The water engine

Physics 001
Section 1
John Hopkins
Project 2
Alan G. Shimp
Broadly defined, a water engine is a device that is fueled by water and produces energy.
Purportedly, the engine can either use naturally running water, or the water can be broken into its
component elements, hydrogen and oxygen, for fuel.
Three quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and while water can be hard to come by in
some places, it is still a feasible resource. It makes sense that scientists would pursue it as a source of
One of the oldest forms of a water engine is the water wheel. It dates back at least to the ancient Romans. Comprised of a
series of gears, wheels, and belts, the water wheel was used to power grist mills and many other sorts of machines until the
introduction of steam power (“Water Wheels”).
Of course, water wheels were not portable. But using water to deliver electricity to remote areas is quite feasible. Two
shining examples of this are the Hoover Dam and Niagara Falls.
It is also possible to harness the ocean tides to create power. Tidal generators are large underwater turbines that are
designed to capture the kinetic motion of the ebbing and flowing of ocean tides in order to create electricity. The turbines are
driven by the power of the tides in both directions, when the tide comes in and again when it goes out. This is an expensive but
highly efficient means of obtaining energy. On the negative side it’s location specific, as well as intermittent, and has a
detrimental impact on the local environment.
Water Wheel –
Hoover Dam –
Niagra Falls (“Wyndham
Garden Niagara
Falls Fallsview”)
Tidal Turbine - (“Tidal
There are two types of portable water engines, neither of which is a genuinely feasible option.
The first is a self-acting pump. It works by looping water from a starting point, through a predetermined circuit, and back to its point of origin. This is a sort of perpetual motion machine, and by
the laws of thermodynamics it’s not sustainable. Left on its own, such an engine would eventually stop
due to entropy, and certainly couldn’t power another device. Nonetheless there have been many
variations of this attempted throughout history. One of the earliest was conceived by Archimedes
(“Perpetual Futility”).
Da Vinci’s Self-Acting
Pump - (“Perpetual
Archimedian Screw and
Variation - (“Self-Acting
Lift Pump –
William G.
Hinkley’s Portable
Gravity Driven
Wheel System –
The second type of portable water engine is a hydrolysis-based engine, which breaks water into its component elements,
hydrogen and oxygen, for fuel.
Water is one part oxygen and two parts hydrogen. Hydrogen is highly combustible and can be used as fuel. However, removing
the hydrogen from the water requires more energy than is produced by the hydrogen itself. Electrolysis uses an electrical charge
to dissociate the components of water into hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2) (“electrolysis of water”). It’s worth noting that
the energy does not really come from the hydrogen but rather the electricity; the hydrogen is merely a means of transporting
the energy.
There are numerous problems with hydrogen fuel cells. They are big, expensive, dangerous, require an extensive infrastructure
for refueling, do not work in cold weather, and still require the use of another energy source for the electrolysis. Other than that,
they’re a great idea.
Many people have claimed to create an engine that is so efficient that the hydrogen released from the electrolysis is capable of
fueling the electrolysis process itself. This of course is just another attempt at a perpetual motion machine (“Debunking Stanley
Meyer’s Claims”).
One intriguing question is whether proponents of these sorts of water engines are charlatans or merely misguided. In David Mamet’s play, “The
Water Engine” a man earnestly believes he has created a water engine and soon others attempt to cheat him and threaten his life in order to
obtain his invention (Mamet).
In real life, a man named Stanley Meyer garnered attention (perhaps too much attention) when he claimed to have invented a water engine.
Meyer created his “water fuel cell” in 1973, and claimed that he had an additive that would make separating the hydrogen and oxygen more
efficient. Supposedly the energy produced would then be sufficient to run the engine, thus powering further electrolysis. He acquired several
investors for the project before being exposed as a fraud. Later, while discussing the engine with two potential investors over dinner, he ran out
of the restaurant shouting that he’d been poisoned. An autopsy revealed that he’d had a cerebral aneurysm. Nonetheless, some conspiracy
theorists still believe, much like in David Mamet’s play, Meyer was poisoned by big energy companies or the government in an attempt to cover
up his discovery as it threatened the status quo. In truth, Meyer was probably a charlatan and not simply misguided (“debunking Stanley
Meyer’s claims”).
Could there ever be a water engine? While water powered generators are in use every day, an
engine deriving its energy from water is surely an impossibility, because it would contradict the laws
of thermodynamics. There will never be a water engine.
“Electrolysis of Water.” Hyperphysics. n.p., n.d. Web. 3/26/2014 <http://hyperphysics.Phy-astr.Gsu.Edu/hbase/thermo/electrol.Html>
“Debunking Stanley Meyer’s Claims.” The aardvark. Bruce Simpson/aardvark, 7/1/2008. Web. 3/26/2014 <http://www.Aardvark.Co.Nz/stanley_meyer.Shtml>
“Perpetual Futility.” Lock haven university. Lock Haven University, n.d. Web. 3/26/2014 <https://www.Lhup.Edu/~dsimanek/museum/people/people.Htm>
“Wyndham Garden Niagara Falls Fallsview.” Wyndham. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, n.d. Web. 4/11/2014 <HTTP://WWW.WYNDHAM.COM/HOTELS/ONTARIO/NIAGARAFALLS/WYNDHAM-GARDEN-NIAGARA-FALLS-FALLSVIEW/HOTEL-OVERVIEW>
“Self-Acting Pumps.” Lock Haven University. Lock Haven University, n.d. Web. 4/11/2014 <HTTPS://WWW.LHUP.EDU/~DSIMANEK/MUSEUM/THEMES/PUMPS.HTM>
“Tidal Power.” Alternative Energy News. n.p., n.d. Web. 4/11/2014 <HTTP://WWW.ALTERNATIVE-ENERGY-NEWS.INFO/TECHNOLOGY/HYDRO/TIDAL-POWER/>
Mamet, David. The Water Engine ; An American Fable : Two Plays. New York: Grove Press, 1978. Print.
“Tidal Power: Pros and Cons.” TriplePundit. n.p., 6/1/2012. Web. 4/15/2014 <HTTP://WWW.TRIPLEPUNDIT.COM/2012/06/TIDAL-POWER-PROS-CONS/>
“Honda is Working on Hydrogen Technology that will Generate Power Inside your Car.” Business Insider. n.p., 11/22/2013. Web. 4/15/2014 <HTTP://WWW.BUSINESSINSIDER.COM/HONDAHYDROGEN-FUEL-CELL-CAR-FUTURE-LA-AUTO-SHOW-2013-11>
“Water Wheels.” Water History. USBR, n.d. Web. 4/17/2014 <>

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