Two scientists who claim to have achieved a cold fusion reaction in a test tube experiment based the claim on "invented" data, a physicist says in a new book.
The author, Frank Close, said B. Stanley Pons, chairman of the University of Utah chemistry department, and Martin Fleischmann of Southampton University in England, violated scientific ethics, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions.One of the researchers dismissed the accusations.
"We did nothing wrong," Fleischmann told the newspaper in a telephone interview from his home in England.
Pons and Fleischmann startled scientists worldwide when they called a news conference March 27, 1989, to announce they achieved a nuclear fusion reaction in a test tube at room temperature.
Nuclear fusion is the force that powers the sun and stars through the merging, rather than splitting, of atoms. Achieving a fusion reaction requires millions of degrees of heat. If one could be generated at room, or "cold," temperatures, a nearly limitless supply of cheap energy could be developed.
In his book, "Too Hot to Handle," to be published in May by Princeton University Press, Close said crucial evidence on which the cold fusion claim was based was so skewed as to have been "invented."
Close, a physicist and researcher, holds top posts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Rutherford Laboratory in Britain.
All types of nuclear fusion produce a variety of byproducts, including heat, gamma rays and neutrons. Pons and Fleischmann, in a preliminary paper published shortly after their announcement, said their reaction produced gamma ray readings of 2.5 million electron-volts, or MeV.
The reading, they said, was taken by Robert J. Hoffman, a radiation safety officer at the University of Utah.
But Hoffman told the Times that the researchers used his data "any way they liked" without consulting him. And months later, he said, he discovered his measuring instruments had been faulty.
According to Close's book, Fleischmann presented the 2.5 MeV figure to scientists a few days after the paper was published and they told him 2.5 MeV would not indicate cold fusion had been achieved. A few days later, in another talk, he said the reading was 2.2 MeV, which The Times said was the correct reading that would have been recorded in a successful cold fusion test.
Hoffman told the newspaper that because of his faulty equipment, he doesn't know what MeV reaction actually took place.
Other scientists have been unable to duplicate the cold fusion success Pons and Fleischmann have claimed.
Pons couldn't be reached for comment. His lawyer told The Times the book's assertions were unfounded.
Fleischmann said the two figures were simply the result of a change in calculation.
"You always calculate," he said. "When you measure, you have to convert it into an energy, you have to calibrate and calculate. In the preliminary note you cannot explain all that."