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Experiments at the state-funded National Cold Fusion Institute in Salt Lake City are now off-limits to reporters, and the center's director will no longer be granting media interviews.

University of Utah officials said the interviews and visits are not being halted because of the confidential nature of the experiments.Dealing with the press requires too much of the administrator's and scientists' time, which must now be devoted to fusion research, they said.

The announcement came in the wake of controversial statements made this week by institute director Hugo Rossi.

In interviews with the Deseret News and others, Rossi said institute scientists were unable to duplicate the experiments of B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann.

Rossi also said that none of the institute's more than 20 electrochemical cells has produced excess heat, and scientists have not detected fusion byproducts such as neutrons or tritium.

The published statements concerned members of the state Fusion/Energy Advisory Board, charged with allocating state money to the institute.

They also irritated Pons and Fleischmann, who said Thursday that experiments at the institute are not designed to be a "confirmation, but rather important extensions of the overall database required for developing practical devices."

Pons and Fleischmann, who chose not to move their laboratories into the institute in the U.'s Research Park, added that the experiments show no measurable fusion because the institute as yet has purchased no equipment to measure fusion.

Rossi says he was "misunderstood" in the newspaper reports.

In a brief statement Friday he said it is premature to report any results and he is confident that the work at the institute will make a major contribution to science.

"The University of Utah's new National Cold Fusion Institute has established a strong integrative research program requiring `patience' to study the electrochemistry, physics, metallurgy and engineering of room-temperature fusion," Rossi said. "Scientists and engineers assigned to NCFI are looking for answers to a wide range of major questions about cold fusion.

"Among these questions are its reproducibility mechanism and its effect on materials."

Rossi said, "Good science takes time. There are no deadlines to be met. We're working with as much speed as possible to unravel the mysteries of this discovery."

Pam Fogle, acting director of U. public relations, said she and U. Vice President James Brophy will now be the official institute spokespeople. They will issue press releases whenever warranted, she said.

However, Fogle said, they will not speak for Pons and Fleischmann, who continue their independent research in the basement of the Henry Eyring Chemistry Building on the U. campus.

Fleischmann and Pons say they are only advisers to the institute, which is solely funded with $4.3 million in state money. The money was allocated this year by the Legislature for fusion research and development.