Electrolytic Carburetor

Dallas Morning News (September 6, 1992), Page 48A

"Early Inventor Builds Water-Powered Auto"

A.C. Greene

The late Henry "Dad" Garrett was a multi-talented Dallas inventor with a bent for electrical contrivances, and in 1935, he and his son, C.H. Garrett, patented and exhibited an automobile that ran on water -- actually, on hydrogen after the water was broken down by electrolysis.

Dad Garrett was already famous for his work. In 1920 he set up WRR in Dallas, the world's first municipal radio station, and was its first announcer. He was the first man to build a radio in his car, and he developed radio transmission from the car for police use. He also invented an automatic electric traffic signal, possibly the nation's first.

Eugene P. Aldredge recalled the Garretts: "I had rented a small office on the seventh floor of the Allen building in downtown Dallas for my letter service, and one of my early customers was the eighteenth floor National Electric Signal Co. owned by Dad Garrett and son C.H..

"I was informed that the two were experimenting with an automobile that used water for fuel, that they carried on their experiments in a workshop adjacent to their office on the top floor, and that two separate explosions (from dangerous hydrogen) had nearly blown a hole in the roof of the building...Neither was hurt."

On September 8, 1935, The Dallas Morning News first announced that the water-fuel concept worked -- at least it worked for "several minutes," the article reported.

A few months later, Pathe' News filmed the car driving along Garland Road with the driver stopping at White Rock Lake to fill the fuel tank with water before cruising off. In 1970, Karen Klinefelter wrote, "Aptly enough, the film was shown on Pathe's Stranger than Fiction feature program."

C.H. Garrett said the only items needed to convert a gasoline-engine auto to a water burner was an electrolytic carburetor and installation of a generator of double normal capacity for the breaking down of the water.

He claimed instant starts in any weather, no fire hazards, cooler operation and plenty of power and speed. The car was not marketed, and no one seems to know its ultimate destiny. Both Garretts died a number of years ago.

[A.C. Greene is an author and Texas historian who lives in Salado.]

The Dallas Morning News (September 8, 1935) ~

"Dallasite Patents Invention Which He Claims Substitutes Water for Gasoline as Fuel"

C.H. Garrett, Dallas inventor, gave a private demonstration Saturday of a recently patented contrivance which he said substituted water for gasoline as fuel for internal combustion engines.

He said it broke up the water by electrolysis into its component gases, oxygen and hydrogen, using the highly explosive hydrogen for fuel in the motor cylinder.

The working model operated a four-cylinder engine for several minutes in the demonstration, at varying speeds and with several starts and stops. Garrett said he had operated the engine continuously for more than forty-eight hours.

The inventor said the idea itself was not new. He explained that difficulty had been encountered heretofore in attempts to store the dangerously inflammable hydrogen. He claimed to have avoided that trouble by making and exploding the gas in the same process without a storage chamber in which the flames from the motor cylinders might react.

Water, he explained, is broken down into its component gases by passage of an electric current through it from electrodes immersed in the water. Hydrogen collects at the negative pole and oxygen at the positive. The hydrogen, Garrett said, is mixed with air and introduced directly into the cylinders..

The inventor said he had been working on the device for eight years, assisted by his father, Henry Garrett, traffic signal engineer for the city of Dallas, inventor of the traffic signal system, now in use here and holder of several patents on such contrivances.

Garrett said attachment of the electrolytic carburetor and installation of a generator of about double normal capacity to furnish power for the breaking down of the water were the only changes needed to convert a gasoline burning automobile into a water burner!

He said the electrolysis chamber would have to vary in size with the size of the motor used, one of about a quart capacity being big enough for the ordinary automobile.

He claimed instantaneous starting in any weather, elimination of fire hazards, cooler motor operation and fulfilling of all motor requirements in power and speed.

US Patent # 2,006,676

( July 2, 1935 ~ Cl. 204-5 )

Electrolytic Carburetor

Charles H. Garrett

This invention relates to carburetors and it has particular reference to an electrolytic carburetor by means of which water may be broken up into its hydrogen and oxygen constituents and the gases so formed suitably mixed with air.

The principal object of the invention is to provide in a device of the character described, a mechanism by means of which water may be readily decomposed into its constituents, and the constituents intimately mixed with each other and with air.

Another object of the invention is to provide means whereby the electrolyte level in the carburetor may be maintained at a more or less constant level regardless of fluctuations in fluid pressure at the fluid inlet of the carburetor.

