August 8, 2012
Cold Fusion Chemist Martin Fleischmann Passes Away
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineParkinson's disease for many years.
Fleischmann was born in Czechoslovakia, but fled the country in 1938 after the Nazi occupation began. He and his family moved to England, where a British bachelor adopted Fleischmann in order for him to gain legal status.
He then studied chemistry at the Imperial College London. Fleischmann quickly became known for a strong grasp of mathematics, and an imagination unusual for a chemist. He took over the chemistry department of the University of Southampton in 1967 and gave it an international reputation. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, Britain's Academy of Sciences.
Fleischmann was an “exploratory genius,” said Michael Melich, a friend of Fleischmann and a research professor of physics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
After retiring from teaching, Fleischmann spent a lot of time in Salt Lake City, Utah, collaborating with an American friend, Stanley Pons. They decided to revisit an old idea of Fleischmann's that perhaps a nuclear reaction could be achieved by taking advantage of the peculiar behavior of hydrogen atoms in palladium.
In 1989, Pons and Fleischmann asserted that they had sparked fusion at room temperature in a glass bottle. The reaction they reported appeared to give off very little radiation, an enormous contrast to the still-ongoing quest to harness fusion by conventional means, in billion dollar reactors at temperatures of millions of degrees.
Although the announcement raised hope of a cheap, clean, renewable energy source and many scientists rushed to replicate the results, ultimately it was a failure. Cold fusion was labeled "junk science" and physicists accused Fleischmann and Pons of incompetence and fraud.
They continued to work on and defend their findings, but both were disheartened by the way their work was ignored by mainstream scientists after 1989. Research on "cold fusion" persists today on the fringes of the mainstream scientific world.