I get mail: Brown's Gas and Perpetual Motion

In the past, I’ve written about free-energy cranks like Tom Bearden, and I’ve made several allusions to the Brown’s gas” crankpots. But I’ve never actually written in any detail about the latter.

Brown’s gas is a term used primarily by cranks for oxyhydrogen gas. Oxyhydrogen is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen in a two-to-one molar ratio; in other words, it’s exactly the product of electrolysis to break water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. It’s used as the fuel for several kinds of torches and welders. It’s become a lot less common, because for most applications, it’s just not as practical as things like acetylene torches, TIG welders, etc.

But for free-energy cranks, it’s a panacea.

You see, the beautiful thing about Brown’s gas is that it burns very nicely, it can be compressed well enough to produce a very respectable energy density, and when you use it, its only exhaust gas is water. If you look at it naively, that makes it absolutely wonderful as a fuel.

The problem, of course, is that it costs energy to produce it. You need to pump energy into water to divide it into hydrogen and oxygen; and then you need to use more energy to compress it in order to make it useful. Still, there are serious people who are working hard on things like hydrogen fuel cell power sources for cars – because it is an attractive fuel. It’s just not a panacea.

But the cranks… Ah, the cranks. The cranks believe that if you just find the right way to burn it, then you can create a perfect source of free energy. You see, if you can just burn it so that it produces a teeny, tiny bit more energy being burned that it cost to produce, then you’ve got free energy. You just run an engine – it keeps dividing the water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then you burn it, producing more energy than you spent to divide it; and the only by-product is water vapor!

Of course, this doesn’t work. Thermodynamics fights back: you can’t get more energy out of recombining atoms of hydrogen and oxygen than you spent splitting molecules of water to get that hydrogen and oxygen. It’s very simple: there’s a certain amount of latent energy in that chemical bond. You need to pump in a certain amount of energy to break it – if I remember correctly, it’s around 142 Joules per gram of water. When you burn hydrogen and oxygen to produce water, you get exactly that amount of energy back. It’s a state transition – it’s the same distance up as it is back down. It’s like lifting a weight up a step on a staircase: it takes a certain amount of energy to move the weight up one step. When you drop it back down, it won’t produce more energy falling that you put in to lift it.

But the Brown’s gas people won’t let that stop them!

Here’s an email I recieved yesterday from a Brown’s gas fan, who noticed one of my old criticisms of it:

Hi Mark,

My name is Stefan, and I recently came across your analysis regarding split water technology to power vehicle. You are trying to proof that it makes no sense because it is against the physic low of energy conservation?

There is something I would like to ask you, if you could explain to me. What do you think about the sail boat zigzagging against the wind? Is it the classical example of perpetual motion?

If so, I believe that the energy conversion law is not always applicable, and even maybe wrong? Using for example resonance you can destroy each constructions with little force, the same I believe is with membrane HHO technology at molecular level?

Is it possible that we invented the law of impossibility known as the Energy Conservation Law and this way created such limitation? If you have some time please answer me what do you think about it? This World as you know is mostly unexplainable, and maybe we should learn more to better understand how exactly the Universe work?

The ignorance in this is absolutely astonishing. And it’s pretty typical of my experience with the Brown’s gas fans. They’re so woefully ignorant of simple math and physics.

Let’s start with his first question, about sailboat tacking. That’s got some interesting connections to my biggest botch on this blog, my fouled up debunking of the downwind-faster-than-the-wind vehicle.

The tacking sailboat is a really interesting problem. When you think about it naively, it seems like it shouldn’t be possible. If you let a leaf blow in the wind, it can’t possibly move faster than the wind. So how can a sailboat do it?

The anwser to that is that the sailboat isn’t a free body floating in the wind. It’s got a body and keel in the water, and a sail in the air. What it’s doing is exploiting that difference in motion between the water and the air, and extracting energy. Mathematically, the water behaves as a source of tension, resisting the pressure of the wind against the sail, and converting it into motion in a different direction. Lift the body of the sailboat out of the water, and it can’t do that anymore. Similarly, a boat can’t accelerate by “tacking” against the water current unless it has a sail. It needs the two parts in different domains; then it can, effectively, extract energy from the difference between the two. But the most important point about a tacking sailboat – more important than the details of the mechanism that it uses – is that there’s no energy being created. The sailboat is extracting kinetic energy from the wind, and converting it into kinetic energy in the boat. There’s no energy being created or destroyed – just moved around. Every bit of energy that the boat acquires (plus some extra) was removed from the wind.

So no, a sailboat isn’t an example of perpetual motion. It’s just a very typical example of moving energy around from one place to another. The sun heats the air/water/land; that creates wind; wind pushes the boat.

Similarly, he botches the resonance example.

Resonance is, similarly, a fascinating phenomenon, but it’s one that my correspondant totally fails to comprehend.

Resonance isn’t about a small amount of energy producing a large effect. It’s about how a small amount of energy applied over time can add up to a large amount of energy.

There is, again, no energy being created. The resonant system is not producing energy. A small amount of energy is not doing anything more than a small amount of energy can always do.

The difference is that in the right conditions, energy can add in interesting ways. Think of a spring with a weight hanging on the end. If you apply a small steady upward force on the weight, the spring will move upward a small distance. When you release the force, the weight will fall to slightly below its apparent start point, and then start to come back up. It will bounce up and down until friction stops it.

But now… at the moment when it hits its highest position, you give it another tiny push, then it will move a bit higher. Now it’s bounce distance will be longer. If every time, exactly as it hits its highest point, you give it another tiny push, then each cycle, it will move a little bit higher. And by repeatedly appyling tiny forces at the right time, the forces add up, and you get a lot of motion in the spring.

The key is, how much? And the answer is: take all of the pushes that you gave it, and add them up. The motion that you got from the resonant pattern is exactly the same as the motion you’d get if you applied the summed force all at once. (Or, actually, you’d get slightly more from the summed force; you lost some to friction in the resonant scenario.

Resonance can create absolutely amazing phenomena, where you can get results that are absolutely astonishing; where forces that really seem like they’re far to small to produce any result do something amazing. The famous example of this is the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, where the wind happened to blow just right to created a resonant vibration which tore the bridge apart:

But there’s no free energy there; no energy being created or destroyed.

So, Stefan… It’s always possible that we’re wrong about how physics work. It’s possible that conservation of energy isn’t a real law. It’s possible that the world might work in a way where conservation of energy just appears to be a law, and in fact, there are ways around it, and that we can use those ways to produce free energy. But people have been trying to do that for a very, very long time. We’ve been able to use our understanding of physics to do amazing things. We can accelerate particles up to nearly the speed of light and slam them together. We can shoot rockets into space. We can put machines and even people on other planets. We can produce energy by breaking atoms into pieces. We can build devices that flip switches billions of times per second, and use them to talk to each other! And we can predict, to within a tiny fraction of a fraction of the breadth of a hair how much energy it will take to do these things, and how much heat will be produced by doing them.

All of these things rely on a very precise description of how things work. If our understanding were off by the tiniest bit, none of these things could possibly work. So we have really good reasons to believe that our theories are, to a pretty great degree of certainty, accurate descriptions of how reality works. That doesn’t mean that we’re right – but it does mean that we’ve got a whole lot of evidence to support the idea that energy is always conserved.

On the side of the free energy folks: not one person has ever been able to demonstrate a mechanism that produces more energy than was put in to it. No one has ever been able to demonstrate any kind of free energy under controlled experimental conditions. No one has been able to produce a theory that describes how such a system could work that is consistent with observations of the real world.

People have been pushing Brown’s gas for decades. But they’ve never, every, not one single time, been able to actually demonstrate a working generator. No one has ever done it. No one has been able to build a car that actually works using Brown’s gas without an separate power source. No one has build a self-sustaining generator. No one has been able to produce any mathematical description of how Brown’s gas produces energy that is consistent with real-world observations.

So you’ve got two sides to the argument about Brown’s gas. On one side, you’ve got modern physics, which has reams and reams of evidence, precise theories that are confirmed by observation, and unbelievable numbers of inventions that rely on the precision of those theories. On the other side, you’ve got people who’ve never been able to to do a demonstration, who can’t describe how things work, who can’t explain why things appear to work the way that they appear, who have never been able to produce a single working invention…

Which side should we believe? Given the current evidence, the answer is obvious.

38 thoughts on “I get mail: Brown's Gas and Perpetual Motion

  1. Deen

    On the other side, you’ve got people who’ve never been able to to do a demonstration, who can’t describe how things work, who can’t explain why things appear to work the way that they appear, who have never been able to produce a single working invention…

    …and often don’t seem to understand physics at even a high-school level.

    One small quibble: in most cases, you wouldn’t use Brown’s gas as a fuel for cars. It’s safer to store the oxygen and hydrogen separately, and in fact, unless you’re building a rocket, you don’t even need to bring the oxygen, as there is plenty of it in the air.

    1. MarkCC Post author

      Well, a sane person wouldn’t use Brown’s gas for cars. But the crackpots that I’m talking about believe that there’s something magical about the perfect 2:1 ratio premixed gas; they insist that there’s something special about it that makes it produce extra energy when burned.

  2. Jason Dick

    Of course, there is an exception to the conservation of energy: curved space-time. From this you can find fun things such as if you fill a space smaller than a proton with the right kind of quantum field, in a minuscule fraction of a second you’ll end up with a very large universe containing lots of normal matter (ostensibly with much, much more energy, though there are many ways to look at it…).

    But even there, though, the system has to obey the laws of thermodynamics (modified to take gravity into account….which we don’t know how to do just yet, but there are really good reasons to think that the overall picture of non-decreasing entropy doesn’t change at all). So even if we had some amazing technology that made use of highly curved space-times, it is guaranteed that we couldn’t extract more useful work out of the system than we put in.

    1. Alex Besogonov

      It’s totally possible to create a solution for GR which allows to create a classical perpetual motion machine.

      But that just shows that GR by itself is insufficient, which we already know.

  3. Matthew Cline

    I thought that conservation of energy was dictated by time-symmetry, the fact that physical constants and the laws of physics don’t change over time. Thus, to get a little more energy out of combusting Brown’s Gas than in producing it, the laws of physics would have to be very slightly different when combusting it vs when it was made. Do I have that right?

    1. Brandon Wilson

      My understanding is pretty much the same, though I’m willing to be a bit pedantic and quibble over the meaning of “time-symmetry”. 😛

      Time symmetry, as I understand, usually denotes that your system behaves just as well in reverse time as in forward time. What I believe you’re referring to is time homogeneity. That’s more like the descriptive apostrophe you inserted at the end of the first sentence.

      As I recall from studying theoretical mechanics, energy conservation can be fairly quickly derived from the fact that the time-derivative of the Lagrangian of a system doesn’t depend on time. That is, the partial with respect to t is 0. This allows you to look at the time derivative of the Lagrangian, do some rearranging and substituting from the Euler-Lagrange and find a quantity who’s integral is a constant. We then call that constant “energy”. The relevant details are in chapter 2 of Laundau’s Mechancis, 3rd ed., if you’re interested.

      Interpreting this result provides a bit more of a challenge, but I understood it to basically be saying that conservation of energy is a consequence of a mechanical system not depending explicitly upon time. This is kind of like saying that a system behaves mechanically the same no matter when you run it.

      I believe similar arguments apply when studying least-action-principle derivations of other systems than mechanics.

      Hope that helps? :-/

  4. John Fringe

    This one is really very poor. He is not even try to defend his position in the e-mail. Is that the complete email? He just state some counter-intuitive assertions and add an interrogation symbol to excuse himself for not even try to think about the questions.

    It reminds me of this:

    People used to argue his hypotheses. Now it seems they just need to say “maybe all known current evidence is wrong, and maybe my untested made up hypothesis is right, and maybe both. Would you imagine that?”. Yes, and maybe I can play the piano. Concert halls just don’t seem interested in giving me an opportunity. Too bad for them. I see this a lot nowadays.

    You have it right, Matthew. According to Noether’s theorem, conservation of energy is a consequence of the lack of a priviledged origin in time, this is, the fact that laws of Physics seems to be the same under temporal translations.

    (I’m not so sure about conservation of energy under General Relativity. It seems to me that you can not directly apply Noether to this case. Mnnn, I have not touched GR for a loooong time… but I’m not sure if energy is conserved in GR. In an accelerating universe, to say a particular case).

  5. Matt McIrvin

    Yeah, the problem in general relativity with curved spacetime is that there’s no consistent, coordinate-independent way to define the mathematical object that would describe the energy and momentum density in the gravitational field itself.

    It’s kind of disconcerting, because one of the things contained in that object is the gravitational “potential energy” that figures in, say, a roller coaster, or a ball rolling down an inclined plane! It shows up in the simplest Newtonian demonstrations of energy conservation, yet in general relativity it turns out to be tricky or impossible to define. And in a cosmological context, with such things as inflation or dark energy, this seems to give you something for nothing.

    But you still couldn’t use this to make a perpetual-motion machine, at least not a useful one. For a system contained in a local area in otherwise approximately flat spacetime, you can still define a consistent notion of the total energy that is conserved.

    (And if you were to do those weird manipulations Alan Guth likes to talk about and make an inflating baby universe, it’d inflate away on its own and all you’d have left behind in your own universe would be a relatively mundane black hole, if I understand him correctly.)

  6. Tim Martin

    Wait, so how does tacking work? This site describes it as using wind blowing across sails to create “lift,” but that doesn’t sound like what Mark’s talking about…

    1. MarkCC Post author

      Actually, it pretty much is.

      The situation in a tacking boat is that you’ve got the sail at an angle to the wind. And you can draw energy from it because the wind is pressing on the sail, and that pressure is opposed by the water.

      If you think of the boat without the body – so that it’s just a sail that stays upright – it would move in the direction of the wind. But it can’t do that, because of the keel of the boat in the water. (Or, equivalently, if the water current is moving in the same direction and speed as the wind, then you can’t tack.)

      But since the boat can’t move in the direction of the wind, instead, you get wind flowing around the sail, and you get a force produced by that flow.

      The whole key, though, is the fact that the boat can’t move, unrestricted, in the direction of the wind. It’s constrained, and that constraint changes the mechanics so that you can get a force. The key is the *difference* between the velocity of the constraining environment (the water in the case of the boat) and the wind.

      1. Tim Martin

        Ah, I see – that makes more sense now. I wanted the explanation to include the water somehow, since you said above that it should. Thanks!

        Thanks also to Rubix, below.

          1. Phyllograptus

            One interesting thing about various types of sailing and tacking. In a normal sail boat, the boat can never move at the same speed or faster than the wind due to the drag caused by the friction of the hull moving through the water. However in Iceboat sailing due to the fact that the runners on the ice have so low a friction force, the iceboat on a tack can actually run faster than the wind. If the boat is sailing directly downwind in front of the wind, it is limited to the windspeed, but on a tack it is able to keep accelerating until it eventually runs out of room on the tack or it eventually reaches the maximum speed it can attain in relation to wind speed and ice ruuner friction with the ice.

  7. Rubix


    “When tacking, the sails act as the engine of the boat, harnessing wind power. However, since the boat is moving angled to the wind, that wind power pushes the boat sideways. But remember that the wind isn’t the only element the boat interacts with. There’s also the water. As the boat tips to one side, the long, flat keel submerged underneath the hull, pivots upward with the motion of the boat, creating a sideways force in the opposite direction because of the amount of water it displaces as it moves.

    When tacking successfully, these equal, opposing sideways forces cancel each other out. However, that collected wind power must go somewhere, so it is released in a forward thrust — there is nowhere else it can go. This is the same type of effect that happens when you shoot a marble. Your finger and thumb press equally hard on either side of the marble, causing it to zip forward.

    After this happens, the sailor would alter course and tack again toward the opposite direction to gradually move upwind.”

  8. Drew

    One small criticism from your example of the hanging weight. You suggested nudging it upward at the top of its stroke. This is actually the inappropriate time to add energy, because it’s accelerating downward at its greatest acceleration, you’re just delaying its fall with a force…unless you apply more force than the net downward weight.

    It’s better to push it while it’s moving. Since power is force*velocity, you’re only adding energy when there’s movement, unless you’re actually lifting it higher, in which case you must exceed a threshold force.

  9. Uncle Al

    2:1 vol/vol hydrogen/oxygen is a big bang boom bomb waiting for a cosmic ray ionizing path trigger or an automobile catalytic converter shed microparticulate.

    Closely spaced vacuum diode. One plate has a low vacuum work function (e.g., LaB6, CeB6, barium at ~2.5 V; doped diamond, carbon nitride at ~0.1 V) and is micro-spiked facing toward the other plate. The other plate has a high vacuum work function (osmium at 5.93 V). The two plates are connected through their vacuum envelope to an electrical load. If the temperature is above absolute zero… the emitter will spontaneously cool (electron evaporation) , the receiver will spontaneously warm (electron condensation after acceleration through the net work function), a current will spontaneously flow – forever.

    Take that, equilibrium thermodynamics.

    carbon nitride, diamond,
    LaB6 maximum emitters
    also, App. Phys. Lett. 89 203112 (2006)

    1. Rubix

      Doing experiments in a vacuum doesn’t mean you suddenly turn equilibrium thermodynamics on its head. For instance, even a pendulum swinging in a vacuum (without air resistance) will stop eventually due to friction at the pivot point. Even if you had a perfect vacuum and a frictionless pivot somehow and thus had an indefinitely-swinging pendulum, you couldn’t extract any energy from it without exerting a force, which would slow it down.

      If you’re hooking something up to an external electrical source, a current can go on as long as the source doesn’t deplete, which it will, eventually.

  10. Rubix

    “Is it possible that we invented the law of impossibility known as the Energy Conservation Law and this way created such limitation? If you have some time please answer me what do you think about it? This World as you know is mostly unexplainable, and maybe we should learn more to better understand how exactly the Universe work?”

    This seems to be the driving logic behind most cranks and deluded folk. It’s argument-from-ignorance and argument-from-personal-incredulity all over again. It always boils down to these. “If something hasn’t been proven 100%, it could be false. If something hasn’t been disproved 100%, then it could be true! I don’t understand it, so that means nobody else does, either, so I am right.”

    It’s basically a framework for letting someone stand in the fog of their ignorance and justify whatever the hell they want as truth, evidence be damned.

  11. Uncle Al

    Noether’s theorems couple the symmetry of local time homogeneity to the property of conservation of mass-energy, and vice-versa. The First Law of Thermodynamics (“you cannot win”) in a closed system is mathematically inescapable. A Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube spontaneously separates cold air from hot air by being clever. It is not an overall violation or Maxwell’s demon.

    The vacuum work function diode, above, is cleverer. Nobody has found the presumably flawed reasoning in the isolated system. However, available work at equilibrium is vanishingly small/area (limited by rates of cooling of the warmed electrode and warming of the cooled electrode by IR emission and absorption, respectively). The two closely-spaced plates in hard vacuum, when electrically connected, will never come into thermal equilibrium (both at the same temperature). This makes the First Law cry.

    If the two plates form an optical etalon, IR emission within the gap will be forbidden for half-wavelengths greater than the optical gap (re Casimir effect). Energy output rate is thus further reduced by kinetics, but not forbidden by thermodynamics, within an isolated system (e.g., within an adiabatic black body container).

  12. Alex Besogonov

    “No one has been able to produce a theory that describes how such a system could work that is consistent with observations of the real world.”

    Hey! I have a perpetual motion machine and it totally works! It’s quite easy.

    Well, not really.

    But it’s still interesting: http://www.aleph.se/Trans/Global/Omega/dyson.txt – read the chapter iv.

  13. John Armstrong

    That’s cute, Marcelo, but did you click through?


    “Flutter is a self-feeding and potentially destructive vibration where aerodynamic forces on an object couple with a structure’s natural mode of vibration to produce rapid periodic motion.”

    That is, aeroelastic flutter is a kind of resonance.

    It’s always fun when people try using big words without understanding what they mean.

  14. Marcelo Resegue

    My point is: the wind didn’t create a resonant vibration. The wind was steady. And the wind vortexes weren’t in a resonating frequency. Maybe we can still call it a resonance somehow, but I rather call it oscillation with a negative damping coefficient.

    If we call it a resonance, one may think that if the wind was faster than what it was that day, it wouldn’t cause the collapse of the bridge. But that is not the case. Any fast enough wind would cause the phenomenon (it just need to be strong enough to counter the natural damping of the bridge). The equation for this kind of motion is exactly a damped harmonic oscillator equation with a negative damping coefficient (put a negative zeta in the differential equation for damped harmonic oscillators and it behaves like Tacoma bridge — it grows exponentially).

    Sorry for citing wikipedia the last time. I couldn’t find the proper article to cite. Here it is: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.16590 And there is a pdf version here: http://oud.scheldemond.nl/vakken/exact/na/lessen/tacomabrug/uitleg.pdf

    Maybe I didn’t get it right. If so, I’ll be glad to be enlightened. Really! I’m not afraid of making a fool of myself in the process of learning. I have to confess I don’t fully understand the phenomenon. Are (some) physics textbooks wrong as the article says or not?


  15. Oliver Oppawsky

    If you are writing, that no one ever made a working machine that produced more energy that you put in it, I’m sorry, but you are not wright. There are many good documented examples in the history. Already in the middle ages we have a good documented example called Bessler-Wheel on http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Bessler (I suppose the german text is better than the english version). We don’t know the mechanism, but very interesting is the fact, that there had been a bet between Bessler and another person. This person – his name was Gärtner – promised to pay 10.000 Thaler (in that time a tremendous amount of money) if Besslers wheel moves still after a time of 4 weeks turning in a closed and sealed room on Castle Weißenstein near Kassel / Germany. On January 4th in 1718 after 54 days they opened the sealed room and the wheel was still turning – so Gärtner had to pay 10.000 Thaler to Bessler.

    You may say that this is no scientific proof. But in the meantime we have lots of examples that it is possible, for example to run a car with ordinary water using Browns Gas. The best examples here are inventors like Stanley Meyer, Yull Brown, Carl Cella, Daniel Dingel, … Best developed, documented and also best suppressed certainly is Stanley Meyer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a74uarqap2E, http://waterfuelcell.org/ ). If you read the things around the “buyed” lawsuit in the USA, you loose all believe in independent courts. But as we know that the USA are married with the oil-industrie, we understand even this.

    The major problem in understanding all these items is, that we don’t want to realize, that the pure space is already – let’s say – pure energy, although since years we here from dark matter and especially dark energy in the universe. Why should it be absolutely impossible, to imagine that for example a watermolekule is interacting with this “space energy” so that it can in a certain resonance-modus easily be broken up into hydrogen and oxygen supplying more energy than it needed to be dissociated. Stan Meyer was able to do exactly this and drove his Dune Buggy with water – and died under very very strange conditions in a restaurant in the age of 58.

    If you say that all this is no scientific proof for the theory of free energy, then please read this
    This is the site of Prof. Dr. Claus W. Turtur, who delivered in my point of view the best theory of “space-energy” until today. What he is writing is scientific and he proofed it with experiments. So, after reading all this no one can say that free energy is just rubbish for dreamers and not enlightened energy-romantics.

  16. John Fringe

    “So, after reading all this no one can say that free energy is just rubbish for dreamers and not enlightened energy-romantics.”

    The demolishing proving power of an obscure bet from 1700 no one examined and a known fraud can not be overestimated!

  17. Wallace Houston

    I’ve read a lot of info about this topic. I have a cousin who claims he has increased his gas mileage by 10 mpg. I’ll admit I haven’t witnessed it. A couple of things bother me about those who claim it doesn’t work. All the stuff about the energy required to produce the gas– the alternator (or generator) turns regardless. It’s like the A/C in your house (or car) it only works when its on. You don’t “save” any of it.
    The other thing I don’t see mentioned is the point my cousin made- the computer in your car will adjust the fuel mixture. If it detects adequate mixture, it will tell the fuel pump (or injectors) not to send as much fuel.
    Most of the anti’s I’ve read have not tried or seen this working. They just want to use science (their science) to say that it doesn’t. Here’s the bottom line for me– if it improves gas mileage by 10 mpg, it’s a winner and worth using. My fuel bill last month was over $400. If I can reduce that bill and reduce emissions, I don’t know why anybody would be against it. As far as why “car companies aren’t incorporating it”– well the same reason they came back out with 300 hp engines and “hemis” back in the early 2000s. They are in bed with the oil companies. I heard GM payed millions of dollars for the blueprints to the Waenkle (spelling) engine back in the 70’s when it was getting 40+ mpg. What did they do with it? They made sure no one, including GM, was going to use it to improve gas mileage.

    1. MarkCC Post author

      The problem is, it doesn’t work, because it can’t work.

      Your alternator point is easy to answer.

      Right behind me is my exercise bike. It’s a clever thing. In order to add resistance when I’m pedaling, it doesn’t use friction like an old-fashioned one. Instead, the pedals turn a generator. To add tension, it just adds resistance to the circuit attached to the generator. The more resistance in the circuit, the more force it takes to turn the pedals.

      Generating power is never free. Never.

      The alternator is attached to the gearbox in the car, and it does keep turning, regardless of the load attached to it. But if there’s no load (that is, nothing drawing energy), then it’s free (modulo friction) to spin it. As you add load, it becomes harder to turn it.

      And per the laws of thermodynamics, as always, that’s a losing situation. You can draw use power from the engine to turn the alternator, which generates electricity, and then use that electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. That works. But each time you use energy, or try to convert energy from one form to another, you lose some.

      You get less energy as electricity from the alternator than you put in as kinetic energy. When you use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, some it gets wasted as heat. When you burn that hydrogen and oxygen, you can’t harvest all of the energy. Every step, you lose some.

      1. Wallace Houston

        I would never argue that the idea is 100% efficient. Is ANY machine 100% efficient? Back up to the engine– it’s not 100% efficient. I think the assumption for most people is that the alternator (and engine turning it) has ample power and capacity to take on an additional small load. Running down that track, what if you had a bigger (more efficient) alternator that could handle more load?
        It’s kinda like the difference in a car and a pickupTruck. A mid-size pickup has the same engine and drivetrain as many mid-sized cars. Though you might use a little more fuel, you’ll carry a lot more load with the truck.
        Other than a (I think small) load on the alternator, if you can produce the hydro gas, and the vehicles computer DOES tell the engine to use less gasoline, then I don’t see it as being any different than using ethanol or any other fuel additive. None of them are a panacea, but if consumers can catch a little break, then it’s worth it to me. The only reason I haven’t tried it is that I want to know for sure that the vehicle computer will lean down the gasoline because the hydro gas is substituting for it.

        1. MarkCC Post author

          The thing is, brown’s gas ultimately requires that the engine be *more than* perfectly efficient.

