Breakthrough research on hydrogen-metal systems for clean energy

Monday, 7 December, 2020
HERMES, a new Pathfinder project, wants to study hydrogen (and deuterium) evolution in unconventional conditions, such as on metal-hydrides.

HERMES wants to revise the research on cold fusion, a type of nuclear reaction that would occur at, or near, room temperature. Back in 1989, two electrochemists, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, reported the process when the thermal energy, produced during electrolysis of heavy water (deuterium oxide) using a palladium electrode, exceeded the energy accounted for by the input electricity and all known chemical processes.

The discovery raised worldwide attention, as a potential pathway to clean and cheap energy. However, during following years, the initial enthusiasm for that technology dropped down, with an increasing number of unsuccessful replications of the initial procedure.

Recently, the cold fusion has come back to the spotlight, as the topic was discussed also in a scientific study published in Nature Research Journal

HERMES gives the experiment another chance to show its potential, taking in account that the science has advanced significantly from time of the first experiments. The project wants to re-investigate the cold fusion method and focus on material science aspects of deuterated metals using modern characterization techniques, which allow reproducibility.  

If research validates the hypotheses, the new method could mean new paradigm for future technology, and a unique possibility of obtaining zero-emissions heat generation with hydrogen-metal systems. The research team concludes:

“HERMES is a high risk/high reward project, but with aid of all the improved techniques and tools developed in the last 30 years, we believe that it is worth revisiting the topic.”

The project coordinator, Dr. Pekka Pejlo, adds:

“We are very excited to start the project, and looking forward on doing a lot of interesting science, not only on cold fusion, but also contributing to electrocatalysis, materials science and nanoparticle synthesis.”

The HERMES project started in November 2020 and is planned to run for 48 months. The consortium constitutes of multiple research and academic institutions from Finland (with University of Turku being the coordinator), Germany, France, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.  

Background information

FET-Open and FET Proactive are now part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot (specifically the Pathfinder), the new home for deep-tech research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU funding programme for research and innovation.