· Scientist says device disproves quantum theory
· Opponents claim idea is result of wrong maths
What has much of the physics world up in arms is Dr Mills's claim that he has produced a new form of hydrogen, the simplest of all the atoms, with just a single proton circled by one electron. In his "hydrino", the electron sits a little closer to the proton than normal, and the formation of the new atoms from traditional hydrogen releases huge amounts of energy.
This is scientific heresy. According to quantum mechanics, electrons can only exist in an atom in strictly defined orbits, and the shortest distance allowed between the proton and electron in hydrogen is fixed. The two particles are simply not allowed to get any closer....
Dr Mills argues that there are plenty of flaws in Dr Rathke's critique. "His paper's riddled with mistakes. We've had other physicists contact him and say this is embarrassing to the journal and [Dr Rathke] won't respond," said Dr Mills.
While the theoretical tangle is unlikely to resolve itself soon, those wanting to exploit the technology are pushing ahead. "We would like to understand it from an academic standpoint and then we would like to be able to use the implications to actually produce energy products," said Prof Maas. "The companies that are lining up behind this are household names."