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Utah Monitor of 'Cold Fusion' Casts Doubt on Its Validity
The New York Times

March 29, 1990

A physicist at the University of Utah says a highly publicized ''cold fusion'' experiment at the school failed to produce any evidence of a nuclear reaction when he monitored it.

The scientist, Michael H. Salamon, said last fall that he had been unable to find gamma rays when he monitored the experiment last May and June in the laboratory of Dr. B. Stanley Pons, a chemist at the unversity. Dr. Salamon gave details of his measurements in a paper being published today in the British journal Nature.

''We did not see a peep,'' said Dr. Salamon, who measured the nuclear output of cold fusion gear for five weeks. ''There was not an iota, not a sniff, of conventional fusion occurring,'' he said. ''We saw no neutrons or gamma rays that could be attributed to a fusion process.''

His findings appear to be another blow to the already widely questioned announcement last March by Dr. Pons and Dr. Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England that they had achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature in a jar of water. The report raised hopes of a revolutionary new source of energy from nuclear fusion, which powers the sun.

''It's another nail in the coffin,'' said Ronald Parker, director of the plasma fusion center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ''They did a very careful search for fusion effects and they came up empty.''

In Salt Lake City yesterday, Dr. Pons said most of the allegations in the paper were not true.

Dr. Pons said the physicists had ignored energy cells that were producing large amounts of heat and instead had monitored cells that were making only low amounts. He also said the monitoring equipment had been placed at an angle and had missed evidence of nuclear activity.

''They were embarrassed that a chemist had fallen into a nuclear reaction so simply,'' Dr. Pons said. ''Their outside colleagues were putting tremendous pressure on them.''

Dr. Pons also accused Nature of trying to undermine his work by publishing negative studies while ignoring supporting evidence.

Fritz G. Will, director of the state-financed National Cold Fusion Institute at the University of Utah, said small changes in experimental conditions, including humidity, could affect whether or not Dr. Pons's fusion cells produce heat. At the time Dr. Salamon checked for signs of fusion, Dr. Will said, ''experimental conditions prevailing in those experiments were not suitable to finding the phenomenon.''

 

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