Tesla will build world's largest lithium-ion battery for South Australia
    New material may help cut battery costs for electric cars, cellphones

    I haven’t had a lot of time to comment over the last two and a half weeks or so, since Phil Hardcastle was here (aiming to use the fab at San Sebastian in Spain, about 2.5 hours’ drive away according to the routefinders) to get his devices made and we also were experimenting with the “kitchen fab” method that will enable anyone to make their own devices. We didn’t succeed in that yet, but found out a lot of the things we’ll need to get sorted in order to do that. Phil has applied for a patent on METTEC, which means that I can tell you a fair amount about what will make it go even if he has to keep a lot secret – it’ll take a big investment to mass-produce these devices and unless there’s some protection of the IP on it then that investment won’t arrive, which would leave us with the kitchen-fab method (which won’t produce the quality) as a slow take-up of the ideas.

    For those people who want to know what the acronym stands for, it’s Magnetic Electron Tunneling Thermal Energy Convertor.

    This device relies on that odd quantum-physics property of tunnelling, and also that electrons aren’t actually fully confined to a metal object but are emitted from the surface and come back to it, and that this current is surprisingly large at a few hundred amps per square centimetre. It also relies on the strange property that a magnetic or electrical field will affect the trajectory of that tunnelling path. Both these strange properties are in general use in electronics devices, so I see no reason why we can’t apply them here. The diagram shows thus what happens to the emitted tunnelling electrons (in orange, and I forgot to add that in the keys). They are emitted in random directions but because of the magnetic field can only curve one way. Those at one side of a gap can jump the gap against a small potential difference, and thus lose some thermal energy in the process whilst gaining electrical potential energy. The scale at which this happens is interesting, in that the gaps need to be of the order of 2nm and the radius of curvature is thus of the order of 1nm or so, and the magnetic field needs to be pretty strong, of the order of 1 Tesla. These are dimensions and fields that are not easily-achievable with just messing around – you need to aim for the right result based on theory and design things on that basis. Maybe why this hasn’t been seen before, and the effect hasn’t been noted.

    The design has gone through a number of iterations in aiming to get something easier to actually make. The high-tech fabrication methods on such experimental stuff are however somewhat expensive, and pushing the boundaries tends to end up failing so far (fabs also don’t really want to put a lot of effort into something that will damage their credibility), but it seems to me that there are some simplifications we can do which retain the principle and will at least show the effect to a measurable extent. It looks like the design will be very tolerant to some errors in fabrication (dirt, atomic flatness and suchlike) even though that will reduce the actual electrical output. With a bit of care, therefore, I think that it will be possible to fabricate these things on the kitchen table without spending an excessive amount on the kit required. It remains to be seen if we can do that. Phil will be getting his own (expensive kit, but secondhand) fab together to make them to a higher quality. Full clean-room, though limited in size. We’ve discussed some other applications of the underlying principle that seem pretty outrageous if the current mainstream physics is correct, since it seems that during tunnelling the electron doesn’t really exist and has no momentum. Somehow I don’t quite believe that, and it needs to be tested. If true, that could give us a rather interesting space drive, better than the EMdrive since it runs on heat not electricity.

    Phil got the inspiration for this from Professor Fu in China – one of those giants whose shoulders we’re standing on. It’s worth reading Fu’s last document at https://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0311104  which has been roundly condemned as being experimental error and/or misinterpretation. However, in reality Fu is simply using a magnetic field to alter the direction of emitted electrons – this involves a momentum exchange between the magnet and the electrons, and the electrical current produced, while small, is easily-understandable if you don’t hold 2LoT sacrosanct at all scales. 2LoT does not apply to single interactions that are influenced by a force-field, but to a lot of random interactions not under the influence of such a force. If each interaction is biased one way, then the average result will also be thus biased. Simples…. Fu and his son have been working on this for decades, refining the technique, but the actual power produced is so low that it has been dismissed as error of one sort or another. I’m told he’s hoping Phil’s experiment is successful, which will vindicate Fu and maybe get him the recognition he deserves. Maybe Fu’s wasn’t the first real Maxwell’s Daemon, but the others haven’t been recognised yet either.

    It’s been pretty intense while Phil was here, and we spent a long time talking after the day’s experimentation was over. His home is half a world away in Australia, so timezones are opposite and finding mutually-convenient time has been tricky for exploring ideas. Bounce an idea up, chuck it around and see if it sticks. Anna (Phil’s partner) graciously kept us all fed and took care of the basics, which freed the time I normally spend in those necessities. I don’t (yet) have an electron microscope here or other expensive kit needed, so as regards the kitchen fab we’ve been flying blind and having to estimate thicknesses deposited – difficult when you can’t even see what’s there under a normal microscope. There’s more work to do and some more kit to buy before we can properly characterise what process will deliver the extremely precise (and small) dimensions that are necessary, and reduce it to something where time and temperature only need to be precisely-controlled. To John, I need to say we haven’t yet got far enough to be able to tell him how he can make his own devices. It will however be achieved, I think, before the end of this year.

    What is quite interesting about this device is that the current that is output actually flows through the insulating layer of NiO, and not through the Nickel conductor at the base. As such, it’s a bit counter-intuitive. The devices themselves are very small, with the main area taken up by the contacts to get the current out, and the power available from each one will likely be in the order of microwatts. Since they are also very thin (active layers of the order of nanometers) they can however be stacked if the substrate is thin-enough (it only needs to be thick enough to handle, so a few microns) and the main problem will be getting the heat into the devices in order that it can continue to generate electricity. All it is doing is to impose a direction on the energy that is around, using a magnetic field as the organising force – this relies on Conservation of Energy in order to work.

    I’ve learned some useful tips for my IR-PV project in the process, since Phil has had a fair amount of fab experience. I think I can solve my sputtering problems (mainly oxidation) and get smoother coatings than are normally achieved by such methods. I’ll thus be able to characterise the layers better, and Phil will help with some of the technical problems there too. We’ve also talked about a few other possible device structures. It’s nice to get instant feedback…. Phil and Anna are now on the way back home, via Spain and then a few other airports back to Oz. It’s a long flight.

    I’ll put up another article on the theory later on, since that’s going to take a while to write and Phil also kindly donated some cough to me that he caught somehow in his travels (so I’m not in the best of health right now). Since Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax spent some time actually discussing the 2LoT ideas, I’ve seen where my explanations fall short in being convincing or illuminating, and though the calculation of “work done” is simply done and incontrovertible, we need to move from that to quantifying the exchanges of energy and momenta in transactions rather than fixating on macroscopic work. If we count the work joules, the underlying implication is that energy has been “used” somehow, and this is not a true representation of what is happening. Energy and momentum are transferred without losses, and after an interaction the kinetic energy may be moving in a different direction but the summed momenta remains the same. My thanks to Abd (and THH) for actually engaging and attacking the ideas, since that is something few people have done – mostly they’ve ignored them as simply wrong. Hopefully this time I can achieve the clarity that is needed to persuade a few more people to change their views of both energy-transfers and Perpetual Motion. In the meantime, I’ll be getting the experimental data to prove it.



    Tesla will build world's largest lithium-ion battery for South Australia
    New material may help cut battery costs for electric cars, cellphones
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