Cold Fusion

Topics: Cold fusion, Stanley Pons, Martin Fleischmann Pages: 6 (2099 words) Published: November 7, 2010
Is it fusion or illusion? This was the question on everyone’s mind when B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have created fusion in a test tube at room temperature. It seemed that Pons and Fleischmann could have solved the world’s energy problems; however, as the days passed the scientific community became more and more skeptical of cold fusion. Could cold fusion actually have occurred or was this simply a careless experimental error? To answer this question we will examine all aspects of the cold fusion controversy and also take a brief glance at current cold fusion research. Cold fusion is perhaps one of the most controversial scientific claims of the 20th century and continues until this day to raise many unanswered questions. On March 23, 1989, two prominent chemists called a press conference at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City (Amato 1989, 196). The announcement they made was astounding, Fleischmann and Pons claimed to have created nuclear fusion, the controlled power of a hydrogen bomb, in a test tube at close to room temperature conditions. The table top apparatus they used was simple and could be found in any high school laboratory. This controlled nuclear fusion had been dreamed of for decades, if fusion power could be harnessed then unlimited energy would be made available to the whole world. The apparatus that Pons and Fleischmann used was simple and quite inexpensive to construct. A cell was created using a beaker of heavy water (also known as deuterium), a palladium electrode known as the cathode, and a palladium electrode known as the anode. A small amount of the salt, lithium deuteroxide was added to the water as the conductor. A low voltage was then applied to the cell for up to several hundred hours and fusion was produced (Mallove 1991, 38). The measurements that Pons and Fleischmann made showed that more heat was being produced by the apparatus than could be explained from the amount of energy being supplied to the experiment. Some other signs that fusion is occurring includes the production of nuclear byproducts such as neurons, tritium, gamma-rays, and helium; however, Pons and Fleischmann measured only for heat in their experiments (Mallove 1991, 11). The announcement of cold fusion left the scientific community in shock. This new incident of science by press conference bothered many researchers. The news reports proved to be very unreliable and often provided much confusion within the scientific community. Equally insulting to many scientists was the fact that Pons and Fleischmann refused to disclose important information about their work that would allow other scientists to duplicate their cold fusion experiments. Pons and Fleischmann cited patent concerns in order to explain the reason for being so cagey with their information (Lewenstein 1992, 137). Eventually Pons and Fleischmann submitted an account of their experiments to be published in Nature; however, this information was extremely vague. When Nature requested revisions to their paper Pons and Fleischmann stated that they were too busy with furthering their experiments. They then withdrew their paper on April 19, 1989 (Lewenstein 1992, 149). Pons and Fleischmann’s decision to withdraw their paper caused concern to the scientific community and skepticism continued to grow. The scientific community continued to receive most of their information from the strong influence of the mass media. If it was not for Pons and Fleischmann’s excellent scientific credentials and reputations as electrochemists, their claim would have been easily dismissed and not taken so seriously. Pons, then 46 years old, was a widely published scientists and head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Utah. Fleischmann, then 62 years old, was also a widely respected and well published electrochemist and a professor at the University of Southampton in England (Peat 1989, 62-63). It is evident...
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