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According to a number of conspiracy sites (see Natural News and Newspunch), Buffalo shooting victim Aaron Salter Jr had just invented and patented a gas-free car that runs on water (implying that is why he was shot).

Ignoring the conspiratorial part of the claim (that is why he was shot), is it true that he had just invented a gas-free car? That would be pretty cool.

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    The first article states clearly it's a hydrogen fuel cell (i.e. "based on water") - does this really need challenging? Or are you asking did he invent hydrogen power cells or a variant thereof? He certainly seems to be publicising AWS Hydrogen Technologies LLP. May 26 at 9:34
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    @TheAsh No. No car can run on water. It can run on hydrogen, which can be generated from water using electricity.
    – gerrit
    May 26 at 10:32
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    On Skeptics.SE, we require claims to be notable - they must be widely believed. It is hard to show that, so we accept a proxy of being widely seen or read. A popular article is perfect. Sometimes people confuse this meaning of notabiity with meaning the claim must come from a reliable source. That is not required. I have deleted such comments from this question, to avoid further confusing new users.
    – Oddthinking
    May 26 at 11:49
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    @ShadowRanger: The former is also a common source of stupid fake news that shows up on the front page of Google for a lot of health-related searches, which actually makes it worse because it is very very widely read and believed (7 million unique visitors per month according to wikipedia).
    – user21820
    May 27 at 10:02
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    @gerrit in principle, you could have a steam-powered car which could then be claimed to "run on water" as long as you ignore the annoying detail of needing some energy to convert the water to steam.
    – terdon
    May 27 at 11:05

2 Answers 2

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In short:

  • Is inventor Aaron W. Salter the same man as 2022 Buffalo shooting victim Aaron Salter Jr? Yes.
  • Did Aaron Salter have a patent related to efficiency of hydrogen-power engines? Yes.
  • Did Aaron Salter invent a car that runs on water? Absolutely not.

Was he the same man?

Aaron Salter had a Linked In profile that shows he was both a police officer in Buffalo New York and linked to his company AWS Hydrogen Technologies.

I have been a police officer for the last 27 years the last two I have been in the traffic division, I do the events at the First Niagara Center along with riding the motorcycle doing parades and races around the city of Buffalo. I'm a jack of all trades a master of none I'm always working on my vechicles and or my project of running engines on water for the last four years or so, I would like to realize my dream of getting cars to run off of water using my newly discovered energy source some day.

Images provided by the victim's family, e.g. in People Magazine match this YouTube interview of the inventor: in which he explains he is a Buffalo police officer.

Aaron Salter Jr


Did he have a patent?

Aaron Salter had a patent, filed in 2015 and granted in 2018: Method and system for using the by-product of electrolysis.

An engine system for generating hydrogen and oxygen, and a method using a by-product of electrolysis, for use in an internal combustion engine to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The engine system has an electrolysis cell for generating hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis of an aqueous solution, a battery as a source of power for providing electrical power to the electrolysis cell, and cooling system for maintaining the temperature of the electrolysis cell to reduce problems associated with overheating of the cell during electrolysis. [...]

The patent has expired because fees were not paid.


Does this engine run on water?

In summary, this invention takes some water and a full battery, and ends up with hydrogen, oxygen, some sludge (from water impurities), and a flat battery. The claim is that the sludge can be used to make a hydrogen engine more efficient than other hydrogen engines.

This is not running an engine on water. It is essentially running on a battery. There is a cycle of turning water into hydrogen and oxygen and then back to water again.

In the above interview, he describes building a prototype of an "HHO" fuel system, where the hydrogen is mixed into the fuel intake of a gasoline engine. We have addressed HHO engines on Skeptics.SE before. They do not run on water.

He also describes a system where he ran an electrolysis cell (off a gasoline engine) until he built up enough hydrogen pressure to be able to run the car off hydrogen for several minutes. Again, this is not running off water. The fuel of the overall system is gasoline.

