July 18, 2008 / 10:12 PM / 11 years ago

College accuses fusion scientist of misconduct

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A scientist who claimed to have achieved nuclear fusion on a table top committed research misconduct, Purdue University said on Friday.

An investigative committee concluded that two allegations against nuclear engineering professor Rusi Taleyarkhan constituted research misconduct — not in his controversial original research but afterward, the university said.

Taleyarkhan is known for claiming to have produced “cold fusion” using sound waves to make bubbles in a table-top device. He published a study in 2002 saying he had achieved the Holy Grail of energy production: nuclear fusion at room temperature.

The investigative committee concluded that Taleyarkhan committed misconduct by claiming in published research that his nuclear fusion experiment had been independently confirmed by other researchers.

It also found that he committed misconduct by putting the name of another researcher, Adam Butt, on his fusion research while knowing Butt was not a significant contributor.

Many scientists have been eager to develop nuclear fusion — the process that powers the sun — as an unlimited source of clean energy and an alternative to fossil fuels. But scientists have struggled to unlock the secrets of fusion energy. And some researchers expressed doubts about Taleyarkhan’s findings.

The Indiana university said its policy on integrity in research gives Taleyarkhan a 30-day process for appeal.

“Any decision on sanctions by the university based on the committee’s conclusions will come after the appeal process,” said Joseph Bennett, vice president for university relations at Purdue. “The university will make no comment on the content of the report during the appeal period.”

Taleyarkhan was at the U.S. Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the time and has since joined Purdue.

In his original report, published in the journal Science in 2002, Talayarkhan and colleagues said they created nuclear fusion in a beaker of chemically altered acetone by bombarding it with neutrons and then sound waves to make bubbles.

When the bubbles burst, the researchers said they detected fusion energy.

Taleyarkhan did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Editing by Doina Chiacu and Maggie Fox

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