Cold fusion is hot very hot not only in Utah, but around the world.
According to one of the journals that may publish the scientific paper detailing the startling discovery of University of Utah chemistry professor B. Stanley Pons, cold fusion is causing frenzy worldwide.Thursday's edition of the British journal Nature lists numerous laboratories in the United States that have scrambled to replicate the findings of Pons and British scientist Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England. Researchers from one of those labs - Los Alamos National - met with Pons Thursday to discuss his research.
Meanwhile the first scientific report by Pons and Fleischmann was printed in the April 6 edition of the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry in the Netherlands.
An editor for Nature magazine in London said space has been allocated in the April 20 edition to publish "some documents" from the U. and Brigham Young University, where cold nuclear fusion research is also being conducted.
However, the editor said the magazine's referees have come up with questions and criticisms that have been turned back to Pons and Fleischmann. The two researchers, he said, have not yet responded.
David Lindley, assistant physics editor of Nature in Washington, D.C., said the publication of the Pons article in Thursday's Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry "has a serious impact on our decision."
Pons and Fleischmann announced March 23 they had achieved controlled nuclear fusion - the power source of the sun and the hydrogen bomb - in a simple table-top experiment conceived during a hike in the mountains and first tested in Pons' own kitchen.
None of the labs has reported unequivocal confirmation, but the price of palladium (a metal used in the historic test tube) has reached new heights on commodity markets.
Engelhard Corp. reported a $1.50 increase Wednesday in palladium to $161 per troy ounce.
Meanwhile, Pons said Wednesday he has tried his experiment with ordinary water and it produced no significant heat. This could be proof that the heating process is indeed nuclear and not chemical as some physicists have suggested.
The race to duplicate
While Pons is pursuing several possible explanations for the heat production, the international race is on to confirm the U. experiment. As reported in the science magazine Nature, here's a sample:
-Professor Noboru Koyama of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Chemistry will try to duplicate the experiment with the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.
-British teams from the University of Birmingham and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell are trying to duplicate it.
-Two Hungarian scientists claim to have obtained the same results as Fleischmann and Pons, but no details of their experiment are yet available.
-In Italy, the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture has announced a world conference for April 12 in Erice "to discuss the cold-fusion experiments."
-Several European countries, the Soviet Union and the United States are about to launch a 10-year, $1 billion project to study the viability of fusion by inertial confinement using X-ray lasers. "But all may change pending the conclusions of the conference."
Funding in Utah
In Utah, lawmakers in a special session Friday will consider a $5 million allocation to develop and commercialize the test-tube experiment that still awaits confirmation.
However, a memo from the State Board of Regents asking for the appropriation stresses that the funds be used only upon scientific confirmation of the initial findings.
Even so, some Utahns, including members of the Tax Limitation Coalition of Utah, feel that the special session is premature and could further jeopardize the chance for "Nature" to print the results of the Pons' experiment.
The U. has been repeatedly criticized by several groups, including editors of Nature, for the scientists' "unorthodox" announcement of their claim - with a press conference at the U. - before publication in technical journals. But U. President Chase N. Peterson said the announcement was expedited to avoid the leak of inaccurate information and to protect foreign patent rights.
But another reason for the release surfaced Wednesday.
Speaking to researchers this week in Indiana, Pons said that normal scientific reporting channels to publicize the breakthrough were also circumvented partly due to fear that other scientists be injured from accidental explosions while trying to duplicate the experiment.
He said that in at least one experiment, the heat produced by the experiment threatened to "runaway"--a word used to describe uncontrollable reaction.
Pons said in their excitement, he and Fleischmann have "talked too much," and because the experiment was so simple, people were beginning to attempt it without being aware of its danger.