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The scientific basis for tapping energy in the vacuum

Harold Aspden
Department of Electrical Engineering
University of Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON SO9 5NH
United Kingdom

The thought of extracting energy from a hidden but active field environment more plentiful than air or water is rejected outright by orthodox scientists. Yet there are sound scientific reasons for expecting that we should be able to extract "free energy" from that hidden field.

The Zero-point energy field

In 1987, a Senior Research Fellow at the institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, Texas circulated a paper that had just appeared in the Physical Review (1). It was entitled, "Ground state of hydrogen as a zero-point state". It spoke of the energy of these fluctuations, but nothing in the paper would excite the interest of a "free energy" enthusiast; the paper had to be acceptable to a scientific community hostile to such ideas, otherwise it may never have been published.

What is more revealing are the words in the special summary of the paper that its author, Dr. Harold E. Puthoff, also distributed. Quoting from the summary:

"One of the more bizarre predictions of modern quantum theory is that each cubic centimeter of space, including that of the most pristine vacuum of outer space, contains an enormous amount of untapped electromagnetic energy known as zero-point energy (it is the zero-point from which all other energies are measured). The amount of energy associated with this (usually unobserved) background is conservatively estimated to be of the order of nuclear energy densities or greater."

Dr. Puthoff goes on to explain how theorists have tended to question the enormity of the energy density involved but how, over the years, the discovery of the Casimir force and other effects have given the quantitative verification. The Casimir force is a force found to exist between closely-spaced metal plates. The force results from unbalanced pressures in the zero-point field due to the presence of the plates. Dr. Puthoff's own paper announced another indication of the physical reality of this "ubiquitous" energy field, by showing how it accounted for the stability of matter at the atomic level. In his summary, he commented on this with the concluding words:

"The significance of this observation is the understanding that the very stability of matter itself depends upon, and verifies the presence of, an underlying sea of electromagnetic energy of almost inconceivable magnitude, a vast reservoir of random energy that is universally present throughout space."

Now, Dr. Puthoff is not alone in researching this subject. There are many university scientists throughout the world who are working on the underlying stochastic electrodynamics. Sadly, however, many of these researchers are led to conclusions which are not to the liking of others in the scientific community, particularly those who treasure the sterile mathematical abstractions of Einstein's model of space.

One particular conclusion, which has been the basis of my own interest for more than 30 years, is the realization that when an electron responds to an electric field it moves exactly in such a way that it conserves the energy involved in this process. The isolated electron or any such fundamental charge does not, in my opinion, radiate energy. This is consistent with quantum theory and the result deduced by Dr. Puthoff from the atomic electron interactions with the zero-point energy background, but I see this in a different context. It is the fundamental basis of the inertial property of that electron. Its mass is nothing other than a measure of its response when affected by an energy field. By conserving energy, that electron moves as if it has just the mass or inertia that assures field fluctuations consistent with overall energy conservation.

Obviously, this argument leads to a formula relating both the mass and the energy of that electron with the propagation speed of the fluctuation involved. It leads to:

E = mc²

but without requiring Einstein's theory. Though I discovered this over 30 years ago, it was not until 1976 that I found a scientific journal willing to publish such a claim (2). It was heresy to suggest that the famous Einstein formula might have a simple physical basis unconnected with the doctrines preached by Einstein. Such is the faith in Einstein's theory, that the vast majority of journal referees will only allow publications to trespass into relativistic territory when the scientific ideas advanced glorify Einstein's methods. There must be so many scientists who have had their ideas totally surpressed by the unfair attitudes of those who seek to preserve a status quo. Yet any aspect of the scientific status quo is only worth preserving if it can survive criticism. Sadly, that criticism is suppressed and the message to the public is therefore clear: Einstein's theory has weaknesses which those who speak for it cannot see, but yet they sense this, and their inbred instincts cause them to fear the consequences of embroilment to the point where they are ready to fight off any intruder.

