Horizon - An Experiment to Save the World - [2005-02-17]
Cold Fusion ?
Cold fusion refers to nuclear fusion
of atoms at conditions close to room temperature, in contrast to the
conditions of well-understood fusion reactions such as those inside
stars and high energy experiments. Interest in the field increased
dramatically after nuclear fusion was reported in a tabletop experiment
involving electrolysis of heavy water on a palladium (Pd) electrode by Martin Fleischmann, then one of the world's leading electro-chemists, and Stanley Pons
in 1989. They reported anomalous heat production ("excess heat") of a
magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of
nuclear processes. They further reported measuring small amounts of
nuclear reaction byproducts, including neutrons and tritium. These reports raised hopes of a cheap and abundant source of energy.
Enthusiasm turned to skepticism as replication failures were weighed in view of several reasons
cold fusion is not likely to occur, the discovery of possible sources
of experimental error, and finally the discovery that Fleischmann and
Pons had not actually detected nuclear reaction byproducts. By late 1989, most scientists considered cold fusion claims dead, and cold fusion subsequently gained a reputation as pathological science. However, some researchers continue to investigate cold fusion, and some have reported positive results at mainstream conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.
Cold fusion research sometimes is referred to as low energy nuclear
reaction (LENR) studies or condensed matter nuclear science, in order to avoid negative connotations.
In 1989, the majority of a review panel organized by the US Department of Energy
(DOE) found that the evidence for the discovery of a new nuclear
process was not persuasive. There have been few mainstream reviews of
the field since 1990. A second DOE review, convened in 2004 to look at
new research, reached conclusions similar to the first.