Ice Physics: the UMIST Affair

Dr. Ji-Chen Li of UMIST (the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) received funding from ATG to conduct some studies of IE water. Dr. Li's results, mostly negative, were reported with complete candor in a paper presented at the symposium ATG ran in December 1997:
Wang, Y., and Li, J.-C. (1997) Inelastic neutron scattering techniques and its application to IE water. In S.-Y. Lo and B. Bonavida (eds.), Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Physical, Chemical and Biological Properties of Stable Water (IE) Clusters, pp. 81-90. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing.
We summarize the Wang and Li results here:
  1. The IE water used in these experiments was supplied by ATG. [Hence, the investigators could not certify the purity of the sample or even what, exactly, they were testing.]

  2. Comparison of IE water with normal water using IINS (Inelastic Incoherent Neutron Scattering) spectroscopy at 15 degrees Kelvin revealed "no observable differences between the two spectra" (p. 85). Dr. Li graciously allowed that this negative result "could be due to the fact that the concentrations of IE clusters in the water used is less than 5% by weight." [Presumably ATG told him that. A nice face-saving gesture.]

  3. Comparison with Raman spectroscopy at 77 degrees Kelvin showed that "[t]he two spectra are almost identical." A slight anomaly was noticed at approximately 33 meV. In the paper, Li tactfully states that "more detailed study is needed to understand the source of the feature." But Li now says that "The differences we saw in Raman scattering could well be due to impurities in the sample and should not be taken as support for Ie water."

  4. Wang and Li also attempted to grow ice crystals using IE water. They mention that "water which contains impurities inhibits and prevents high quality single crystal growth." Instead, multiple crystals are obtained. Using a fast vaporization method, Wang and Li reported that they could grow ice crystals from ATG's samples of IE water as easily as from normal water, "although they were less transparent (milking white)" (sic).

  5. Wang and Li also tried producing ice crystals using the Bridgman method, which involves a water-filled tube suspended in a bath of antifreeze. "After several attempts with this system, we found that IE water gives as good a quality of single crystals, in most cases, as normal water with 99.96% H2O. However, there are occasionally two or three column crystals produced along the length of the growth tube when we use the IE water labeled with Ds-PB." [ATG has prepared many variants of IE water and gives each a cryptic label.] They acknowledge that "This may not be due to the IE water itself, but the conditions surrounding the growth tube."

The results reported by Wang and Li provide no evidence for the existence of IE crystals. Rather, they strongly suggest that IE water is just ordinary water with perhaps some slight impurities. Nonetheless, ATG and especially its joint venture partner, 21st Century Global Network, have trumpeted the results of the symposium papers as confirming their claims that IE crystals exist. Wang and Li's results are thus misrepresented.

Christian Burnham, a graduate student in Li's lab, maintains the UMIST Ice Physics home page. Burnham, who was not personally involved in the IE water experiments but is familiar with the research, added a link on the page that said "Is Ie (structured) water genuine? Information on Dr. Shui­Yin Lo and American Technologies group." The link pointed to the Affidavit of Andrew Blackwood at the Oregon Department of Justice.

Burnham also added a second link from the UMIST Ice Physics page to this web site, Less than 24 hours later, ATG pressured Dr. Li to force the removal of this link from Burnham's page. The following email exchange then occurred with the UMIST group:

From: Christian James Burnham <>
To: Mark Dallara <>
Date: Friday, July 10, 1998 1:46 PM
Subject: Ie water crystals

Dear Mark

I am removing all links from my web page re: Ie water.  We are
sympathetic to your cause, but we don't want to become involved in this
matter any further.

The differences we saw in Raman scattering could well be due to
impurities in the sample and should not be taken as support for Ie

Could you please remove any links to our page and any mention of UMIST
or our group.

Thanks for your help

Christian Burnham
To: Christian James Burnham <>
cc: Ji-Chen Lee <>
Date: Sat, 11 Jul 1998 00:33:01 -0400
Subject: ATG web site

Dear Christian,

Mark Dallara forwarded to me your request that all mention of UMIST be
removed from my ATG web site.  I'm sorry that I cannot comply with
your request.  I'm also sorry to see that you have had to remove your
link from the UMIST ice physics page to my ATG site.

As you know, my web site is dedicated to documenting the story of
ATG's extraordinary scientific claims and the company's relationship
with the academic community.  UMIST is part of that story.

However, I would like to extend to Professor Li and anyone else in his
lab the right to reply to whatever I write on my web site.  I do not
wish to misrepresent the work of the UMIST group or give a false
impression of the events that transpired.  I am doing my best to
uncover the truth regarding ATG, and publicize that truth, because I
think it's an important story.  There is also the matter of naive
investors who may purchase stock in ATG, or become distributors of
products based on IE crystals, because of the company's
misrepresentations about its research.  As responsible scientists, we
have a duty to speak out and warn the public when we see such

I would welcome Professor Li's assistance with this.

Best wishes,

Dr. David S. Touretzky

What lessons can be drawn from this affair? We find no fault either with Wang and Li's research or their presentation of it. The paper is perfectly clear. Nor can we criticize Li for not wishing to become involved in a public dispute with ATG. We do not know exactly what leverage ATG used to force removal of a link from the UMIST ice physics home page, but we have seen other cases where ATG resorted to legal threats in an attempt to silence critical speech.

ATG's actions in this case speak volumes about the company.

Back to the main ATG page

Dave Touretzky
Last modified: Sun Dec 2 02:04:05 EST 2001