on Heat Based Free Energy Prepared by Tom Napier
this page last edited 2/17/00 available at:http://www.phact.org/e/skeptic/frenfaq.htm
What is free energy? This is energy which, once you have made the
investment in the equipment, is generated indefinitely with no expenditure
on fuel or other consumables.
The following response is posted by George Wiseman:
He should add that the equipment should be cost effective
for the amount of free energy extracted. All power that we generate today
is from free energy sources, by his own definition; solar, hydro, petrochemical,
nuclear, etc. What we (in the "free energy" research) are doing is trying
to find alternative energy sources that are more advantageous to use than
the present free energy we are using. There ARE several alternatives, they
just aren't practical (yet) because they are much more costly (cost more
for the machine per watt) than the present methods.
This includes the free energy heat pump system promoted
by Dennis Lee. It WILL work, no question (Tom says it won't). The problem
is that it is at LEAST ten times more expensive than Dennis Lee says it
will be. So you can have a 1 KW system for $150,000 (mostly the cost of
the huge heat exchangers because the heat energy available in air is very
thin). Why bother when you can have a decent 1 KW solar cell setup for
Tom's thermodynamics are right out of the book; and CAN
be proven wrong easily. There are several devices that put out more heat
than the energy put in, with no measureable idea where the additional energy
comes from. The Hydrosonic pump for example, heats and pumps water at the
same time, putting out 130% energy for the energy input; easily measured
and duplicated by anyone.
The "Laws" of thermodynamics have been proven "wrong"
for decades. They work only for the machines that they were developed on
and the dogma has severely restricted proper experimentation on other devices.
If no fuel is used, where does this energy come from? It is claimed
that "free energy" comes from the energy in the air.
Does air contain energy? Yes, any substance contains an amount of
heat energy which is a function of its temperature. (Air can also contain
kinetic, i.e. wind, energy which can be recovered with a windmill.)
Can the heat energy in the air be extracted from it? Yes, but only
by making the air cooler so that it contains less energy than it had before.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed even though it can take different
forms such as heat energy, electrical energy or kinetic energy.
What is the First Law of Thermodynamics? It is the scientists' way
of saying the same thing as the answer to the previous question. Energy
can change its form but it cannot be created or destroyed. (Strictly speaking
you have to take into consideration any conversion of mass into energy
or energy into mass using Einstein's famous equation E = MC^2 but in non-nuclear
processes this can be ignored.)
Can I extract energy from the air by making it cooler? Yes, but
only if you have something which is colder than the air to transfer the
heat to. Heat energy moves naturally from hot things to cold things. It
can be made to do useful work when it does. If there is nothing around
which is cooler than the air, you can't extract any energy from it.
What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics? That was it in the previous
answer. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that you cannot extract energy
from something which is all at the same temperature.
Does the Second Law of Thermodynamics say that a "free energy" machine
won't work? Yes.
Is there any way round the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Nope. It's
iron-clad and copper-bottomed. No one, no matter how clever, can generate
energy from air or anything else which is all at the same temperature.
It doesn't matter what fancy machines they use or what funny liquids and
gases they put in it. You can't get energy from the air unless there is
a temperature difference available. Eric's note: we skeptics are willing
to investigate things we tend to think are impossible but would expect
extraordinary proof to defend an extraordinary claim
The following response to the above is offered from Bill
Not correct. The 2nd Law is true by observation, as you
note below. It is a contradiction to say that it is iron-clad, then to
say that it is true because of concensus decision, or because years of
attempts have been unsuccessful at finding a flaw. Conservation of parity
was in a similar situation, yet examples were unexpectedly discovered that
show that parity is not conserved. Better to be honest and say that BECAUSE
the 2nd Law is NOT ironclad, generations of inventors, crackpots, and the
occasional physicist (Dr. H. Aspden) have looked for perpetual motion machines
based on 2nd Law violations. We cannot say that such machines are impossible
in principle, we can only say that people have tried for years and have
been unsuccessful, which suggests that the odds for a success are very
very small, and which very strongly implies (but does not prove) that such
devices are impossible. Pursuing 2nd-Law PMs is not ridculous unless one
remains in denial about the fact that the chance of success is remote.
