Magnetic water treatment and pseudoscience

On this page:

Magnetism is a mysterious phenomenon to most people, and even many of us who have taken a few courses in college physics often don't feel we really "understand" it. In the 19th century, hucksters and scam artists were taking advantage of the public's ignorance of magnetism by offering fraudulent magnetic products to treat everything from baldness to impotence, and an even wider variety of magical wonders are being hawked over the Internet nowadays.

The purpose of this Web page is to examine the scientific validity of the claims for magnetic products, especially those related to water, in order to help counter some of the sales hype that is rampant in this field and has given it something of a bad name. Many of these claims relate to scientific principles that are frequently mis-stated or are simply wrong, but which may not be recognized as such by those whose command of chemistry and physics is lacking. It is hoped that this information will help consumers to make their own informed decisions about the validity of these products.

 

 

Magnetic water softening and scale control

There is a long history of the promotion of magnets to alleviate the "hardness" of mineral-containing waters, and particularly to control the deposition of scale in teapots, plumbing systems, evaporators, and boilers. There are now a large variety of devices on the market that claim to reduce scale deposition, and some claim to "soften" the water as well. The earlier devices mostly employed permanent magnets, but many now use alternating magnetic or electrostatic fields. The magnetic field surrounds the pipe at some point and penetrates it from all sides. This obviously limits its use to non-ferrous pipes such as copper or plastic.

Although magnetic water treatment (MWT) products have been promoted since the 1930's, they have not received very wide acceptance within the engineering community, and the question of whether or not they are effective is still very much open. The widespread marketing of MWT products to consumers via the Internet has done little to settle the issue.

 

About "hard" water

These waters contain the "hardness ions" (mainly Ca2+, Mg2+, and bicarbonate ion HCO3) in solution, often at concentrations that chemists term supersaturated, meaning that various disturbances (microscopic protuberances on the container surface, or the presence of suitable "seed" particles) will cause these ions to precipitate as carbonates, typically CaCO3 and MgCO3 (solid bicarbonates of these metals do not exist.) These carbonates, unlike most salts, have solubilities that decrease at higher temperatures, so they tend to selectively deposit out on heat-exchanger surfaces such as boiler tubes.

here is a brief discussion of water hardness and its origins;
for more details, see this Wikipedia page.

What it's supposed to do

The purpose of MWT is of course to inhibit scale deposition; whether it can also "soften" the water in the sense of removing the ions of calcium and similar elements that form soap scum and leave deposits on evaporation is not clear.

Most descriptions of MWT don't claim to remove the hardness ions from the water (as conventional ion-exchange softeners do). Most commonly the lime scale solids are said to either deposit in a loosely adherent flake-like form, or to precipitate as small particles within the water itself instead of on metal surfaces. In either case, the precipitated material is carried along with the water.

But I see two difficulties with this explanation:

Another common claim is that MWT causes calcium carbonate to precipitate as aragonite, a crystalline modification of CaCO3 that is slightly less stable (and more soluble) than the much more common calcite structure. Some evidence for this has been reported in the literature[]. But it is not clear that the physical properties of aragonite differ all that much from those of calcite.

Permanent magnets and alternating electromagnetic fields

Most of the permanent magnet devices employ a sequence of magnets, arranged so that the water passes alternately through magnetized and non-magnetized regions. This is probably based on the experiments of Kronenberg (see below) who found that a sequence of magnets was more effective. The alternating-current devices can presumably duplicate this effect with a single coil as shown at the right. Most of these use a frequency in the 100-1000 hz region. Some excite the coil with square waves rather than with sine waves in the apparent hope that of the large number of frequency components so generated, some will be more effective than others.

Instructions for building your own MWT device are available at this site
(which also sells magnets.)
This might make a nice Science Fair project!

 

Does MWT work?

Can MWT control scale deposition? Does it really soften the water? One might think that the question of whether magnetic water treatment is effective would by now have long been settled by scientific and engineering studies, but this is unfortunately not the case.

Sometimes the subject of MWT reminds me of those Monty Python apartment towers that were able to stand up only as long as the residents had faith in them!

The remainder of this page deals mainly with permanent-magnet MWT devices. For examples of electromagnetic scale control and even more dubious technologies, please see my AquaCrack and CatScams pages.

What's been written about MWT

Except for the LSBU source described immediatly below, most of these publications should be generally understandable by non-specialists. For more references that pertain to experiments on model systems which have appeared in the scientific literature, please see my water science page.

Water Structure and Science is probably the most comprehensive and best-organized Web site devoted to water. It is maintained by Prof. Martin Chaplin of London South Bank University. On his page Descaling of Water he summarizes the present literature of MWT and provides the actual references for those who wish to persue them. See also his Magnetic and electric effects on water page.

"Magnetic water and fuel treatment: myth, magic, or mainstream science?" This article, by Mike Powell, a chemical engineer, appeared in the Skeptical Enquirer 22(1) 27-31 1998. The author provides a few references, practically all to non-refereed journals and conference proceedings of dubious quality. Powell observes that "the utter lack of published data is revealing. According to the vendors, magnetic fuel treatment has been around for fifty years. If it actually worked as claimed, it seems likely that it would by now be commonplace. It is not."

Effect of magnetic water treatment on homogeneous and heterogeneous precipitation of calcium carbonate. One of the most thorough studies on this subject was published by a group in France in 2006 (Fathi et al, Water Research 40 (2006) 1941-1950). Using a system in which a supersaturated solution of CaCO3 was repeatedly circulated through a magnetic field, they found that the mass eventually precipitated was greater than in the absence of the field. The effect was greater at higher flow rates (with or without the field) and treatment durations of up to 15 minutes.  The effect is  more pronounced for homogeneous nucleation than for heterogeneous nucleation. Although the mechanism is not clear, the authors suggest that the magnetic field may affect hydration changes as ion pairs [Ca2+ CO32–]0 form.

A lot of articles appearing in the technical (as opposed to peer-reviewed scientific) literature are written by people whose apparent ignorance of physics and chemistry leads them to concoct unrealistic theories of how MWT might work.

A good example is the very well-written but scientifically dubious 1997 article Quinn C. J., Sanderson C. W, Molden, T.C, "Magnetic treatment of water prevents mineral build-up", published in 8/97 Iron and Steel Engineer

Klaus J. Kronenberg: "Experimental evidence for the effects of magnetic fields on moving water." IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, Vol MAG-21, No. 3, Sept 1985 (2059-2061).

In this paper which is often cited as the classical original investigation of MWT, the author describes the changes in the morphology of calcium carbonate crystals formed by evaporation of water that has been passed through a sequence of several magnetic fields. The effect of the treatment is to change the crystals from a dendritic form to smaller disk-shaped forms (that presumably are less likely to form a scale-- but this is not tested.) The curious thing is that the water seems to "remember" the treatment-- evaporation and crystallization were carried out in a field-free environment. The need for the water to flow past a succession of magnets (up to 16) at a specific velocity prompts Kronenberg to suggest that "the interaction between the magnetic fields and the hydrogen bonds is amplified to the breaking point by resonance." The idea is that the breaking up of the (H2O)n complexes somehow releases dissolved ions that promote nucleation of the smaller crystals. The observed effect lasts for up to two days.