          The engine turns the alternator. If you put a load on the alternator, that produces electrical power. The amount of energy passed to the cars drivetrain is reduced by slightly more than whatever the alternator draws off.

          The electricity from the alternator is used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Water has a specific binding energy: 423.0 kJ/mol. Take one mol of water, and pump in 423kJ, and you’ll get back 2 mol hydrogen and 1 mol oxygen.

          Take 2 mol hydrogen and 1 mol oxygen and burn it, and you’ll get back exactly 423kJ of energy.

          If you put a brown’s gas generator into your car, you’re doing that loop: drawing off a certain amount of energy from the engine to split water into hydrogen and oxygen; and then adding hydrogen and oxygen to the combustion mix to burn with the gasoline. You *can’t* get more from that process than you put in.

          The people selling brown’s gas generators are scamming you: they’re telling you that the power that they’re drawing from the alternator is free, because the alternator is always being spun anyway. If it were actually free to use electricity from the alternator, then I would expect something like brown’s gas to work, because you’d be adding more combustibles to the cylinders, and more combustibles means more energy per cycle.

          (In fact, if drawing energy from the alternator was free, then it would be easy to make perfectly efficient hybrid cars: use the gas to accelerate, and then just use the alternator to maintain speed.)

          But that’s not true. In the best possible case, you’re drawing off energy from one part of the drivetrain and adding it back in another. But you’re not getting any more energy than you would without the device.

          1. Wallace Houston

            Have you tried it?
            I can’t question the theory you propose, I’m not a scientist. You’re talking book-speak. I question the load an alternator puts on an engine.
            Regardless of the theory, if it reduces fossil fuel consumption, it’s worth a try.

          2. John Fringe

            I don’t understand the expression “book-speaking”. Physics and engineering come in book format, but, you know, the people who wrote those books got their knowledge directly from experience. Physics is an empirical science. Every science is, that’s the whole point.

            Apart from that, you understand that thermodynamics is not a theory Mark is proposing, don’t you?

          3. Wallace Houston

            “book speak” relates to “have you tried it?”. We can all ramble on about what we think or what SHOULD work OR NOT on paper. We are caught up in degrees of separation here. Until both of us have actually tried it, neither of us can say what the results will be other than something less than 100% efficiency. Again, if it saved 8-10 mpg of fossil fuel, it would be worth a $200 investment.

          4. John Fringe

            Obviously I don’t agree with you. You’ll make a very poor engineer, because the book came from people who tried it. The whole business of engineering is not having to test every permutation of parts and chemicals, relying instead on knowledge. One saves money this way.

            (Of course you can try new things, but when there is at least some evidence suggesting it could work. If not, you’re just playing the lottery. And if theory is against you, you’re playing a rigged game.)

  18. KeithB

    If you doubt the alternator load, hook one up to a stationary bicycle and see what happens when you peddle and generate 10W, 100W, 1 KW. (I think a typical headlight is about 55W, by itself!)

  19. murphy

    Isnt saying this is over unity like apples and oranges? The energy wasnt put in the water by the vehicle. If i have a steam powered chain saw i could cut down a tree of tremendous height and have more than enough wood to run my chain saw for the next tree. I may not be correct but tapping water for its energy doesnt sound less plausible than tapping anything else- oil, wind, solar, wood…why not?

    1. MarkCC Post author

      No. Because you’re not talking about “extracting energy” from water. You’re running a process: water -> 2H2 + O2 -> water.

      If you took a car with hydrogen and oxygen tanks, and you operated the engine by burning the hydrogen and oxygen, that would be reasonable, and wouldn’t introduce any questions about whether or not it’s an overunity process.

      But what Brown’s gas claims is something different. They claim that they can produce a closed loop system: start with water. Split it into hydrogen and oxygen. Burn the hydrogen and oxygen, creating water and energy. And then, they say, the amount of energy that was created by burning the hydrogen and oxygen is more than the amount of energy it took to split the water.

      That’s the problem, and it’s a ridiculous, impossible claim.


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