I conclude this introductory comment by stressing that the vacuum is full of energy ready to be tapped, if only we can find the right techniques, and I express the view that those who control research funding are ensnared by the adverse doctrines of Einstein's theory. How can one think otherwise when, in 1988, a leading scientist, now retired from a lifelong service at the UK National Physical Laboratory, in which he measured those quantities that are so germane to Einstein's theory, time and the speed of light, published an article in which he called Einstein's theory a "swindle".(3) In an earlier article, again not written until after he was retired, the same author, Dr. Louis Essen, the pioneer of the Caesium atomic clock, had declared that the hope for the future lay in supporting those who reject Einstein's theory and search for that hidden energy that pervades the vacuum state (4).

Is there an ether?

The orthodox scientist will tell you that there is no ether because of an experiment performed by Michelson and Morley in 1887. A more informed scientist might add that a further experiment performed by Trouton and Noble in 1903 (5) is equally relevant in proving that there is no ether. To these scientists one can now say: "Get with it, there is something wrong with the theory of both of these experiments and a new experiment has now taken over".

An experiment has been performed in the State of Washington by E. W. Silvertooth, another retiree, but in this case from a senior position in which he exercised his expert knowledge of optical systems. The experiment was first reported in 1986 in the journal, Nature (6) and then more fully elsewhere (7) in 1987. Silvertooth avoids the retro-reflections of the Michelson-Morley experiment and uses a transparent photo-detector in linear translational motion relative to the optical source to scan along a beam set up by interfering rays coming through one another from opposite directions. He finds that the single laser apparatus he now uses can sense, in an enclosed laboratory, our motion through space in the direction of Constellation Leo at nearly 400 km/s. This is what both Michelson and Morley, and Trouton and Noble were trying to do in their experiments.

The Michelson-Morley experiment did not work because the retro-reflection set up standing waves that were locked onto the mirror surfaces and so their energy was dragged along by the apparatus. That energy affected the speed of light in those standing wave components along the beam. Michelson and Morley did not know about those standing wave properties, because standing waves as such were only discovered by Wiener. The Trouton-Noble experiment did not work because it assumed the Lorentz force law applies to non-circuital charge motion, whereas it is empirically based on effects that demand such a circuital charge motion. The experiment does not involve circuital charge motion.

These are, however, specialist points that are best discussed elsewhere. From our point of view here it suffices to declare that Silvertooth has detected our motion through the ether and so we can now begin to think of the properties of a real ether in which those zero-point energy fluctuations are seated.

1987 was the centennial year of the Michelson-Morley experiment. It gave me the occasion of mentioning the Silvertooth experiment in a letter published in Physics Today (8). It is claimed that Silvertooth's experiment has been repeated by Marinov (9) and that the positive result is confirmed. Also, a further repeat of the experiment is being considered at this time on the initiative of Professor R. Monti in Bologna, Italy.

It should not therefore be too long before we see the consequences of the detection of the ether rumbling through the orthodoxy of modern science. Undoubtedly there will be efforts to patch up the relativistic doctrine in some way, but by then the new research opportunities will have outpaced mere theory and we will, I trust, have broken through into the new world that recognizes the hidden energy field.

The Gyromagnetic anomalies

Magnetism is a phenomenon that features prominently in devices aimed at extracting free energy from the vacuum medium. It has long been realized that there are certain anomalies in magnetism evident in gyromagnetic reactions.

The orthodox scientist will tell you that an electron is a point charge that spins to set up a quantum of spin magnetic moment. How a point can spin is something that stretches the imagination. It takes one into that fuzzy and abstract world that exists only in the mind of the mathematician. How a point charge can spin and yet set up a related magnetic effect that somehow depends upon motion relative to the observer is even more taxing on the imagination. For these reasons I say to the orthodox scientist: "Think again and figure out something better".

