Purdue professor at the center of a political, professional witch hunt.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Rusi Taleyarkhan, a professor of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue University, is at the center of a political and professional witch-hunt that could cost him more than just his job and reputation – it may rob the world of a viable clean energy solution that could have lasting implications.
For over a decade, Taleyarkhan has been on the cutting edge of a process known as sono-fusion, or bubble fusion. What this does is combine nuclear reactions and cavitations technology to create a clean energy that is completely free of carbon. Taleyarkhan first conducted the experiment in 2001, during his time at the Engineering Technology Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The New Energy Times obtained emails and correspondences between the involved parties at Purdue, from which the conspiracy against Teleyarkhan has now been roughly pieced together.
When Teleyarkhan came to Purdue in 2003, he brought his research with him with the hopes of expanding it and developing it into a viable, widespread solution to the ever-growing energy problem plaguing the world. However, faculty infighting and conspiracies against him may have cost Taleyarkhan that opportunity.
The controversy began in around 2005, two years after Taleyarkhan was hired by Lefteri Tsoukalas, the then-head of Purdue’s School of Nuclear Engineering. The two were friends for those initial couple of years, with Tsoukalas reportedly even saying that he thought Taleyarkhan’s research was worthy of the Nobel Prize. Their relationship, however, fell apart in 2005 when Taleyarkhan confronted his superior regarding allegations of corruption within the department.
In March of 2006, several articles published in Nature Magazine began depicting Taleyarkhan as a fraud, accusing him of falsifying or exaggerating the findings of his experiments at Purdue. The articles were apparently backed by Tsoukalas, as well as Eugenie Reich, a freelance journalist at the magazine. The articles are credited with discrediting Teleyarkhan and irrevocably tainting his reputation.
Reich and Tsoukalas, who were in touch with two other scientists – Seth Putterman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Kenneth Suslick at the University of Illinois – began expanding their alleged defamation conspiracy against Teleyarkhan, and all of them sent accusations of fraud and scientific misconduct to Purdue’s administrative staff immediately after the Nature stories broke, in order to capitalize on Teleyarkhan’s freshly wounded public standing.
Purdue launched an investigation into Teleyarkhan and his studies, but ultimately found absolutely no wrongdoing on his part. Teleyarkhan was cleared of all charges against him.
Over the ensuing years, however, the accusations have kept coming. The big blow came in July of 2008, when a new attempt was launched against Teleyarkhan – despite pleas and attempts to make his own case, which were ignored by Purdue, the University handed down a punishment in which they took away Teleyarkhan’s endowed professorship, cut down his salary significantly, and curtailed his duties with students at the school.
Subsequently, three separate Federal bodies launched their own investigations into Teleyarkhan and his studies: the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the Department of Defense, and the Naval Inspector General’s office. Tsoukalas left Purdue shortly before these investigations commenced, forced out by the University, and the Department of Defense eventually disbarred Teleyarkhan of the funding they provided him for his research.
Now, the future of Teleyarkhan’s clean energy solution’s future hangs in jeopardy. The backstabbing faced by him, for reasons that are still not entirely clear apart from personal grudges and professional competition, has left Teleyarkhan reeling and maintaining his innocence. He and his family have reportedly spent over $100,000 in legal fees, and he is now in the middle of a defamation lawsuit.
Teleyarkhan earned his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1977, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1978 and 1982. He received an M.B.A. degree from RPI, too. Teleyarkhan is still currently a professor at Purdue.