Cold fusion was hot about 20 years ago, and then it faded almost into oblivion after being discredited as unrealistic. Today, it may be time to re-evaluate its potential.
On March 23, 1989, two scientists in Salt Lake City, Utah, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, presented evidence of nuclear-level heat production from an electrochemical process. This was an outcome that was until then unimaginable and entirely unexpected. Simultaneously (and apparently independently) Steven Jones, also from Utah, announced his discovery of the neutron production from an electrochemical process, also entirely unexpectedly.
These announcements were greeted with great hope. Skepticism and accusations of deception followed, however, as replication of the processes proved difficult.
A group of SRI scientists has been studying this phenomenon continuously for more than 22 years. At Café Scientifique on Oct. 11, Mike McKubre will report on the state of the field, reasons to have hope and confidence in cold fusion as a potentially unlimited energy source, and the basis for continuing skepticism.
Watch a 60 Minutes interview in which McKubre explains how cold fusion could yield nuclear-grade energy at room temperature on a tabletop. Based on a number of successful, repeated experiments he has conducted, McKubre envisions a clean nuclear battery that could power a car or laptop for years.
Michael McKubre, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert in electrochemical kinetics. He is a pioneer in the use of AC circuit impedance methods for the evaluation of electrode kinetic processes. McKubre also introduced harmonic impedance spectroscopy as a tool to measure rates and mechanisms of electrochemical reactions. These techniques are widely applied in the fields of battery science, fuel cells, corrosion, electrochemical sensors, and hydrogen production and storage.
In 1978, McKubre joined SRI as an electrochemist; in 1982, he was appointed manager of the Electrochemistry Program. At SRI, he has driven the discovery and application of potential new energy sources, specifically those associated with the deuterium/palladium system. He is recognized internationally as an expert in palladium-hydrogen and palladium-deuterium electrochemistry and calorimetry. He has directed research and consulted in this area for the Electric Power Research Institute, the Japanese Ministry of Industry and Technology Innovation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research, and the Italian National Energy Agency.
In 2004, McKubre helped initiate and complete a review by the U.S. Department of Energy of “cold fusion” in collaboration with Profs. Peter Hagelstein (MIT) and David Nagel (George Washington University, Naval Research Laboratory). Once dismissed as a mistake or misnomer, the emerging experimental evidence of lattice nuclear effects is now recognized as having significant potential energy and strategic significance. McKubre was co-chairman of the Third International Conference on Cold Fusion and has served on the International Advisory Committee of the ICCF since its inception in 1990.
McKubre holds a B.Sc. in chemistry and physics (1971), M.Sc. (with honors) in geophysics and physical chemistry (1972), and a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics (1976) from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). He is a member of the Royal Chemical Society, the Electrochemical Society; and is past editor of Electrochemistry for the National Association of Corrosion Engineers.