MOTHER Puts Wally Minto's Solar Wheel to the Test

MOTHER EARTH NEWS built and tested a Minto wheel, with disappointing results.

| July/August 1976

  • minto wheel 1
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS put the Minto solar-powered wheel to the test.
  • minto wheel
    Though it sounded promising, the Minto wheel did not live up to expectations.
  • 040-102-01a
    The wheel works better with heat applied to the rim, not the bottom.

  • minto wheel 1
  • minto wheel
  • 040-102-01a

At the age of 11, when most young sprouts are deeply engrossed in adventure tales of one sort or another, Walter Minto bought a college chemistry book for 10¢ in a used book store. "I thought it was more fun than any story I had ever read," he says now.

Maybe that explains why, by the time he was 15 (in 1936), Wally and his dad were deeply engaged in research on atomic energy. "Nobody cared about uranium in those days," he says, "and we could get it for the hauling from refineries that were interested only in the radium they could extract from pitchblende. Pretty soon we had about 50 tons of really high-grade stuff sitting in our backyard . . . enough to give us a corner on the market when President Roosevelt set up the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb during World War II. So we sold it all to the government and I went with the Manhattan Project as the head of the radioactivity lab, special problems division."

After the war, Minto moved on to develop a line of ultra-low-cost radioactivity detectors but, by 1949, his interest in atomic energy had given way to a fascination with geothermal energy. Low temperature geothermal energy . . . and, before long, he had developed a Freon engine designed to tap this source of power.

But petroleum was dirt cheap then and nobody was interested in his ideas. So Wally soon involved himself in a study of the pollution problems that he could already see developing years before most of today's environmentalists were out of short pants.

Somewhere along the way Minto was also drawn into a still-secret project for the Navy because of some controversial electromagnetic discoveries he had made and—as many of us well remember—he revived his low-temperature Freon engine in the late 60's, put it into an automobile, and proved that his updated variation of the old Stanley Steamer was highly efficient and virtually pollution free. Datsun, the Japanese manufacturer of cars and trucks, is currently toying with the idea of putting the Minto Freon steam engine in a line of its vehicles.

All of which is to say that Wally Minto has long been involved in the development of what—at the time he first took up tinkering with them—have been considered "crackpot" ideas . . . particularly energy ideas.

2/27/2019 9:34:45 AM

Made one of these in 1978 and presented it as a Physics Category project at the International Science Fair in 1979. Allied Chemical (makers of Genetron, a refrigerant competitive to Dupont's Freon) gave me a special award.

3/20/2016 12:56:06 PM

Followed Minto for years. No one have tried to optimize the for efficency and models/assumptions are in question. Minto said he expected 70% (??). Seems worth the study before building the next effort.


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