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"Cold Fusion" Patents Sought
ByWilliam J. Broad
The New York Times
April 13, 1989
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said yesterday that it had applied for patents involving cold nuclear fusion based on the theoretical work of Peter L. Hagelstein, a university researcher who has submitted four papers outlining his theory to scientific journals.
The action seems to add new support to a recent claim by scientists from Utah and England that they had achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature in a simple laboratory apparatus. Since their announcement, scientists around the world have been trying to duplicate their work and devise theories to explain their results.
Yesterday, officials at M.I.T. released almost no details of the theoretical work or the patents. Dr. Hagelstein could not be reached for comment.
Although theoretical work is generally not patentable in itself, it can pave the way for practical applications for which patents can be awarded.
John Deutch, the university's provost, issued a statement saying, ''We are pleased to see Professor Hagelstein proposing an explanation for 'cold fusion' and we are encouraging investigators both here and at other research institutions to continue their work on this most surprising phenomenon.''
If the Utah findings are verified and the phenomenon can be produced on an industrial scale, cold fusion could have revolutionary importance as a new source of energy. Fusion, in which atoms are joined to produce energy, usually occurs only at enormous temperatures and pressures.
Dr. Hagelstein is a 34-year-old associate professor in M.I.T.'s department of electrical engineering and computer science. A decade ago, as a graduate student at the university, he pioneered what eventually became the world's first X-ray laser while working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The laser became a pivotal part of the proposed "Star Wars" antimissile defense system.
Eugene F. Mallove, a spokesman for M.I.T., said yesterday that it appeared that at least some of the papers had been submitted to Physical Review, a physics journal of the American Physical Society.
An official in the journal's office had no comment on whether the papers were there.
A statement by the university quoted Dr. Hagelstein as saying his papers described ''a speculative theory on the new cold fusion'' that had been submitted to journals from April 5 to yesterday. He said further details would be provided when the papers were accepted for publication.
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