Physicists and chemists, who have been at odds over fusion, will try to reach a scientific consensus next week.
University of Utah chemistry professor B. Stanley Pons will collaborate with physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U. official said Friday.James J. Brophy, U. vice president for research, said they will try to determine what is producing the energy in the Pons experiment.
But on Friday, two of Pons' chemistry colleagues said they think they already have that answer.
U. chemistry professors John T. Simons and Cheves T. Walling have come up with an explanation for the cold fusion reaction seen by Pons and Martin Fleischmann.
The pair have submitted their theory to the Journal of Physical Chemistry and expect confirmation about publication on Monday. However, they were reluctant to elaborate on the theory for fear it may be stolen in the international cold fusion race.
Walling and Simons did say they have a model by where the electrons in the metal reduce the repulsion between the two deuterium nuclei. "In the same screening (reduction) we do some theoretical calculations to estimate that it can cause the helium-4 nucleus that is formed to give off its energy as heat," Simons said, stressing that the pair's theory is something that can be tested and isn't a "pipe dream" like some theories.
Simons said Pons likes the theory because it is consistent with all the data and makes predictions that Pons can go into the lab and check. "I believe he thinks it may well be what's happening," Simons said.
Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. told Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, that scientists at Los Alamos had successfully repeated the Utah experiment. But Owens' press secretary, Art Kingdom, confirmed Friday that Los Alamos has been unsuccessful in duplicating the Pons experiment.
Ditto for Georgia Tech.
Five days after announcing they had confirmed nuclear fusion at room temperature, some tired and dejected Georgia Tech researchers Friday told the world that they may have been wrong.
Tech researchers say they aren't sure what - if anything - they've found, and hope the fusion confusion won't damage Tech's credibility.
Pons and Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England announced last month they had achieved fusion at room temperature using simple laboratory equipment.
Brophy said their device, which initially produced four watts of energy for every watt it used, is "now producing heat about 10 times larger than reported before."
No one knows why.
Pons is setting up 18 new experiments to determine the source of the reaction, which he is convinced is nuclear fusion.
Two other U. professors, Richard W. Grow, professor of electrical engineering, and Milton E. Wadsworth, dean of the College of Mines, are working on similar experiments.
Meanwhile, U. officials are miffed at the way in which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced they had applied for patents involving cold nuclear fusion.
MIT revealed in a press release that it had applied for patents based on the theoretical work of Peter L. Hagelstein.
Three weeks ago, the U. was hit with intense criticism for releasing the cold nuclear fusion results at a news conference instead of in a scientific journal.
MIT officials were among those doing the most criticizing.
"But that's exactly what MIT did," Brophy said. "There was no peer review and they produced a press release with no information. It is worse than what we did, and I wonder if anyone is damning them for it."
But Keith Johnson, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, said he developed a theory that conflicted with Hagelstein's and cast doubt on the usefulness of the process as an important new energy source.
According to the engineer's theory, a small amount of nuclear fusion does occur, but most of the energy produced in the experiment is the result of a chemical reaction, not a nuclear reaction.