NB Do not confuse Nuclear Fusion with Nuclear Fission
Cold Nuclear Fusion
|Gale Encyclopedia of US History:
Cold Nuclear Fusion
Cold Nuclear Fusion, an intensely disputed and largely discredited method for generating thermo-nuclear fusion at room temperature conditions. In nuclear fusion hydrogen atoms merge to form one helium atom, releasing energy. In its conventional form, such as that occurring within stars and hydrogen bombs, nuclear fusion requires high pressure and temperature, which force the atoms together. Proponents of cold nuclear fusion maintain that certain catalysts can coax hydrogen atoms to fuse without extreme pressure or heat. One form of cold nuclear fusion, known as muon-catalyzed cold fusion and first suggested in the 1940s, is undisputed. The process, in which a subatomic particle known as a muon captures two hydrogen atoms and forces them to fuse, has been demonstrated in the laboratory but appears not to be feasible as an energy source. The controversial form of cold nuclear fusion was first heard of in March 1989, when two University of Utah chemists, Martin Fleisch-mann and B. Stanley Pons, reported that they had produced fusion in a test tube at room temperature by running an electrical current through heavy water, a type of water in which the hydrogen atoms are of the isotope deuterium. They claimed that the current drove the deuterium atoms into a palladium rod in the water, forcing the atoms to pack closely enough to fuse. This announcement raised a furor in the scientific community. After other researchers failed to obtain similar results with the technique, a consensus emerged that the Utah scientists had used a flawed apparatus and misinterpreted the data from the experiment. A small but vocal minority of researchers continued to pursue variations on the approach.
Huizenga, John R. Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 1992.
Mallove, Eugene F. Fire From Ice: Searching for the Truth behind the Cold Fusion Furor. New York: Wiley, 1991.
—Vincent Kiernan/A. R.