We haven’t really dealt sufficiently with technowoo (like this), and probably ought to remedy the situation somewhat. There is, for instance, a multitude of fuel-saving devices on the market – products and techniques that purportedly help your car save energy by, well, customers not knowing much about physics or chemistry, and one such item is the inset fuel stabilizer (IFS), invented by one Bob Pearson. The IFS putatively aligns fuel and air molecules “in an energy field” so that they completely burn inside the Stabilizer (some discussion here) thereby improving economy. The device was marketed by something called Inset Industries, of which we have been able to locate little information, but John Nacco is – or was – one of their spokespeople and Executive Vice President.
So, how exactly does IFS create the energy field? Well, according to Nacco the molecules that make up hydrocarbon fuels are surrounded by a positive charge, which will attract other fuel molecules, and removing the positive charge will make the molecules repel each other, thereby allowing oxygen molecules to attach themselves to individual fuel molecules instead of having to bond to clusters of fuel molecules. The increased level of oxygen in the mix will then produce a more even burn and result in close to 100 percent combustion of the fuel molecules. How positively charged molecules attract each other, how negatively charged ones repel rather than attract positively charged ones, or how oxygen molecules, which are neither positively nor negatively charged, get attracted to the negatively charged fuel “molecules” is not really explained, but if you ask those questions you are probably not in the target audience for IFS anyways. (You should probably not ask for evidence of near 100 percent combustion of fuel molecules or his claim that the fuel stabilizer lower the emissions readings become. This is not about evidence. This is about balancing chakras and monetary sacrifices to appease the fuel gods.) Inset Industries also has some testimonials, mostly from unnamed sources, and some indecipherable charts.
NASCAR racer Dean Gullik actually used the device and reported that he felt that his race car got more power. A test of horsepower with and without the IFS revealed no difference, so Gullik and Nacco claimed instead that the increased power wasn’t from increased horsepower but due to a change in “the torque curve.” Meanwhile, NASCAR allowed Gullik to continue to use the device because it obviously had no positive effect on performance.
Diagnosis: We have no information of the current whereabouts of Mr. Nacco or Mr. Pearson– Inset Industries may be defunct at present – and they seem to be relatively minor characters. Nor are we really completely convinced they must necessarily have believed the claims he made on behalf of IFS. Still, technowoo is widespread, often strikingly similar to medical woo, and deserving of exposure and as much ridicule as it can get.
Hat tip: Skepdic