For general enquiries,
Since its foundation in 2000, Steorn has worked on innovative technologies in a number of areas, including e-commerce, anti-fraud, and energy for companies ranging from start-ups to multi-nationals.
The Steorn team brings together a wealth of experience from diverse industries including engineering, energy, research and information technology. A highly-focused, integrated approach to our work allows us to drive projects forward with clarity and vision.
With a range of services from project management to prototype
development and testing, Steorn has brought its experience and
expertise to bear on complex projects and technologies,
creating and capturing Intellectual Property and turning
concepts into reality.
The development of Orbo® follows on from results of tests on a custom designed permanent magnet generator carried out during mid 2004. Orbo technology is based on electromagnetic interactions concerning domain rotation within ferromagnetic materials, specifically the phenomenon of delayed magnetic field propagation.
Delayed magnetic field propagation is a limited area of exploration within the physics community, while there are a number of papers that detail the test method and examination, no papers to date have gone as far as the research conducted by Steorn.
The development of this technology is continuous as work progresses to the end goal of providing a safe, stable and continuous electrical power output.
As core research and development continues a number of other technologies have been developed as a direct result, these technologies are either based on Orbo interactions or spin-outs from implementations of Orbo.
These ancillary technologies include low frequency induction
heating operating on AC line frequency without the need for
intervening electronics, hybrid passive magnetic bearings and
a range of rotary torque measurement systems for magnetic
Amidst all the talk about Steorn's spectacularly failed
demonstration, it's easy to overlook the most interesting new
bit of information that did come out of all this -- Steorn
finally revealed what a working Orbo looks like. It appears
that their press package for what they seem to have
anticipated would be a successful media event included photos
of Sean holding an Orbo device, and the central "rotor" disc
does look to be spinning. The photo showed up in several
articles during the past week, including coverage by the BBC.
Whether the Orbo is capable of working as claimed is as yet unknown, but that hasn't stopped people from analyzing how it's put together and how it would work if it could. Steorn forum member Axle posted several images showing an exploded view of the Orbo based on the published photos:
The "stator" is shown in green and blue, and contains a circular arrangement of eight magnets fitted into slots around the periphery of a central cavity. In that cavity spins the "rotor", with four magnets around its circumference. The stator and rotor are connected by two bearings, seen in orange -- the weak links that, according to Sean, put an end to the demo.
Some of this detail is conjecture, given the quality of the photos that the design is drawn from. The design resembles a variation of a classic magnet motor, a recurring motif among attempts to create perpetual motion machines. A magnet motor cannot generate more energy than is put into it because, due to the way magnetic fields work, there will either be a stable state where the rotor is being pushed in one direction just as strongly as it is being pushed in the other direction, or else the operation of the motor will progressively weaken the magnets themselves until the spinning stops. If Orbo does work, then it's doing something very unusual with the configuration of magnets, perhaps (according to Sean) somehow taking advantage of the time variance involved in the effect of magnetic viscosity. (Some members of the Overunity forum are trying to figure out how this might work).
Until (and unless) Steorn reveals just how their Orbo is put together, all we can do is make speculations based on what little we have seen. But if Sean is holding a spinning Orbo device in these published photos, I think we can narrow down the possibilities of what it actually is to these four:
1) A fake -- hidden in there somewhere is a battery, strong enough to keep the device running for a few days (or maybe, as it turned out, just a few hours).
2) A type of "magnet motor" that will spin for a while, during which time the magnets themselves are weakened, eventually stopping the motion. This is in direct contradiction with Steorn's statement that tests showed no weakening of the magnets... but we've seen that Steorn's engineers (like any, to be fair) are not infallible.
3) A very low friction magnet motor that will keep spinning if held and jostled a bit, but that without this small input of energy will eventually slow to a halt. It's possible that such a device could have fooled Steorn into believing they had a perpetual motion machine. This is difficult to reconcile with Sean's claim that a test Orbo has been run continuously for several weeks, however -- unless it was being carefully cradled by a hopeful and deluded energy source for part of that time.4) It just might, of course, be the real thing.
Prior to their recent failed demo, Steorn made a number of preparations that would seem to indicate complete confidence on their part that the demo would be a spectacular success. They readied a stunning and provocative demonstration space, called in the media, and were set to stream the event live over the web. They also paid to fly in a knowledgeable physicist and skeptical forum member known as DrMike, offering him a chance to inspect the Orbo up close and report his findings.
