The rise and fall of Steorn, the brightest start-up in the Celtic Tiger sky

Steorn was the start-up that claimed it could create free energy using magnets, and tried to prove it for 15 years and €23 million. In his new book, The Impossible Dream, Barry J Whyte traces the company’s journey from maverick upstart to spectacular flame-out. In this excerpt, he meets co-founder Shaun McCarthy, who candidly examines his own vision, errors, and legacy

Shaun McCarthy, chief executive of Steorn, with the company’s “everlasting/self-charging” battery – its technology could be adapted to power smartphones. Picture: Eric Luke/The Irish Times


the perpetual-motion spoofers? The free-energy loopers?

The lads who put that ad in the Economist?

Didn’t they rip off a bunch of gobshites?

How much did they raise? €23 million? That’s huge! Where did all that cash go?

It must’ve been a scam, right?

That’s the fate of Shaun McCarthy, one of the founders of Steorn, a company that became famous during the Celtic Tiger for its brash, excessive claims about free energy from magnets ...