It is difficult to assess this paper. His experimental results are interesting (there are photographs of the crystals), but much of the interpretation strikes me as suspect. Even more off-putting is the quotation attributed to him in the section on agricultural applications.

The Effectiveness of a magnetic physical water treatment device on scaling in domestic hot-water storage tanks. C. Smith, P Coetzee and J. Meyers. Water SA 29(3) 2003. Available as a PDF download.

These South African authors have produced what strikes me as a very well-done study, one of the few that reports scientifically credible evidence for the effectiveness of MWT. Their series of experiments in which one of two parallel heaters was fitted with a permanent magnet device showed scale formation reductions varying over a rather wide range (17-70%), with an average of 34%.

Tests of non-chemical scale control devices in a once-through system. G.J.C. Limpert and J.L. Raber. Materials Performance, Vol. 24, No. 10, 40-45, (1985), Oct.

The abstract of this 10-year study at the 3M Corporation reads as follows:

"Experiments were conducted in a test heat exchanger system to evaluate 10 non-chemical scale and corrosion control devices. These devices may perform either by electrostatic, magnetic, electronic, or catalytic mechanisms. Chemical tests also compared results with non-chemical systems to insure the test conditions were not so severe that scale prevention was impossible. Water from a single deep well known to cause calcium carbonate scale when heated was used in all tests. The test heat exchanger was a two-tube shell and tube with steam applied to the shell side. Water flow was either in series or parallel through the two tubes,depending on the desired test conditions. No device tested significantly reduced the amount of scale formed, compared to the controls. Proprietary chemicals containing phosphorous reduced scale formation almost completely."

An internal report (PDF format) by a group of engineers at the U.S. Dept of Energy's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory describes a carefully-done series of experiments that failed to reveal any beneficial effects of MWT at one of their water treatment facilities.

The [in]famous Dept of Energy report

{Non-chemical technologies for scale and hardness control}. This 1998 document which has been withdrawn from circulation was a Federal Technology Alert from the U.S. Department of Energy that presented a suspiciously uncritical case for both magnetic and electrostatic water treatment. It provided no references to support the claims made, and the explanations of how these devices are supposed to work were scientifically naive. The report was apparently compiled by the Battelle Research Institute, which may have farmed out some of the work to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

This report also mentions an electrostatic method of water treatment in which "a surface charge is imposed on the ions so that they repel instead of attract each other." This is ridiculous.

It is worrisome that the U.S. Department of Energy, which also looks after nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, should have its name associated with such sophomoric science. This is likely not an uncommon result of what happens when research organizations go grubbing for government money for projects in which neither they nor the sponsoring agency have scientifically competent personnel available to review the work.

Some engineering studies

In a Technical Paper presented at the 2004 International Water Conference in
Pittsburgh, Chemical Engineer Timothy Keister of ProChemTech International says that

In contrast to the testimonials common to NCD [non-chemical devices] marketing literature, the many controlled studies undertaken by various government and industrial organizations have resulted in a consensus opinion that NCD are not capable of producing the effects claimed in the literature. In general, the theories advanced by the NCD suppliers to explain operation of their devices show a lack of agreement with accepted scientific principles. In spite of an extensive history of installation failures, findings of no effect in controlled studies, and no acceptable theory of operation; new NCD are accepted in the market on a routine basis, often obtaining significant sales before the inevitable disasters result in that particular device being discredited.

In a several very detailed case histories, Mr. Keister concludes that in every instance, the observed reduction in scaling could be attributed to changes in operating procedures or to other aspects of water chemistry, particularly the presence of phosphates.

One of his Web pages contains links to other detailed studies on a variety of alternative devices.

WQA Magnetics Task Force Report

This 2001 report describes a survey of 106 technical papers on MWT and presents detailed summaries of the 34 articles that were judged to meet the scientific criteria established by the group. None of these articles addressed the question of whether or not MWT or PWT "works", nor was this judgment made by the Task Force, whose main objective was simply to bring together scientifically useful information that might inform further research in the field.

So, does MWT work? No clear answer!

For some users, MWT seems to be effective in controlling scale deposition; there are too many favorable anecdotal reports to dismiss it entirely. Looking at the carefully done studies on actual installations, the results are mixed. This suggests that the conditions under which MWT is effective are dependent on factors that are not well understood. Scientific studies on model systems suggest that magnetic fields can have subtle effects on water[] and can affect carbonate precipitation[], even though H2O molecules are not paramagnetic. Some studies have shown that the presence of certain substances in the water can affect scale precipitation; these include iron ions, phosphates, silica[], and oxygen.

Still, there is no scientific consensus about the mechanism of how MWT might work. This is not surprising; the entire process by which ions form precipitation nuclei is poorly understood. "Bare" ions do not exist in solution, but are protected by a hydration shell of loosely-attached water molecules and surrounded by an electric double layer of counter-ions. They do not simply come together to form precipitates. My best guess, based on the most recent literature, is that applied magnetic and electric fields might distort the double-layer in such a way as to promote nuclei formation, particularly if certain other ions or dissolved substances are present.

Some common misconceptions

Water can be "magnetized" In order to become "magnetized", a molecule must not only be paramagnetic (contain an unpaired electron), but groups of molecules must be able to align themselves into local regions ("domains") that amplify the effect and retain their orientation for a long time. The effect is known as "ferromagnetism" and as far as I know has only been observed in solids, the most well known, of course, being metallic iron.
MWT works by forcing oppositely-charged ions to move in opposite directions in the water, promoting collisions of charge-pairs that result in the formation of crystallization nuclei within the water. This is the basis of magnetohydrodynamics and is known in plasmas (ionized gases) but not in liquid solutions. Dissolved ions with their hydration shells are too large to diffuse rapidly through the hydrogen-bonded structure of water.
Magnetic fields bring about ionization of water or of substances dissolved in it. I don't know of any published evidence of this.
Magnetic treatment lowers the surface tension of water. Please see below.

 

MWT pseudoscience and hype

Instead of simply admitting that "we don't really understand how MWT works", most promoters of MWT devices feel compelled to peddle scientifically untenable "explanations". But some vendors do far worse by propagating absurd nonsense about MWT and its supposed benefits. One wonders if any of clowns who write this garbage have ever actually passed a course in physics or chemistry. Some evidence that they have not can be found in the following statements taken from various manufacturers' sites.

In the following examples, only a small selection of the nonsense found on MWT sites, claims that I consider false, misleading, or meaningless are denoted by "purple prose". Because many of these fringe-science companies come and go rather frequently, it's difficult to keep the links up-to-date. But the nonsensical claims they make seem to live on and are likely to turn up again. Links shown in {braces} are archived versions of the thankfully-now-departed.

