Dec 07 2015

Steorn Is Now Selling Free-Energy Products

Steorn is an Irish company that has been promising for years that they have pioneered what is essentially a free-energy device. They recently announced that they now have two devices available for pre-order. The OCube is a USB charging device that they are selling for €1,200, and the OPhone which is a cell phone that never has to be recharged.

I first wrote about Steorn in 2007 when they promised a live demonstration of their free-energy technology, a demonstration that never manifested. Steorn did not give up their claims. In 2009:

Twenty-two independent scientists and engineers were selected by Steorn to form this jury. It has for the past two years examined evidence presented by the company. The unanimous verdict of the Jury is that Steorn’s attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy. The jury is therefore ceasing work.

The company got exactly what they asked for – independent scientists examined their claims, and were not convinced that they were producing free energy. Steorn did not give up. Later that year they presented an ad campaign in which they juxtaposed the negative conclusions of scientists with images of their device supposedly working.

There is No Free Energy

As much as we can know anything scientifically, we can say with the highest of confidence that there is no free lunch – you cannot get energy from nothing. The conservation laws are just that, laws of the universe. There is no such thing as an overunity machine that produces more energy than it consumes. There is no perpetual motion. The laws of thermodynamics will not be ignored.

What this means is that if you are going to claim that you have broken the laws of thermodynamics, then you will face a deserved uphill battle against the steepest of scientific skepticism. The burden of proof is massive, and all on you.

At the very least we would need unequivocal demonstrations, under the tightest of controls, and producing enough energy that subtle effects or errors cannot be the explanation. Steorn has not provided this.

It would also be nice if the technology were accompanied by supporting basic science, demonstrating a new aspect to physics that deepens our knowledge of the universe and allows for the effects being observed. Steorn has not provided this.

What we do have, nine years after their initial claim, is that “the battery is dead” because they have a tiny device that produces unlimited electrical energy, enough to run a cell phone or similar device, or to charge an iPad in a day.

What’s the Game?

The assumption is, with free energy companies, is that they tend to fall somewhere along the spectrum from delusional to deliberate scams. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of people who have convinced themselves that they have created perpetual motion. They may make a brief splash, but the inability to demonstrate a working prototype that stands up to scrutiny causes them to quickly fade. They may continue to tinker in their garage and produce YouTube videos, but this is all just the simmering background of the crank free-energy subculture, comfortably ignored by the general public.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are trying to take advantage of either the true believers or naive investors. Dennis Lee is the prototype here – a con artist who is working a scam. Free-energy scams take two basic forms, either selling a device or selling an investment opportunity. The latter is more common, because you don’t have to produce an actual device, just claims that you are making progress. You are selling the potential, the hope, and as everyone knows not all research works out, there are delays, and you have to be patient. It’s a great scam.

The question is – where along that spectrum is Steorn? My assumption has been that they are likely scamming investors. They certainly seemed unfazed by their hand-picked scientists trashing their claims. They also gave up on big public demonstrations. They got the name recognition they needed and moved on.

Now they have progressed to actually selling products. So – what is the game here? They are downplaying their own technology a bit, writing:

I believe that Orbo as it exists today is not near the Model T in terms of what it is capable of, its Christiann Huygens first combustion engine. Many people will find our first products to be too expensive and too low in function. Hey, don’t buy them, they are not for you, but they will be!

That is not a convincing sales pitch for a €1,200 device. It seems like they are still selling hope, rather than a concrete claim. I suspect that anyone shelling out €1,200 to Steorn will be rewarded with a very expensive paper weight. I am curious what the device actually contains. Are their enough batteries in there to give their customers a few charges, then they can claim that they broke the device somehow?

For €1,200 you are better off buying a small photovoltaic cell to recharge small devices. At least you know that will work.

What happens when their cell phones that are supposed to last forever without recharging die?  Maybe they don’t expect to actually sell any devices, or this is just another way to string along investors. At some point, though, the game has got to be up.

Keep in mind what the alternative, that their devices actually work, would mean. Even if they just work as advertised, that is way beyond the Model T. They will have changed the world. If a small brick can charge an iPad in a day, why can’t you just scale up and build a power plant that can run a small town? How big would the device have to be to run an average home? How much would it cost (in terms of, how many years of electricity would it have to produce before it paid for itself)?

In any case, if the device actually worked, the world would be interested. The possibilities would be incredible. That, of course, is the allure.

Unfortunately, we need to find a way to power our devices and our civilization that does not break the laws of physics. I will be following this story to see what happens when their first OCubes actually deliver, if they ever do.

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