A U.S. government lab has notified the University of Utah that it is ending negotiations for scientific collaboration, but a collaboration agreement on solid-state fusion between the U. and a London-based precious metals company is alive and well.
Hugo Rossi, director of the U.'s solid-state fusion research efforts, said Tuesday he's confident that an agreement between the U. and Johnson Matthey PLC - the world's largest platinum-group refinery - will be completed soon.But the collaboration agreement being negotiated with Los Alamos National Laboratory was put on hold Monday because of "continued inaction by the University of Utah."
That's the word U. officials received Monday afternoon from Los Alamos director Sig Hecker.
Hecker said in a news release that active negotiations could resume in the future if the university expresses a sincere interest and takes prompt action to work with Los Alamos.
"The door is not closed. We are simply acknowledging the obvious. It takes two to collaborate," said Jeff Schwartz, a spokesman for the lab.
For many weeks, Los Alamos has expressed an interest in collaborating with U. fusion researchers, and in fact, a collaboration agreement had been approved by university lawyers.
Schwartz said the university notified Hecker on May 19 that the terms of the agreement were approved but said researchers B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann could not receive Los Alamos scientists for weeks.
But Los Alamos officials said Monday they did not receive the verification they requested May 23 that the university was still interested and would launch the collaboration.
James Brophy, U. vice president for research, said futher negotiations with the New Mexico lab will have to wait until Pons and Fleischmann are available to discuss the matter, which he said would not be until early July.
Pons, a U. chemistry professor, left Tuesday for England where Rossi said Pons and Fleischmann, of the University of Southampton, will complete a second scientific paper, "which will contain all the relative details involved in their experiments."
Meanwhile, Rossi said U. officials are continuing negotiations with Johnson Matthey.
"Last week we had very positive meetings with Johnson Matthey people, and we feel that we are not very far away from establishing collaborative agreements, which are being worked on this week by both sides," he said.
The proposed agreement would be the first fusion-related commercial collaboration the U. has entertained since Pons and Fleischmann announced March 23 they had achieved fusion at room temperature using a simple table-top apparatus.
The 170-year-old company, which has offices worldwide, has had a long-standing "confidentiality" agreement with Pons and Fleischmann to discuss the metallurgical details of their fusion experiments.
If finalized, the new agreement with the university will also enable Johnson Matthey researchers to deal directly with other U. researchers working to upscale the Pons/-Fleischmann experiments into practical application.
Because Johnson Matthey has access to high-purity materials useful in fusion and the "expertise of some of the finest metallurgists in the world," U. officials said a collaboration agreement with the British company would be beneficial to the university.
Brophy said he's hopeful that something can still be worked out between Los Alamos and the U. of U. once Pons returns.
Verification of the U. experiments by a national laboratory, officials say, would help ease the criticism the chemists have received since announcing their controversial findings.
A positive verdict on the experiments by a DOE cold fusion panel could also help silence naysayers and muster international support for the research.
The panel, which visited the Pons/Fleischmann laboratories June 2, was expected to speak to Stephen Jones' fusion team at Brigham Young University Tuesday.