Permanent magnet devices

"When water is magnetically charged, it electrically takes on a greater ionic charge than the minerals which creates a natural magnetic attraction between the two.... Softening and better taste occurs from an actual reduction in the size of the water molecule... The small magnetized water molecule has a greater solvency and a magnetic attraction that results in cleaner bathing and washing which cleans and washes like soft water. The smaller molecular size also has less evaporative surface area which magnetically and dramatically reduces the gases and foul taste of sulfur, chlorine and fluoride, etc. [link]

As water moves through the induced magnetic field, the static charge on the water molecules is changed from negative to positive due to current being generated by the moving water (Faraday's Law). The current produced by the flow also causes some water molecules to ionize (dissociate), forming hydronium ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH-). Oxidation (corrosion) is prevented by the physical fact that the negative oxygen is repelled by the ground negative (cathodically protected) pipe. Negative scale ions are also repelled. (Basic law of Physics: similarities repel) If walls of negative pipe are contaminated with hard deposits (scale), positive hydronium ions work to convert hard deposits (scale) into soft deposits (aragonite), which are eventually removed and precipitate out into the tower basin. [link]

As water passes through the treatment chamber, it is subjected to a series of reversing-polarity, permanent magnetic fields, which interrupts the natural scale forming characteristics of CaCO3 and MgCO3 by temporarily altering their ionic charge identity. Instead of being attracted to one another, the molecules are caused to act like ions of similar charges and repel one another as they precipitate out of solution. [link]

It has been firmly established in the world scientific theatre that the Positive, expanding, field influence of the South Pole makes liquids more soluble (lowering surface tension); thereby hydrating, dissolving, and removing calcite and other mineral/various water by-product build-up in pipes and equipment. The Positive field hydrates all mineral build-up by de-clustering the liquid and solid pre- and post nucleated crystalline scale material. ... The random configuration of a water molecules is changed to a charged and organized form with their shape & size also modified. In the process, the associations clustering around the suspended particles are broken up as the molecules line up in polarization. The fluid's paramagnetic properties allow for more dissolved material to be contained in it due to increased efficiency of the fluid's available space. It appears that the magnetic treatment allows the carbon dioxide (CO2) to stay dissolved in water of a higher temperature. Calcium carbonate is converted back to calcium bicarbonate. [link]

Don't bet the farm on it!

Aqua-Phyd sells a device intended primarily for treating irrigation water. It is a "non-chemical water and soil treatment technology and service. Aqua-PhyD treated water will reduce soil compaction and create optimum growing conditions for plants and turf."

So far, so good. But then when we look at some of the sales and promotional sites, we sense a descent into dubious science:

"Resonant frequency energy waves are then induced into the flowing irrigation water with the result that the energy waves travel unimpeded through the irrigation system and through the sprinkler or drip system to then move freely and efficiently through soil with each drop of treated water." [link]

"The technology exploits quantum electrodynamic processes to transfer energy into the water passing through the unit. As a result, potential energy stored within the water is significantly enhanced. When that water hits the soil, the stored potential energy is released, opening up soils and improving infiltration and percolation of water." [link]

The company does offer some performance data and a long list of "case studies", but given the scientifically questionable "technology" they use, one would want to see some references to published articles in the reputable agricultural/soil science literature.

It's little wonder that MWT has a rather tawdry reputation!

 

Magnetic effects on surface tension of water

The belief that magnetic fields can reduce the surface tension of water has become almost an urban legend that is widely promoted by various magnet merchants, despite the very small amount of evidence that has been amassed during the 100 or so years that the effects of magnetic fields on matter have been studied. Owing to the intense scientific interest in the properties and structure of water, one would expect that any convincing evidence that the surface tension of water can be influenced by magnetic treatment would make its way to one of the mainline chemistry journals. So far, this has not happened; what few reports there are tend to be in rather obscure publications which deal mainly with other fields and are probably not subject to review by water chemistry experts. Two recent articles illustrate this problem:

Taking the most optimistic reports into account, it seems clear that the rather small magnitude of these effects makes them unlikely to be of significance in most practical applications. So until I see something that is more definitive, my own position is that

There is no convincing scientific evidence that magnetic treatment
can significantly reduce the surface tension of water

Claims that commercial devices bring about significant reductions in water surface tension or lead to the various benefits that might accrue from this effect should not be taken seriously in the absence of credible performance data.

Of course, this does not discourage this Danish company from selling a variety of magnetic devices for industrial applications that claim a 10% reduction in surface tension.

Magnetic laundry aids and surface tension reduction

There are a number of magnetic devices on the market that purport to increase the efficiency of laundry detergents, or even reduce the need for them entirely by making water "wetter" (reduce its surface tension), thereby allowing the water to more easily penetrate into fabrics and wash the dirt away. Virtually all of these promoters repeat the false claim, found again and again on Web sites, that a magnetic field will reduce the surface tension of water. Any high school student who can borrow a glass capillary tube and a small permanent magnet from the school science lab can easily demonstrate that this is pure rubbish. Neither this, nor the complete lack of any mention of this effect in the very extensive body of scientific literature on the interfacial properties of water, seems to have had the slightest effect on inhibiting the spreading of this lie by hucksters of all kinds.

Although one purpose of detergents is to reduce the surface tension of water so as to encourage it to spread evenly over a surface instead of forming droplets, the primary role of a detergent is to "solubilize" small particles of grease-like "dirt". Detergent molecules tend to be long chains that possess water-soluble properties on one end, and water-insoluble (oil-like) properties on the other end. Operating on the principle that "like dissolves like", the water-insoluble ends tend to embed themselves in the dirt particles so that the water-soluble ends stick out, disguising the particle as water-soluble and enabling it to be washed away. I am not aware that any claims that magnets can serve this function.

The best that can be said of magnetic laundry balls is that they help agitate the fabrics, but you can accomplish the same thing by dropping a rock into the washing machine. Otherwise, these devices are worthless.

See also this synopsis of the {CBC "Marketplace" program on magnetic laundry disk scams}

This one not only uses magnets, but also "far-infrared" and "negative ions" — you get three kinds of bunk for the price of one!

One major vendor warns of the supposed dangers of conventional detergents (they are, after all, "petrochemicals"!) One of their pages provides links to a report from an outside testing lab that, if genuine, gives all appearances of itself having been "laundered" in that no comparisons of the effectiveness of their magnetic balls are made with non-magnetic balls (or even with rocks!), or with conventional detergents.

An example of the errant nonsense that is sometimes employed to fool consumers into buying these worthless products is quoted in the left column below from a now-disappeared Web page. Similar claims can be found on many current sales sites. The parts I consider wrong, misleading, or meaningless are highlighted.

 The hype (with original grammar!)

 The facts

The effects of magnetic fields on water was discovered in the early 1900's by Danish Physicist Hendrick Antoon Lorenz.  He received the Nobel Prize in 1902 for his discovery of the effects of magnetic fields on water. 

The 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Lorentz (who was Dutch) and Zeeman for the discovery of the effects of magnetic fields on atomic emission spectra. (If Lorentz studied water, it was probably its magnetic susceptibility, which has nothing to do with magnetic water treatment.)

Water is a polar molecule, something like a little magnet.

 Water is indeed polar but this has nothing at all to do with magnetism. The polarity is due to the higher nuclear charge of oxygen, which displaces the shared bonding electrons towards the oxygen. This leaves the oxygen with a partial negative charge and the hydrogen with a partial positive charge. Water has no paramagnetic properties.

