Yet Another Hare-Brained Scheme
But it's not mine this time...

The author of this article is unknown, sorry.

When we think of the energy resources that we rely upon everyday, what words come to mind?

Oil. Nuclear. Hydroelectricity. Solar. Hydrino. Wind. Gas.

Spot the odd one out? The word hydrino is understood by few - and accepted as a reality by even fewer. But if a small company situated in Cranbury, New Jersey has its way, hydrino is a word that will soon be as commonly understood as all the others, ushering in a golden age of abundant energy, research and causing a transformation in society that will be - at a minimum - comparable to the introduction of the electricity grid.

That company is BlackLight Power. Set up in 1991 in what was previously a Lockheed Martin satellite manufacturing facility, this small outfit has made claims that initially appear dismissible as completely pie in the sky, yet it has managed to secure interest from some highly respected investors to the tune of over US $50 million. These individuals and companies have effectively entrusted BlackLight Power to overturn some of the most fundamental rules of quantum physics, an expectation that has caused many a raised eyebrow across the scientific as well as investment communities.

The stakes are difficult to comprehend. This technology, if real, could radically alter the value of trillions of dollars of energy generation infrastructure and future investment patterns worldwide. But the key question remains - is it real? What is the truth? Are we soon to see a new world of limitless energy, or will this company go down the path of countless other scammers, except taking down millions of dollars and the reputations of some formerly brilliant investors with it?

To find out the answer, let's have a look at some background and go back to a time when another - possibly related - supposed breakthrough was about the change the world.

Back to the Future: Cold Fusion v2.0 or is it?

The world of alternative energy can broadly be divided into two sections: first, we have the relatively established players such as solar energy, wind power and wave generators, which use accepted technologies and methods for generating energy in somewhat novel ways. There is nothing fundamentally unknown about these technologies and the way they use physical laws is not questioned.

Then, we have the flip (an apt word in many cases) side: unproven technologies based on theories which exist largely in the realm of fringe science, often associated with claims of perpetual motion or other concepts which partly or completely go against fundamentally understood physical laws relating to energy conservation. Devices and concepts that predominate in this field include the Joe Cell, the Searl Effect, the Adams Motor and assorted "vacuum energy" devices, all of which promise near unlimited energy, but to date have produced nothing except confusion, derision and more than a few lawsuits from hoodwinked investors.

There have, however, been hints that some non-mainstream technologies could have some substance to them. One of the most famous of these was cold fusion. The cold fusion saga is one of the most interesting in modern science, combining not only cutting edge research, but media manipulation, political intrigue and - allegedly - big business interference&at least according to the conspiracy theorists.

Cold fusion is supposedly a nuclear fusion reaction (where lighter nuclei join together to form heavier particles) that occurs at temperatures and pressures which are close to atmospheric conditions, as opposed to the extreme conditions in a Tokamak reactor type device (where temperatures exceed 100 million Celsius), which tries to create a "hot" fusion reaction. This approach has been researched for over a quarter century and has produced some positive results, but commercial viability remains distant, at best.

In 1989, two scientists from the University of Utah claimed to have achieved room temperature fusion reactions, gaining worldwide fame&which soon transformed into notoriety as the global scientific community joined pro and anti cold fusion camps in the debate as to the validity of their findings.

Scientists around the world tried to repeat the experiments, with disappointing results  largely as a result of somewhat ill defined experimental methodologies. The un-reproducibility of the original findings caused scathing reports in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, with the original cold fusion results being aggressively challenged. Subsequent years saw cold fusion discredited into the realms of fringe science, with many capable scientists scared off further research into the area.

Nevertheless, low level investigations have continued worldwide and whilst not conclusive, sometimes reactions are reportedly being observed that do not appear to conform to the classical understanding of chemistry and / or physics, though stating that these are nuclear reactions may perhaps be a bridge too far. There is no agreement as to what people are observing or even what actually did occur back in 1989.