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    and the only reason it makes the car more efficient is that by filtering out the impurities as "sludge" you get rid of blockages in the hydrogen fuel cell that decrease efficiency...
    – jwenting
    May 26 at 13:46
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    And for completeness, it's almost certainly not the reason why he was shot. He was shot because he engaged the shooter in his role as a security guard. (The shooter might have shot him anyhow for the same reason he shot everyone else, of course. But it's highly unlikely he knew anything about the patent or anything relating to it.) May 26 at 18:52
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    Waiting 6 years to kill a man for inventing a "new" type of engine seems excessively long for an assassination attempt. Especially when the articles compare Mr. Salter to another inventor that died suddenly "right after" his invention. I mean, the patent had time to be issued and lapse for non-payment of fees. If the gov wanted to hide the design, they simply wouldn't have issued the patent in the first place, calling it "national security", if people are going to conspiratorial about it. Also, correlations is not causation, and his invention and death are very remotely correlated, if that. May 26 at 19:38
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    @sharur: I disagree linguistically and technically. Linguistically, a layman's definition of "running on water" would be you fill the fuel tank with water (and not gasoline). I think that is what the OP was asking about. Similarly calling my car an "electric car" because it has spark plugs would be misleading. Technically, a gasoline ICE doesn't need the battery once the motor is started. The alternator drives the spark plugs - at least, that's true of my old car.
    – Oddthinking
    May 27 at 7:42
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    @Oddthinking I'll bow out to your superior knowledge of ICE engines (I thought that spark plugs ran off the battery, with the alternator charging the battery while the car was in motion, rather than having a direct path, but its not a place of expertise). And in the described system, it sounded, at least to me, that you would be regularly filling the water reservoir (basically solving the infrastructure problem of transporting hydrogen, by carrying an on-board electrolysis set up to split the water into hydrogen for combustion). It didn't sound to me like the combustion byproduct was captured.
    – sharur
    May 27 at 17:23
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Without knowing anything at all about the shooting or the person, I can state categorically that he did not invent a working water-powered engine for cars.

This is a Physics and Chemistry answer. Water is about as oxidized as it is possible to get. This means there is no way that doing anything with water and air can release significant further amounts of energy. The chemical energy in the hydrogen was all released when it got hitched with oxygen to make water (H2O).

These days they will take your money and give you a patent on almost anything. It's your problem if what you have paid for a patent on, doesn't work in the real universe.

People who might consider assassinating an inventor to suppress his invention, are surely likely to do the sort of due diligence that the patent office doesn't, before embarking on a course of action which could end with life in prison or maybe even the electric chair. So there's this against the conspiracy theorizing.

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    "Water is about as oxidized as it is possible to get" <-- ClF3 would like to have a word with you. ;-) May 27 at 15:23
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    @computercarguy any sane person (except for a con-man) would call that a sodium- or whatever- powered car. Water-powered clearly implies that it's using water in place of petrol or diesel or other fuel, which is impossible.
    – nigel222
    May 27 at 16:22
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    ClF3 and similar exotics are why I said "about as oxidized". Things that will oxidize water are things that will never be allowed as car fuel!
    – nigel222
    May 27 at 16:25
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    @computercarguy: Those "sodium and anything else that reacts with water" things you mentioned do not oxidize water. They reduce water, and are themselves oxidized. ClF3 is in a totally different category because "its oxidizing ability surpasses oxygen's".
    – Ben Voigt
    May 27 at 20:38
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    This is not an answer that addresses the specifics of the question, as it only deals with a theoretical chemically powered car using water as fuel. But even theoretically, one could imagine a physically water-powered car (e.g. (1) a high reservoir of water on the car being used to covert potential energy to motion, or (2) a car being pushed by jets of water from the road), which again would only be relevant if that had been an invention by someone called Aaron Salter.
    – Henry
    May 28 at 18:01

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