Ponting out it has the potential to provide answers to the country’s energy problems, some top nuclear scientists urge India’s new government to revive research on "cold fusion.”
In the 1990s, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai had done some work on cold fusion, now called Low Energy Nuclear Reactions or LENR, but abandoned the research 18 years ago.
"We are making a frantic effort to revive cold fusion/LENR research in India," Mahadevan Srinivasan, who along with the late P.K.Iyengar led cold fusion research at BARC, told IANS. "Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee is solidly backing me (in this effort)."
The journal "Current Science" published by Bangalore-based Indian Academy of Sciences has proposed to bring out a special section on cold fusion in one of the upcoming issues with contributions from scientists working in this field.
"I am trying to get Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi (to) appoint a task force to investigate cold fusion and advise him on a course of action," Srinivasan said, adding he had had a one-on-one meeting with Energy Minister Piyush Goyal last week on this topic.
Thermonuclear fusion process — like the one that powers the Sun — takes place under extreme temperature in which hydrogen (or its heavier cousins deuterium and tritium) nuclei fuse to release energy.
On March 23, 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah in the US startled the world with their claim of having observed fusion between deuterium nuclei in a palladium lattice at room temperature.
But mainstream Scientists worldwide rejected these claims of room temperature fusion and dismissed the experimental findings as "erroneous". The BARC team which replicated the work in early 1990s showed that the reaction studied by the Utah physicists indeed produced tritium as well as helium indicating that cold fusion was real. But further work on cold fusion in BARC was shut down "under global peer pressure", Srinivasan said.
According to Srinivasan, research on cold fusion needs to be revived now since "very interesting things are happening in this field" and people like Bill Gates — who Nov 12 visited the Italian laboratory to observe LENR experiments being carried out there — were "seriously considering funding cold fusion/LENR".
Srinivasan said that recent technological breakthroughs had resulted in the development of suitcase-sized LENR reactors that can be mass produced.
The fuel for these novel "reactors" — dubbed Energy Catalyzer or "Ecat" by its Italian inventor Andrea Rossi — is inexpensive nickel in the form of specially prepared "nano" powder exposed to ordinary hydrogen gas.
Rossi gave a demonstration of a 10-KW unit at the University of Bologna in January 2011 in the presence of about 50 invitees. He followed it up with a demonstration of a 1-MW water boiler, Srinivasan said.
"Since Rossi has not published his work in the form of scientific papers in journals, the mainstream scientific community is not aware of this development."
Srinivasan said a research centre and possible manufacturing base for these reactors have been set up in Baoding in eastern China and that at least two companies have announced likely market release of multi-KW LENR reactors during 2015.
"One such LENR generator located in each village and powering a local village-level micro-grid can work wonders," says Srinivasan, adding one can even envision tractors being powered by LENR source in future. “It is hoped that the new government will take cognition of this breakthrough development and take necessary steps to foster this new technology in India," he said.