The whole problem centres on the factor of two. When the magnetism in a steel rod is suddenly reversed the rod has a tendency to rotate about its axis. If mounted so as to rotate freely, the reversal of magnetism produces a measured angular motion. This corresponds to exactly half that expected if we suppose that magnetism comes from the orbital motion of electrons. The factor of half or two, if the formulae are inverted, is anomalous and has led to a fanciful relativistic based mathematical interpretation for which the Nobel prizewinner Paul Dirac is famous.

Let us think again on this matter. When we consider how energy travels between two interacting electric charges that are subject to an instantaneously-acting electric field, we realize that energy has to travel a certain distance commensurate with the distance between the charges in order to feed the kinetic energy of those charges. This takes a little time and it is convenient to imagine that the energy does travel at the speed of light. In this way, it can be shown that the energy in transit accounts for the magnetic interaction of two moving charges.

The key to understanding this process is to regard that zero-energy in the ether as a source of energy locally. Thus, when the instantaneous action between the two charges says that they have altered their relative positions, owing to their motion, their kinetic energies adjust by energy exchange involving the local zero-point energy background. Such energy is "radiation" energy and it communicates momentum and so force in relation to the energy involved as divided by the speed of light. The total energy in transit is measured by the transit time and the rate at which time is the separation distance divided by the speed of light. Accordingly, the overall force effect that accounts for the electrodynamic action is related to the electrostatic Coulomb force as divided by the speed of light squared and proportional to the square of the separation speed.

The point of this argument is to show how vital that background energy in the ether is to the physical justification for the electrodynamic action. Now this ignores any reaction in the ether apart from its role in providing an energetic environment and in determining the speed of light, but we see ether as containing electric charge itself in some kind of neutral composition. Therefore, this electrodynamic action between charges can never occur in isolation without inducing secondary reaction either in the ether or in any enveloping substance, such as by free electrons in the steel rod just mentioned. Detailed analysis then shows that the optimum reaction will halve any magnetic effect produced by the primary action. This brings us to a position where the ether has to be seen as having special properties which enhance the primary field effects just enough to keep the energy balance. The magnetic energy is stored in the reacting system and resultant fields conform with the unity state that we associate with a true vacuum.

In spite of this neutralizing action, we are still left with an observable gyromagnetic effect that has double the magnetic strength for the same mechanical action. This is exactly what is found if we assume that magnetism in a steel rod is due to orbital electron motion.

In summary we can say that Dirac's spin interpretation cannot be used to reject ideas about the orbital nature of ferromagnetism and that there is an essential reaction density trapped in any magnetic field. The question then is whether this energy can be extracted.

Well, of course, it can. Imagine that we supply current to magnetize a solenoid. The energy fed into the inductive field is stored somewhere and we do not go into that in detail in our textbooks. However, it really is stored in that reacting charge motion that sets up the half-canceling back-field. Thus when the solenoid is switched off it is this reacting charge that feeds energy back to the solenoid circuit. Now ask what happens if that reaction is in a substance and involves electrons in free motion. The energy of that motion is part of their thermal energy. So if we switch off the solenoid containing a core of such material we will actually extract heat energy from that material.

So this tells us that if we energize a solenoid having a copper core, say, the energy supplied to the coil will all be used to generate heat. Suppose then that we extract that heat and use it efficiently for some useful purpose. Suppose further that the solenoid itself is superconducting, meaning that there is no continuous energy loss owing to ohmic resistance. Let the core cool to its initial ambient temperature as this heat is extracted. Then let us switch off that D.C. current, de-energizing the solenoid slowly so as to minimize eddy-current losses. This will return all the inductive energy by extracting it from the thermal activity of the electrons in that copper core.

The energy supplied in the first place was not wasted. It was all available as heat output. Yet much of that energy is returned as electricity when the solenoid is switched off and this energy comes from a cooling of that copper core. We have "free energy" in the sense that ambient heat energy has been tapped to produce a useful energy output.

