Firepower secret ingredient revealed. What a heap of crap. Mothball additive in tanks gives fuel for thought ONE of the secret ingredients in a fuel pill that has helped underpin multimillion-dollar sponsorships in three sporting codes can be revealed - and it's the same compound used in mothballs. The pills, which promise to improve fuel consumption and reduce harmful emissions when added to a tank of fuel, are marketed by Firepower, sponsor of the Sydney Kings basketball team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team and the Western Force rugby union team in Perth. Investigations by the Herald have led to three inquiries into Firepower, which is estimated to have raised between $10 million and $100 million from about 1200 investors, including many sports stars. Now independent university tests carried out for the Herald reveal what goes into the company's most high-profile product, the Firepower Pill. One of the main ingredients in the Western Force-branded pill is a naphthalene compound, a toxin with the familiar smell once found in sock drawers. Naphthalene mothballs have been used by car enthusiasts as a homemade octane booster for decades. The practice was common enough that the television program Mythbusters gave it a try in 2004. But scientists warn that too many mothballs will load up an engine with carbon deposits and lead to poor performance. The Texas attorney-general last year shut down a company called BioPerformance that was selling naphthalene-based fuel pills to US consumers. It had promised the pills would cut fuel consumption and emissions. Tests by the Texas regulator found this was untrue and BioPerformance eventually agreed to repay consumers $US7 million ($8.1 million). A spokesman for Firepower would not comment yesterday other than to say it no longer used the naphthalene compound. The pills tested were obtained in February. But the tests revealed another controversial ingredient - a metallic compound called ferrocene. It is also well known to the fuel industry and has been used, mainly in Russia and China, as an octane booster to replace lead. The International Organisation for Standardisation, which sets the global standards for fuel, recommends ferrocene not be used in fuel as it causes iron deposits to build up on spark plugs over distances as little as 5000 kilometres, causing misfiring engines and bad acceleration. It is banned in the bowser fuel specifications of several countries, including New Zealand and the US, although neither has laws to stop it being used as an additive. Its use is unregulated in Australia. Tests conducted by the Japan Automobile Research Institute showed ferrocene-laced fuel increased fuel consumption and led to higher emissions - the opposite effect claimed by the Firepower pill. "These results indicate that ferrocene decreases the insulation resistance of spark plugs and causes increase in fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, exhaust temperature and irregular electrical discharge," the Japanese author said. The Worldwide Fuel Charter, dated last September, says that ferrocene can also lead to "premature wear of critical engine components such as the pistons and rings". The revelations about the pill's composition come amid a fight in the Federal Court between the corporate regulator and the Virgin Islands-registered company. Documents filed in the court show Firepower is questioning an Australian Securities and Investments Commission inquiry into suspected breaches of the corporations laws, dating back to 1994. Company executives have challenged the commission's authority to compel them to produce documents aiding the investigation. They argue that documents they have been ordered to produce may expose them to "investigation, prosecution, conviction or penalty they otherwise would not be exposed to".