Another object of the invention is to provide means whereby the relative amount of air mixed with the hydrogen and oxygen may be regulated as desired.

Still another object of the invention is the provision of means to prevent loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases during periods in which these gases are not being drawn from the carburetor.

Still another object of the invention is the provision of means whereby the hydrogen and oxygen resulting from electrolysis may be formed in separate compartments, and a further object of the invention is the provision of means to periodically reverse the direction of current flow and thereby alternate the evolution of the gases in the separate compartments, to be later intermingled.

With the foregoing objects as paramount, the invention has particular reference to its salient features of construction and arrangement of parts, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein: -

Figure 1 is a view in vertical section of one form of carburetor.

Figure 2 is a modified form.

Figure 3 is a diagrammatic view of a pole changer, showing its actuating mechanism, and

Figure 4 is a wiring diagram for the modified form of carburetor shown in Figure 2.

Continuing more in detail with the drawings, reference is primarily directed to Figure 1 in which the reference numeral 1designates the carburetor housing, which is preferably constructed of bakelite or other suitable insulating material. The housing 1 is so designed as to divide the carburetor into a float chamber 2 and gas generating chamber 4, connected by a fluid passage 3.

Water under pressure is forced into the carburetor through an opening 5 which communicates with the float chamber 2 through the medium of the sediment chamber 6 and the needle valve orifice 7, which is closed by a needle valve 8 when the device is not in operation. A float 9 surrounds the needle valve 8 and is free to move vertically relative thereto. Depending from the cover 10 to the float chamber 2 are two ears 11, located at spaced intervals on opposite sides of the needle valve 8. The members 12 are pivoted to the ears 11, as shown. The weighted outer ends of the members 12 rest on top of the float 9, and their inner ends are received in an annular groove in the collar 13 which is rigidly attached to the needle valve 8.

Within the gas generating chamber 4, a series of spaced, depending plates 14 are suspended from a horizontal member 15 to which a wire 16 has electrical contact through the medium of the bolt 17, which extends inwardly through the housing 1 and is threaded into the horizontal member 15.
A second series of plates 18 is located intermediate the plates 14 and attached to the horizontal member 19, and has electrical contact with the wire 20 through the bolt 21.

A gas passageway 22, in which a butterfly valve 23 is located, communicates with the gas generating chamber 4 through an orifice 24. An air inlet chamber 25 has communication with the gas passageway 22 above the orifice 24. A downwardly opening check valve 26 is in control of the openings 27, and is held inoperatively closed by means of light spring 28.

An adjustable auxiliary air valve 29 is provided in the wall of the gas passageway 22, which air valve is closed by the butterfly valve 23 when the butterfly valve is closed, but communicates with the outside air when the butterfly valve is open.

The operation of the device is as follows :

The chambers 2 and 4 are first filled to the level 'a' with a solution of weak sulphuric acid or other electrolyte not changed by the passage of current therethrough, and the opening 5 is connected to a tank of water, not shown.

The wire 16 is next connected to the positive pole of a storage battery or other source of direct current and the wire 20 to the negative pole. Since the solution within the carburetor is a conductor of electricity, current will flow therethrough and hydrogen will be given off from the negative or cathode plates 18 and oxygen from the positive or anode plates 14.

The butterfly valve 23 is opened and the gas passageway 22 brought into communication with a partial vacuum. Atmospheric pressure acting on the top of the check valve 26 causes it to be forced downwardly as shown in dotted lines. The hydrogen and oxygen liberated from the water at the plates 18 and 14 are drawn upwardly through the orifice 24 covered by the check valve 30 where they are subsequently mixed with air entering through the openings 27 and through the auxiliary air valve 29.

When it is desired to reduce the flow of hydrogen and oxygen from the plates 18 and 14, the current flowing through the device is reduced, and when the current is interrupted the flow ceases. When the butterfly valve 23 is moved to closed position, the check valve 26 is automatically closed by the spring 28. Any excess given off during these operations is stored in the space above the fluid where it is ready for subsequent use.

Water is converted into its gaseous constituents by the device herein described, but the dilute sulphuric acid or other suitable electrolyte in the carburetor remains unchanged, since it is not destroyed by electrolysis, and the parts in contact therewith are made of bakelite and lead or other material not attacked by the electrolyte.

