|Perpetual motion machine:
Stanley Meyer's Water fuel cell
|Disciplines||Physics and engineering|
|Core Tenets||The device is designed to produce hydrogen and oxygen, from water using electricity, by a method other than simple water electrolysis.|
|Original Proponents||Stanley Meyer|
|Theory violation||First law of thermodynamics|
The water fuel cell is a purported perpetual motion machine invented by American Stanley Allen Meyer (August 24, 1940 – March 21, 1998). He claimed that an automobile retrofitted with the device could use water as fuel instead of gasoline. The fuel cell purportedly split water into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen was then burned to generate energy, a process that reconstituted the water molecules. According to Meyer, the device required less energy to perform electrolysis than the minimum energy requirement predicted or measured by conventional science. If the device worked as specified, it would violate both the first and second laws of thermodynamics, allowing operation as a perpetual motion machine. Meyer's claims about his "Water Fuel Cell" and the car that it powered were found to be fraudulent by an Ohio court in 1996.
Throughout his patents and marketing material, Meyer uses the terms "fuel cell" or "water fuel cell" to refer to the portion of his device in which electricity is passed through water to produce hydrogen and oxygen. Meyer's use of the term in this sense is contrary to its usual meaning in science and engineering, in which such cells are conventionally called "electrolytic cells". Furthermore, the term fuel cell is usually reserved for cells which produce electricity from a chemical redox reaction, whereas Meyer's fuel cell consumed electricity, as shown in his patents and in the circuit pictured on the left. Meyer describes in a 1990 patent the use of a "water fuel cell assembly'" and portrays some images of his "fuel cell water capacitor". According to the patent, in this case "... the term 'fuel cell' refers to a single unit of the invention comprising a water capacitor cell ... that produces the fuel gas in accordance with the method of the invention."
In a news report on an Ohio TV station, Meyer demonstrated a dune buggy which he claimed was powered by his water fuel cell. He estimated that only 22 US gallons (83 liters) of water were required to travel from Los Angeles to New York. Furthermore, Meyer claimed to have replaced the spark plugs with "injectors" which introduced a hydrogen/oxygen mixture into the engine cylinders. The water was subjected to an electrical resonance that dissociated it into its basic atomic make-up. The water fuel cell would split the water into hydrogen and oxygen gas, which would then be combusted back into water vapor in a conventional internal combustion engine to produce net energy.
Philip Ball, writing in academic journal Nature, characterized Meyer's claims as pseudoscience, noting that "It's not easy to establish how Meyer's car was meant to work, except that it involved a fuel cell that was able to split water using less energy than was released by recombination of the elements ... Crusaders against pseudoscience can rant and rave as much as they like, but in the end they might as well accept that the myth of water as a fuel is never going to go away."
There is no documented proof that the system produces enough hydrogen to run an engine. To date no peer review studies of Meyer's devices have been published in the scientific literature, although his claims have been thoroughly discredited in scientific journals.
In 1996, inventor Stanley Meyer was sued by two investors to whom he had sold dealerships, offering the right to do business in Water Fuel Cell technology. His car was due to be examined by the expert witness Michael Laughton, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Queen Mary, University of London and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. However, Meyer made what Professor Laughton considered a "lame excuse" on the days of examination and did not allow the test to proceed. According to Meyer the technology was patent pending and under investigation by the patent office, the Department of Energy and the military. His "water fuel cell" was later examined by three witnesses in court who found that there "was nothing revolutionary about the cell at all and that it was simply using conventional electrolysis". The court found Meyer guilty of "gross and egregious fraud" and ordered him to repay the two investors their $25,000.
Stanley Meyer died suddenly on March 21, 1998 after dining at a restaurant. An autopsy report by the Franklin County, Ohio coroner concluded that Meyer had died of a cerebral aneurysm, but conspiracy theorists insist that he was poisoned to suppress the technology, and that oil companies and the United States government were involved in his death. Meyer's patents are still available online, although there has as yet been no independent verification of his claims.