Now for the legal stuff. Yep, "Freon" is a Du Pont trademark. Anyone infringing
the first and second laws of thermodynamics will be condemned to repeat
their high school science classes in perpetuity. This document is copyright
(c) 1997 by T. M. Napier. All rights reserved.
Why should I believe the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Well, this
may sound like a circular argument but basically because thermodynamics
makes sense if the Second Law is true and doesn't if it isn't. Besides,
people have been trying to find ways round it for 170 years without making
a dent in it.
The following response is from Bill Beaty:
You're right, it IS a circular arguement. In 1899 we could
just as easily say "physics would be destroyed if uranium rocks emit invisible
light." But physics wasn't destroyed, it just required extension. In the
(low probability) event that a 2nd-Law-type of PM machine is found, thermodynamics
will make no sense. ...but only until thermo is extended to encompass the
new discovery. Physics has been "destroyed" time and again by "impossible"
discoveries, but it has continued regardless.
Suppose I have things at two different temperatures, can I get energy
from them? Yes, of course. As you take out the energy the hot thing
will get colder and the cold thing will get hotter. The process will stop
once both are the same temperature. If you burn fuel you can keep the hot
thing hot despite the energy it is giving up. If the cold thing is something
really big, like all the air round you, then it won't heat up much even
though you are putting energy into it. That way you'll keep on getting
energy until you run out of fuel.
What form does the energy from a temperature difference take? The
temperature difference can be used to heat and cool a gas. As a gas is
heated its pressure rises and this can push a piston or drive a turbine.
Either can turn a generator and make electric power. A machine which turns
heat energy into motion is called a "heat engine."
How much useful energy can I get out of a heat engine? In theory
you can get out the difference between the heat energy you put into your
engine and the heat energy which comes out of it. The bigger the difference
in temperature between the input and the output of the engine, the more
energy you can get out.
Is this what is meant by the thermodynamic efficiency of an engine?
Yes, the thermodynamic efficiency is the fraction of the input energy which,
in theory, can be converted into useful output. The practical efficiency
will always be lower than this limit.
How can I compute the theoretical efficiency of an engine? The heat
engine works by heating a gas to make it expand and do mechanical work.
The heat energy of the gas is proportional to its absolute temperature.
Thus if the gas starts off at Th degrees and ends up at Tl degrees the
energy available to be converted into useful output is proportional to
(Th-Tl). Efficiency is Output/Input. Since the input energy is proportional
to Th and the output energy is proportional to (Th- Tl), the efficiency
is (Th-Tl)/Th. This can also be written as (1-Tl/Th). Note that the theoretical
efficiency of a heat engine is always less than 100%. To make these equations
give the right answers you have to use absolute temperatures, not Celsius
or Fahrenheit temperatures.
What is "absolute temperature"? This is the temperature measured
on a scale where zero degrees corresponds to something having no heat energy
at all. In Fahrenheit degrees absolute zero is -459 F. Thus if you add
459 degrees to the temperature of something you will get its absolute temperature
in Fahrenheit degrees. Scientists generally use the Kelvin scale in which
the degrees are the same size as Celsius degrees and thus 0 K is -273 C.
So long as you use consistent units it doesn't matter which scale you use.
Can you give me an example? Suppose you had lots of boiling water
and ice water available. You could run an engine from the difference in
temperature. The boiling water is at 373 K and the ice water is at 273
K. The engine can use only (373-273)/373 of the energy in the boiling water
thus it is, at most, about 27% efficient. In a steam turbine the boiler
is under pressure so the water boils at a higher temperature. On the other
hand, its low temperature is the air around it. However, a good steam turbine
can be up to 60% efficient. Real power stations are nearer to 40% efficient.
