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.

30 responses so far

30 thoughts on “Steorn Is Now Selling Free-Energy Products”

  1. carbonUnit says:

    1200 Euros is about 1300 US dollars. Wow, I could buy a LOT of batteries for that! Or rechargeable batteries and chargers…

    Yeah, what’s in there? I’m not sure it’s big enough to be some sort of RF harvester. Maybe it works if one happens to be in close proximity to a radio or TV station’s transmitter? (I understand that WLW near Cincinnati briefly operated at 500,000 watts in the 1930s. Florescent tubes nearby would light by themselves…)

  2. CU – that’s a good point, it could be harvesting some ambient energy. My understanding, however, is that in most locations the available energy is negligible. It would not charge an iPad.

  3. RickK says:

    The real value in this scheme is the customer list. What a great bunch of names to have: people with enough money to drop EUR 1200 on a phone charger, and who are completely lacking a skeptical filter.

    There’s gold in that list.

  4. mindme says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the devices require some mechanical production of energy. Like wind up.

  5. FYI – the company CEO has stated directly that the OCube is not an energy harvesting device:

    The author also reports he ordered a unit, or tried to, but has not yet had his order taken. He is getting a bit of a runaround. That will be a good site to follow – do they actually ever take his money?

  6. Lukas Xavier says:

    Simple test for free energy devices: Is the inventor still paying an electricity bill?

  7. Bill Openthalt says:

    mindme —

    Maybe succussion. It works for homeopathy, doesn’t it? 🙂

  8. kato says:

    Gravity is a force that is always on. Many have tried to use gravity to make a perpetual motion machine by trying to create some sort of “always off balance” condition. I’ve read good explanations for why these don’t work. And people have tried to use gyroscopes to “redirect” the gravity into a rotating force. It certainly would seem that in a frictionless environment this would work, a horizontally-spinning gyro with a torque applied should rotate about the vertical axis forever.

    Is there a good explanation for why this can’t work? Are there some physics formulas that describe how little friction it would take to foil this idea? If our technology gets better and better and we make lower and lower friction bearings, will it eventually work?

    I REALLY need to be able to show this can’t ever work. I can’t tell you why…

  9. tmac57 says:

    I have a device like that for charging my iPad. It works wonderfully, and the only down side is that every week or so you have to plug it in to an outlet for a few hours to ‘wake it up’ since it’s electrons are lulled to sleep when not in use.
    Free power is great! 😉

  10. Andreas says:

    They obviously figured out how to tap into the universe’s Dark Energy (at least metaphorically).

  11. zorrobandito says:

    “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.”

    Wow! I actually ran into one of these outfits professionally. They claimed to be “just about” ready to harvest Dark Energy. I became involved as a tax lawyer because they got into a dispute with one of their partners, who, when he left, demanded to take with him a share of the presumably massive future profits. (!) Everyone involved seemed to be a True Believer. Certainly the investors who had been funding this thing (and everyone’s six-figure salaries) for years believed it.

    The chief con artist/nutjob held up a coffee cup to me and stated that “when” his company could harvest all the energy contained therein, it would be enough to “boil all the oceans on earth.” This alone made me glad that the whole thing was bogus.

    I was careful to get paid up front.

  12. Drake says:

    Has anyone ever figured out what a universe without the conservation laws would look like?

    I assume it would be pretty unstable–prob. not the sort of place where otherwise intelligent beings could claim to build perpetual motion machines.

  13. Lukas Xavier says:

    Has anyone ever figured out what a universe without the conservation laws would look like?

    Presumably, whenever a single species discovered the way to produce infinite energy, that particular species would essentially rework the entire universe to fit their desires.

    That might be an interesting premise for a sci-fi story: The present universe is a result of the re-organization done by a species that achieved infinite energy.

  14. zorrobandito says:

    “Has anyone ever figured out what a universe without the conservation laws would look like?”

    If my friend extracting “all the (Dark) Energy” (he called it “zero point energy”) out of his coffee ever managed to actually do something like that, I’m pretty sure we would all be dead within a matter of weeks. If anyone thinks we have global climate change problems as it is, just imagine the results of that kind of energy input to a closed system!

  15. kato – the term “perpetual motion” is a bit misleading in this context. “Free energy” is better. A system that has perpetual motion, at least over a long period of conditions, is possible – like the Earth’s revolution around the sun. It has been going for over 4 billion years.

    However, such systems cannot be used as a source of energy, for as soon as you add resistance to do work the perpetual motion slows down. Even if we made a spinning gyroscope with little fiction that could go essentially forever, you could not get energy out of the system without stopping it. It doesn’t get you anything.

    There is no free energy. It has to come from somewhere, and it has to obey the laws of thermodynamics.

  16. carbonUnit says:

    Nice explanation of the uselessness of perpetual motion. Steorn uses the term “overunity” to describe their technology. (Reminds me of Buckaroo Banzai’s Oscillation Overthruster.) So they have perpetual motion with energy to spare!

