I expect this post to generate lots of diverse commentary, and I expect I’ll be flamed in the process and called irresponsible by some (engineers, scientists, etc.) for writing about somebody and something attached to claims of perpetual motion and broken laws of physics. But screw it! My job is to tell balanced stories, and this is a balanced story in my view worth telling and in need of further independent scrutiny.
The story, published in the Toronto Star today, takes a look at an Ottawa-area inventor who stumbled upon a way of making electric induction motors work, at the very least, more efficiently. At most, he believes he’s figured out a way to manipulate magnetic fields so that instead of slowing down a generator (according to Lenz’s law in physics) it speeds it up. In fact, it gets caught in a positive feedback loop, resulting in a dramatic acceleration without any change to power input.
Normally I would shy away from covering such stories, but three things convinced me it was worth telling: 1) The University of Ottawa has opened its doors and is currently putting the invention through tests; 2) A respected MIT electromagnetics engineer/professor who recently saw a demonstration admitted to me afterwards that he was stumped, and while he didn’t admit (or deny) it broke any laws of physics his reaction was telling: “It’s an unusual phenomenon… But I saw it. It’s real. I’m just now trying to figure it out.”; 3) The inventor, Thane Heins, has conviction and understands that what he has found seems, on the surface, ludicrous. He wants to find out what’s going on as much as the next guy. He is no scammer, in my judgement.
As a reporter who isn’t an engineer or physicist, I’m in no position to say I believe Heins claims. I’ll leave that debate up to people smarter than, but hopefully as open-minded as myself. I will say I believe that Heins believes, and that several well-trained, highly respected academics he has demonstrated it to can’t seem to explain it. At least not yet.
In a nutshell, here’s how Heins sets up one of his demos (to see a video of the demos click here):
He takes an induction motor and connects its steel draftshaft to a steel rotor that is lined with small circular magnets. Opposite the rotor is a wire coil that generates electricity as the magnets on the rotor spin past it. When he applies a load to the coil, like a lightbulb, it increases the magnetic field around the coil. This field would normally create magnetic friction (Back EMF) against the approaching magnets on the rotor, causing the rotor to slow down. But because the rotor and the driveshaft are both steel, they conduct the coil’s electromagnetic field and direct it to the heart of the induction motor. The magnetic friction that would normally be in the air-gap between the rotor magnets and the coil has now been harnessed inside the induction motor, boosting the motor’s existing magnetic fields that are used to spin the draftshaft.
As more load is put on the coil, a larger magnetic field is created and directed to the induction motor, making the motor go faster. This creates a positive feedback loop as the load on the coil increases.
That’s my simple explanation, and I’m sure it’s imperfect. Again, here’s a link to some video demos here.
The weird thing about it is that you normally wouldn’t hook up an induction motor to a generator — i.e. you would normally operate a generator as part of a fuel-combustion process. That’s because it doesn’t make sense to use electricity to spin a motor to spin a generator that creates electricity. Heins only set it up this way to test his design, and because the driveshaft and rotor happened to be steel, they were able to conduct the electromagnetic field.
Now, I’m eager to open this up to civil debate. So be nice. Apparently, what Heins did can be easily replicated. Would be interesting if others tried.