Google Teams Up With Scientists to Investigate Cold Fusion

The researchers aim to explore how materials science can help make fusion more accessible.

A team of scientists from several universities has teamed up with Google to begin a multi-year investigation into cold fusion. They hope to investigate claims into cold fusion to see if there is anything to it.

If cold fusion could be achieved, the energy and heat harvested from it would offer a fantastic opportunity for a carbon-free future. Publishing their progress so far in a recent issue of Nature, the group publicly announced their collaborative effort for the first time. 

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Which Universities Have Collaborated with Google on the Project?

As well as a team from the internet giant Google, scientists from the University of British Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have all agreed to collaborate in the effort. The group consists of around 30 graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff scientists.

The team was inspired by 1989 claims about advancements in cold fusion that were, at the time, heralded as the future of clean energy. However, later scrutiny and subsequent failures to reproduce their findings, effectively lead to the notion of cold fusion being discredited by the scientific community. 

The team believed this effective write-off of cold fusion was a little premature and tasked themselves within investigating cold fusion more deeply. The also noted that most of their investigation has come up empty-handed.

However, the team indicates that they have found some interesting insights into metal-hydrogen interactions that could impact low-energy nuclear reactions. They also insist that they are excited about what they might find in the future and hope to inspire their peers to contribute data to help with their effort.

After all, the potential applications for cold fusion would be revolutionary.

"We need a fundamentally new energy technology that can be scaled within the span of a human lifetime. Achieving this goal requires scientists to be afforded the opportunity to do daring work," said Curtis Berlinguette, principal investigator and professor of chemistry and chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

cold fusion google
Source: Nerdist

"This program provided us with a safe environment to take the long shot - given the profound impact this could have on society, we should remain open to it even if there is an unknown probability of success," he added.

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The Group Plans to Investigate Past and Present Claims 

The group plan to function as a sort of "peer group" with a very strict internal review process of any claims about progress in the field. To date, this kind of vetting process has not been stringently applied by mainstream academic research over the last few decades, according to the team.

"Google cares deeply about data and sustainability. When we looked into the scientific record of cold fusion, we found some bold claims, but not a lot of current, credible data. Given the positive impact cold fusion could have if true, we saw an opportunity to help the situation," said Matt Trevithick, senior program manager at Google Research.

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"We are impressed with the research team that rose to this challenge, and are pleased with what has been accomplished so far," added Matt.

The progress report was originally published on the 27th May 2019 in the journal Nature. You can read it for yourself here (but it does require a paid subscription to access in full). 

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