The orthodox scientist and also the orthodox engineer will suggest that this is not really practical but that is not our immediate concern since we seek here to make a point of principle. "Free energy" can be accessed by tapping the thermal background. Now let us go just a little further with this argument and say that the magnetic field produced by the solenoid is so powerful that when the energy is extracted from the reacting electrons in the copper core the energy drawn out exceeds all the thermal energy of that core. What would happen? Would the core cool to absolute zero, that is minus 273 degrees Centigrade? Perhaps, but in addition could we not expect to find that this process might well draw on that zero-point energy in the background vacuum field?

I can only theorize about the answers to these questions but I submit that one day, if we do get strong room temperature superconductors that can withstand very high magnetic fields, we will get to those answers in a way that could lead to practical devices. In the meantime, let us here remember that orthodox scientists do use the technique of adiabatic demagnetization to achieve supercooling to very low temperatures. What is proposed should not, therefore, be seen as pseudo-science. Furthermore, it is known from experiment that the application of short duration intense magnetic fields (several hundred kilogauss) to copper cores can reveal that they have momentarily experienced a near-molten state from which they were spontaneously cooled when the magnetization pulse terminated. The technological challenge is to get that heat energy out whilst the pulse is on and before the cooling phase begins as the pulse subsides.

I could give many references that bear on what has just been said, but will just mention one, namely my own discussion of this subject in a book dated 1969 (10). The book aroused no particular interest, possibly because its title was "Physics without Einstein", but in a world intent on discovering new sources of energy it is surprising that what I said on this subject has not been investigated or, at least, contradicted by now. I mention also that my Ph.D., which was based on experimental research at Cambridge in England, was for work on the anomalous magnetic reaction effects induced in ferromagnetic substances. That research did not extend to the ideas just presented, but it gave me a relevant scientific background and so a basic confidence in what I was later to propose.

Conductivity anomalies

The scientific world has been shaken by the recent discovery of "warm" superconductivity. Superconductivity at temperatures in excess of liquid nitrogen temperature is a phenomenon that defies the orthodox scientific expectation. The questions we should be asking are whether we are looking at zero electrical conductivity or negative electrical conductivity. The latter would imply a source of "free energy", whereas the former merely is a state of no ohmic loss.

It is conceivable to have particles such as electrons or even protons traveling through conductors and not causing thermal oscillations that imply heat loss. Therefore, logically we must be looking at a system in which there is a transfer of the heat energy associated with the random motion of the atoms that make up the conductor to an ordered motion of the charges carrying the current. Superconductivity sets in when the break-even point is reached and more energy is fed from the thermal condition to the current condition than is dissipated as ohmic loss and so fed back into heat.

This is how I, as a non-expert on matters relating to superconductivity, must view the whole process. It follows that the question of interest to me is what happens if those "warm" superconductors are operated at much lower temperatures than that of the threshold level. My hope is that the circuit might develop an EMF of its own and so supply "free energy" by feeding a current which can be used in an ohmic load, energy which is sourced in the heat of that superconductive element. This imaginary device would need to be cooled down to prime it for operation and would need to have a current fed through it also to prime it for operation, but, once primed, it could continue to feed current to a load and at the same time cool itself to remain superconductive. Indeed, to keep it operative and feeding current one would need to allow some ambient heat energy to reach the superconductive element, but only at such a rate that is needed to sustain the electrical output.

The orthodox scientist would say that this is a pipe dream Certainly it cannot work according to the second law of thermodynamics, though it does satisfy the first law. Be this as it may, in advising on entrepreneurial activity into new and safe sources of energy, I would not recommend turning away anyone who claimed that he or she could demonstrate a source of electrical energy from a primed conductor system fed only on ambient heat.

One may also wonder whether what scientists regard as superconductivity is really an essential preliminary to this prospect of "free energy" from a conductor device. We know of thermoelectric phenomena in conductors comprising junctions between dissimilar metals. In a sense these different junctions exhibit positive and negative resistance. A positive resistance produces heat in absorbing electrical power and a negative resistance cools down in supplying such electrical power. By appropriate selection of metals and operating temperatures of the junctions, one can wonder whether we may be able to fabricate a circuit in which the negative resistance junctions are more effective than the positive resistance junctions.

