After decades of wandering in the scientific wilderness, cold fusion may be returning to the land of the acceptable.
It’s been more than 20 years since esteemed researchers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann electrified the world with news that they’d observed low-energy nuclear reactions, or LENR, at the atomic level that generated excess heat, holding out the promise of “cold fusion” that did not require the blast furnace of nuclear fission as part of the energy-creating process.
Cold fusion is, conceivably, a third type of nuclear reaction (after fission and so-called hot fusion) that somehow occurs at relatively low temperatures. When Pons and Fleischmann, two of the world’s leading electrochemists at the time, reported in 1989 that their tabletop, experimental apparatus had produced anomalous heat that could only be explained by some sort of a nuclear process, the race to define or explain cold fusion began. Pons and Flesichmann also reported that they’d observed small amounts of nuclear reaction byproducts.
However, because the Pons-Fleischmann results couldn’t be repeated consistently–and since it was also discovered that they had not, in fact, observed any nuclear reaction byproducts–cold fusion has largely been rejected, and Pons and Fleischmann discredited, by the mainstream scientific community.
While there have been sporadic reports of LENR findings of “excess heat”–basically, that “something happened” that defies explanation–there is still no generally accepted theoretical model of cold fusion.