The structure shown in Figure 2 is substantially the same as that shown in Figure 1 with the exception that the modified structure embraces a larger gas generating chamber which is divided by means of an insulating plate 31and is further provided with a depending baffle plate 32 which separates the gas generating chamber 33 from the float chamber 34 in which the float 35 operates in the same manner as in Figure 1. Moreover, the structure shown in Figure 2 provides a series of spaced depending plates 36 which are electrically connected to the wire 37, and a second series of similar plates 38 which are electrically connected to the wire 39 and are spaced apart from the plates 36 by the insulating plate 31.

Gases generated on the surfaces of the plates 36 and 38 pass upward through the orifice 39a into the gas passageway 40 where they are mixed with air as explained in the description of Figure 1.

A pipe 51 bent as shown in Figure 2 passes downwardly through the housing of the carburetor and has a series of spaced apertures 'a' in its horizontal portion beneath the plates 36 and 38. An upwardly opening check valve 53 is in control of the air inlet 54. When a partial vacuum exists in the chamber 33, air is drawn in through the opening 54 and subsequently passes upwardly through the apertures 'a'. This air tends to remove any bubbles of gas collecting on the plates 36 and 38 and also tends to cool the electrolyte. The check valve 53 automatically closes when a gas pressure exists within the carburetor and thereby prevents the electrolyte from being forced out of the opening 54.

In order to provide for alternate evolution of the gases from the plates 36 and 38, a pole changer 41, shown in Figure 3 is provided, which is actuated periodically by the motor 42 which drives the worm 43 and the gear 44 and causes oscillations of the member 45 which is connected by a spring 46 to the arm 47, thereby causing the pole changer to snap from one position to the other.

In operation, the carburetor shown in Figure 2 is connected as shown in the wiring diagram of Figure 4. A storage battery 48 or other suitable source of direct current is connected to a variable rheostat 49, switch 50, pole changer 41 and to the carburetor as shown. Thus the rate of evolution of the gases can be controlled by the setting of the rheostat 49 and the desired alternate evolution of the gases in the compartments of the carburetor is accomplished by means of the periodically operated pole changer 41.

Manifestly, the construction shown is capable of considerable modification and such modification as is considered within the scope and meaning of the appended claims is also considered within the spirit and intent of the invention.

KeelyNet BBS Commentaries ~

Garrett Electrolytic Carburetor Misconceptions
(24 Jun 2001)

This is a letter I received based on a file first posted on the KeelyNet BBS in 1993 and now posted at

77 year old Norman Green in the UK writes;


I enjoy your stuff printed in the magazine 'Nexus'. I am sorry that you receive rude or insulting letters. The June-July 2001 'Nexus' gives your address, so I would like to give a delayed comment on your article in 1998, Nexus Volume 5, issue 3, about Charles Garrett's Electrolytic Carburetor.

You did a great job in digging up the patent, and finding newspaper coverage. I now write entirely from memory, as I threw away that issue of 'Nexus'.

> Thank you for the polite introduction and compliments, however, I have often found when people begin a communication with unusual politeness or
> 'schmoozing', it usually indicates they are up to something, so my radar goes on and shields go up...

You were impressed by the plan for the electrolytic carburetor. Sadly, I thought then you had not studied physics or thermodynamics. Because regretfully, if you were impressed, Garrett had you 'suckered' --- unwittingly perhaps.

> I still believe Garrett did produce what he said. I wasn't 'suckered' into the idea that hydrogen and oxygen can be produced 'on the fly' as needed to keep a four cylinder engine operating as witnessed by many at the time who knew Garretts reputation AND WERE THERE. Your information is incomplete as well as based on faulty premises 'reinforced' by a faulty memory as I will explain. I wrote then to Nexus, but my thoughts were not presented as clearly as they ought to have been, they ere just initial ramblings.

> After studying your letter, unfortunately nothing has changed...

Will you allow me to write you now an analysis of Garrett's Carburetor, with greater clarity than my 1998 ramblings? This is all from memory, I'm not going to check figures again:

Charles Garrett describes an electrolytic carburetor which can be attached to an ordinary automobile engine.

A SMALL automobile engine uses around one gram of petrol per second. In one hour this is 60 X 60 grams, 3.6 kg. That is AROUND one gallon.

Now if the same engine were supplied with HYDROGEN as a fuel, it will require the same ENERGY content. From memory, I think 0.6 gram of hydrogen has the energy of 1 gram of petrol. Fair enough, so far.

