As Gov. Norm Bangerter was signing a bill Wednesday that allocates $5 million in state money for cold nuclear fusion research and development, a Washington, D.C., firm was lobbying for federal bucks to secure Utah's lead in the fusion race.
And at the University of Utah, research teams outside the department of chemistry joined efforts to get the revolutionary experiment out of the lab and into practical use.Wednesday morning the governor initiated the Fusion/Energy Advisory Council by signing the bill that the Legislature adopted during a special session April 7. The 11-member council, including two ex-officio members, is charged with allocating up to $5 million that lawmakers approved for fusion research and development at the U. It's still uncertain if other universities will share in the funds.
Brigham Young University has been doing cold nuclear fusion research for several years. And "Utah State University is (also) playing the game. We're putting up an effort to put up a cell right," said Wilford Hansen, professor of physics and chemistry at USU and member of the fusion council, which met for the first time Wednesday.
Realizing that $5 million could be only a particle of the money needed to keep Utah in the forefront of fusion research, the U. has also hired Cassidy and Associates, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, to help persuade Congress that any detailed fusion research should be conducted in Utah.
Since the discovery of cold fusion was announced March 23 by U. chemistry professor B. Stanley Pons and British colleague Martin Fleischmann, engineers at the Salt Lake university have been carrying out studies aimed at putting the cold fusion process into practical applications.
Wednesday an organized effort was announced.
Richard W. Grow, professor of electrical engineering, and David W. Pershing, dean and professor of electrical engineering, will direct the College of Engineering team. Milton E. Wadsworth, dean and distinguished professor of metallurgy and metallurgical engineering, will head the College of Mines and Earth Sciences group.
The U. researchers, who have been duplicating the Pons/Fleischmann experiment, said the output on their reaction is now producing a steady increase in energy as it moves into its 11th day.
Researchers aren't trying to confirm the controversial experiment across campus. But they believe that through corroboration, engineers will start playing a larger role in tackling such problems as developing precise heat control systems for a large scale-up reactor for the safe production of energy.
Gary Sandquist, a professor of mechanical engineering who's had 30 years' experience with nuclear fission, said that once the basic questions in physics and chemistry are resolved, he expects a stepped-up engineering role in the building of a prototype cold fusion device - a major first step toward a commercial power plant.
A relatively large cold fusion reactor could serve as a test bed for experiments and research and development, he said. Such a device would attract researchers worldwide, making the U. a major center for applied cold fusion studies and reactor development.
Here's what team members will be studying:
- Robert F. Boehm, an authority on thermal power generation and professor of mechanical engineering, wants studies on the heat production aspects of cold fusion, the potential and means for scale-up. He said a cold fusion process might prove adaptable to such mobile devices as trucks and automobiles.
"This is not very feasible with present-day nuclear reactors," Boehm said. "Hence estimates on the compactness of a practical unit would be valuable in assessing potential applications."
- Sivaraman Guruswamy, assistant professor of metallurgy and metallurgical engineering, will study metals other than palladium for making electrodes. The suitability of zirconium, titanium, tantalum and numerous other metals will be investigated.
- J. Gerald Byrne, chairman of the department of metallurgy and metallurgicalengineering, and Guruswamy will study whether microscopic flaws in palladium's atomic structure influence the fusion reaction experiments.
- J.D. Seader, professor of chemical engineering, will explore other electrolyte solutions, including light and heavy water; cations other than lithium, suchas sodium and potassium; and other cathode electrode materials and alloys.