Is there a way of making a perfect heat engine? In theory, yes.
Way back in 1824 a guy named Sadi Carnot published a way of heating and
cooling gas in a cylinder with a moving piston which, in principle, would
work as a perfect heat engine. Its output of mechanical energy would be
exactly as much as the theoretical maximum. The way the gas is heated,
expanded, compressed and cooled in this ideal engine is called the Carnot
Can one build a Carnot Cycle engine? No, not really. There are too
many technical problems. For example, you would have to heat the gas to
the same temperature as the source but heat won't flow into the gas unless
the gas is cooler than the source. All of the heat energy in the gas should
go into pushing the piston but some of it will go into heating up the cylinder.
To work perfectly the engine would have to run very slowly. And so on.
Does it make any difference if I use a boiling liquid rather than a
gas? Some. It's easier to heat and cool a liquid than a gas. When you
cool the gas it condenses so you don't need to compress it to get it back
to the starting point. The steam engine works this way. It goes round what
is called a Rankine Cycle. This is less efficient than the Carnot Cycle
but it works better in practice.
Can I use a different liquid in my engine, Freon for example? You
don't have to use water. However, if you use something which boils at a
lower temperature the overall thermodynamic efficiency will be less than
if you had used water. Since Tl is usually the temperature of the outside
air, the only way to make an engine more efficient is the make Th as high
as possible. If you were to use a liquid with a higher boiling point you
could make a much more efficient engine.
Why do steam engines need a condenser? Strictly speaking a steam
engine doesn't need a condenser, it can blow the waste steam from its cylinders
out into the air. Railroad engines did this. However they had to stop and
take on more water to replace the lost steam. If you run an engine on something
like Freon which you don't want to lose then you have to condense it back
to a liquid and recycle it to the boiler. The condenser removes heat from
the Freon gas and converts it back to Freon liquid. This means that the
gas must be hotter than the air which is cooling the condenser. It also
means that the gas must be under high pressure since otherwise it won't
I've heard of engines which have no condenser. What about them?
They must be doing one of two things. Either they are venting gas into
the air, like a railroad engine, or they are relying on the cold cylinder
to condense the gas. In both cases the engine will soon stop working, either
because it has run out of gas or because the cylinder has become too hot
to condense the gas.
Can I always get some power from a difference in temperature? Theoretically
yes but in practice no. For a start, all heat engines need internal temperature
differences just to make the heat flow from place to place. These internal
differences subtract from the available external difference. Also, if the
external temperature difference is too low, the amount of gas or liquid
you have to handle in the engine to get out a useful amount of power goes
up enormously. This increases the thermal losses and the frictional losses.
Eventually the useful output drops to zero. This is why we don't use the
temperature difference between the shallow and deep sea water as a source
of power. You have to move cubic miles of water to get out any useful power
and most of that power gets used up in the pumps.
Is solar power the same as free energy? Once you have built a system
for generating electricity from the sun the electricity is free as long
as the sun shines. Solar cells make electricity directly but are very expensive.
Solar panels are fine for heating water but, because they don't get very
hot, their efficiency as electricity generators is dreadful, see the previous
answer. Much of the time there would be no net output. However, when people
refer to "free energy" they don't usually mean energy coming from some
conventional source like the sun.
Can you run a heat engine backwards? Yes, with a few design changes
most heat engines can be driven backwards, for example by an electric motor.
They will then take heat from somewhere cold and put it into somewhere
that is hotter. This is the principle of the refrigerator and the heat
If heat always flows from hot things to cold things how can a heat engine
make it go the other way? When you drive a heat engine it compresses
a gas. This makes the gas hotter, indeed so hot that it will give up heat
to its surroundings, for example, your livingroom. Thus the hot gas becomes
colder. Now we let it expand. This cools it down until it is colder than
the air outside. Then heat flows from the air to the gas. Now we compress
it again and make it hot and so on. Real heat pumps and refrigerators use
a liquid which boils into a gas but the general principle is the same.
