"So, what is the current scientific thinking on cold fusion? Frankly, most scientists have not followed the field since the disenchantment of 1989 and 1990. They typically still dismiss cold fusion as experimental error, but most of them are unaware of the newly reported results. Even so, given the extraordinary nature of the claimed cold fusion results, it will take extraordinarily high quality, conclusive data to convince most scientists, unless a compelling theoretical explanation is found first.
"Most cold fusion research today is done in Japan. The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, a government organization, sponsors the New Hydrogen Energy Laboratory in Sapporo. IMRA, a foundation of the Toyota family, sponsors another well-equipped lab in Sapporo, as well as Pons and Fleischmann's facility in France. Several Japanese universities and industries also do cold fusion research."
Douglas R.O. Morrison, who was a physicist at CERN for 38 years, is a longtime observer of cold fusion research; he has also attended the International Cold Fusion Conferences. Here is his assessment:
" 'You mean it's not dead?' is the incredulous reaction when I say I have been to a cold fusion conference. Almost all scientists and most of the public no longer believe the 1989 claim of Fleischmann and Pons of having solved the world's energy problems by using electrochemistry to fuse deuterium nuclei together at low energy. But true believers soldier on.
"The Sixth International Cold Fusion Conference, ICCF-6, was held in October 1996 near Sapporo in northern Japan. It was sponsored by a branch of MITI, which has given some $30 million over four years for cold fusion research; this support was matched by funds and personnel from some 20 major Japanese companies and in cooperation with a dozen Japanese universities. MITI started the New Hydrogen Energy (NHE) laboratory near Sapporo, which visitors have estimated contains some $10-million worth of equipment. "The conference was remarkable for three reports of high-quality Japanese experiments, which contrasted sharply with other reports. The NHE lab of MITI described a large series of experiments devised to check the original claims of Fleischmann and Pons. No excess heat was found.
"Toyota established a new organization, called IMRA, that has two laboratories, one near Sapporo and the other near Nice in the south of France; the latter has employed Pons. The second major experimental report came from the IMRA-Japan lab, where researchers built an improved calorimeter, which had no interaction with the surroundings. Twenty-six experiments were tried employing the various systems and tricks that had been suggested to cause excess heat, but no excess heat was observed. Further, the upper limits were very low, +/- 0.23 watts, or 2.3 percent of the input power--far from the cry of 'one watt in, four watts out' and the hundreds of percent increases claimed back in 1989.
"Another set of results came from IMRA-Europe, which was presented by Pons. He said that seven experiments were performed; they yielded excess heats of 250 percent, 150 percent, 'variable' and four that gave no excess heat at all. This result might be considered rather meager after five years of work conducted before the 1989 announcement and seven years after, when Pons and Fleischmann were well funded. A high-temperature (near boiling) cell was used at IMRA-Europe, although such a device had been shown to produce greater uncertainties.
"Extremely high temperatures are normally needed to obtain practical fusion rates by overcoming the repulsion of the nuclei that are both positively charged. At low energies--that is, at room temperatures--this potential barrier makes fusion reactions have an incredibly low probability of occurring. True believers claim that in the lattice of a metal such as palladium, the rate of deuterium-deuterium fusion is much higher, so all that is needed is to fill the lattice with deuterium.