In normal water, the positively charged hydrogen atoms are attached to neighboring negatively charged oxygen.  In fact, each oxygen is in close contact with 9 hydrogen's

This statement confuses the bonding within H2O and the much weaker intramolecular hydrogen bonding that operates between molecules. Within H2O, each oxygen is permanently bonded to two hydrogen atoms. Connections between the hydrogen of one molecule and the oxygen of another are so weak that they are continually being broken by thermal motions and re-formed. Only in ice can one attribute a permanent structure to the water that extends beyond a single molecule.

This causes water to have a high surface tension so it sticks together.

Water does have a high surface tension, but this is not what causes water to "stick together"; both effects have their origin in the intermolecular hydrogen bonding (described above.) Surface tension is the work required to expand the area of the surface. The lower the surface tension, the more readily will a liquid penetrate narrow spaces as in a fabric.

Lorenz discovered that under the effects of a magnetic field, the polar molecules align and separate.  Thus making the water softer.

 The "softness" of water refers to the absence of dissolved salts, not to low surface tension. I am unaware of any evidence that the surface tension of water is affected by a magnetic field. Anyone with access to a capillary tube and a magnet can test this for themselves, since capillary rise is proportional to surface tension.

Fifty years after Lorenz's discovery, scientists expounded on similar ideas, learning to manipulate water's structure with chemical combinations, thus the invention of laundry soap.

 Soaps and detergents operate in two ways, namely by reducing the surface tension but also by forming tiny globules around hydrophobic "dirt" particles and effectively rendering them soluble-- a process known as emulsification. Soaps have been known since ancient times.

Using magnetic technology, The ... Laundry Ball changes the molecular structure of water with ionization instead of harsh chemicals. 

Ionization? Where does this come in? Magnetic fields do not induce ion formation and they do not change molecular structures.

THE ELECTRONS SPEND MORE TIME AROUND THE OXYGEN AND LESS TIME AROUND THE HYDROGEN MAKING IT POSITIVE.  WITH THE MAGNETS, THE PLUS AND MINUS COMBINE CAUSING THE WATER MOLECULES TO STICK TOGETHER. 

The first sentence is approximately true. The second is not. Moreover, don't we want the water molecules to NOT stick together?

The permanent magnets suspended in the ... Laundry Ball create a powerful magnetic field that aligns the water molecules, (hydrogen in one direction, oxygen in the other.)

Water molecules actually repel magnetic fields, and certainly cannot be aligned by them. Even if water were paramagnetic, thermal motions in the liquid would disrupt any alignment once the magnet moves away.

This alignment changes what is called the "surface tension" of the water, causing it to be extremely reduced.  The "drops" of water become so small and minute, they can easily penetrate into the fabric.

The low surface tension that promotes penetration of water into the fabric is just the opposite of the conditions required to stabilize "small drops". Smaller drops inhibit wetting of a surface!

When this happens, the water is considered "activated".  Along with this process, the minerals and salts suspended in the water become activated into an "ionic"  form, (charged particles), aiding in the cleaning process.

This kind of "activation" is not yet known to Chemistry! Further, the minerals are not "suspended", but are dissolved and already exist as ions. And the major ions of Ca and Mg tend to reduce the effectiveness of detergents.

During the 1970's the observation of effects of magnetic fields on water began in the U.S.  In 1984 , the institute of Electronic Engineers(IEE) recognized the new developments.  Early in 1984, Dr. Klaus J Kronenberg spoke at a conference on magnetism in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It's a bit much to state that his work was "recognized"; IEEE simply published the conference proceedings. Kronenberg's presentation can be found in IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, Vol MAG-21 (5) Sept 1985. The paper offers no evidence for magnetic water softening.

 The physical process used to cause this change in crystalline structure is provided by the use of magnetic induction fields, which when exposed to moving water, interacts with the water's electric dipole moment and applies a torque to the water molecule. The subsequent down stream effect of these coherently-oriented water molecules provides the electric potential which supplies the energy necessary to form the more complex crystalline form of calcium carbonate, called aragonite

 The "torque" a magnet could apply to a water molecule would be far too minute to compete with ordinary thermal motions, which would in any case disrupt any temporary orientation even if it were to occur. There is no known way of utilizing electric potentials to cause the carbonate to precipitate as aragonite.

There is another "Laundry Disk" product that employs "special patented sophisticated ceramics" instead of magnets. According to the manufacturer, these magical ceramic particles

cause the water molecule to dissociate through an electrical phenomenon (destabilization). The thus "fractured" H2O molecule units are much smaller, enabling them to easier penetrate fabrics and dissolve dirt, resulting in the readily observable cleaning effect. When the ceramics are removed from the water, it returns to its normal electrically neutral state.

This promoters of this crackpot scheme appear to be somewhat confused about the meaning of "dissociation" in this context. Independent test results by U. Minnesota Water Resources Center and Consumer Reports (Feb 1995) do not support the performance claims of he manufacturer.

Yet another Laundry Disk product that does not use magnets makes the absurd claim that

Each disc contains electrically charged ceramic beads that create hydronium (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH-) in the wash water. The discs soften water for better cleaning,

Any student who as passed first-year Chemistry knows that these two ions, even if they could be magically created (they cannot), would instantly recombine into H2O.

 

Sniggle.net's Laundry Ball Solution page is an interesting and amusing summary of laundry ball scams.

Two other LB-debunking sites: here and here.

The states of {Utah} and {Oregon} initiated consumer fraud proceedings against Tradenet Marketing, a Florida company that promoted a laundry ball device called "The Laundry Solution".

FTC Consumer Alert - Wash Daze: Laundry Gadgets Won't Lighten the Load

Magnetic fuel treatment fantasy

Ever since there have been cars, various schemes for achieving miraculous increases in fuel mileage have been promoted to the public. (Who has not heard the folk-fiction that somebody's invention for running a car on water was secretly bought up by the oil companies?)

The usual schtick is that the molecules of gasoline and similar fuels are "clustered" together, and a magnet inserted in the fuel line will break up these aggregates, thereby allowing more even and efficient combustion. This is not only supposed to save fuel, but it also reduces the buildup of carbon in the cylinders and reduces pollution. Other hucksters offer devices that purport to use "far infrared technology" to achieve the same purposes. A 1998 review found virtually no convincing evidence for the efficacy of magnetic fuel treatment.

See the [U. K.] Auto Ass'n. warning on magnetic fuel treatment,
as well as the article {Gas-Saving Products: Facts or Fuelishness?}http://magnapak-magnetic-mattress-health-therapy.com/xcart/catalog/product_5_MagnaFlow_Magnetic_Fluid_Treatment__MF1.html at the U.S. FTC site.

Typical claims peddled to incredulous motorists maintain that magnets can

None of these claims has any scientific basis and none has any credible experimental support. There is no scientific evidence that hydrocarbon (fuel) molecules can be modified in any way by application of a magnetic field.

This fact doesn't prevent this vendor from selling a device that can be used to treat both fuel and water which

"incorporates high-grade neodymium magnets in a unique bipolar, bi-axial method which produces powerful, resonating magnetic fields."