Are heat pumps more than 100% efficient? No, but they do generate
more useful heat from a given amount of electricity than an electric heater
would. This is because most of the heat which the heat pump delivers is
coming from the cold outside air, only a little amount of energy needs
to be added to raise the temperature of the gas in the heat pump from the
outside temperature to above room temperature. The ratio of the output
heat to the input power is the Coefficient of Performance (CoP) of the
heat pump. The CoP is large when the temperature difference is small and
gets smaller as the temperature difference increases. Theoretically it
never goes below 1 but on a very cold day the effective CoP drops so much
that it becomes pointless to use the heat pump, it's more efficient to
use straight electric heat.
Can I calculate the maximum CoP of a heat pump? Yes. It is simply
Th/(Th-Tl). This is the reciprocal of the efficiency of the engine when
it is generating electrical energy. Of course a real heat pump won't do
anything like as well. For example, even if it had no motor losses and
frictional losses, it has to work between a temperature lower than the
outside air and a temperature higher than the room air otherwise no heat
would flow at all.
Does it help to use solar panels in a heat pump? It might. Obviously
on a sunny winter day the solar panels will be warmer than the air and
so will make the heat pump CoP a little higher. Unfortunately, on a cloudy
day there will be no advantage and on a clear night the solar panels will
be much colder than the air. You probably won't come out ahead.
What would happen if I ran a heat engine from the output of a heat pump?
Not a lot. The hottest thing around is the heat pump output and the coldest
thing around is the outside air from which the heat pump is taking heat.
Even if there were no heat loss, friction loss or conversion loss, the
efficiency of the heat engine is low, in fact it is the reciprocal of the
heat pump's CoP. In an ideal world you would get out exactly as much energy
as it took to drive the heat pump. In the real world you would be lucky
to get out half as much. You certainly can't use the engine's output to
drive the heat pump.
Why do I need to use the same temperatures to compute the CoP of the
heat pump and efficiency of the engine? Simply because if you use different
temperatures then there must be an energy source which you haven't taken
into account. For example, if the heat pump has solar panels which are
warmer than the air then the sun is providing some energy.
In this case you don't need the heat pump, why add to your troubles?
The engine will run directly from the temperature difference between the
solar panels and the air. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the power
output will be very low. It also will only be there during the day.
So I can't get free energy from a heat pump? You got it! Is "free
energy" a type of perpetual motion? "Free energy" is just another name
for perpetual motion. The other new name you might encounter is an "over
Over unity machine? This is a machine whose efficiency is greater
than 100%, that is, you get out more energy than you put in. It's just
another circumlocution which is used for "perpetual motion machine" since
nowadays most people realize that perpetual motion is impossible. Plans
for perpetual motion machines have been around for a long time, haven't
any of them worked? The first drawing of a perpetual motion machine dates
from the 13th century. Thousands of people have tried to make over- balanced
wheels, recirculating waterwheels and strange magnetic devices. None of
them has worked. Since the discovery of the first and second laws of thermodynamics
we have known why a perpetual motion machine is impossible.
Why do people keep on trying to build perpetual motion machines?
There are two reasons. One group of perpetual motion machine inventors
is ignorant of basic physics. They think they have discovered something
which everyone else has missed. Often they don't have the skill to make
correct measurements of the input and output powers of their machines and
so they become convinced they are right and the scientific world is wrong.
Some can't quite get their machines to work but believe they could if they
could only get more money to spend on them. This group usually gets very
bitter and twisted because no one will take them seriously. Often they
blame their failure on a conspiracy by the oil companies or the government.
