Holiday Reading & News
    Energy Technologies, the year that was and will be

    The number one reason why I do this is because of the wisdom of Simon. I write (or steal) a few words for an article and he add reams of valuable information. Recently with my New Year story, Simon once again demonstrated what a true treasure he is. For an example read the following:


    Let’s face it – that prediction was bound to be right (this was reference to Gaia’s inability to deliver a working free energy machine) …. Another prediction that’s a sure-fire thing is that in 2017 we’ll continue to see more “Free Energy” inventions that haven’t a chance of actually working, since the inventors (or scammers) don’t understand the flows of energy around the environment and how to harvest them to get work done. There will still be people using variations of failed ideas such as Rodin coils, gravity/buoyancy machines, leverage, pendulums and so on because they get the measurements wrong, or simply that they find it a good source of “donations”.

    Free Work

    It remains, though, that we live in a sea of energy that is continually flowing from one place to another and could (at least in theory) be harnessed to give us Free Work. Any wave motion can theoretically be harvested to do this, providing we have at our disposal the equivalent of a diode that allows that energy to flow one way with ease and restricts it in the other direction. In order to get work out, we need to know what the size of the energy-flow is and work out a way to make that “diode” work.

    I’ve spent a long time trying to resolve that paradox of work and energy, and the current best expression of that resolution is at and the article and other comments there. The conclusions there are somewhat surprising, in that whereas at the moment we need to put work in to refrigerate a volume, a body will naturally cool down (and that movement of energy could be harnessed to do work) providing we can stop heat from outside coming in while allowing the internal heat energy out. The reason we can’t do this at the moment is the unavailability of that heat diode, and the reason that isn’t available is that it is deemed to be impossible to make because doing so would break 2LoT and allow a real perpetual motion machine to be made. While we think a perpetual motion machine is theoretically impossible, only crackpots will try to make one and they’ll probably get the logic wrong and design something that won’t work anyway.

    Back in 1824, Sadi Carnot worked out the theory of thermodynamics that we still use (because it works). He regarded heat as a fluid, that will flow from hotter to colder and not the other way . That unidirectionality of the flow is critical to how we think of thermodynamics. These days we have more understanding of atomic theory and that heat is actually just random kinetic energy of molecules. When we have real molecules exchanging momentum/energy in collisions, it should be pretty obvious that (a) regarding heat as a fluid is an approximation and (b) heat is not unidirectional from hot to cold but instead multidirectional and a colder body can and does radiate/conduct heat to a hotter body. The large number of random transactions in any reasonably-sized system means that the net flow of energy is always from hotter to colder, of course, but if you replace the colder body with one that is colder still you’ll see that the hotter body cools more quickly, and that is because it’s not receiving as much heat energy from the colder body. It does not (and cannot) “know” what other bodies are in its vicinity to radiate to and cannot thus adjust the amount of energy it is radiating to make the calculations give the right answer. That would imply an awareness of what is receiving the heat that is radiated and would of course also break causality since those other bodies could be very far away.

    It’s thus time to discard that idea of heat as a fluid and use a model that corresponds to reality. In reality, if we have two bodies of the same temperature (or a system in thermal equilibrium) then we can easily calculate how much energy is passing between those bodies. If we have a flow of energy, then we should be able to get work out of that flow. All that’s stopping us doing this is a semantic problem and a belief that 2LoT can never be broken – and of course that the device that actually does this is somewhat difficult to make. Hopefully I’ll get enough time in the workshop next year to make one and test it. In the meantime, the logic behind it is published for anyone to consider.

    From a practical point of view such “Free Work” machines would do much the same as the “Free Energy” ones have been advertised as doing (and of course failed to deliver). You get work done without needing a fuel, but you’ll notice that that power comes from the device cooling down and also cooling its environment. It’s true that some people talk about “cold electricity” which might be an indication that they have something that works, but so far at least such claims have not panned out. It’s possible that some people accidentally made the small-scale structures that would do the job, but didn’t realise why it worked and thus didn’t manage to replicate it, but that’s a pretty low probability and it’s more likely that they either measured things badly or were simply scammers.

    To get work from the environment you need to have a device that converts the random movement of heat into a unidirectional (at least to some extent) stream of energy. Once you have a unidirectional stream of energy, you can use various methods to get it to do work. Such a device would appear colder than the environment so that heat energy goes into it. Energy is conserved in such a device, but of course work is a non-conserved quantity.

    The essential point of the Free Work device is that the structures are at a similar scale to molecular dimensions, so that instead of dealing with a statistically large number of random collisions (where 2LoT will apply) we’re instead dealing with single collisions, where Newton’s laws will apply. The energy needs to be changed from random directions to anisotropic (more in one direction than another) and we need a mechanism to get that transaction energy fed out of the device as a stream before it changes back to random directions.

    When you look at things that way, it’s pretty obvious why each Free Energy device we’ve seen has failed to work. You’re not going to get that essential interaction in a bubble-machine, motor/generator, flywheel, coils/magnets, special AC transformers or indeed any of the “traditional” ways of getting Free Energy. They don’t work at the right scale, so they have no source of work and cannot harness the natural flows of energy to do that. There is no mechanism to rectify the random energy to get a unidirectional flow. You need to put work in to start them up, and after that there’s no way for the stored energy to go but outwards until they stop working, since that stored energy won’t be augmented by the environmental energy.

    Though these Free Work devices will be useful and save some fuel, it seems unlikely that they will be producing a lot of kW of power out because there would be a problem of icing-up in a lot of places. They’ll be useful for air-conditioning and refrigeration, though, and maybe charging electric cars on the go. We’re still going to need alternative power-sources such as nuclear (either fusion or clean fission) for the multi-kW or MW power plants.

    Looking forward to 2017,

    I expect that we’ll see some systems that produce Free Work, though maybe at a low power-output at the mW scale. I’m also expecting some news on reactionless space drives to be good, since I do know of some non-public experiments in that that sound good (I’ve not seen them myself though). Fusion reactors breaking even will likely remain several years in the future, as they have done for most of my life. There’s a better chance of Molten Salt fission reactors being mass-produced, though, since Obama gave the technology to the Chinese and they are working hard on it. It should be a good year.
    Funnily enough, Sydney in Australia is just celebrating the New Year as I write. Lots of fireworks – maybe they’ve relaxed the air-pollution laws for the evening.



    Holiday Reading & News
    Energy Technologies, the year that was and will be
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