One purveyor of MFT poppycock makes the absurd claim that their magnetic device "puts a strong, positive charge into the fuel", and they even offer a set of three magnets for the fuel system, radiator water (!) and air intake (!!) The site makes numerous claims about fuel savings and emissions reduction, quotes many "testimonials" and even some performance data which I consider inadequately documented and find very difficult to take seriously. They claim that their magnets employ "mono-pole technology", which to me implies the use of monopolar magnets, although no such magnet is known to science; another page on the same vendor's site describes their fudging on this matter but offers no supporting evidence or references to what they refer to as "magnetic single focus".

Some other typical sites offer the following lies:

"In a similar way that water conditioned by heat (hot water) carries more energy and mixes with other substances more readily than cold water, fuel conditioned by a strong magnetic field carries more energy and mixes more readily with air resulting in a more complete combustion i.e. more energy and less waste from the same amount of fuel. The process of conditioning fuel through the introduction of a specific magnetic field is known as Ionization by Magnetic Induction (IMI)." {link}

"Better fuel atomization results in an increase in gas mileage up to 28%!!!"

A Pennsylvania company claims that their magnetic Fuel Conditioner works with gasoline, diesel, bunker oil, and natural gas, and that it will "enable your company to meet EPA clean air regulations without the tremendous cost of scrubbers and other expensive emission-reducing equipment." How are these results, unknown to science and technology, achieved?

[It] causes the naturally formed chemical associations (hydrocarbon clusters) to break apart into a single, potentiated molecular state. This single charged molecular state burns more uniformly and completely (efficiently) because the fuel has become fully atomized and ionized with oxygen.

{Experimental Magnetic Fuel Efficiency Boosters and Water Treatment Systems} is only one of many fantastic articles from the Orgone-Energy people, an outfit that celebrates the work of the notorious Wilhelm Reich.

Interestingly, an article describing a 2004 stock promotion claims that a 2003 report from the Rand Corporation concluded that that "a sufficient theoretical basis [for magnetic fuel treatment] exists to warrant entry into a comprehensive product testing program." It would be most interesting to see this report which is at odds with all known science.

It even works for natural gas!

And here is a "junk" U.S. Patent for magnetically (magically?) improving the fuel quality of natural gas— and here is where you can buy a device that is supposed to accomplish this unheard of feat!

Nano Resonance Nonsense - it works for everything!

This outfit offers science-naive consumers a "technology" that "treats fluids to enhance their performance." And not just water! By "re-structuring" liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels, they claim to improve energy efficiency. It even increases the efficiency of refrigerant liquids such as Freon! How does this work? This technology

alters the molecular structure of fluids that changes the energy state of the molecule. This change is accomplished through the square wave frequency principal modulating the carrier. [link]

And it works right down at the atomic level:

NRT Technology alters the molecular structure of the atom and the result is the elongation of the electron orbit without being released from the atom. This creates a tremendous amount of energy

Needless to say, they offer no evidence or scientific support for any of their ridiculous claims.

Agricultural applications

Wholly cow!

Numerous sites promote magnet-based technologies for improving crop production, many based on the easily-disproved fiction that magnets can reduce the surface tension of water (see the stuff on magnetic laundry balls above.) One magnet merchant makes similarly extravagant (and to me, unbelievable) claims about how their misleadingly-named "single pole technology" magnets can greatly increase crop yields, cut water use and fertilizer costs. The site provides many "comparison" photographs, "testimonials", and mentions of "studies" too vaguely identified to allow verification. As expected, there are no references to supporting documents in the reputable agricultural or scientific literature. Statements such as

"the principle of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) lowers surface tension of water, creating greater solubility and penetration, which stimulates root systems. Over time, soil compacts, which restricts the root growth. Crop Booster-treated water de-clods and breaks up the compressed soil, giving the roots freedom to grow and absorb nutrients more quickly..

might sound impressive to folks whose scientific background has failed to inform them that

Other pages at this site deal with magnetic treatment of plant seeds, lawn grass, tomato plants, cotton fields, etc.etc. My advice would be to check with your local Agricultural Extension Service agent before betting the farm on miracle magnetics.

See it for yourself!

This U-Tube video shows the amazing results that "magnetic water" allegedly had on strawberry crop yields in Australia.

A UK magnet sales site makes some remarkable claims about the benefits of magnet-treated water in the agricultural industry:

"Cows produced more milk; had fewer milkless days; conceived more easily, due to increased health and vitality (better than bovine growth hormone).
Calves not only weighed more than the control group, they were leaner!
Sheep produced more meat; milk; wool;
Geese grew bigger; chickens and turkeys laid more eggs and were prolific for a longer period of time."

"Professor Klaus Kronenberg says «magnets actually change the nucleus of water and that is the source of its seemingly magical properties. A diet of magnetized water makes cows give more milk, chickens grow fatter and lay more eggs. and cantaloupes and other crops grow larger and have better yields with less fertilizer.»"

One can only sigh and wonder— but the outfit does offer a money-back guarantee!

Medical applications and pain relief

As with anything relating to health and wellness, there is a huge "alternative health" industry that is just as avaricious as the large pharmaceutical companies in its eagerness to separate consumers from their money. Among these are the magnet merchants who promote an amazing variety of devices that are purported to offer near-miraculous relief from pain (for which there is a very limited amount of credible evidence— see below) and cures of everything from cancer to baldness. Many of these products are listed by the FDA as "Fraudulent and Deceptive Medical Devices" subject to automatic detention on import, but this has done little to reduce the availability of these items to the credulous multitudes.

As is the case with so much quackery, much of the actual selling of these worthless products is done by thousands of independent dealers recruited by typically not-very-educated individuals who are as credulous as their customers. The more ambitious but unlettered can even purchase mail-order "Registered Magnetic Therapist" and similar degrees. But in recent years, this quackery has moved into the mainstream as Amway and the Canadian Shopper's Drug Mart chain have begun peddling this snake oil.

An article Resist the pull of magnet medicine (incorrectly cited as appearing in the Winter 2003 issue of Health Quarterly but quoted here) discusses a variety of magnet-related medical scams; see this latter link for experiences of patients who have tried magnets for diabetic neuropathic pain.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has a Web page on magnetic pain relief.

One of the very few reliable reports of the therapeutic use of magnetic fields was published in 2007. "A recent study by University of Virginia researchers demonstrates that the use of an acute, localized static magnetic field of moderate strength can result in significant reduction of swelling when applied immediately after an inflammatory injury." [link]

The report notes that rather strong magnets are required, and it does not deal with chronic pain of the kind that most of the quackery sales site address.

Suffering from back pain, insomnia, kidney stones, or any of about a dozen common ailments? It may be due to "pollution of your body by stray alternating current-induced magnetic fields." If so, you need a {magnetic mattress} whose built-in permanent magnets provide healing "natural" ("direct current") fields. Replete with results of "scientific" studies [unpublished, of course!] citing such gems as "62.35 - 98.94%" effectiveness rating (at "99% confidence level") for relief of back pain. (It's hard to get a laugh out of a class when I am discussing statistical treatment of data, but this should do the trick!)

