credit: Phil Schauer
Scientists from the University of British Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Google are conducting a multi-year investigation into cold fusion, a type of benign nuclear reaction hypothesized to occur in benchtop apparatus at room temperature.
A progress report published today in Nature publicly discloses the group’s collaboration for the first time.
The group, which included about 30 graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff scientists, has not yet found any evidence of the phenomenon, but they did find important new insights into metal-hydrogen interactions that could impact low-energy nuclear reactions. The team remains excited about investigating this area of science and hopes their ongoing journey will inspire others in the scientific community to contribute data to this intriguing field.
“We need a fundamentally new energy technology that can be scaled within the span of a human lifetime. Achieving this goal requires scientists to be afforded the opportunity to do daring work. This program provided us with a safe environment to take the long shot – given the profound impact this could have on society, we should remain open to it even if there is an unknown probability of success," saus Curtis Berlinguette, principal investigator and professor of chemistry and chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia.
Operating as a “peer group” with a stringent internal review process, the team started out by vetting previous claims of cold fusion, which have not been pursued in mainstream academic research for the past 30 years. If cold fusion could be realized, the heat released by this process might offer an attractive option for decarbonizing the global energy system.
The collaborative effort has produced nine peer reviewed publications and three arXiv posts. The team continues to search for a reproducible reference experiment for cold fusion.
“This program explores several intriguing and overlooked problems with the potential for significant impact. Even if we do not find a better way to produce clean energy, our discoveries along the way will still shed new light onto a variety of areas in science and engineering,” says Jeremy Munday, principal investigator and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland.