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Research Integrity

Purdue Professor Reprimanded

After research misconduct finding, bubble fusion researcher is stripped of title

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
August 27, 2008

Credit: Lynn Freeny/Department of Energy
Credit: Lynn Freeny/Department of Energy

Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, the Purdue University nuclear engineer who achieved notoriety for his controversial claims to have achieved "tabletop" nuclear fusion by sonoluminescence, has been stripped of his named professorship in the wake of an academic committee's conclusion that he committed research misconduct.

Taleyarkhan, who was Arden Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering, will remain on the Purdue faculty but with the title of Special Graduate Faculty.

In July, an academic committee determined that Taleyarkhan had been heavily involved in a supposedly independent replication of his work, which they concluded was research misconduct (C&EN, July 28, page 14).

"In my judgment as Purdues chief academic officer, it is inappropriate for a faculty member who has been found guilty of research misconduct to hold the title of a named university professor," Purdue Provost William R. Woodson said in a statement to Taleyarkhan on Aug. 27.

Taleyarkhan also will not be allowed to serve as a major professor for graduate students for the next three years, Purdue officials announced.

In 2002, while he was a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Taleyarkhan performed experiments in which he bombarded deuterated acetone with high-energy sound waves, causing bubbles to form, expand, and implode with great energy (Science 2002, 295, 1868). Taleyarkhan claimed he had observed characteristic radioactive particles that suggested deuterons had fused in the implosion. The possibility that Taleyarkhan had discovered this long-sought-after, almost limitless energy source became an international sensation.

But many scientists were skeptical, and after several labs failed to replicate Taleyarkhan's difficult experiments, criticism of his work grew more vocal.

Taleyarkhan appealed the July decision, but his request was denied by the university's appeals committee. The case will be reviewed at the end of three years to determine whether Taleyarkhan will be reinstated as a full professor, Purdue officials said.



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