Many people now see BlackLight Power as a revision of the cold fusion saga. There is a world of debate as to whether BlackLight Power has perfected a cold fusion process or something else. However, since cold fusion itself is a process not properly understood, the question remains hard to answer. But what is clear is that the controversy surrounding both claims, despite the more than 16 years that separate them, is much the same.

The original controversy about cold fusion focused on two individuals, but BlackLight Power has one intriguing individual as the driving force.

The Initiator: Quack or Visionary?

The man in question is Dr. Randell (Randy) Mills, the founder of BlackLight Power. The 6'5", lanky Mills is the son of a farmer and for some time was a farmer himself. As a teenager, the prodigal Mills ran a very profitable business on land he leased to raise corn. But despite, or perhaps because of, his obvious business acumen, he did not see himself as college bound.

Like many individuals of uncommon brilliance, Randy did not have a stellar introduction to academia. Bored for many years with classes that were clearly way beneath his capability, his lack of attendance at so many high school lectures and disinterest in those few he did attend seriously jeopardized his graduation. His native genius did not translate into fine marks in most cases.

Fate, however, intervened in the form of a freak accident which caused him to re-evaluate his life and ideals. After badly slicing up his hand and spending 5 hours in surgery, he gained a realisation that his life could have ended then and there and thus he became determined to find out as much about the universe as possible. With a new found zest, he used profits from his business to fund attendance at the prestigious Franklin and Marshall College, where he graduated first with ease and enrolled at Harvard to become a doctor.

His Harvard Medical School years were characterized by outstanding results achieved with little apparent effort, passing with such ease that it was obvious to all that barely a little more focus would result in achievements of world significance. But interestingly, he simultaneously undertook a number of science based courses at MIT, where he also excelled - courses that caused him to start questioning quantum theory. The workload for any normal student would have been horrendous, but Randy sailed through, the result of not only being brilliant, but of being truly enthused about what he was both learning&and discovering.

Whilst an MBS may seem a somewhat unusual background for an individual who wishes to overturn quantum physics on its head, it is clear evidence that the man is highly intelligent, but when combined with his excellent results in such a broad range of areas it shows him to be unconventional thinker with a mind on a par with those of the greatest inventors.

Clearly, Randy is not some unqualified backyard hobbyist, but that does not automatically mean his claims are correct. He is a genius and has unquestionable achievements in an area where he is highly qualified, but he has ventured into a field where others with more impressive credentials vehemently discredit his claims.

The Claims: A New Technology&and A New Physics?

So what, exactly, are Dr. Mills and BlackLight Power saying they have discovered?

Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe, is the focus of the companys claims. Essentially, BlackLight Power states to have invented a new process that lowers the energy state of the hydrogen atom (one proton being orbited by one electron&though that again is something that is questioned, as we will see below).

In physics, the grounded state is the natural state of all atoms, where the components of the atom are in "perfect" balance. What Blacklight Power claims is that it has discovered a way to make the orbiting electron move below its ground state, closer to the proton nucleus (at least in the classical reckoning. In reality, what Dr. Mills is hypothesizing is that the hydrogen atom is not so much an electron orbiting a proton but rather, a proton surrounded by a shell of energy). The transition process from the ground state to the new state is supposed to release a huge amount of energy - far more than that required to initiate the reaction - across a broad range of the EM spectrum, creating a type of plasma in the process.

According to convention, 13.6 eV (electron volts) of energy is needed to separate the orbiting electron from the proton. Naturally, this means that if a proton and electron are combined, then 13.6 eV is released in the process. But if it is possible to go below the grounded state, then the amount of energy released is far greater.

The method for achieving this is a catalytic process that varies in application (and for obvious reasons is not fully explained), but it involves the presence of - for example - potassium atoms or strontium ions. The hydrogen atom becomes a hydrino, with a radius of anywhere between one half to one fifth of the original particle. In the process, a huge amount of energy is released. The net energy release in this reaction is a remarkable 68 eV.

Trouble is, quantum theory states this is impossible - the grounded state of an atom is simply the lowest energy state possible and that anything that contradicts this is impossible.

Some details as to this process can be found here:

If Mills is right, then quantum physics is wrong. And that is something which is does not sit well with many individuals with credentials at least as impressive as Dr. Mills.

