An Experiment Gone Wrong
“Disaster Guy, have you ever heard of a way to get more energy out of something than you put into it?” Red asked.
“Sure! It’s called over-parity,” the Disaster Guy said. “Why do you ask?”
“I was reading about a 1963 discovery of a metallic alloy named Chemalloy,” Red said. “It was supposed to break the water molecule into oxygen and hydrogen gases.”
“Normally that’s done through electrolysis, by putting electrical contacts into water and running an electric current through it,” the Disaster Guy said. “That was one of the chemistry experiments in high school.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” Red said. “Chemalloy is supposed to do it without the electricity, without using up the Chemalloy.”
“That would mean that the Chemalloy was acting as a catalyst,” the Disaster Guy said. “As far as I know, there isn’t a catalyst that breaks water into its gaseous components.”
“Well, Chemalloy is supposed to,” Red said. “My uncle had a piece of Chemalloy on the original card in his shop, and he gave it to me.”
“What does it look like?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“It’s a metal rod about half an inch in diameter and about 8 inches long,” Red said. “The card says it was used for aluminum solder. Here, take a look.”
“Hmm! So, what’s the problem?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“It doesn’t work! I put the rod in water, and it just sits there,” Red said.
“Let’s try it,” the Disaster Guy said. Red got a glass of tap water, put the Chemalloy rod in it, and sure enough, it just sat there.
“Can you think of any other way to test it?” Red asked.
“Let’s file off about 1/8 inch of it, then see if the powdered metal will work,” the Disaster Guy said.
They put the Chemalloy rod in Red’s shop vise, put a piece of cardboard in place to catch the metal dust, and got a big file. In 15 minutes they had reduced a 1/8-inch piece of Chemalloy rod into a small pile of metallic dust.
“Now what?” Red asked?
“Let’s put a few drops of water on the powdered metal and see if it fizzes like Alka-Seltzer,” the Disaster Guy said.
They dripped a couple drops of water on the metal powder. Nothing happened.
“I’ve got a 5 ml plastic syringe in the truck,” the Disaster Guy said. “Let’s put the Chemalloy powdered metal in it, then add water.” He went out to his truck and got the syringe from his medical kit.
They carefully loaded the Chemalloy metal powder into the syringe. It took up about one and a half milliliters of space.
“Okay, for the record, it’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit in this room, and it shows 65 percent humidity,” the Disaster Guy said. “The water is at room temperature.”
“Who cares?” Red asked?
“If we’re going to do an experiment, we should be able to document the conditions so the experiment can be repeated,” the Disaster Guy said. “Remember your high school chemistry?”
“Yes,” Red said. “Let’s do it!”
Carefully the Disaster Guy filled the syringe with room temperature tap water. It took 3-1/2 ml to fill the syringe. There was a little air bubble about the size of a BB in the syringe.
Aside from the BB-sized air bubble, nothing happened. The Chemalloy powdered metal did not react with the water in the syringe to produce bubbles of gaseous oxygen or hydrogen.
“It doesn’t work!” Red said.
“Right, it doesn’t,” the Disaster Guy said. “What would you have done if it did?”
“I figured I could burn the hydrogen and have a flame that would last as long as I put water in the tank,” Red said. “I could heat something and use water for fuel.”
“A good idea, Red,” the Disaster Guy said. “But at least we did the experiment ourselves instead of believing what you read in a book.”
“But the book said it would work,” Red said. “I’ve been wanting to try this since I heard about it 55 years ago!”
“And the book was wrong,” the Disaster Guy said. “There still isn’t any catalyst that will break water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen.”
“But at least we tried the experiment. That’s the only way to know if something will work,” he said. “What works in books and what works in the real world can be very different. We thought we’d have a perpetual hydrogen flame here, according to the book. And in real life, we had nothing.”
Free energy from Chemalloy just didn’t happen. The Disaster Guy’s website, DisasterGuy.com has more than 150 free tips to help you prepare for or prevent an emergency. You may reach him by e-mail at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.