Committee on Science and Technology
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Caucus and Staff Reports :: May 7, 2007

Subcommittee Investigation into Alleged Research Misconduct at Purdue University

TO: Chairman Brad Miller, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight

FROM: Subcommittee staff

RE: Investigation by Purdue University of Allegations of Research Misconduct against Dr. Rusi Taleyarkhan

In March of 2006, Sally Mason, provost of Purdue University, announced a review of the research in sonofusion, commonly called “bubble” fusion, done by Dr. Rusi Taleyarkhan, a nuclear engineering professor at the university. Dr. Taleyarkhan had published research findings in 2002 while at Oak Ridge Laboratory claiming that he had achieved bubble fusion in an inexpensive, tabletop system. He later claimed “independent” confirmation of that research by junior researchers working in his own Purdue laboratory. Bubble fusion is supposed to generate nuclear reactions by creating tiny bubbles that are then bombarded with sound waves that collapse the bubbles. The potential for creating clean, non-fossil fuel energy from fusion has intrigued scientists for decades, resulting in a $10 billion international project and several smaller projects.

Except for the claimed confirmation in the Purdue laboratory, no other researchers have been able to independently replicate Dr. Taleyarkhan’s experiments, including researchers from three universities working under a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). After a series of articles in Nature magazine and informal fact-finding effort from the School of Nuclear Engineering to determine who had actually written the “confirmatory” papers, Provost Mason stated that she had asked Dr. Peter Dunn, associate vice provost for research, to conduct a “thorough review of the work and any concerns expressed about it” that would be ‘fair to everyone involved.”

In particular, the nuclear engineering school’s fact-finding effort found that a graduate student listed as one of the co-authors of an “independent” confirmation paper stated that he had nothing to do with the research, but had his name placed on the paper at the last minute by Dr. Taleyarkhan. The second co-author refused to say who had written the final draft, stating that it would affect the claim of independence of the research...

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