1:00 PM on Sat May 24 2008
By Elaine Chow
Cold fusion, the act of producing a nuclear reaction at room temperature, has long been relegated to science fiction after researchers were unable to recreate the experiment that first "discovered" the phenomenon. But a Japanese scientist was supposedly able to start a cold fusion reaction earlier this week, which—if the results are real—could revolutionize the way we gather energy.
Yoshiaki Arata, a highly respected physicist in Japan, demonstrated a low-energy nuclear reaction at Osaka University on Thursday. In front of a live audience, including reporters from six major newspapers and two tv studios, Arata and a co-professor Yue-Chang Zhang, produced excess heat and helium atoms from deuterium gas.
Arata used pressure to force deuterium gas into an evacuated cell that contained a palladium and zirconium oxide mix(ZrO2-Pd). Arata said that the mix caused the deuterium's nuclei to fuse, raising the temperature in the cell and keeping the center of the cell warm for 50 hours.
Arata's experiment would mark the first time anyone has witnessed cold fusion since 1989, when Martin Fleishmann and Stanely Pons supposedly observed excess heat during electrolysis of heavy water with palladium electrodes. When they and other researchers were unable to make it work again, cold fusion became synonymous with bad science.
But the method Arata showed was "highly reproducible," according to eye witnesses of the event. If nobody calls this demonstration out as a sham, Arata might have finally found the holy grail of cheap and abundant energy—nuclear power, without its destructive heat.
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