A Purdue University scientist who was reprimanded for research misconduct over claims he produced nuclear fusion in tabletop experiments is suing two other faculty members for alleged defamation.
Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, a professor of nuclear engineering, said in a complaint filed in Tippecanoe Superior Court that Lefteri Tsoukalas and Tatjana Jevremovic made false and malicious public statements that led to "a successful campaign to ruin Taleyarkhan and his sonofusion research."
Purdue is not a defendant in the lawsuit but could be added later, Taleyarkhan's attorney, John Lewis, said Monday. In August, the university denied an appeal by Taleyarkhan and stripped him of his named professorship in nuclear engineering.
Attorney Roger Bennett, who represents Tsoukalas, declined to comment because he hasn't yet reviewed the complaint. A telephone message seeking comment also was left for Ray Seach, the attorney representing Jevremovic. Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said the university had no comment because it wasn't a party in the lawsuit.
Tsoukalas is a professor of nuclear engineering; Jevremovic, an associate professor.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for defamation, harassment and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. It alleges that the two scientists made statements accusing Taleyarkhan of research misconduct to reporters from Nature and The New York Times.
Taleyarkhan published a paper in the journal Science in 2002, claiming he had produced nuclear fusion using a tabletop experiment that collapsed tiny bubbles in a liquid with powerful ultrasound vibrations. Scientists have long sought a simple way to produce fusion in hopes of harnessing it as an energy source.
A Purdue panel did not investigate the 2002 Science paper, which was published when Taleyarkhan was a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, but said he misled the scientific community by claiming his "bubble fusion" findings had been independently replicated.
In a report to Purdue in July, an investigative committee found that Taleyarkhan falsified the research record twice: He arranged for one of his students to appear as co-author of a paper to create the appearance that the student had witnessed the experiment, then announced that the paper was an independent confirmation.
He was allowed to remain a faculty member but forbidden to serve as a major professor for graduate students for at least three years.