Most of the accounts of magnetic pain relief are not supported by credible scientific evidence, despite the extravagant claims of popular books such as "The Pain Relief Breakthrough: The Power of Magnets to relieve backaches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries, and more."  The author, Julian Whitaker, MD, is a well-known quackery advocate who publishes a variety of health tabloids, magazines and newsletters in which he modestly bills himself as "America's #1 health advocate," "America's #1 health champion," and "the physician America trusts"-- which should be enough to raise the suspicions of any intelligent person capable of critical thought! A {bibliography on magnetic therapy} lists about a dozen similar books, many by M.D.'s having questionable motives and dubious scientific credentials. The only title by a recognized, published scientist is Henry Bauer's Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic healing, psychic phenomena and other heterodoxies. See also the following:

A good example of the kind of crackpot pseudoscience that some vendors employ to hawk their wares to a credulous public is illustrated by these quotes from a site which offers the following misinformation:

There is one scientific paper I know of that offers credible evidence that magnetically-treated water might useful for dental care:
The effect of oral irrigation with a magnetic water-treatment device on plaque and calculus,
D.L. Watt et al, Journal of Clinical Periodontology 20(5) 314-317 May 1993. This double-blind study showed a significant reduction in calculus volume when irrigator devices had magnets installed. The authors suggest some possible mechanisms relating to reduced calcium and phosphate ion activity, but these don't seem very convincing. A summary of this article can be seen at this commercial site. Needless to say, many enterprises see no need to wait for verification of these results, and are breathlessly marketing magnetic oral irrigators to the public.

Many magnetic-cure hucksters try to tell you that the two poles (north and south) of a magnet produce different effects, and some even offer what they claim are "monopolar" magnets. They commonly confuse magnetic polarity with electric polarity (positive and negative.) Thus one site offers this misinformation, carefully tailored to mislead the science-challenged:

The negative field of a magnet is used most often to correctly stimulate (potentiate) and reorganize the electron (spin) charge which results in creating the healthy cellular charge state of a strong-negative potential.
The negative field is used in most treatments to help the body heal. When a cell’s electrical charge is elevated from its stressed, improperly charged state to a highly-charged negative state, the cell’s natural ionic forces
(little magnetic channels) are suddenly able to function properly and correctly metabolize all the necessary micro-nutrients.

Magnetic baldness prevention was the vision dangled by the now-departed MAG-SOL site which offered the hilariously simplistic argument that blood contains iron which is attracted by magnets, so the magnets embedded in this company's baseball caps will attract more blood to the hair follicles, producing a luxuriant growth. Right? Dead wrong!

There are thousands of sites hawking Ionized Bracelets as forms of "magnetic" pain relief even though these worthless devices don't even claim to contain magnets!


Magnetized water and magnetic quackery

"Magnetized water" is a pseudoscientific fraud.
See the "Magnetized Water" page and find out why.

The mere fact that "magnetized water" is a scientific absurdity does not prevent hundreds of hucksters from spewing out such rubbish as the following from the this "natural medicine" site :

  • Every cell in the human body can be viewed as a small magnetic unit. This property is present in all organs. Each cell produce its own magnetic field. Any disturbance in this magnetic field indicates a disorder. This equilibrium can be restored-with the help of magnets according to many researchers.
  • Technically, magnetism works because it increases the speed of sedimentation of suspended particles in water (and other liquids) and enhances conductivity and the process of ionization or dissociation of atoms and molecules into electrically charged particles. (New Scientist, June 1992.)
  • Physics shows that chemicals change weight under the influence of magnetic fields. So does water. More hydroxyl (OH-) ions are created to form calcium bicarbonate and other alkaline molecules. It is these molecules that help to reduce acidity.
  • Normal tap water has a pH level of about 7, whereas magnetized water can reach 7.8 pH after exposure to a 7000 gauss strength magnet for a long period of time. Cancer cells do not survive well in an alkaline environment.
  • Magnet also affects the bonding angle between the hydrogen and the oxygen atom in the water molecule. Magnetized water causes  hydrogen-oxygen bond angle within the water molecule to be reduced from 104 to 103 degrees. This in turn causes water molecule to cluster together in groups of 6-7 rather than 10-12. The smaller cluster leads to better absorption of water across cell walls.
Environmental Science & Products  (whose Web site www.naturalizedwater.com has thankfully disappeared) offered up some equally ludicrous nonsense:
  • "In many places on earth, water springs out enriched with certain minerals and magnetized in a natural way,  thanks to its way through different geological strata.
  • "By 'magnetizing' or polarizing drinking water, those noxious 'lumps' will not build up,  and instead we see amorphous structures which are easily assimilated or discardable.  In addition to getting softer water, the water temporarily acquires new dissolving, anti-calcareous, relaxing and invigorating properties.
  • "Magnetized water is beneficial in all cardiovascular disorders, from tachycardia, hypertension and hypertension, up to arthritis and limb paraesthesia.  The excessive sedimentation of cholesterol in the blood vessels is eliminated, resulting in a relief for the heart activity."
  • "Using God's technology"

Nothing like invoking theology if all else fails!

This Colorado company hawks a liquid supplement which they describe as a "water-soluble liquid magnet" which they [falsely] claim acts by "inducing electrons into all the conductive elements of the body". They even have a junk patent that stands as a doleful testimony to the quality of examiners the USPTO is able to attract.

A Canadian outfit makes the following unfounded and ridiculous claims about the benefits of drinking "magnetized water":

• Reduces acidity and helps to regulate the body's pH level.
• Influences the autonomic nervous system.
• Beneficial for kidney ailments, gout, obesity, and premature aging.
• Helpful in internal cleansing of the body.
• Promotes healing of wounds and open sores when bathed in FEMO2 water.
• Dissipates toxic deposits within the body's   connective tissues.
• The oxygen level in magnetically treated water is   higher than the oxygen level of untreated water.
• Has a therapeutic effect on the body, especially the digestive, nervous and urinary systems.
• Magnetically treated water improves the taste.
• When water is magnetized, the surface tension is reduced for better cell absorption.

"Water is Paramagnetic …meaning that it holds a magnetic charge" is just one of many lies and misrepresentations to be found on sites that flog an elastic band containing several magnets that you are supposed to slip over a container of water, wine, milk, or juice in order to increase the "bioavailability" of the water– very similar to the equally nonsensical claims by the clusterquackpot merchants. To support these claims, they mis-cite a number of Nobel Prize winners and offer various references to the scientific literature which are incomplete or, in one case, do not appear to exist. To add to the hype, one can see pictures that purport to show how the "magnetized filtered water" increases the growth rate of plant, especially if the south magnetic poles face the water(!).

One health-quackery newsletter site attributes these claims to one Michael Pedersen, the president of Aquaspace Water Systems, laughably identified as "one of the world's foremost authorities on water" and a company called AquaSpace. To add to the hype, they have former astronaut Jim Lovell cheapening himself by endorsing their products.


This Japanese/California company which boasts "a 100-year plan to become the largest wellness company in world history." offers a remarkably wide range of products to the alternative-health market through thousands of independent dealers. Their line of devices relating to magnetic quackery is probably second to none. Here you can get everything from magnetic bracelets to mattresses and shower heads. Few companies do a better job of integrating multiple junk sciences for multiple species, as evidenced, for example, by their magnetic dog-bed that employs "far-infrared technology".

For people who are concerned about their drinking water, this device employs a combination of "oxygenating activity, pi minerals, and magnetic field .. designed to re-create the conditions in the stream where pi water ("the water of life" } was discovered more than 30 years ago."

[It] features magnetic technology that was inspired by rainstorms ... Pure rainwater falls from clouds that contain a strong electromagnetic field - the source of lightning. Rain passes through this highly charged field of energy.

This device employs a pair of rotating magnets that subject the water to "a field of high energy". What this has to do with rain, streams, or nature is not explained. As if this were not enough pseudoscience, they claim that their "Pi technology uses far-infrared energy. Oxygenation technology that works like a mountain stream ... in the same way that water is oxygenated when flowing over the rocks in a natural environment."

 

"By holding purified water, fresh juice or herbal teas in the Magnetic Energy Cup for 5 minutes or more, your liquids become restructured, 'living' and charged with energy. The magnets in the Magnetic Energy Cup can change the actual structure of liquids, increase the negative ions (good ions), make the liquids more alkaline and increase the amount of oxygen available for your cells. Another measured benefit of magnetized water is that its surface tension is lowered, which makes the water absorb much easier through the human membranes. What actually happens is that water gains 'living' liquid energy!" [link]

 

If letting your beverage re-align itself in a magnetic cup takes too long for you, this magnetic funnel gets the job done more quickly. Magnetic Technologies LLC makes the ridiculous claims, totally lacking in scientific support, that magnet-treated water

decreases cholesterol content in blood, stimulates brain activity, improves digestion, increase appetite and reduces excess acidity and normalizes the function of bile [and] aids in inducing proper movement of bowels and expels poisons and unwanted salts from the body.

Magnetic pulsers and zappers

These devices, such as this one are promoted by hucksters such as "Dr." Robert Beck and sold by the same outfits that flog food-energizers, chackra-checkers and other new-age paraphernalia. They generate short but highly intense magnetic fields that are supposed to cure everything from cancer to baldness. See here for one of Beck's typical bloviations. Needless to say, there is no credible scientific evidence to support these outlandish claims. But if you have a sick horse, give this one a try. And here's a super-powerful ring-shaped one that delivers 50,000 gauss, presumably to get that waistline down!

Some scientific references to magnetics in pain management

There is some evidence that externally-applied magnetic fields can provide relief of certain types of chronic pain. A major difficulty in any such study is in eliminating the placebo effect which generally requires a double-blind protocol. Here are a few recent references to the scientific literature:

An extensive compilation that summarizes over 300 literature references to medical applications of magnetic fields, both permanent and alternating, can be found at the Gary Null site. The range of ailments covered seems too great to be entirely believable, but some of the articles appear to be in reputable journals.

Magnetic chlorine removal

Chlorine is by far the most widely-employed agent for disinfecting municipal water supplies, and there is no question about its effectiveness in reducing water-borne disease. Unfortunately, this active element also reacts with some of the organic components present in certain water to generate small amounts of chlorinated products such as chloroform and chloramines which have been shown to be mutagens and may be carcinogens. Although there are no epidemiological studies that demonstrate an adverse effect of chlorinated water on human health, it is understandable that many people would prefer their drinking water to be chlorine-free, if only to reduce the unpleasant taste in localities where the chlorine content is especially high. This can usually be accomplished by activated charcoal filters, and in extreme cases, by boiling. Numerous vendors sell magnetic devices, often in the form of shower heads, that purport to remove the chlorine from the water. Their Web sites paint frightening pictures of the dire consequences of showering in water containing this poisonous element. Consider, for example, this breathless paragraph from one sales site, obviously intended for people the vendor considers so dumb that they will be impressed by all of the words being capitalized:

"CHLORINE IS ONE OF THE MOST TOXIC ELEMENTS FOUND IN NATURE.
Chlorine In Shower Water Can Trigger Negative Reactions In Those Who Are Chlorine Sensitive. Small Children And The Elderly Are Often The Most Susceptible. Asthma And Emphysema Sufferers Should Be Cautious Of The Chlorine Vapors Trapped In A Shower Recess. Magnesoft Shower Head Removes +90% Of Free Chlorine And Effective Life Of 15,000 Gallons. Now You Can Have Softer, Silkier Hair, A More Complete Shampoo Rinse And Squeaky Clean Skin. Your Water Will Taste And Smell Better, Especially On Rural Well Systems Or City Water." [a similar link]

... but if you think chlorine is bad, consider a substance that had proven deadly to far more people: see the "Ban DHMO" (dihydrogen monoxide) Page! Chlorine, like any gas, is less soluble in hot water than in cold, so it is likely that some chlorine is released in a shower– although as one who often takes long, hot showers, I've never noticed it, even in places like Istanbul where the water is almost too highly chlorinated to be potable. However, it is not at all clear how a magnetic device can reduce the emission of chlorine, a gas that is completely unaffected by magnetic fields. One wonders where the chlorine is supposed to go!

Claims that magnets can remove chlorine or chlorine by-products from water are false.

As any high school Chemistry student should know, chlorine, Cl2, contains no unpaired electrons and is therefore not attracted by a magnet. The same is true of chlorine by-products.

Other dubious uses of magnets

Magnetic wine enhancement

The Perfect Sommelier "improves virtually any wine in less than 30 minutes.  It will bring out the maturity and subtlety that the vineyard intended.  Replace the cork with the Sommeliers' top and place the bottle of wine on the stand.  In 30 minutes a remarkable change occurs due to the strong magnetic field created by The Perfect Sommelier." I have corresponded with the proprietor who seems quite sincere, but I can't help but be quite skeptical!

A more recent product is the Bev Wizard Wine Enhancer whose promoters claim (with no supporting evidence) that the magnetic field causes negatively-charged tannins to coagulate. See this Decanter article on this dubious device.

Shooter Buddy claims to be a magnetic wine-aging accelerator.

"The Earth’s magnetic field helps create the great taste of fresh fruits. During the long growing season, fruit is held in a relatively constant position in relation to the Earth’s magnetic field, aligning the liquid particles much like tiny compass needles. This natural balance gives fresh picked fruit its smooth, natural flavor.

Effects of magnetic fields on microbial metabolism. Some references to this topic can be found in U.S. patent 5318045 for the use of magnets in bioremediation processes.The applicants show some experimental data indicating that a N. pole can materially alter the efficacy of certain types of bacterially-mediated oxidation of pollutants. No references to published studies are given.

