Blacklight Power Returns With More Lab Validation

Last Updated Aug 13, 2009 5:46 PM EDT

For readers who aren't familiar with Blacklight Power (likely the majority), here's the executive summary: A company formed in 1991 (right after the cold fusion claims of Fleischmann and Pons were torn apart) claims that it can extract nearly limitless amounts of energy from water, by moving hydrogen atoms to a theoretical state almost all physicists believe to be impossible.

But unlike most of the free energy crowd, Blacklight has survived for almost two decades and has a staff of dedicated Ph.Ds, including its founder, Randell Mills. It has also taken about $60 million in funding, and struck deals with utilities to sell them electricity. And its process has received third-party validation from Rowan University.

Blacklight presents a tantalizing case, because it dangles just enough credible details to keep telling its story. And it doesn't hurt that the math the company is based on is incomprehensible to ordinary mortals.

The latest in its saga is news that three researchers at Rowan have run a second round of tests on Blacklight's solid fuel. The trio say they have verified that the fuel is capable of continuously releasing more energy than is put in to start the reaction. And this time, they made the fuel themselves rather than receiving from the company -- a significant difference from the first test, when associate professor Peter Jansson told me he wasn't sure what Blacklight did to prepare the material.

Most importantly, the Rowan group says they have gotten 6.5 times more energy than the maximum energy potential of the materials involved. The implication is that Blacklight's special hydrogen atom, the "hydrino", is making an appearance. Hydrinos supposedly have an electron in an extremely low orbit around the nucleus; getting it there releases the extra energy.

Blacklight has attracted its share of ridicule through the years, mostly from scientists who discount the notion of the hydrino. Physicists and chemists familiar with hydrogen and spectral chemistry tend to immediately reject hydrino theory. Weigh that against some impressive backers, including a Reagan-era energy official and Michael Jordan, the former CEO of EDS and Westinghouse.

I'd tend to believe the scientific community over a set of rich investors, mainly because the former are more likely to know how to work out an equation and operate a mass spectrometer than the latter. Investments of $60 million may sound like a lot, but far larger amounts have been thrown away on silly ideas.

Then again, Blacklight has its validations and its papers, of which it has just released another. There are also its utility partnerships -- now up to six, although the two it has named, Akridge Energy and Escatado Energy, are rather small.

Rowan, generally considered a pretty good public school, is also too small of a name to get Blacklight much recognition. But it's not clear exactly what the company is after, either -- more partnerships? More funding? More scientific recognition? Perhaps all of the above?

While Blacklight is deciding how to play its cards, here's a rather longer article I wrote about it last year, complete with quotes from (separately) confused and scornful scientists.