> Mistake #1 - Garrett was not using JUST hydrogen, he was also mixing it with oxygen and outside air which radically changes the power, combustibility and amounts of hydrogen and oxygen gas needed to be produced which of course determines the amount of current required, add to that the addition of outside air and it is a quite different set of conditions than just pure hydrogen. Aside from that I have received emails from two people CLAIMING they do run both 6 and 8 cylinder vehicles from hydrogen with no problems and with the gas generated 'on the fly' from several parallel batteries.

Now, hydrogen is the worlds lightest substance. What VOLUME of hydrogen weighs 0.6 grams? (From memory) I think it was 3.6 litres. So Mr. Garretts carburetor needs to supply 3.6 litres of hydrogen EVERY SECOND.

Now Mr. Garrett in his description says an electrolytic chamber of 1 quart capacity is suitable to supply an automobile. His patent drawings show an electrolytic chamber apparently smaller than this, judged by the engine manifold connection size.

But consider his 1 quart electrolytic chamber. 1 quart is near 1 litre. The plates between which the electric current flows extend nearly to the bottom of the chamber.

If in a 1 litre chamber, 3.6 litres of hydrogen are produced every second, 1.8 litres are from the bottom half of the chamber.

Well, 1.8 litres of gas every second from the bottom of a 1 litre chamber would blow the surface liquid out. Garretts 1 litre chamber is quite quite inadequate.

Bubbles rise only at a certain rate through a liquid. Between the plates must be more liquid than bubbles, to allow the electrolytic current to flow.

Now I did not do any CALCULATIONS of the following:

But if from an electrolytic tank comes 3.6 litres of hydrogen every SECOND, then the tank must be pretty big to accomodate the rising bubbles without displacing the liquid.

At a wild guess, I could imagine a tank THE SIZE of a ROOM would be needed. If so, the liquid to cover the electrolytic plates would weigh TONS.

> Unfortunately, you DID give a 'wild guess' and you DID imagine based on faulty premises...

So here is the first impracticability of Mr. Garretts idea.

The laws of electrolysis are known with great precision.

From memory, I calculated that to produce 3.6 litres OF HYDROGEN EVERY SECOND from acidulated water would need 130,000 amperes. This current would need two cables as thick as a human arm.

> That depends on the degree of 'acidulation', he does not specify the acid to water mix but I took the information from the Horvath  patent which recommends 25% acid to 75% water, let's also completely the fact he also mixed hydrogen with oxygen and outside air

Assuming that the potential required between plates would be about 3 to 4 volts, say 3, this would be 390 kilowatts of power.

> You can produce hydrogen and oxygen on as little as 1.3 volts, but generally 1.5 volts is used, so much for memory and 'great precision'

OH MR. JERRY, my memory must be at fault, it must have been 30,000 amperes (I'm not going to get my book of physics and re-calculate
everything, as you may not be interested anyway.)

> All based on using pure hydrogen as the only 'fuel' so yes, all this is interesting but not valid because your memory did not recall all the details from the magazine you threw away...the article is on the net and I have referenced it since it was first posted in 1993 and only printed in Nexus 5 years later.

30,000 amperes at 3 volts (and it might need more than 3 volts) = 90,000 watts
746 watts = 1 horsepower
90 kw = 120 horsepower

Yes, I remember 'getting that' in 1998 year. So a generator absorbing 120 horsepower must be driven by the car engine;

a) the generator would be as big as the engine b) the engine could not give that much power, as the average automobile in motion often needs less than 30 horsepower (to cause consumption of 1 gram of petrol per second)

The generator would need more power than the engine could give.

Obviously it must. A petrol engine is only about 25% efficient. 75% of the heat in the fuel goes out of the exhaust and be carried away by the engines cooling system.

So to provide fuel for a 30 horsepower engine (in steady running) would need 120 horsepower of energy supply to 'make' the fuel. Quite logical.

So Mr. Garrett's idea of 'something for nothing' is completely erroneous.

> Here we go again. That was the very reason I wrote the article which made you send the OTHER letter about Yogis etc.. Garrett NEVER CLAIMED his carburetor produced 'something for nothing'...I am surprised you would revert to that old chestnut... it was to convert electrical current initially from a battery to start it then from the 'double sized generator' which passed through the water/acid electrolyte mix to produce combustible gas, that doesn't remotely create 'something from nothing' must have this confused with the Yogi letter you sent earlier...

The Garrett automobile is not going anywhere, with an electrolytic tank bigger than itself weighing tons, and a generator 'killing' the car engine.

> Pure assumption based on hydrogen gas alone...a house of cards...

What about the granting of Garrett's patent? The patent office merely have to confirm that no one else previously has registered the same idea. NOT that it will work.

