SALT LAKE CITY, NOV. 7 -- A panel of scientists today began reviewing Utah's National Cold Fusion Institute, with a member saying their study of the controversial research would be open and objective.
As the meeting got underway, electrochemist B. Stanley Pons -- who claims along with British colleague Martin Fleischmann to have achieved nuclear fusion in room-temperature experiments -- ducked from television cameras after being spotted sitting in the back row.
Last year, the claim by Pons and Fleischmann that they had created energy through "cold fusion" created a sensation in the scientific world. Experts believe the fusion of atoms could be achieved only at extremely high temperatures.
But controversy erupted when many other scientists said they could not duplicate the Utah scientists' findings. The furor resumed last month when Pons and Fleischmann failed to appear at a meeting of the state Fusion Energy Advisory Council.
The pair's attorney, C. Gary Triggs, said at the time that they were reluctant to divulge much information because they were working on a new patent application, but council chairman Raymond Hixson noted the state held any patents and, in any event, all council members were sworn to secrecy.
The review panel, hired by the state council, consists of Stanley Bruckstein, a professor of chemistry at State University of New York at Buffalo; Loren G. Helper, a chemist from Alberta, Canada; Dale F. Stein, president of Michigan Technological University; and Robert Adair, a professor of physics at Yale University.
All the meetings are closed. A sign posted outside the door states: "It is required that only those persons who have signed a National Cold Fusion Institute confidentiality agreement attend this review."
Stein, who was also a member of the original Department of Energy fusion panel, said although that group recommended against federal funding for the project, he would remain objective.