Chapter 20 - Null Tests of “Free Energy” Claims

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 Notes by David A Roffman on Chapter 20 of

FRONTIERS IN PROPULSION SCIENCE

Chapter by Scott R. Little, EarthTech International, Austin Texas


      The first energy source mentioned in this chapter is zero-point-energy.  All it means is that the lowest energy state of a system is non-zero.  An example of zero-point energy is the energy of the quantum harmonic oscillator.  In this case E = hbar*omega*(n + 1/2).  Here hbar is Planck's constant divided by 2*π, omega is the angular frequency of oscillation, and n is an integer that is greater than or equal to zero.  Notice that the lowest possible energy is not zero, but is hbar*omega/2. In this chapter the electromagnetic zero-point field is discussed.  This arises from the uncertainty principle.  The force per unit area for the Casmir Force is -hbar*c*π2/(240*a4). In this formula “a” is the plate separation.  This relationship holds for perfectly conducting plates.  This chapter discusses several failed attempts to extract net energy including: Ken Shoulder’s charge thrusters, the Potapov device, and sonofusion by Roger Stringham.

     Of interest is H. E. Puthoff’s explanation for the ground state of hydrogen atoms as a dynamic balance of energy loss due to acceleration radiation and energy absorbed by the zero-point field.  In my view this explanation is not necessary. The ground state of hydrogen is just calculated from inserting the coulomb potential into the Schrödinger equation and the using Frobenius’ Method to solve it.  The only thing special about this problem is that it can be solved by hand.  This state just is and there is not allusion to anything else happening.  There were several experiments to test Puthoff’s idea. If he was right then if hydrogen is placed in between Casmir plates, then Hydrogen’s ground state should have lower energy.  The energy of a hydrogen atom is normally given by ~13.6 ev/n2.  Most experiments tested for heat being released by hydrogen passing though the cavity. However the temperature increases observed could be explained by the Joule-Thompson effect.  In some runs with powdered metals the hydrogen reacted with oxygen gas.  A different approach was taken after these failures: absorption spectroscopy.  In this experiment (conducted at the Synchrotron Radiation Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison) hydrogen molecules were used and the species was probed with high UV radiation.  The results were negative.

      Electromagnetic devices are briefly mentioned and they fail to produce net energy and the claims of net gain are only because of the difficulty in correctly measuring power output (even with expensive equipment).  Cold fusion is mentioned next.  Probably many readers know of the claim of success some decades ago, but that was just fraud. The results of cold fusion are not reproducible.  Here’s the problem I have with it.  Protons repel one another through the Coulomb force.  The attractive strong nuclear force acts at about a separation distance of 10-15 m.  This means that particles will have to have a lot of energy to reach this distance.  Temperature is classically defined as proportional to the square velocity.  Low (cold) temperatures mean low velocities, which in turn mean low energy.  Such particles should never overcome the coulomb barrier.