MU to host international conference on cold fusion

Sunday, July 21, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — From Sunday through Friday, MU will host the 18th International Conference on Cold Fusion. The conference will bring together scientists studying the potential for new forms of energy production.

Since April 2012, MU has been home to the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance, which funds research in the field of low energy nuclear reactions.

This field grew out of the highly publicized "cold fusion" experiments conducted in 1989 by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann at the University of Utah. 

Many in the scientific community accused Fleischmann and Pons of violating scientific ethics, mostly by presenting the results of their experiments without proper peer review.

Public misunderstanding, the difficulty of reproducing Fleischmann’s and Pons’ results and the lack of an established theory that would explain their observations steered the study of low energy nuclear reactions into troubled waters almost as soon as it began.

Today, some scientists maintain that their work has value and requires further scrutiny. Many of these scientists will be attending the conference.

"There have been great advances in this discipline over the last five years by research labs and private institutions around the world," MU physics professor and Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Duncan wrote in the conference’s welcome letter. "The Naval Research Lab (NRL), and many other excellent laboratories have confirmed that the excess heat effects reported by Fleischmann and Pons are real, and roughly one thousand times larger than can be attributed to a chemical process."

Here are some resources to learn more about the study of low energy nuclear reactions:

  • The experiments by Pons and Fleischmann are presented in a primer compiled by "Understanding Science," a science communication effort developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and funded by the National Science Foundation. The article explains their experiment at a layperson level and makes a case that the two acted immorally.
  • The two first revealed their conclusions to the general public at a 1989 press conference.
  • David Kidwell, a scientist with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., briefly summarizes his lab’s eight years of research into low energy nuclear reactions. Kidwell will deliver a keynote speech at the conference Monday morning.
  • This 2009 report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency summarizes the work being done on low energy nuclear reactions in labs around the world. It also gauges the implications of a breakthrough in understanding the processes behind the excess heat effect.
  • In 2009, Duncan accompanied a "60 Minutes" crew to a lab in Israel (starting at 7:15 mark), where he observed low energy nuclear reaction experiments and weighed the evidence himself. "I found that the work done was carefully done, and that the excess heat, as I see it now, is quite real," he told reporter Scott Pelley. The video features interviews with several physicists and ends on an interview with Fleischmann.
  • Edmund Storms, a scientist who worked for 34 for years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been investigating low-energy nuclear reactions in his own lab since his retirement in 1991. He has compiled more than 4,000 papers on the subject, which are available at In "A Student’s Guide to Cold Fusion," he summarizes the state of the science and offers a guide for future studies. Storms will also be speaking Monday morning at the conference.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Ellis Smith July 22, 2013 | 7:30 a.m.

This is interesting. Your final reference, Edmund Storms' "A Student's Guide to Cold Fusion," appears a good place to begin for someone wanting to pursue the subject*.

What we need NOW is a viable and controlled heat source for production of electricity that neither produces carbon dioxide (from fuel combustion) nor radioactive waste (from nuclear fission reactors).

So-called hot (nuclear) fusion solves those two problems. We long ago created the nuclear reaction (at Bikini Atoll: the hydrogen bomb), but have no current means of containing it.

Assuming that cold fusion has merit, practical application appears well in the future. We have energy problems NOW!

*-I like the name of Storms' laboratory. Does one enter the laboratory by climbing down a wooden ladder through a hole in the roof ("kiva")?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 22, 2013 | 8:11 a.m.

"What we need NOW is a viable and controlled heat source"

We already have that: politicians. As long as they're around, we'll have an unlimited supply of hot air.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 22, 2013 | 8:53 a.m.

@ Jimmy Bearfield:

"Viable" [politicians]? My goodness, yes!

"Controlled" [politicans]? See below.

Apparently the definition of "control" is substantially less restrictive in legal terminology than engineering terminology. By our standards, politicians would qualify as totally and habitually uncontrolled, and also out of control, and possibly even being beyond [incapable of] control. :)

(Report Comment)

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