Years ago, I made a rough estimate of how much palladium would be needed to produce all of the world’s energy with cold fusion. I based this on the primary use of palladium today, which is in automotive catalytic converters. A significant fraction of all the energy in the world is converted to hot exhaust gas, and palladium is exposed to that exhaust gas. So, you can make a rough estimate of how much palladium would be needed assuming it can be used in a thin film similar to a catalytic converter.
Here is another rough estimate based on comparing the heat from uranium fission to palladium cold fusion. (Not nickel or titanium cold fusion.)
Let me start with some assumptions. If any of these are substantially wrong, my estimate will be wrong.
Cold fusion is not a bulk effect. It is a surface or near surface effect. This greatly reduces the amount of palladium needed. Uranium fission is a bulk effect.
The uranium is the source of the heat. It is the reactant. With cold fusion, deuterium is the source of the energy. Palladium is the nuclear catalyst, so it can be used indefinitely as long as fresh deuterium is added to the cell. There is evidence that some palladium is transmuted. I assume this can be kept to a minimum or eliminated. If I am wrong about this, and transmutation cannot be prevented, this might the largest limiting factor for palladium-based cold fusion energy.
Only a little palladium is needed to produce high power density when the palladium is alloyed with Ni, Zr and other elements, or used as thin film. I base this on recent results from Takahashi, Mizuno and others.
Most palladium today is used in automotive catalytic converters. When these are scrapped, nearly all of the palladium left inside the devices is recovered and recycled. Unfortunately, while the converters are in use some of the palladium is sublimed by the heat and blown out into the surroundings. Heavy metal contamination next to highways is high. So, palladium is gradually lost, and it ends up in the ecosystem.
Cold fusion cells must be closed and sealed to prevent contamination. Fortunately, this also means palladium would not escape. Nearly all of it would be recycled from scrapped cells. I base this on the fact that over 99% of the lead in a lead-acid battery is recycled. Lead recycling is so effective that one source I read says lead mined 1000 and 2000 years ago is still in use. (I do not recall how they can tell it is that old.)
Before cold fusion can be used it will have to be fully controlled and greatly improved compared to today’s best laboratory devices. The first laboratory transistors in 1949 barely worked. By the mid-1950s millions of transistors had been produced and anyone of them was far better than the best laboratory device. They were also far cheaper to make, and far more reliable.
How much uranium would it take to produce all energy?
Uranium presently supplies 5% of primary energy in the world. Sources:
IEA Statistics (https://www.iea.org/statistics/)
Primary energy in 2016: 13,759,825 ktoe, nuclear 679,649 ktoe, 4.9%
Nuclear power produces 14% of world electricity; and electricity is 18% of all energy. So, uranium produces only 2.5% of end-use energy. I think mainly because nuclear reactor Carnot efficiency is low. 82% of energy is used for heat and transportation. Some transportation uses electricity, but most does not. See also Key World Energy Statistics 2018. (https://webstore.iea.org/key-world-energy-statistics-2018). I recommend this publication, which is free.
How much uranium does this take? 43,000 tons per year, with present technology. (Breeder reactors would reduce this amount). The natural abundance of U-235 is 0.7%. It has to be increased to between 3% and 4% for reactor-grade uranium. That is a factor of five, so roughly 8,600 tons are used in reactors.
To supply all of the primary energy in the world, we would need 172,000 tons of reactor-grade uranium.
How much palladium is produced per year? 215 tons.
So, if the power density of palladium is the same as uranium, it would take 172,000 tons of palladium, which would take 800 years to mine. That does not sound promising! Fortunately, it would not take that much palladium, and it would not take that long. Some factors greatly reduce the need for palladium, and others will increase the supply.
The most important factor is that the power density per gram of palladium is much higher than uranium. In the best experiment so far, power density is already higher than uranium. See Roulette et al. (https://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RouletteTresultsofi.pdf).
See the table “Power density is compared by volume or by surface area” from Roulette’s data: https://lenr-canr.org/wordpress/?page_id=1618
As noted above, any commercial cell will be far better than the best experimental device now available.
The devices from Takahashi * and Mizuno use roughly 100 times less palladium per watt of power output, so instead of taking 800 years, it would take ~8. Even if this estimate is wildly wrong, by a factor of 10, and it takes ~80 years (a lifetime), that is still reasonable. It is not possible to transition all of the energy production in the world in only 8 years. You have to wait for power plants, wind turbines, automobiles, ships, trains and other machinery to wear out. This takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years, depending on the type of equipment. The availability of palladium may be a limiting factor, slowing things down, but it will not prevent the transition.
[* I mean Takahashi’s Pd1Ni7/ZrO2 material reported at JCF12. Takahashi has also described samples with no palladium: Ni/ZrO2, Cu0.21Ni0.21/ZrO2 and Cu0.08Ni0.36/ZrO2. Needless to say, these would be ideal. They would eliminate all of the problems I describe in this paper. So, I sure hope they work! See: https://www.lenr-canr.org/acro…JPjcondensedn.pdf#page=30]
The important thing to remember is that we can use the palladium indefinitely, by recycling it. We do not use it up the way we use up uranium. If it takes 80 years to mine enough palladium, 80 years after that we will have enough palladium to produce twice as much energy as we now do. We can keep up with expanded energy demand.