Steorn's demo fell apart before it began. DrMike had the opportunity to talk with Sean, hear his apologies and explanations, fiddle with magnets in the small workshop Steorn had set up at the demo site, hear Steorn's story about how Orbo defies conservation of energy, and chat physics with other scientists who had shown up for the demo.
His opinion after seeing all of this? Orbo is nothing more than a delusion inside the mind of Sean McCarthy.
Sean lives in a world of delusion. His greatest strength is the ability [to] convince people of things, and it is also his greatest weakness. I am certain that Sean has seen a "start - stop" device operating. That it never existed outside his mind doesn't matter.
DrMike's full report states the case a bit more tactfully, but no less damningly:
I am certain Steorn really believed I would see something that resembled their claim... Watching Sean and listening to him talk (and boy can he talk!!) I am convinced he has seen everything he describes. Unfortunately, the rest of us have not... My conclusion after going through all this is that Steorn is neither hoax nor scam. It is delusion. The reason it seems surreal is because it is surreal - we are the real part of someone else's imagination.
What's more, after reviewing Steorn's technical documents describing how magnetic viscosity is employed to violate the laws of thermodynamics, DrMike is convinced he sees the flaw in their logic; unfortunately he can't share his idea with us due to Steorn's NDA, so we have little to go by but his confidence.
If it was a hoax, the whole upstairs [workshop] would not exist, nor would Sean have taken the time to go through all the details of how he thinks it all works. I can not describe any of those details without breaking the NDA, so it puts me in a fairly strange position. The flaws in the thought process are clear to me, but Steorn considers these details proprietary information.
There were only ever three classes of possible explanations for Steorn's claim; either it was a purposeful deception, an honest mistake, or a genuine method for generating free energy. Given the actions taken by Sean McCarthy and Steorn over the past year, as well as what we've found out about Steorn's history and finances, I'm willing to bet against the first option, purposeful deception (this would include all forms of deception such as scam, hoax, fraud, marketing tactic, alternate reality game, social experiment, film subject, etc.). DrMike, after having met and spoken at length with Sean and other Steorn employees, is also ready to discard that possibility.
Of the two remaining options, DrMike is convinced that Orbo is an honest mistake on the part of Steorn. But how can a company with dozens of employees, including a number of engineers and PhDs, maintain such a blatantly erroneous belief over the course of several years? DrMike explains this as the result of the force of will and the charismatic persuasion of one deeply delusional man, Sean McCarthy.
This story sounds terribly unlikely at first glance. What about all of Steorn's other engineers, who build and test Orbo devices? Wouldn't they have realized along the way that they had never actually witnessed proof of the basic assumption underlying their work? What about all of Steorn's other employees, hanging on for years as their company abandons "serious" work and devotes itself full-bore to the quixotic quest of defying the most basic laws of science? How could a single man be so delusional as to believe without a speck of evidence that he's accomplished the impossible, and yet preserve a veneer of coherence that allows him to maintain the confidence of his company and investors, and gather an international group of optimistic followers?
As unlikely as this may sound, a combination of delusion and charisma has been used to create mass movements in politics and religion throughout history. And the unlikeliness of this possibility must be weighed against the unlikeliness of its alternative: that despite the conservation of energy being among the most solidly proven and repeatedly demonstrated theories in all of science, and despite hundreds of years of failed empirical effort toward violating that theory, a simple arrangement of permanent magnets has accidentally been shown to create energy from nothing. And recall that no one who has made the pilgrimage to Steorn and is capable of reporting back to the public has yet seen a working Orbo. Not Crank, not Dr. David Timoney, not DrMike.
What does Sean McCarthy have to say these days, in the aftermath of his failed demo and as his mental health is increasingly being questioned? His confidence is unshaken. Recently he answered a series of questions on the Steorn forum, presenting the failed demo as a disappointment, but no more than a temporary obstacle:
Clearly no one involved in the company is happy about the failed demo, but despite this we also need to keep perspective - it's a failed demo[.] It has shaken to the core any confidence that people not involved with the company have, and this is understandable. But we know what we have so things are not as dire as people would like to make them. We will do the demo, and then move on.
About DrMike's allegations against Sean's grasp of reality, he replies:
I guess that in a way I understand his comments, its not true but in the circumstances I doubt that you will believe me.
Sean also gave a post-demo interview on Irish radio recently. He continues to seek media attention and his confidence appears to be intact. In the interview he states that a new public demonstration of Orbo "will not be too far away."
We now have Sean McCarthy, convinced he can pull energy from nowhere, and DrMike, confidant that Sean's claim is impossible and that he knows just where Sean's logic went wrong. Neither of these people are able to produce an ounce of solid evidence. Once again we are left with little information, weighing the odds between the impossible and the impossibler.
