London, July 19 : Rusi Taleyarkhan, a nuclear engineer of Indian origin, who claimed in 2002 to have achieved nuclear fusion by popping bubbles in a solvent, has been accused of research misconduct by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, US.
According to a report in New Scientist, Taleyarkhan, who was then at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and is now at Purdue, claimed in the journal Science that by bombarding a cool solvent with neutrons and sound waves, his team created bubbles that triggered nuclear fusion.
In theory, the vibrations collapsed gas bubbles in the solvent, heating them to temperatures high enough to fuse hydrogen atoms and release energy.
Such a feat could pave the way to abundant cheap and clean power.
But when many experiments by other scientists failed to replicate the work, a Purdue committee began investigating allegations of misconduct against Taleyarkhan in 2006. n early 2007, the committee cleared Taleyarkhan and his team of misconduct.
But a second investigation began in May 2007 when further, secret allegations surfaced. These allegations were made public on July 18, when Purdue announced that it had completed its second investigation, which concludes that Taleyarkhan committed two counts of misconduct.
The first is that he added the name of a researcher called Adam Butt to the list of authors of his bubble fusion papers, knowing that Butt was not a significant contributor to the experiments, data analysis or paper preparation.
According to the committee's investigation report, the sole apparent motivation for the addition of Butt was a desire to overcome a reviewer's criticism.
Secondly, in a 2006 paper in Physical Review Letters, Taleyarkhan had stated that the experimental results reported in his original Science paper "have now been independently confirmed".
The committee concluded that this assertion was false and constituted misconduct.
Taleyarkhan was cleared of seven further misconduct allegations, however, including plagiarism. And although the report says he allowed a press release to be "crafted in a very misleading way", the committee decided this was not clearly part of the scientific record, being aimed at the general public, and did not constitute research misconduct.
The university has given Taleyarkhan 30 days to appeal against the allegations.
According to Joseph Bennett, Purdue's vice president for university relations, "Any decision on sanctions by the university based on the committee's conclusions will come after the appeal process."