The bubble bursts for a new form of cold fusion

Although some methods of creating low-temperature nuclear fusion have been very successful to date, none of them have come close to generating useful amounts of energy. A recent contender for energy production appears to have been, at best, a misinterpretation of data. But questions about scientific misconduct are again raising their ugly head in this corner of experimental physics. 老域名购买

The procedure under question was first reported by Rusi Taleyarkhan in a 2002 article in Science. It relied on previous findings that liquids bombarded with ultrasound would form temporary bubbles that would expand and collapse rapidly, generating high pressures and temperatures. When a deuterium containing compound was subjected to a combination of ultrasound and neutron bombardment, the authors claim that the energy input was sufficient to generate fusion. This claim was rare, in that it was challenged by Dr. Taleyarkhan’s own Department of Energy colleagues even prior to publication, and was almost immediately debunked, as it appeared that the temperatures in these bubbles fell several million degrees short of what was needed.

Nevertheless, Taleyarkhan continued to publish evidence for his claims, and was hired by Purdue, which put out a press release touting his continued experimentation. The romance between the investigator and Purdue appears to be coming to an end now, though, as the New York Times is reporting that the University has started an investigation into potential misconduct. Nature has some more details, although a significant part of that article is spent gloating about the misfortune of Science, its publishing competitor. Right now, it appears that fellow Purdue researchers have been denied access to some of Taleyarkhan’s equipment, and a scientist at UCLA suggests that the readings which indicated fusion had instead come from the radioactive decay of a different substance entirely.

Although questions about what’s actually gone on in Taleyarkhan’s lab remaining murky, one thing is increasingly clear: the quest for easy fusion is attracting people willing to sacrifice their integrity in return for attention. In the end, even if any form of energy-producing cold fusion is possible, its discoverers will now have to overcome exceptional skepticism due to the behavior of those who have come before them.

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