Science – “cold fusion”. You may have heard this term before. In the newspapers if you read it in 1989, or more recently on social networks. The scientific holy grail that makes it possible to produce energy from almost nothing. Horizon, which scientists often consider a mirage, and Google has taken care of it for 4 years, we learn from an article published in temper nature This Monday, May 27th. The team reveals the first (somewhat disappointing, it must be admitted) results of its research.
It all began on March 23, 1989, when two researchers claimed to have discovered evidence of this “cold fusion”: while performing a classic chemical experiment (electrolysis), they realized that by immersing palladium (a type of platinum) in heavy water, inappropriate heat is produced normal. According to them, the only explanation is: a nuclear fusion of atoms took place and this energy was released.
Fusion is the meeting of two atomic nuclei. When they do, energy is released. It’s the opposite of nuclear fission, where you break apart the nucleus of a large atom, like uranium (the nuclear energy we’ve been using for over 50 years). However, this fusion is difficult, because the nuclei repel each other. What could get them close enough: too high a speed or temperature. That’s what we’re trying to do with conventional nuclear fusion reactors (but with more than limited success so far).
On the other hand, cold fusion assumes that deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen (a cousin) can fuse even at room temperature, if there is enough of it around a particular metal (such as palladium). Simply put, the hydrogen atoms (or rather deuterium, an isotope, one of the forms of hydrogen), which makes up the water, would have fused upon contact with the metal. That’s what the two researchers think they noticed in 1989. The news is clearly spreading all over the world.
Problem: The experiment was not conducted under appropriate conditions. The results were not reviewed by scientists before they were published in financial times. Very quickly, the scientific community is casting dreams of cold, clean, unlimited fusion: nothing in this experiment indicates that such a thing is possible.
But since 1989, some researchers have continued to believe in it, without ever being taken seriously. Many experiments have been done, but always in limited frameworks (when not minor scams). In fact, the cold fusion story is often cited as a counterexample to scientific research: an exaggerated declaration of seemingly revolutionary, but ultimately unproven, results.
Google is at the heart of a strict regime
To be sure, in 2015 Google funded a major experiment aimed at checking whether cold fusion was just a fantasy or represented tomorrow’s energy. About thirty researchers worked from 2016 to 2018 on the question.
They analyzed past experiences, their strengths and drawbacks, and came up with a real test device that’s very rigorous, he says temper nature In an editorial.
So the researchers developed an experiment in which they were able to monitor the energy emitted in a highly controlled manner. They also developed very special minerals to try to perform these experiments in the best conditions.
Failed and hopeless
Unfortunately, the result was disappointing. “So far, we have not found any evidence of anomalous effects, pointed out by cold fusion proponents, that cannot be explained in a more realistic way,” the researchers explained. Cold fusion cold shower, in which the experimental process developed for this work is framed.
The authors say hope is not lost forever. They already emphasized that to achieve this result, they had to invent new tools and materials, which would certainly have other uses in the field of energy.
Finally, they note that if the skeptics are right, there may be “good technical reasons for the failure of cold fusion proponents to reliably and reproducibly detect effects”. Because if researchers do work at the limits of our current skills, they remind us that ideal conditions, in theory, for cold fusion have not been reached. And it is very difficult to reach them at the moment.
Enough to give optimists some hope. It remains to be seen if the game is worth it, as Nature asks in its editorial. But at the very least, this highly accurate work lays the groundwork for future research on this topic to be carried out with all necessary scientific rigor.
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