In 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons reported that their apparatus could produce anomalous heat by fusing neutrons at room temperature. Essentially, this was a demonstration of cold fusion. Though hyped by the press, the experiment proved faulty because of bad measurement, but to this day cold fusion excites our imagination. In a Big Think production, science communicator Bill Nye explained what’s the deal with ‘cold fusion’ and whether or not it could be possible to reach the same kind of nuclear reactions seen in the core of stars in a device that works at room temperature.
Very briefly, Nye posits that cold fusion shouldn’t work but he doesn’t assert it’s impossible.
“In order to do that, as far as we can tell right now, you need the gravity of a star — which we have at our nearby star, the sun. People have shown that you can contain fusion in a very strong magnetic field, but no one has been able to build a magnetic field powered by the fusion reaction. So, in my experience growing up, it’s always forty years from now when this will be done but recently an aircraft company claimed that they would be able to make fusion happen at room temperature. I’m very skeptical because I look at what happens in nature and with these stars,” Nye said.
“However, it’s reasonable you will be alive when people really do figure it out. It’s exciting,” Nye said answering Loki, a young man who first asked about cold fusion.