NaH and the hydrino controversy
There has been so much discussion this past week about the use of NaH as an oxidant that I was surprised to see the very same material involved in another chemical controversy. (from Meryn Stol's FriendFeed post).
In this case, BlackLight Power claims to be able to generate energy by dropping the electronic energy of a hydrogen atom to below its ground state, creating hydrinos. One method relies on heating NaH in contact with Raney nickel. In this report, Mills and co-authors appear to provide enough experimental conditions and spectroscopic characterization data to allow others reproduce what they have done.
If you are not a chemist it is difficult to appreciate just how outlandish these claims are. They fly in the face of some extremely well tested theories that form the foundation of what we call chemistry today.
There is an abundance of wacky ideas out there. What makes this case particularly interesting is that that BlackLight Power has $60M in venture capital, intellectual property protection and licensing deals. The company and the standard chemistry model are on a collision course that will play out very soon. Either the company does not deliver or there will be some explaining to do by mainstream academics.
Reading the discussion forum on the technology, it seems like the current situation is in a kind of stalemate. Both detractors and supporters are waiting for others to repeat the experiments. Apparently Mills is remaining secretive until they build their power plant. It does not look like they are sharing the hydrino products they claim to have created.
I think that this is actually a perfect opportunity for Open Science - especially Open Notebook Science. The experiments are more difficult than those that claimed NaH to be an oxidant (which we and Totally Synthetic have investigated). I'm not sure that our lab has the required equipment to maintain the temperatures and conditions but certainly most materials science departments should have it.
And once the putative hydrino products are created they should be stable for sharing with others to analyze. The Mills report cited above even has NMR data for both dihydrino gas and the hydride form (-4.5 ppm). I don't know enough about the NMR of hydrides to know how meaningful that is but certainly it could be investigated further. It sounds like a project that could be tackled for a senior design assignment provided that students had access to the necessary equipment.
The main focus from a commercial angle is the energy generation. But the difficulty there is that failure or success of such experiments can be downplayed by both sides because it is so difficult to reproduce exactly the same conditions. But if only one person makes this new form of matter and is willing to share it, any chemist with access to standard instruments like NMR, IR, etc. will be able to confirm that it exists without ambiguity.
Doing these experiments openly and discussing them can only lead to a resolution. Even if it turns out that the characterization data can be interpreted with our standard model of chemistry that would be satisfying.