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Steorn finally goes supernova as company that promised ‘free energy’ completes liquidation process


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But now Steorn has gone supernova, with its liquidation completed last week, just over seven years after the winding-up began. During its relatively short, shiny life, it had raised as much as €20m from hopeful investors.

Steorn was founded by Sean McCarthy and he convinced investors that it had invented a perpetual motion machine – dubbed Orbo – that relied on magnets. The company claimed to have discovered an “anomaly” in the laws of physics.

That ‘discovery’ came about as Steorn hunted for a way to efficiently power cameras for ATM surveillance in order to detect fraud.

In 2006, knowing his ‘invention’ would be met with derision from swathes of the international physics community, Mr McCarthy advertised in the Economist magazine for a panel of the “most cynical possible” experts to validate, or debunk, his invention. The panel eventually comprised 22 people and was led by Ian McDonald, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Alberta.

Three years later, the jury debunked the claims.

“The unanimous verdict of the jury is that Steorn’s attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy,” Mr McDonald said in 2009. “The jury is therefore ceasing work.”

But well-heeled investors – hundreds of them – had stumped up millions of euro for Steorn over the course of more than a decade.

They were betting that Mr McCarthy’s invention would generate huge financial returns for them by creating free energy.

Even in 2012 – years after the expert jury dismissed the company’s invention – money was still flowing into its coffers. That year, it raised €433,000 from backers.

But by 2016, the flow of money had dried up. Mr McCarthy said he was liquidating Steorn and the company entered that process in early 2017.

A final creditors’ meeting was held last week by liquidator David Van Dessel of Deloitte.

His final liquidator’s statement shows that creditors had been due just under €344,000, with €157,000 owed to preferential creditors. It had virtually no assets at the time it was voluntarily wound up, with the liquidator realising assets of just over €80,000.

“We didn’t set out to do this,” said Mr McCarthy in a 2007 interview with Endgadget. “We stumbled upon it. I wouldn’t believe a word of it if I wasn’t working here.”

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