BYU Researcher Reportedly Achieves Cold Fusion
Mar. 31, 1989
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A Brigham Young University researcher has reportedly created a controlled nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature, the second such breakthrough to be revealed in a week.
Physicist Steven Jones was scheduled to discuss his findings Friday in a colloquium at Columbia University after a skeptical scientific community put pressure on him to come forward.
Jones had planned to wait until a May 4 lecture before the American Physical Society in Baltimore to discuss his work, but BYU spokesman Paul Richards said he agreed to speak sooner after receiving a ''tremendous number of inquiries, most from his colleagues in the physics discipline and from media.''
Stanley Pons, chairman of the University of Utah's chemistry department, and Martin Fleischmann of England's University of Southhampton, announced at a March 23 news conference that they had used a simple, low-cost experiment to achieve fusion that produced four times as much energy as it consumed.
They said they used an electrical current to drive nuclear particles through a lattice of palladium and platinum electrodes, forcing positively charged particles to fuse together and create a new atom.
Scientists have long sought the secrets of nuclear fusion, considered a possible replacement for conventional energy sources because it would be clean, inexpensive and virtually inexhaustible.
Nuclear reactors are powered by fission, in which atoms are split, not fused.
Jones said his experiments have produced far less energy that that claimed by Pons and Fleischmann, and all three insist that a great deal of research remains to be done.
''We have a lot more work ahead of us,'' Jones said. ''We need to have some patience and do the scientific groundwork before we jump to any conclusions.''
Richards confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that Jones had discovered that the nuclei of deuterium atoms, a heavy form of hydrogen, can fuse inside a solid crystal unaided by an external catalyst or the superhot temperatures previously thought necessary for hydrogen fusion.
Pons and Fleischmann also used deuterium as their material.
Jones, an associate professor of physics at BYU, has been awarded some $200,000 from the federal Department of Energy for his fusion research and related projects.
But the 40-year-old Idaho native has sought to avoid the attention that has centered on the University of Utah since Pons' and Fleischmann's announcement.
''He's not comfortable with a lot of media exposure,'' Richards said. ''He's a scientist who gets his head down, his nose to the grindstone, and he'll be happy for hours on end in the laboratory.''