Cold fusion or, to use a more sober term, "low-energy nuclear reactions" (LENR), is a bit like an old forgotten song suddenly making a comeback. A song from the 80s, that made us dream.
Precisely in the 80s, in fact, the two chemists Martin fleischmann e Stanley Pons they claimed to be able to make atomic nuclei melt at room temperature, but no one has ever been able to replicate their results. Since then, cold fusion has ended up in the shadows, seen more as an illusion than as a scientific reality even on the occasion of subsequent "attempts".
Today, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the dream is experiencing a rebirth thanks to the support of ARPA-E, the US government agency dedicated to advanced energy research. The announcement is sensational: funding and resources dedicated to a new, unexpected "return". What do you think?
The long shadow of a dispute
Cold fusion has a troubled history. Fleischmann and Pons believed they had found the holy grail of clean energy, a method of fusing atomic nuclei without the immense energy normally required for fusion reactions. Had they been able to prove that it worked, they would have opened the door to virtually infinite, clean energy.
Unfortunately, their results have never been replicated and their discovery has been discredited. They have been branded imposters and cold fusion has been relegated to the sidelines of respectable science. Same fate or almost touched to the controversial E-Cat by the Italian engineer Andrea Rossi and subsequent research.
In the world of science, however, ideas never completely die. Some researchers have continued to work on cold fusion, hoping to find the key to unlocking its potential.
A new chapter in the history of cold fusion?
Despite its stormy history, as mentioned, cold fusion seems to have found a second life. ARPA-E has awarded research funding for LENR, a "surprise" move that raises interest and even hopes among some "hardcore" researchers.
Florian Metzler, a nuclear physicist at MIT, is one of them. He believes cold fusion may still offer some surprises. "Science always has a reproducibility problem," he says. But that doesn't discourage him. He believes there are still many unanswered questions in the field of nuclear physics.
He echoes it David Nagel, engineer at George Washington University. "This technology had a terrible start and now has a bad reputation," he says. "But over the years, hopes haven't faded."
A future fueled by cold fusion?
Whether cold fusion turns out to be an illusion or a scientific reality remains to be seen. For now, frankly, it's an illusion. But for the first time in a long time, he perhaps has a real chance to prove his worth. With new funding and growing interest from the scientific community, it may finally have an opportunity to step out of the shadows.
The road is still long and full of obstacles, but who knows, with a little luck and a lot of scientific work, the situation could start to heat up for real.