HYDROGEN IS POTENTIAL NEW ENERGY SOURCE

Copyright 1997 Reuter Information Service


MALVERN, Pa. (Apr 1, 1997 11:02 a.m. EST) - If Dr. Randell Mills is
right, the way the world produces and uses energy is about to be
radically transformed, along with science's understanding of the
physics involved.

If he is wrong, he will join a long line of failed seekers for the
holy grail of cheap, safe and non-polluting energy.

Mills has developed, and begun to demonstrate in laboratory tests,
what he says is a very efficient and non-polluting means of producing
energy from hydrogen. He says a fuel cell the size of a desk could in
theory supply the electricity now produced by an eight-floor-high
coal-fired boiler, and a 200-horsepower car engine the size of a
suitcase could power a vehicle four times around the world on a single
tank of water.

The technology, and Mills's private company, BlackLight Power Inc.,
have begun to attract investment from the electricity industry and the
support of some energy experts. A leading organization of physicists,
however, calls his idea groundless, while even some who support the
technology say its practical application remains at least a few years
away.

"Whoever has this technology can potentially dominate the energy
industry," said Mills, a Harvard-trained medical doctor with
additional education in engineering and chemistry.

The technology is based on a theory of quantum physics that challenges
principles that have governed the science for decades. Mills says the
theory has been supported by experiments and observation. It holds
that hydrogen can exist at a lower energy state than its common
"ground" state, and the heat energy released in the transition to the
lower state can be captured.

FROM QUARKS TO THE COSMOS

Mills told Reuters the theory explains phenomena ranging in scale from
"(sub-atomic) quarks to the cosmos." In using it to make power, the
cost of hydrogen, easily obtainable from water, would be minimal
compared with fossil fuels, and there is more than enough water to
last until "the end of the earth," he said.

Capital costs also could be signifcantly lower than conventional power
technology, Mills said, although others familiar with the technology
said that remains to be seen.

The by-product of the non-nuclear process is a hydrogen atom with a
lower form of energy -- called a "hydrino" -- that floats off into
space, he said. The other key ingredient in the process is potassium,
which serves as a catalyst and can be constantly reused. The process
takes place in a vacuum and instantly stops if the vacuum is breached,
making it inherently safe, Mills said.

Some experts, including a former top Reagan Administration nuclear
energy official, say Mills is on the right track. The electricity
industry has begun to get involved, investing money in the company and
negotiating licensing deals.

"I'm convinced that there is something of enormous impact here and
it's only a question of time until we can garner the capital and
infrastructure to take it into commercialization," said Shelby Brewer,
assistant energy secretary under Reagan and former head of ABB
Combustion Engineering, one of the world's largest makers of
electrical generation equipment.

REVOLUTION PREDICTED

"If we can engineer this into the marketplace ... it will
revolutionize energy production both for electricity and mobile
applications," said Brewer, who now heads an energy consulting firm.
He said he overcame his skepticism, born of thousands of unfounded
new-power ideas he has seen, to work as an outside financial and
strategic adviser to Mills.

Others, including the country's leading organization of academic
physicists, dismiss Mills and his hydrino theory out of hand. "It has
no credibility whatever ... as far as I'm concerned Mills is not a
scientist," said Robert Park, director of the Washington office of the
American Physical Society.

"There is virtually nothing that science does not know about the
hydrogen atom," Park said. "The ground state is defined as the
(energy) state below which you cannot go. ... The thought there is
some state below the ground state is kind of humorous."

But a Penn State University test done for BlackLight of a small fuel
cell designed by Mills recorded heat production 100 times greater than
that produced by "burning" hydrogen, another technology being studied
as an energy source.

The result was promising and consistent with his theory, the
unpublished findings said. "The evidence presented in this report
clearly suggests that an extraordinary phenomenon takes place ... this
phenomenon appears to generate a tremendous amount of 'excess' heat."
But the report urged a cautious approach be taken and said additional
experimental work was required.

Similar results have been obtained in other laboratories, including in
a test run by Peter Jansson, an engineer and manager of market
development for Atlantic Energy Inc. Jansson, who conducted the test
independently of his company, said Atlantic Energy was "strongly
considering" what he called a "strategic investment" in BlackLight
Power.

Last year, Oregon-based utility holding firm PacifiCorp invested $1
million in a stake in BlackLight Power, according to documents filed
with Pennsylvania regulators. Mills has obtained a patent on his
technology in Australia and said he expects to receive U.S. and
European patents this year. In the process he has had to explain to
patent examiners why his technology is not the same as "cold fusion,"
a low-temperature nuclear technology that also promised vast, cheap
power, but which failed to stand up.

His early work was watched by the cold-fusion camp and some research
findings supporting his hydrino theory were published in a
peer-reviewed journal of the American Nuclear Society, which has been
an outlet for cold-fusion related research.

TURNING IDEAS INTO BUSINESS

Now is a timely moment to try to commercialize a new energy
technology, experts say. The electrical industry worldwide is moving
from tight regulation to a highly competitive market in which the
producer of the cheapest power wins.

"We are definitely willing to put some time and money into it (the
technology)," said Tom Cassel, president of Reading Energy Co., a
Philadelphia firm that commercializes advanced power-plant technology.

"Is it at this point a fail-safe deal? It's still early to tell," he
said. "The laboratory work is compelling (but) it's yet to be
demonstrated on a large, self-sustained basis."

Mills said plans are underway to build with another firm a test plant
to produce about one megawatt of energy, equivalent to the amount
needed to light a small shopping center.

Cassel said he is negotiating a deal with BlackLight for Reading to
retrofit older plants, shuttered because of expensive anti-pollution
requirements or other economic factors, with the BlackLight hydrogen
cells.

He said he was at first skeptical of the technology and was warned by
a senior Ivy League scientist who started reading Mills' theory that
"these type of people are dangerous." But he said he and others who
have studied the entire theory and seen the test results are convinced
of its potential.

"This is very real," he said. "It's a development which, if it keeps
going in the way that a number of very qualified people think it's
going to go ... it will be on the magnitude of the Edisons, the
Einsteins, that type of scientific revolution."

More information on Mills's theory and power process can be found on
BlackLight Power's World Wide Web site.
BlackLight Power's World Wide Web site
Their intro and background page is, indeed, a good place to start.