BlackLight Power claims novel energy source

A small company claims it can make heat by changing the stable state of hydrogen atoms, a claim that many dispute. But company founder Randell Mills says it's making progress.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

BlackLight Power, a company that claims to draw energy from a disputed form of hydrogen, said on Thursday that it has licensed its technology to a customer.

New Jersey-based BlackLight Power said a subsidiary of a small New Mexico utility, Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative, has licensed its technology and the rights to buy its heat-generating equipment.

The company's claims have caused controversy because they challenge long-held notions in physics. It's an example of how the surge in interest in energy technology has revived older technologies, like solar thermal, and inspired scientists to develop disruptive technologies.

It's not easy for an outsider to assess the merits of the company's technology, but it appears BlackLight Power is being taken seriously by some people.

BlackLight Power has raised $60 million in funding and the company is in discussions with utilities to use its equipment, according to CEO and founder Randell Mills said. It employs 25 people, about half of which are PhDs. Its process has been peer-reviewed, Mills said, and the company has created a prototype 5 kilowatt machine.

Mills said that the he has found a way to alter the state of stable hydrogen atoms in a new form, called hydrinos, and tap into the energy released during that change.

The company has developed a reactor that uses a solid fuel--a form of nickel called Raney nickel--that starts a chemical reaction that brings a hydrogen's electron closer its nucleus, releasing energy, he explained.

A small company is making controversial claims about its process for making thermal energy by altering the state of hydrogen atoms in water through a chemical reaction. Here's a diagram of how its technology would be used to make electricity with a steam turbine. BlackLight Power

Its business plan is to sell license its equipment broadly and have it sold to utilities. These utilities would use an electrolyzer to split the hydrogen from water and create a burst of thermal energy through the chemical reaction its equipment starts.

That heat, which power generators now produce by burning natural gas or coal, can be used to make electricity in a far more efficient manner and without fossil fuels, he said. About one liter of water is used per hour and the hydrogen can be recouped during the process to be used again, he said.

VentureBeat has written about BlackLight a few times now and offers a more detailed technical explanation.

In comments on articles about the company, many people dispute BlackLight Power's claims. The Wikipedia entry on "hydrino theory" has a section devoted to the controversy around it and Miles' claims, which he's quick to defend.

"They're arguing a theoretical argument. We can show experimentally that we can create this new form of energy," he said. "We're not in academic discussions anymore. We've moved beyond that."

No doubt, the company will continue to have its detractors. In the meantime, we await to see whether other utility and industrial customers are willing to vet and take a chance on the company's technology.