Cold fusion may be hot - or not.
Cold fusion, the much-ballyhooed claim of a cheap and inexhaustible energy, was first advanced 20 years ago in the startling but ultimately unpersuasive claim of two researchers, Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah.
In the years since, most scientists have abandoned that dream, and the two men's paper has been often dismissed as just bad science.
But dreams die hard, and cold fusion is back in the news this week. Experiments conducted in the U.S., Italy and Israel appear to show that placing the metal palladium into deuterium, or heavy water, and passing an electrical current through it produces excess heat - that is, yields more energy than was put in.
But does it?
As with the Fleischmann-Pons claim in 1989, many laboratories trying to replicate the latest cold-fusion results are coming up with inconsistent and unpersuasive results. Most scientists suggest that the energy frontier today is about solar technologies, fuel-cell batteries, conservation and efficiency.
We won't be buying stock in any cold-fusion startups, thanks very much, but neither should the world's scientists and tinkerers stop dreaming. History is full of serendipitous surprises, and the insights and persistence of the next Einstein or Edison will someday surprise us all.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Apr 24, 2009|
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