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SCIENTISTS FLOCK TO JAPAN COLD-FUSION SUMMIT

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Dozens of scientists from around the world have gathered to explore what they say are renewed signs that it is possible to achieve cold fusion.

Cold fusion is regarded with skepticism by most scientists. But interest has grown in recent months with new claims by researchers who say they have evidence of extra energy being produced by running electricity through water with special electrodes.Cold fusion backers say hydrogen atoms in water fuse to create the heat. Others are more cautious and say another phenomenon may be at work.

During the four-day conference, scientists from Japan, the United States, Italy, India and Russia will present the results of new nuclear fusion experiments.

Among those attending are chemists B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, whose 1989 claim of a sustained cold fusion reaction set off efforts to duplicate the result around the world. These experiments achieved little success, and Pons and Fleischmann were widely criticized.

Fusion has long been sought as a source of cheap, safe and virtually inexhaustible energy, but most scientists believe it can be achieved only at extremely high temperatures.

Many at the conference are excited by the work of Akito Takahashi, a nuclear engineer at Osaka University who says he has succeeded in creating an average of 70 percent extra heat in several experiments. Takahashi has stopped short of saying he has produced cold fusion.