"People said, 'It's a crock. Look for hidden electrodes in the water,' " says Penn State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who visited the Erie, Pennsylvania, inventor in his lab in August after seeing the feat on Google Video. A demo made Roy a believer. "This is discovery science in the best tradition," he says.
Roy thinks the sodium chloride in the water may weaken the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which are broken free by radio waves. It's these gas molecules that are igniting, he explains, not the liquid itself. Tests show that the reaction disappears once the radio waves stop. Roy plans to conduct more tests to get to the bottom of the mystery.