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March 7th, 2010
Russian Inventor Has Friends In Kremlin, but Skeptics Outside It
Viktor Petrik shows off what he describes as his discoveries: a cell that generates electricity when you breathe on it. A new way to produce silicon for computer chips from fertilizer waste. A filter that cleans the toxins—and the color—from red wine.
He has won some high-level support. United Russia, the ruling party, regularly gives him prominent roles in events on innovation, while officials including Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of Russia's parliament and No. 2 in the party, have publicly endorsed his products. The two men are listed as the authors of a patent granted in 2009 for a filter that Mr. Petrik says can turn radioactive waste into water that's safe to drink.
Mr. Petrik's best-known products are his household water filters, which he says use nanotechnology—sheets of carbon the thickness of an atom—to deliver unique results. The filters won a 2007 competition sponsored by United Russia. Several party-controlled regional governments have installed them in schools, homes and hospitals.
But to some prominent Russian scientists, the 64-year-old Mr. Petrik is a charlatan. "He's a master of bluff," says Eduard Kruglyakov, a physicist who heads a special commission of Russia's Academy of Sciences set up to expose pseudoscience. He says he has spent months investigating Mr. Petrik's claims and has concluded that they are scientifically impossible in some cases, or borrowed largely from others. "He hasn't discovered anything." Others echo those concerns.
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