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Plan B For Energy (excerpt)
By W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American

September, 2006

Futuristic visions make for great entertainment.
Too bad about the physics

Cold Fusion and Bubble Fusion


B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann spun a tempest in a teacup in 1989 with their claim of room-temperature fusion in a bottle. The idea drew a coterie of die-hard supporters, but mainstream scientists have roundly rejected that variety of cold fusion.

The bubbles keep bursting

Theoretically more plausible -- but still experimentally contentious -- is sonofusion. In 2002 Rusi Taleyarkhan, a physicist then at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, reported in Science that beaming high-intensity ultrasound and neutrons into a vat of acetone caused microscopic bubbles to form and then implode at hypersonic speeds. The acetone had been made using deuterium, a neutron-bearing form of hydrogen, and Taleyarkhan's group claimed that the extraordinary temperatures and pressures created inside the imploding bubbles forced a few deuterium

atoms to fuse with incoming neutrons to form tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons per atom). Another group at Oak Ridge replicated the experiment but saw no clear signs of fusion.

Taleyarkhan moved to Purdue University and continued reporting success with sonic fusion even as others tried but failed. Purdue this year investigated allegations that Taleyarkhan had interfered with colleagues whose work seemed to contradict his own. The results of the inquiry were sealed and with them another chapter in the disappointing history of cold fusion. Other researchers hold out hope that different methods might someday turn a new page on sonofusion.

 

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