Cold Fusion

In a laboratory in the south of France, Professors Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons are poised to set the science world alight. Little has been heard of these men for three years. Now they appear ready to speak, to revive a dream they first kindled in 19898 - achieving controlled nuclear fusion at room temperature. But now they claim to generate 100 times more energy than in their first experiments four years ago. Fleischmann and Pons first announced 'cold fusion' on 23 March 1989 at a press conference at the University of Utah. There then followed controversy across the world, as laboratories tried to duplicate the experiment. After a while, with little supporting evidence from elsewhere, Fleischmann and Pons seemed to disappear from the scene. In fact, far from disappearing, Fleischmann and Pons had moved to France to continue their work. Their laboratory is at IMRA (Minoru Institute for Advanced Research) at Sophia-Antipolis in the Alpes- Maritime region. They have a research staff of about 25 people, and funding through the Japanese finance group Aisin. Their method remains essentially the same. "Heavy" water (deuterium oxide) is electrolysed in a closed cell. One electrode (the cathode) is a rod made of palladium. Fleischmann and Pons claim that a large amount of excess heat is observed, over and above that produced by electrolytic heating, and that neutrons have been detected from the cell above the natural background level. Most astonishing is the quantity of heat - about 4kW per cubic centimetre of cathode over a period of 15 minutes - 100 times more than previously claimed. The scientific world holds its breath. Remembering the debacle of 1989, perhaps Fleischmann and Pons' most important claim is that their experiments are almost 100% reproducible.

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