SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah chemist who says he produced nuclear fusion at room temperature emerged Thursday from a mysterious absence to defend his disputed work before the state oversight panel he angered by failing to appear last month.
Stanley Pons told the Utah Energy-Fusion Advisory Council that he remains committed to fusion research and dismissed concern about his whereabouts.
The state, which has appropriated $5 million to fund his fusion work, became concerned when Pons failed to appear before the panel amid reports he had taken his son out of school, sold his home and left the country.
Pons said the furor surrounding his absence was regrettable. "People who want to contact us do not seem to have any problem," he added.
Pons said he wanted to take a leave of absence to work full time on fusion research.
"I have requested sabbatical leave from the university to enable me to donate my full attention to our research," Pons said, adding that he would split his time between the university and working in France. "I intend to pursue our work in several labs with Martin Fleischmann" of England's Southampton University.
Pons and Fleischmann stunned the scientific community in March, 1989, when they claimed to have produced a nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature in a relatively simple table-top experiment. The claim raised hopes that such a reaction could supply a cheap, plentiful source of power.
The claim has since been dismissed by most scientists because they have been unable to reproduce the results, although some continue to report unexplained findings from their experiments.
Pons said his recent work with Fleischmann "has led to the filing of a new patent application which we consider to be very important. We have also written two new papers describing this work which we expect to submit as soon as their release does not negate granting of patent protection."
Fritz Will, director of the National Cold Fusion Institute at the university, said Pons' research would be separate from but complementary to work at the institute, which has a staff of about two dozen scientists.