MU professor revisits decades-old fusion project

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A University of Missouri professor has resurrected his two-decade-old work in the contested field of cold fusion.

In 1991, Mark Prelas was part of a research team that conducted a fusion experiment that emitted a burst of millions of neutrons. The Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/TPLr1t) reports that the work stopped when funding was cut off.

At the time, cold fusion claims had been dismissed as junk science. Prelas shifted to other work.

But his neutron-producing experiment resumed this year, and he presented his findings at a cold fusion conference in August in South Korea.

Prelas, now a professor in the university’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute, received funding from the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance at MU. It was created with a $5.5 million gift from the institute’s namesake, an apparel tycoon who founded The Jones Group.

Five other research teams are working on energy-related studies through the institute.

In the original experiment, the team created an emitted neutron-recording device and expected to count about 10 neutrons a second. The card’s storage was used up in less than one-hundredth of a second. Then, the team used a counter with the capacity to track up to 1 million neutrons and timed it again. They reached a million neutrons in a second.

“This was incredible to us,” Prelas said in an email. “The neutron production went on for five minutes and then I decided to put the device back into liquid nitrogen to shut the reaction down. We thermal shocked the device two more times and each time we produced large neutron bursts.”

Before he could purchase more supplies to continue the work, his research account had been frozen.

With SKINR funding, he re-created the experiment. More technologically advanced equipment has allowed for a better counting system, and in one run, his research team saw neutron emissions at similar levels to the 1991 observation.

Rob Duncan, MU’s vice chancellor of research, said a success will “lead to engineering better systems that will benefit humans, but first things first. We’ve got to understand what this is. . The focus clearly has to be on an opportunity to discover new physics and to understand new science. That really is our aim here at SKINR.”

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