University of Utah physicists who have tested cold fusion cells failed to find clear evidence of a nuclear reaction, but Texas A&M scientists have found such evidence in their cells.
The conflicting research shows, once again, that progress is being made but that development of the process discovered by U. chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann will take time, says James Brophy, U. vice president of research.Brophy also confirmed that employees of the U.'s fusion research institute have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements. But Brophy says the forms aren't "gag orders." Rather, the non-disclosure agreements are common procedures in the world of private research and development where talking to the press or others without permission could lead to public disclosure of sensitive material that could jeopardize patents.
"We don't use such agreements in the academic world, but the institute isn't normal academic research. We have to protect our patents. The institute is a team operation and we don't want anything released unless that the team - under the direction of the institute's director - agrees to it," said Brophy.
Legislators agreed to provide $4.5 million for the institute last spring. But there has been concern about the degree of secrecy surrounding the use of the public money. Brophy says that within two months the U. will approach "a half a dozen, perhaps a dozen, private companies" asking for cold fusion research money.
"We expect to get the funding, but we have to present a good, solid plan of (cold fusion) development and we're putting that together," he said.
Meanwhile, U. physicist Mike Solomon and several colleagues have reported on their study of several working cells set up by Pons and Fleischmann. Brophy says he's seen an early draft of Solomon's work and that the physicists didn't find tritium or other by-products of traditional fusion.
"It's quality work. They didn't find tritium or neutrons," Brophy said.
Pons and Fleischmann found that by pushing an electrical current through a cell with a palladium rod surrounded by heavy water, more heat was produced than could be accounted for by the amount of electricity going in. They believe cold nuclear fusion is taking place. But, according to traditional nuclear theory, such fusion should produce nuclear by-products like tritium, a hydrogen isotope.
Tritium has been found in experiments at Texas A&M, school officials say.