours of electricity. A standard lithium-ion battery like those used in electric cars or laptops has an energy density of around .25 and .73 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Natural gas and gasoline are popular fuels because they are extremely dense in energy. Yet green technology is not. Bryce estimated that wind turbines provide an energy density of .9 watts a meter. If wind turbines were used to power just one Facebook data center in Oregon they would take up 11 square miles or 28 square kilometers of land, according to his estimates. Powering Apple’s iCloud data center in Maiden, North Carolina, would require 6.5 square miles or 16.8 miles of solar panels.

That means from an energy density perspective neither solar nor wind power is cost effective. LENR on the other hand could be the cheapest and most cost effective power source ever. Ecat inventor Andrea Rossi has claimed that his technology would deliver 10,000 times the energy density of gasoline.

The energy density of gasoline or diesel fuel is estimated at around 10 kilowatt hours a liter. That means the ecat would generate around 10,000 kilowatt hours for the equivalent of a liter of gasoline. Obviously since we don’t know much about ecat’s operations there is no way to verify this or make any sort of reasonable comparison.

If Rossi’s claims are true one or a few small ecat installations could easily power one data center. A data center is one of the giant complexes of servers that make up the backbone of the internet. Data center power requirements are expanding dramatically, Bryce claims that data center power demands increased by 56% between 2005 and 2010.

The Inside of a Google Data Center

Bryce’s estimates show us why investors such as those at Cherokee Partners are so interested in LENR. If the claims of its promoters are true, LENR could be the densest power source yet produced. That means it would also be the most profitable power source ever produced.

Like other observers such as Dr. Michael McKubre Bryce has come to the conclusion that only nuclear power sources such as LENR will have the energy density needed to power our civilization in the near future. Unfortunately Bryce doesn’t take a look at LENR or hot fusion in his book instead he concentrates on improved fission power sources.

Bryce’s work shows that increased energy density must be one of the major goals of research and development. That means a far greater investment in nuclear technologies of all sorts is critical to developing the energy and power density needed to keep our world running. Anybody who understands energy density understands the promise of LENR and the necessity for nuclear research.

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4 Responses to Green Power Lacks the Energy Density to run our Civilization, LENR might provide it

  • David says:

    In the hypothetical reality that cold fusion LNR is not real then all that would have to happen is that we could create a battery that could recharge energy much faster and at higher amounts and In a smaller space than we currently can. Then the energy density of the sources wouldn’t have to be as energy dense.

  • Mark H says:

    You wrote: “Bryce has come to the conclusion that only nuclear power sources such as LENR will have the energy density needed to power our civilization in the near future.”

    How do you know this? Has he written about, or even mentioned, LENR anywhere?

  • Gerard McEk says:

    Either Jennifer cited Bryce several times wrong or Bryce should go to school to pick-up in math, energy and power (maybe Jennifer also). Energy is measured in Watt-hours (Wh) or Joules (J), power is measured in Watt. You should not confuse the two because the article becomes totally unreadable then. What does an “energy density of 0.9 Watts per meter” mean? Is it a power density? But then it should be W/cubic meter. Is it energy density then it should be Wh/m3. What is it?
    If the E-cat has indeed a energy density of 10.000 times gasoline and gasoline has a energy density of 10 kWh/liter (I did not check that value), then the E-cat has a energy density of 100 MWh/liter.

    I agree with the underlying statement Jennifer/Bryce want to make: Cold fusion does have the potential to supply the world with energy. Let us hope that it develops accordingly.

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