The University of Utah will likely have a new partner in the development of cold nuclear fusion.
B. Stanley Pons, co-discoverer of the revolutionary energy source, has made a verbal agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the nuclear bomb.The agreement will allow some of the university's experiments to be conducted in New Mexico and some of Los Alamos' to be performed in Salt Lake City. Pons has already set up a cell that will be given to Los Alamos once it's operating.
The U., in turn, is particularly interested in the use of Los Alamos' neutron detecting and measuring equipment, said James J. Brophy, U. vice president for research.
The agreements come in the wake of Pons' visit to the government lab Tuesday. Scientists at Los Alamos have yet to confirm the Utah project, so they invited Pons to New Mexico for collaboration.
"There is a possibility that within the next few days or weeks they will sign a written agreement," said U. spokeswoman Barb Shelly. "The reason is that there's a probability of patents and the agreement would decide how any patents would be filed and how any money forthcoming would be divided."
Meanwhile, researchers at Texas A&M denied a Washington Post report that confirmation of the Utah project by Texas A&M University scientists was probably an error. The Post quoted researchers as saying their equipment had an electrical flaw that produced the reported heat.
The Texas researchers announced last week that they had successfully replicated the most controversial part of the Utah experiment: Their electrochemical reaction produced between 60 percent and 80 percent more energy than required to make the reaction work.
The researchers, however, stopped short of calling it fusion.
Texas A&M chemistry professor Charles Martin, who appeared at a news conference with Pons at the American Chemical Society's meeting in Dallas April 12, reaffirmed the school's duplication of the table-top experiment.
Thursday he continued to stand behind his findings.
Martin said a second experiment continues to produce stable amounts of excess energy, although at a somewhat lower level.
Although Georgia Tech retracted its confirmation, the University of Washington and Stanford University also continue to stick to their announced confirmations. Thursday University of Florida researchers said they too have produced radioactive material in an experiment that lends further support to Utah scientists' claim.
Confirmations have also been announced by scientists in Hungary, Italy, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
Pons believes as many as 60 other laboratories have also successfully duplicated the experiment but are are keeping mum to protect possible patent rights.
The issue of confirmation is paramount to members of the newly formed Fusion/Energy Advisory Council, which will not release state funding to the U. project until members are sure it's the real thing.
The council was initiated by Gov. Norm Bangerter when he signed a legislative bill adopted during a special session April 7. The council's charge is to allocate up to $5 million that lawmakers approved for fusion research at the U.
The first big challenges are to establish criteria and set a deadline for confirmation.
Council members will also be haggling over the issue of whether any of the $5 million can be allocated to other Utah institutions doing fusion research.
Brigham Young University researcher Steven Jones has been doing cold nuclear fusion research since 1986. And Utah State University scientists announced Wednesday they also have joined the fusion game.
Hixson said the opinion of the attorney general is that the money will go the U., but the U. can contract out to other universities.