Sean asserts that a new and successful demo will occur,
unannounced beforehand, in the near future. He also states
that the previous failure will lead to more openness on
Steorn's part, to public evidence of the reality of Orbo. If
DrMike is right, then none of this will happen -- we'll
never see a working Orbo, because Steorn can't make one and
they won't fake one. As for this author, I'll keep an open
mind to Steorn's claim until the end of the summer. If by
then we haven't seen a working Orbo, I'll agree with DrMike
that, for the good of his family and his employees, Sean
McCarthy had best retire and spend some quality time in the
care of a doctor.
"It's not the end of the Steorn story."
Far from disengaging from the media and quietly skulking away into obscurity, Sean McCarthy gave a fairly in-depth interview to the technology site Engadget that was published today. Much of it is an elaboration of what we have heard already: the reasons for the failure of the demo and Steorn's plans moving forward. Sean directly addresses the notion that the Orbo technology works only in the confines of his own mind, and confidently asserts that a successful demo will occur in the near future. Some excerpts follow:
So we will be doing a demo, again. Obviously people will believe it when they see it and I can understand the skepticism about that. It is a deferral, our guys are currently in the process of rebuilding some more robust systems and changing some parts to prevent the engineering thing from happening again and we'll be back out in the near future with it.
Regarding DrMike's opinion that Orbo is no more than a delusion on the part of Sean:
How can I criticize. We invited the guy to come from Canada to see something. He didn't see it. It's his opinion. He has no other basis, he has nothing else to work on, other than sitting and having a chat with us. I can't possibly criticize, Doctor Mike for what he said. It's exactly what I would have said, I probably would have been harsher if I had been in his shoes.
Again, obviously if I'm delusional, whatever answer I give is going to be based on my own delusions. The only thing that I can say -- I can say a couple of things about it. First thing is that the answer that anybody looking at us and wants to know will ultimately be delivered contractually. It's going to happen whenever it happens from a bunch of scientists. So unless they're delusional as well, if they agree with us then we deal with that at the time. If you stand back from the failed demo and say ok, I don't think anybody should believe this -- I wouldn't believe this in the circumstances, demo or no demo -- there is a process that's in place that's a real process where real scientists are going to draw a conclusion and that conclusion will be made public.
The other side of it which I think is why people have taken the delusional route is because an awful lot of people had expected us to rig the demo. They expected us to have a hidden battery or whatever it is. If we were in that business, believe me, there would have been a spinning wheel. But we're just not in that business, the business of scamming people or rigging demos. It failed, it's prototype technology. Huge disappointment to us. We'll redo it. But the answers to the question -- the demo doesn't answer the question, it provides some thoughts from supporting evidence when it happens. But the answer to the question will be done by professionals and then we're either be found to be delusional or not.
On Steorn's plans going forward:
Obviously we are going to have to redo the demo. There is no question that we are not going to do the demo. We will, as I said before, not pre-announce it this time. We will get it set up properly, but the ground rules will be identical. The ground rules will be physical public access to the device, online webcams so it will be as open as possible. If anybody has seen the intended device and then realizes that it's, well, not impossible obviously to hide a certain energy source, it becomes quite a convoluted process. So we are going to try and demonstrate the technology in it's simplest, simplest format in a place with public access where people can watch online and talk to people there.
That will be one thing we have -- and to invite skeptics along. We have to do that. We have to embrace the skepticism. But equally to understand, these are not intended to be slam dunk results, because they won't be. There will always be issues and rightfully so. A simple demo, no matter how long it lasts, isn't proof of the claim. Proof of the claim is scientific analysis. But we are going to have to do other things as well. I won't go into details, but the biggest mistake that we've made and obviously we have to learn from our mistakes was to pre-announce the London demo. We've paid the price for that, we won't do it again. But we will be doing probably an awful lot more than we had intended. Basically when it happens we'll be letting people know. It will not be that far away.
A final word:
I've met an awful lot of disappointed people. People who came, who believed, who wanted to see history made. Disappointed skeptics, people like Doctor Mike who we dragged half way around the world -- and all I can do is apologize to them and say look it didn't work, but we are going to do it again. It's not the end of the Steorn story. Unfortunately, I'm sure that many people wish they've never heard of us again but we'll be back and we'll be back in the not too distant future.http://www.engadget.com/2007/07/07/steorns-ceo-states-the-obvious-we-screwed-up