So how did a small engineering firm from Dublin, Ireland create such a shitstorm of controversy – and what really is Orbo?

 

Now 2014, and eight years after Steorn’s infamous advert which invited us to “Imagine”, “a world with an infinite supply of pure energy”, “Never having to recharge your phone”, “Never having to refuel your car”.

Steorn_economist

Much has happened since Steorn initially emerged into the public arena in 2006 with their audacious and ‘troublesome’ full-page advert in The Economist which caused a virtual riot among the scientific elite when it first appeared. Steorn’s public engagement all but ended in 2009 when a ‘jury’ of scientists decided that they had ‘not been shown any evidence of energy production.’

 

Despite the ‘jury’ pronouncement – in the intervening years since, neither Steorn or any members of their ‘jury’ have elaborated on any aspect of what truly went on behind closed doors, and one cannot help thinking that the real truth is not as black or white as would seem.

 

Resurgence

 

According to Steorn, the discovery of the Orbo effect has led to the development of a host of other valuable Intellectual Property for the company.  One of which is HephaHeat, an extremely efficient technology derived from Orbo that can heat water very quickly and cheaply. The development of which has led to the company to signing contracts with the two largest hot water boiler manufacturers in the world – both wishing to incorporate the technology into the very lucrative and depressingly uncontroversial domestic hot water boiler markets.

 

Heating hot water may be profitable, but what of Orbo and the real essence of what would capture the world’s attention and imagination – witnessing the scientific heresy of a wheel turning in perpetual motion.

 

The real spectacle that everyone wanted to see. A wheel turning, powered by an unknown force of nature. The zero-point energy, dark energy, dark matter or some other mysterious force we are yet to label.

 

It seemed that this may have been a forgotten dream, but after nearly 5 years of research and development and a self-imposed public avoidance – only last week did we have some intriguing quotes from Steorn CEO Shaun McCarthy…

 

“Sometimes stuff takes longer than you want…. it’s going to be a LOT of fun in the next few weeks, a lot.”….“Life is about to get fun again… and it takes time, but it’s been a roller coaster ride and at some point you jump off it with a BIG smile on you face.”…..“Better suited to this time and this place – going to enjoy every minute of what 2007 should have been – I am a purist OU man, no wires.”

(Editor's note: 2007 - a reference to Steorn's initial perpetual motion demo that was to have occurred at Kinetica Museum, London.)

…and then two days later  a very quick teaser video of an Orbo rig in action – it seems (as many of us have speculated for a long time now) that Steorn may have been ‘Down, but definitely not out!”

The Orbo Effect

 

So perhaps before the journey recommences its interesting to revisit the beginning of this epic and remind ourselves how all this started, and what really is Orbo?

 

One of Steorn’s earlier projects circa 2004 was working with Interpol and law enforcement agencies on anti-counterfeiting / piracy technologies to combat plastic card fraud.

 

One of the aspects of this project was the monitoring of remotely located cash dispenser machines with tiny CCTV cameras.  Steorn were looking at innovative ways of powering the tiny cameras with micro wind turbines. It was while developing this technology that Orbo was discovered.

 

At this time Orbo did not have a name and was simply known as an ‘effect’.  Avery simple effect that would later be described by Steorn CEO Shaun McCarthy in the following terms “What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy”.

 

Over the period of 2006 – 2009 the Orbo effect evolved in various forms. Firstly a proof-of-concept prototype known as the K-Toy, then as a perspex disc lined with magnets (similar to a minato wheel), before being incorporated into a more traditional pulse-motor design and finally as a solid-state circuit board.


Video – Orbo in it’s pulse-motor form.

All of these prototypes utilising the same core principles. Magnetic viscosity and the delayed propagation of magnetic fields – both principles which have not been very well understood let alone engineered by anyone other than Steorn.

 

The Controversy

 

The worldwide controversy was stirred  due to the provocative nature of the advert in that it was claimed that Orbo was essentially said to violate one of the most foundational scientific principles – the principle of the Conservation of Energy.

 

Many high-profile scientists including Professor Sir Eric Ash were infuriated by the mere suggestion, with Ash proposing that rejecting the principle of  the conservation of energy “would undermine all science and technology” and going on to accuse Steorn of “prolonged self-deception”.

 

“Denying its validity (Conservation of Energy) would undermine not just little bits of science – the whole edifice would be no more. All of the technology on which we built the modern world would lie in ruins.”

 

“There is no flexibility in the acceptance of the law as true – at all times, and in all circumstances.”

 

For many living through this at the time, including myself – it was like watching a movie.  With not just the incalculable odds to conquer, but with the scientific world against Steorn they were David to it’s Goliath. Like the ridiculously outnumbered Spartans against the Greeks and not a chance in hell.

 

But just like in the movies, the ending is always better when the hero comes back just when you thought they were all but dead and buried.

 

Interesting times ahead.