Two other factors improve the prospects for palladium: more palladium can be produced, and palladium cold fusion reactors can be run at higher temperatures than uranium fission reactors, producing better Carnot efficiency.
Martin Fleischmann and other experts told me that palladium production could be increased substantially. More can be mined, and both extraction and recycling can be improved. With cold fusion, I assume that either cold fusion powered automobiles or electrically powered ones would dominate so we would no longer need catalytic converters. This would mean all palladium is used for cold fusion energy, and it would greatly reduce wastage and loss of palladium, increasing recycling up to nearly 100%. Better extraction and recycling would call for more energy, but this could be supplied with cold fusion using only a tiny fraction of the palladium. Cold fusion would greatly reduce the cost of all industrial processes, mining and extraction, so the increased supply of palladium would probably not cost much more per ton than it costs today. I think improved extraction and recycling would increase supplies by roughly a factor of 3.
Uranium nuclear reactors are run at relatively low temperatures, mainly for two reasons. The zirconium cladding in fuel rods cannot be used at high temperatures, and low temperatures produce less wear and tear on the equipment. The fuel is cheap and the equipment is expensive, so the operation is optimized to reduce equipment costs. I do not know the temperature of the fuel rod but the pressurized water is around 200°C, and Carnot efficiency is around 30%. Cold fusion cells have already been operated at temperatures higher than a typical fission reactor, so they could produce better efficiency, by roughly a factor of 2.
Increased extraction and better Carnot efficiency together would improve the situation by a factor of 6. So, it might take ~13 years instead of ~80. Perhaps these estimates are too optimistic, but there is no doubt production can be increased, and this improves the prospects. I do not think 80 years is realistic.
Another factor may come into play 50 to 100 years from now. There are now serious proposals to mine asteroids. Platinum group metals are abundant in asteroids. Grabbing the asteroid and bringing it back to earth is difficult but once you bring it back (or mine it in place) it is easier to extract the elements from it. They are more concentrated and you do not need to dig a deep hole. Asteroids could supply millions of times more palladium than we can readily mine on earth. There are also millions of times more iron, nickel and every other element, but palladium happens to be particularly abundant compared to the earth’s crust.
Power density is the only factor that matters. Energy density is not an issue. Uranium is the source of the energy in a fission reactor. The energy density of uranium is a limiting factor. Without breeder reactor technology we need 43,000 tons of new uranium every year. The uranium is used up. With cold fusion, deuterium is the source of the energy. Palladium is the nuclear catalyst, so it can be used indefinitely as long as fresh deuterium added to the cell.
You cannot install a fission reactor in downtown New York City and use the waste heat for cogeneration heating, hot water, or thermal air conditioning. That would be dangerous. Fortunately, you could do this with cold fusion reactor. I do not know what percent of total primary energy is consumed by space heating, but in the U.S. residential sector it is roughly 60%. So, co-generation would increase the useful energy derived from cold fusion compared to uranium, reducing the overall need for primary energy production.
There is a ready market for heat in New York City and other major metropolitan areas. Con Edison sells steam in New York City, but the steam is generated from natural gas for that purpose only.
Duty cycle, and baseline power
Nuclear reactors have a high duty cycle. That means they are turned on as many days per year as possible. They supply baseline power. This is because the reactors are terrifically expensive but the fuel is cheap.
If it takes 80 years to mine enough palladium to produce all the energy we need, then palladium will be the limiting factor in the transition. Unfortunately, this will also mean that palladium will have to be used for baseline generation. Most cold fusion reactors will have to be left on 24 hours a day. That means they will have to be large, centralized generators similar to today’s gas-fired generators. They will have to be high-efficiency to make maximum use of the expensive and rare palladium catalyst. Gas-fired generators are safe to install just about anywhere. They are used in large buildings in Tokyo to generate electricity and cogeneration heat. You see them next to highways close to downtown New York City and Washington DC. Cold fusion generators ranging from 1 MW up to several hundred megawatts would be used to produce nearly all primary energy. They would recharge electric cars and trucks used in transportation. They would soon be more cost-effective than natural gas generators, wind turbines and PV, and these sources would be gradually phased out, as they wear out, the way coal-fired plants are being phased out today.
I say this is “unfortunate” because it would negate most of the advantages I describe in this paper, “Cold Fusion Will Lower the Cost of Both Energy and Equipment:” https://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJcoldfusionb.pdf
If the palladium catalyst were available in unlimited amounts, or if nickel or some other material can be used instead, then cold fusion would immediately reduce the cost of energy by a factor of 200, and later thousands of times. It would do this mainly by eliminating the need for central generation, power distribution, and high Carnot efficiency. See the paper for details.
I believe that more palladium will eventually become available. As noted, this might be from asteroid mining, or it might be gradual as supplies build up. Even if it takes 80 years, the supply will continue to build after that, and I hope that eventually medium duty cycle equipment becomes cost-effective. That would include things like automobiles and home co-generators.
If nickel can be used, any equipment with any duty cycle would be cost effective. That would include an emergency flashlight that you use once a year, or never. It would be a comfort to know the cold fusion thermoelectric batteries in the flashlight last for decades.