> That is quite true and unfortunate that EVERY invention does not require a working model before being granted, we should all work to change this.

What about Garrett's demonstration to the press? I would say that in his fanaticism Garrett was sure that he could equal petrol fuelled propulsion, when he had got his invention 'just right'. So meanwhile he could use an ordinary petrol fuelled automobile to demonstrate.

> You do a disservice to a man you never knew or studied, he was well respected by his peers as a prolific and excellent inventor, you weren't there and assume everyone present was an idiot incapable of detecting fraud. I think if Garrett was a fanatic about it, this would have been noted and he would not have dropped it so easily, we are not the only 'smart' humans to have ever lived. Speaking of accomplishments and critiques against respected inventors, what have YOU DONE?

His patent showed exactly how this thing would need to be made, why did he refuse to let the reporters look at his automobile engine?

> Patents RARELY give specific instructions for building as everyone who builds should know, we do. In most patents I have seen key items are left out and/or additional material is added to confuse the design, so if you expect the patent to give you a blueprint for perfect construction, I must inform you that you are living in a dream world. You ASSUME again, none of the articles state that he refused to let anyone examine the engine, the carburetor or anything else. You have apparently worked yourself into a frenzy of irrationality over this and begun projecting your own views which are not supported by history or facts. If its because Nexus would not publish your letter in 1998, I will forward this to Duncan as a charity case, perhaps he will post it but I have nothing to do with whether they print something or not. However, I have been a fan of Nexus and Duncan since it first began and was sold only in Australia.

Garrett was deluded, near crazy, we never heard why his invention never went into general use.

> Again ad hominem, undeserved and completely unwarranted attacks against a well known and respected inventor of his time, it never 'went into general use' according to the story told to me by A.C. Greene because he felt cheated on his invention of the 3 way automatic traffic light which was not covered by European patents.

So you will appreciate that when I read your 'Garrett' article, I laughed to myself when you said you were considering trying to make one. Did anyone else tell you?

> So too did I laugh to myself on reading the incredible amount of time you put into this based on faulty memories and lack of information where; 1 - you assume Garrett used only hydrogen; 2 - you assume he cheated on the demonstration and everyone then was too stupid or gullible to have checked out possible fraud; 3 - you assume he was crazy and/or deluded based on what??? 4 - you assume all the people and reporters at the time were idiots; and would not have checked any of his claims or his reputation; 5 - you assume you can only produce electrolysis based on laws of 'great precision' which you quote as using 3-4 volts but which in fact can run as low as 1.3 volts generally 1.5 is the most efficient voltage; 6 - you mention acidulated water but do not express the amount; which changes the conductivity considerably as it increases; 7 - you fail to realize he describes components to deal not only to adjust for pressure but also vacuum; 8 - you assume a storage tank where none exists since he made it 'on the fly', meaning as it was required where current flow to the plates was controlled by a throttle type rheostat; 9 - you conveniently ignore the statement of a double sized electrical generator to provide extra current

Compliments, Norman

> In a PS, he writes many narrow pages that aren't properly sequenced; Mr. Garrett never described any separation of the hydrogen and oxygen gases from the differing potential plates. Well, if the electrolytic tank was as big as his automobile, and had hydrogen and oxygen in their most explosive proportions in it, imagine a 'flash back' into the big tank. It would go off like a bomb. I'm so sorry I was not there to save Mr. Garrett from a lot of heartbreak and expense. The patent agent did a good job on presenting the patent specification and drawings.

Cables to carry 30,000 amperes would be of area of copper of at least 1.5 square inches, almost 4 inches square, if square, as thick as your arm. How utterly ludicrous to think of two cables as thick as your arm being bolted to Garrett's patent drawing of his carburetor, or even to a 1 quart tank.

It would MELT at that current, IF it were able to pass. Oh dear Jerry, you were 'impressed'.

> I remain impressed with Garrett because I can read the details and not assume so much as to build a house of cards which tumbles from its own incredible confused memories, almost none of which are based on what Garrett really said or did or what was reported clearly in the original document. I still want to build one of his carburetors as closely as I can to the patent but having the common sense (well, over here in the US at least) to realize he probably left some detail out which the article says took them 8 years to figure out completely. Now, what have YOU DONE that remotely equals Garretts accomplishments? It always sounds a warning bell for me when no one can produce the same phenomena witnessed by so many and under the same conditions yet are the first to yell fraud. Thanks for writing, you are the weakest link, g'bye!

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