The result could be a solid-state device which can feed a steady supply of electricity by drawing on heat at the ambient air temperature.

Another version of the same pipe dream? There are certain scientific factors that need looking into from an experimental point of view, but there is nevertheless a sufficient scientific basis in such a "free energy" proposition to warrant the investment involved. It is probable that the Second Law of Thermodynamics will not yield ground on the "free energy" issue, but we must at least try to penetrate that barrier. At the very least I expect that we will eventually discover thermoelectric techniques by which to derive electrical power efficiently from low temperature differential and so gain our energy at the expense of the atmospheric conditions.

Other developments

Space does not permit discussion of the possibility of deriving "free energy" from special kinds of electric motor. Nor does it allow discussion as part of this paper of the current interest in gyroscopic propulsion, which brings with it the prospect of levitation and so energy saving in a new means of transportation.

It is however, appropriate to mention that there is a scientific basis for suspecting that energy can be transferred to and from that zero-point energy in the vacuum field by techniques involving electric motor generators. In evaluating any claims of "free energy" machines of this kind, one should be prepared to give more credibility to the inventor who says his machine has also the surprising property of being able to lose energy. By "free energy" we think of a machine that is more than 100 per cent efficient, but we should also have in mind the machine that is less than 0% efficient. A plausible machine would be one that is reversible to work in either way, that is control the energy transfer from and to that zero-point background.

The secret of such a device will surely be based upon the role of that zero-point vacuum state in determining the Planck quantum of action. This is what governs the quanta of energy radiation across empty space, the so-called photons. It is also what sets the magnetic polarization on a per atom basis of the ferromagnetic substances used in our electrical machines. However, what "free energy" inventors must realize is that the ferromagnet is intrinsically always magnetically saturated. All we do in magnetizing it is to re-orientate the microscopic domains within the substance. This hardly affects the magnetic energy density in these domains, at least for the level of polarizing fields used in most practical machines. Consequently, there seems no basis for extracting energy from that zero-point field.

This having been said, imagine that we do force a much higher level of magnetization so that those quantized orbital electrons do draw on the zero-point energy to help to power the forces acting between the poles of an air gap. Having done this, imagine what happens if we tap that energy in the air gap, using it to drive a motor, whilst the magnetizing current is switched on. Surely those orbital electrons in the ferromagnet will make their own contribution to the energy in the air gap, just as the supplied magnetizing current will feed in some energy. Then, with the poles having moved close together, let us switch off the current. I suspect that energy used as output will then have transferred from those two sources, the magnetizing circuit and the zero-point vacuum field, but only the part needed to sustain the inductive reaction effects in the magnetic core will be recovered.

In summary, I subscribe to the view that there could be ways of designing electrical machines which can transfer energy either way between the zero-point vacuum field and our material environment. "Free energy" in this sense is a distinct possibility and thinkers in this field should not be deterred by the opinions of orthodox scientists who have heard of Einstein but have not heard of that vast reservoir of zero-point energy.

References

1. Puthoff, H. E., Physical Review D., 35, 3266 (1987).
2. Aspden, H., Int. Jour. Theor. Phys., 15, 631 (1976).
3. Essen, L., Electronics and Wireless World, 64, 44 (October 1978).
4. Essen, L., Electronics and Wireless World, 94, 126 (February 1988).
5. Trouton, F. T. and R. H. Noble, Proceedings of the Royal Society, 72, 132 (1903).
6. Silvertooth, E. V., Nature, 332, 590 (1986).
7. Silvertooth, E. V., Speculations in Science and Technology, 10, 3 (1987).
8. Aspden, H., Physics Today, 41, 132 (March 1988).
9. Marinov, S., in: "Progress in Space-Time Physics 1987", J. P. Wesley, Editor, Benjamin Wesley, Federal Republic of Germany, pp 16-31 (1987).
10. H. Aspden, "Physics without Einstein", Sabberton, Southampton, pp. 27-37 (1969).