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Prof Atta-ur-Rahman
Saturday, August 11, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

The national press has recently been full of stories of how a Pakistan “engineer” Agha Waqar Ahmad has developed a ‘water kit’ that allows cars to be run on pure distilled water without any other external energy source. Agha Waqar has no engineering degree but is believed to have received a diploma from a polytechnic in Khairpur. The gentleman demonstrated a car that he claimed did not need petrol, CNG, solar energy or any other external source of energy but only needed pure distilled water for it to run continuously without any difficulty. He claimed to have driven himself from Hyderabad to Karachi without any problems.

What then is the problem with this claim? Agha Waqar Ahmad asserts that he is running the car on pure distilled water with no other source of power going into the engine. This is where the problem lies. It is just impossible scientifically. Had he stated that the water kit was being used in conjunction with petrol or diesel or another power source to reduce fuel consumption or improve car performance, then his claim may have been taken more seriously.

There are numerous such water kits available commercially but examination has invariably shown that they do little to improve performance (http://www.pcworld.com/article/148710/gas_crisis_fuels_dubious_online_offers.html) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) has stated that they do not work.

Agha Waqar Ahmad had obviously no knowledge of the fundamental principles of science or he would have thought twice before making such a ridiculous claim. One such principle is that you cannot create more energy than what you put in – this is the long understood principle of the conservation of energy. Perpetual motion is impossible under the second law of thermodynamics and all machines ever invented strictly abide by this law.

He also did not know that the amount of energy produced by the explosive reaction of hydrogen with oxygen (to produce water as the product) can in no way be greater than the amount of energy that was needed in the first place to produce that hydrogen from water (by the breaking of the oxygen-hydrogen bonds). Indeed in such a closed system with only the battery available as an energy source, the amount of energy available for running a car will be far less than that produced by the battery for producing the hydrogen, since much of it will be wasted in heat losses and inefficiencies of the process of electrolysis and combustion systems.

He also failed to calculate that a car battery and a small water kit simply could not produce the huge quantity of hydrogen needed (thousands of times greater) to produce sufficient hydrogen to run a car, even if one did have an external source of energy (such as solar cells) that could constantly power that battery. So a car will just not be able to run even for a few minutes as the battery will be drained of all power very quickly.

The claim that the car engine will continue to charge the battery continuously was also nonsensical as the diminished amount of energy available due to inefficiencies in electrolysis and combustion will not be able to keep the car engine running. Fuel cell vehicles generally have a high pressure hydrogen cylinder which supplies hydrogen gas, and which must be replenished when consumed. The fuel cell stacks present in the “hydrogen car” convert hydrogen gas into electricity after reaction with oxygen in the air. This electricity is then used to charge drive the electrical motors present.

When I was requested to give my views on the matter in a television programme, I knew instantly that a huge scam was under way. Since the car was obviously running, and since the water kit could not be the source of its power, it was immediately apparent to me that there must be a hidden source of fuel going into the engine. This could be a cleverly concealed pipeline of diesel, petrol, CNG or acetylene gas which was the real source of power, and that the magical “water kit” was just a piece of deceptive jugglery. The trickery could only be exposed if the engine was subjected to careful technical examination.

I was astonished that mine was the only scientific voice raised initially against this huge fraud. I had to speak out bluntly and forcefully to nip the looming financial fraud in the bud. Being the president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, the highest level national body of eminent scientists, I could not turn a blind eye on the attempted scientific and possibly financial fraud. I was also astounded by the fact that the national press had blown up this discovery as a major scientific breakthrough without bothering to having the vehicle first examined independently by technical experts. It would have been a simple matter to check what tubes were going into the engine cylinders and what the real source of power was.

After my call for the car to be examined by an engineering university, and a meeting in the presidency, an appointment was made to have the vehicle thoroughly inspected by engineers at the National University of Science & Technology. However, as expected, Agha Waqar Ahmad did a disappearing act and never turned up for the appointment. The fraud had been exposed and escape was the only route available to him.

Agha Waqar Ahmad is not the first person to have made such fraudulent claims. The development of a car that ran on pure water was claimed by Stanley Myer but the claim was found to be a huge hoax and in 1996 an Ohio court found him guilty of “gross and egregious fraud”. In 2002, a company Genesis World Energy announced the development of a device that could separate hydrogen and oxygen from water, and it could then be used to power vehicles. The company collected some $2.5 million from investors. The owner of the company was later sentenced to 5 years in prison by a New Jersey court and fined $400,000. In 2008 a Sri Lankan charlatan Thushara Priyamal Edirisinghe claimed to have driven a water-fuelled car about 300 kilometres on just three litres of water. The technology was demonstrated to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka. Thushara was later arrested for fraud.

Daniel Dingel, a Filipino inventor, was also sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for a similar water fuelled car fraud in 2008. For further details of such frauds in the past the readers may refer to the following link in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-fuelled_car

The fact that Agha Waqar Ahmed has fooled millions into believing that he has succeeded in defying the fundamental laws of physics and developed a system which allows “perpetual motion” to be created shows how easily we, as a nation, can fall prey to such hoaxes. According to some, the fraudulent deception was a part of a master plan to fleece billions from the government and the private sector. It has been alleged that some very powerful people were a part of this wizardry, since the “discovery” was discussed thrice in the cabinet. The matter needs to be fully investigated, and if found guilty, Agha Waqar Ahmad should be given exemplary punishment.

The writer is former federal minister for science and technology, former chairman of the Higher Education Commission. Email: [email protected]