Also, what is being described here seems suspiciously close to an explanation of cold fusion, which is causing further consternation among those who remember the nightmare that occurred back in 1989. This is a state of affairs no one wants a repeat of. However, not everyone is a critic.

The Supporters and the Detractors.

Very often, claims for alternative energy of this nature attract fringe science groups and individuals, who despite their best intentions often do more harm than good to the cause they are trying to support.

This is where it gets interesting. BlackLight Power has secured various levels of backing from both NASA and the US Navy: neither organization is exactly bereft of exceptionally capable scientific talent, or of rigorous methodological approaches to evaluating extravagant claims.

But it does not stop there. The Company's Board boasts names of impeccable pedigree: they include Michael Jordan, Chairman and CEO of EDS; Neil Moskowitz, the CFO of CSA First Boston; General Merrill McPeak (ret.), the former Chief of Staff of the USAF and Vice-Admiral Michael Kalleres (ret.), a senior USN officer who once commanded the US Second Fleet and Military Sealift Command. Other directors are also individuals of remarkable achievement and credentials.

What is especially noteworthy here is the involvement of the former military officers. There is no way that any of these individuals would have accepted Board positions with BlackLight Power without having the claims of the company tested to some degree by the scientific arms of the respective former services in which they held strategic roles and it is likely that they would have had access to resources not available or even known to the general public. Without doubt, the US military sees something in these claims and wishes to have some control as to the company's future.

But again, this cannot be regarded as proof that the theory works. It could merely be indicative of the perilous state of both US scientific research and decision making.

What the US military would have (should have?) done is subject these claims to rigorous testing. The results of these - assuming they were undertaken - have not been revealed, but there have been other attempts to replicate the experimental protocols of Blacklight Power. On the positive side, Prof. Maas, a chemist from the University of North Carolina, has examined the claims of the company and observed its experiments. His conclusion is one of cautious optimism: whilst he cannot explain fully what is being observed, he has seen enough to rule out trickery, error or misinterpretation. Of course, a key test of any scientific hypothesis is independent reproducibility on as wider scale. This was the great failing of cold fusion, where somewhat sloppy wording in describing the experimental parameters and a blatant error in gamma radiation data back in 1989 was later brutally picked apart by the media. BlackLight Power so far is a mixed bag: it has generated enough independent evidence to make it fairly certain something interesting is happening, that it is not a scam. But others have tried and failed to achieve anything, making them believers that BlackLight Power has perpetuated a scam, though possibly not deliberately.

But could a scam fool so many capable people? Would not due diligence have long ago discovered if there was a fraud? Not always. Breakthrough physics such as this by definition means that there are very few - if any - experts in the field other than the people claiming the new process or invention. There exists little external ability to critique the claims with anything like the required level of validity. Thus, BlackLight Power exists in a rarefied world: too much evidence to be dismissed offhand, but not enough evidence to persuade conclusively.

Conclusion: Too intriguing to ignore, too dubious to support.

There is no simple answer to BlackLight Power. Its claims are superficially extravagant enough to be dismissed out of hand, yet it has attracted proponents whose credentials would prima facie make them extremely difficult to deceive. It has promised much for many years and so far nothing substantive has happened&yet the research that the company puts out is scholarly and has attracted reputable supporters.

The truth may lie somewhere in between. Perhaps BlackLight Power has stumbled on some unusual chemical reactions, but may have misunderstood or misinterpreted their discovery and that - at best - the future of their technology will be for high school student experiments, rather than transforming the world. Or is the case - as some conspiracy theorists would like to believe  that evil, dark powers are deliberately stalling this technology in a Machiavellian conspiracy of global proportions to ensure they extract the best deal from it and the greatest amount of profit from existing energy sources before they are rendered obsolete? Such a theory may be intriguing, but sadly, the X-Files has long since ceased production.

Whatever the case, BlackLight Power cannot be ignored.

With certainty we can only lead to one conclusion: Blacklight Power has done something truly remarkable. Time will tell whether it has actually done anything useful.