  17. hammyrex says:

    Geegollywhiz, I dunno. Can we be positive that our skepticism is not solely based on an overemphasis of materialistic philosophy? Would the results be different if simply embraced alternative physics?

  18. Bill Openthalt says:

    hammyrex —

    Of course. Just change your philosophy and hey presto! there’s free energy. 🙂

    Physics describe reality, they don’t determine it.

  19. hammyrex says:

    “Physics describe reality, they don’t determine it.”

    But, like, duuude – what if physics doesn’t describe reality, and our brains are what determine it?
    Please read my blog for 14 hours straight to not find out!
    Please ;_;

  20. kato says:

    Thanks, Steven, the term “perpetual motion” was used as a starting point for the discussion. The harnessing of the energy is the next step. In the case I am describing, the rotation of the gyro is not used to do work, the axis of precession is used to do work. Work resistance on the axis of precession will not slow the gyro rotational axis. Theoretically (as always) some of the energy produced by the vertical axis can be used to keep the horizontal axis spinning. The devil is in the details. I simply haven’t seen an explanation for why it can or can’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it can work. I’m trying to convince someone who thinks it can work, or find someone that can convince me it can work.

  21. Pete A says:

    Kato, Energy is put into the gyro to get it spinning. With frictionless bearings, we will get out of the gyro the energy we originally put into it. Probably less because it will cease to function below a certain spin speed. Look up the radius of gyration of a flywheel to learn more about the physics. See also the Wikipedia articles titled “Gyrocompass” and “Precession”.

  22. Kawarthajon says:

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

    For this kind of dough, you could buy a really good solar system for charging laptops, phones, tablets, etc

    – Solar panel kit for about $500, including 200W panels, charge controller
    – Inverter for about $80
    – Deep cycle batter for about $200

  23. Marshall says:

    Kato–“Work resistance on the axis of precession will not slow the gyro rotational axis.”

    Can you clarify that sentence? What is “work resistance”? Are you referring to work performed by resistance (counter torque), i.e. a force applied in the opposite direction of spin?

    Second, when you say “will not slow the gyro rotational axis,” what do you mean? Axes do not have speeds. Do you mean “will not slow rotation about the rotational axis”? In what universe will such a force not slow down the speed rotation?

  24. kato says:

    Ok, sorry I am not being clear enough. I meant “spin about the axis…” Imagine the classic demonstration of gyroscopic precession. A toy gyro is held so the rotation axis is horizontal. You pull the string to spin it up and then suspend one end of the spin axis, by a string or on the little plastic support thing. The gyro does not crash to the table, it precesses, or rotates about the vertical axis. The gyro wheel is spinning about a horizontal axis, but the whole gyro is also rotating about the vertical axis. This rotation about the vertical axis is what it does instead of falling. So in some sense gravity is “powering” this motion.

    If you could drive a generator on the vertical axis, this would apply resistance to the vertical axis, but the gyro wheel is spinning independently on the horizontal axis. So the vertical axis “work load” would slow the vertical axis rotation rate, not the horizontal axis rotation rate. This is what I mean by the work resistance not slowing the gyro spin.

    Since gravity is making the assembly spin around the vertical axis, if we disregard the energy used to start and keep the gyro spinning, could we not use gravity to do work in a way that does not require lifting something back up so it can again fall. We’ve redirected the “fall” in a horizontal circle.

  25. Pete A says:

    Kato, A flywheel, therefore the flywheel in a gyro, stores the original input energy in the form of angular momentum. Extracting energy from the gyro will reduce its angular moment therefore the flywheel slows down.

  26. Pete A says:

    I forgot to add that helium filled balloons and super conductors hovering above magnets also appear to defy gravity.

  27. Charon says:

    Woah. I’m bummed that all my comments have disappeared from this thread. (Not just mine – everyone’s comments after a certain time.) This is not a good WordPress update.

    Huh. At least I got to think about gyroscopes a bit more. That was fun.

  28. kato says:

    Yeah, I know, no one can see my posts where I totally regained respect from everyone.

  29. Pete A says:

    Kato, Thanks to you, we’ve all learnt more about gyros, and the history of perpetual motion and over-unity machines. Question that result in mutual learning are great.

  30. RickK says:

    I’m sorry we lost the resolution of this discussion on gyroscopes. I’d never thought about the physics of the precession. But my assumption was that gravity works on a spinning gyroscope no different than it works on a gyroscope that’s not spinning. If you balance a non-spinning gyroscope on a stand (like the popular desk toy version), it falls to the ground – gravity’s job done.

    The only thing that keeps a spinning gyroscope aloft is the energy being expended by the rotating mass. And since there’s no free energy there. there’s no free energy to extract.

    More specifically, isn’t the motion of the precession the gyroscope’s way of finding a “path of least resistance” in response to gravity-induced torque? If you retard precession (by making it do work), doesn’t that transfer that torque to a more resistive path, and therefore extract energy faster from the spinning mass?

    Was that the answer that got deleted?

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