Juicer jiggery-pokery

Several manufacturers offer juice-producing machines that incorporate magnets, which they variously claim, without any supporting evidence, to mellow the taste [link], to enhance the stability of the juice [link], or generally to maintain the freshness of fruit and vega table juices. A typical false claim is that the magnets

add more positive ions and vitality to minerals in the juice. ... the magnets are creating positive ions... Bioceramic particles, produced by far-infrared technology, also emit positive ions. The magnets recharge the bioceramic material and the bioceramic material recharges the magnets. ...many of these positive ions go into the juice. These additional positive ions add more vitality and longevity to the life of the minerals, reducing oxidation and keeping the juice fresher longer. [link]

Fast-freezing foolishness

ABI, a Japanese outfit, offers a Cells Alive System (CAS) whose purpose is to improve the industrial-scale fast-freezing process by inhibiting the growth of ice crystals that tend to break down cell walls when foods are frozen. The idea is to employ a magnetic field to allow the food to be supercooled (that is, cooled below the freezing point without forming ice), and then turning off the field causing the ice to form so rapidly that only very small crystals are able to grow. A fine idea, except for the fact that I know of no evidence that a magnetic field is able to alter the freezing point of water. The CAS promotion claims that the magnetic field acts by aligning "the magnetic moment of the electrons" — which strikes me as scientific nonsense, given that all 10 electrons in H2O are paired so that the molecule has a zero magnetic moment. A 2006 article in a South African food processing magazine describes the process in more detail, but confuses the issue by invoking the use of an alternating electric field as well (which should have the same effect as a microwave oven) and making the unlikely claim that a glass of water frozen by this method will not break.

Some really goofy schemes and scams

Found on the Balanced Lives site (the purple prose is all nonsense):

The earth's magnetic field naturally charges water in lakes, wells, and running streams. Water that passes through your city water treatment plant is transported through underground piping which causes the water to lose its magnetic energy; therefore treating water by passing it through a magnetic field will restore the natural energy and balance. It also rids the water of memory. There are systems available that magnetize the water as it comes into the faucet. These are known as point of use or point of discharge systems. ... Magnetized water tastes sweeter and has more clarity; promotes a more alkaline pH in the body; is beneficial to wounds and burns; has a beneficial effect on digestive, nervous and urinary systems; revitalizes the body; provides positive effect on the nervous system; has been beneficial for kidney ailments, obesity and premature aging, and may help relieve discomfort. ... Magnetic water controls scale buildup in pipes and plumbing. Magnetic water has a positive effect on plant growth. Magnetic water is more solvent and has a lower surface tension, so nutrients in the water are absorbed more readily. Use on agricultural crops results in improved quality of the plants with a reduction in the use of fertilizer.

NESI (Natural Environmental Solutions Inc. of Las Vegas, Nev, whose Web site, thankfully, recently disappeared) offered to "Magnetically enhance your body's natural energy" -- In addition to the usual water and fuel conditioners (including a magnetic showerhead that "Has Been Proven To Consistently Remove Over 90% Of Free Chlorine", (starting every word with a capital letter presumably makes this more authoritative!) they offered a variety of Bio-Magnets that "magnetically enhance your body's natural energy", such as "Plaque fighting magnetic toothbrushes" ("Get teeth whiter and eliminate unslightly build up"), magnetic coffee cups, magnetic insoles (your choice of all-north or bipolar) and a Quartz Crystal Simulator ("High voltage stimulation ideal for on the spot use" ?!) .. or, for your dog, magnetic pet collars and a magnetic pet bed.

"Charged" water

This is really a separate subject, but the purveyors of at least one magnetic device appear not to understand that there is a distinct difference between "magnetized" water (impossible) and electrically "charged" water (also impossible!), or more likely they hope that the suckers who come to their Web site will be sufficiently ignorant to miss this point. The left column contains some paragraphs we found a few years ago on their Web site; the parts that are incorrect, untrue, misleading or scientifically absurd are highlighted. Wholly-Water is not the only outfit that has hawked such schlock to the general public.

The hype and bunk

The science

" 'Pure' water is a polar liquid, i.e. part of the water molecule has a positive and part of it has a negative, electrical charge; but, overall, the net electrical charge is negative. "

Whoever wrote this probably never passed First Year Chemistry (not to mention English!) Although the positive and negative charges are geometrically unbalanced, they are exactly equal, and cancel out to zero. The H2O molecule is electrically neutral.

"Thus, the water molecule being a small magnet (dipole), one may effect its magnetic (or electric) field by causing the molecule to turn or rotate in one direction or the other, taking on a positive or negative higher potential, depending on whether the S (South, positive) or N (North, negative) outside magnetic field had been applied. "

The H2O molecule is an electrical dipole, not a magnetic one; it is not a magnet, and is not attracted by a magnet. Equating the S and N poles of a magnet with the [electrical] "potential" is pure fantasy.

"When we magnetize the water, all the electrons take on the same charge. Because like charges or poles repel each other, the molecules are pushed away from each other breaking up the associations into singular stasis known as molecularly mono-atomic."

These people apparently do not realize that all  electrons everywhere have the same (negative) charge!

"...regardless of whether the water is magnetized Positive or Negative, the water becomes molecularly mono-atomic."

"When mono-atomic water molecules enter the body, the body more efficiently metabolizes more the singular oxygen and hydrogen atoms due to its greater availability. The greater availability of the hydrogen and oxygen provides the body with a much larger share of its requirements of these important elements and as a result, the body has shown to start functioning in a more balanced state and therefore begins to heal itself."

"Positive" and "negative" magnetization is meaningless.

The idea that the H and O atoms can somehow become, or need to be, more "available", will greatly amuse biochemists. These arguments are similar to those offered by the water cluster clowns.

"It has been firmly established in the world scientific theatre that the Positive, expanding, field influence of the South Pole makes liquids more soluble (lowering surface tension); thereby hydrating, dissolving, and removing calcite and other mineral/various water by-product build-up in pipes and equipment. ... Under the same magnetic molecular dynamics, the Positive Pole also de-clusters paraffin build-up in oil well or transmission lines."

 This "world scientific theatre" must be a theatre of the absurd. What a "positive, expanding" field might be baffles a simple chemist such as myself.

 "The water has a better taste that occurs from an actual reduction in the size of the water molecules. Compare it to a bucket full of rocks the size of pebbles versus the size of sand. The pebbles will bang around like rocks while the sand will pour like water.

The small Energized water molecule has a greater solvency and attraction that results in cleaner bathing and washing.

These folks are wholly-wrong on this one; there is no way the size of a molecule like H2O can be changed.

Whenever you see something described as "energized", you should think "scam"!

You can visit this Web site for info on how to construct your own "liquid magnetizers", where you learn that "This device can be used for the magnetization of any liquid that you can put in bottles, one bottle can be charged positively at the same time that the other bottle is charged negatively.

"The positively charged water (magnetized with the South pole of a permanent magnet) have a lowered surface tension as the bonding lengths between the atoms lengthen under the expanding magnetic influence. "

Here again, they confuse electrical charge (positive and negative) with magnetization.

There is of course no evidence at all that a magnetic field (or an electrical one, for that matter) can affect the H-O bond length in water.

"... positively charged water gives energy and vitality. The negatively charged water (magnetized with the North pole of a permanent magnet) have a higher surface tension as the bonding lengths shorten under the contracting magnetic influence. This negatively charged water can be used to accelerate the healing process, at the same time gives a calming and relaxing effect. "

 Since "charged" water is unknown to modern science, I would 't take these totally unsupported health claims very seriously!