The other group knows quite well that their scheme won't work. However
they happily solicit investment from the public to develop and introduce
their machines. This brings in money, most of which is used to publicize
the scheme and bring in more suckers. Their biggest problem is how to keep
the scam going and stay out of jail. They have to keep coming up with new
excuses for not demonstrating or installing a working machine to stop investors
from asking for their money back. Often they blame their failure on a conspiracy
by the oil companies or the government. What would be a reasonable way
to demonstrate a perpetual motion machine? Anyone can run a machine from
an electric motor and come up with some phony measurements indicating that
the output power is greater than the input power. However, nature can't
be fooled. If the output power really is greater than the input power the
obvious thing to do is to use the output power to supply the input power.
If the machine is real it should run for ever with a net power output.
For example, a real perpetual motion machine should be able to light a
100 watt bulb for weeks or months with no external connections. When an
inventor can demonstrate that, no conspiracy will be able to stop fame
and fortune being his. However no one who has learnt a little physics thinks
this will happen.
Should I invest in a free energy scheme? No way!
A review by Tom Napier
I've long been looking for an authoritative but
treatment of the thermodynamics of heat engines.
I've seen a great need
for a middle ground between my on-line essays
on free energy machines and
the college textbooks which derive equations
rigorously but dismiss free
energy in a sentence. Well, a friend recently
introduced me to a slim
book which should be in the library of everyone
who takes an interest in
heat engines and thermodynamics.
"Understanding Thermodynamics" by H. C. van Ness
published by McGraw-Hill in 1969. It is
now available as a Dover
paperback (ISBN 0-486-63277-6) for $5.95 in any
large bookstore. It is
only 100 pages long and the important first five
chapters occupy only 66
This book gives the clearest explanation of internal
energy and entropy
that I have ever seen, if you can stand the folksy
analogy of sugar lumps
being stolen by squirrels. It explains
the first law of thermodynamics in
an elementary fashion before discussing heat
engines and their potential
efficiency. The author derives the efficiency
of a heat engine without
reference to that perennial red-herring, the
Then comes the much maligned Second Law of Thermodynamics,
the rule by
which we can divide heat engines into those which
will work and those
which will not. Rather than being expressed
in words, which some people
can misinterpret, the two laws are reduced to
simple numerical equations:
1) In any process the net change in energy is
zero and 2) In any process
the net change in entropy is greater than or
equal to zero.
Worked examples include the operation of an internal
the Hilsch Tube and an electricity generating
plant. The latter example
even contains calculations for the diameter of
the steam pipes. The
author points out that, with an output of over
a ton of waste steam a
second, a turbine generator needs a condenser,
not just to improve its
efficiency, but also to avoid soaking the entire
To fully follow the author's arguments you will
need some knowledge of
calculus. Too, the final chapter is heavy
going. It points out that, of
all the devices which have been proposed to violate
the Second Law, none
ever have. It then shows, in some detail,
that even a hypothetical device
such as Maxwell's Demon cannot beat the law.
The remainder of the chapter
shows what we can learn about the laws of thermodynamics
from the atomic
nature of matter.
Most of this book is a masterpiece of clear exposition
by a writer who
has had much experience with the problems students
face when trying to
understand and apply thermodynamics. It
is highly recommended to anyone
who is contemplating building a device to generate
energy from the air.
Eric's Free Energy Test
what about the Entropy Systems
engine by Amin
Dictionary: Too Good to Be True
ERIC'S OPEN OFFER
TO VALIDATE CLAIMS OF FREE ENERGY
Email list -this allows you to get fresh information. SeeArchives
energy with wires and magnets - can you come out ahead?
Back to Eric's
page investigating free energy claims of Dennis Lee
what about Joe Newman's
Wheels and their Ilk
Milton's Free Energy review
some claim you can power space ships with
GIT Gyroscopic Inertial Thruster before believing, check out a
energy discussion page
Eric's discussion of real sources of free
get on Eric's
Free Energy email list
Dennis Lee's more
recent heat FE design claims
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
-from a chemists point of view
temperature phase change - a believing account.
OF AMBIENT TEMPERATURE HEAT - Boyd Cantrell's page.
- alt thermo
special thanks to George Wiseman, Eugene Mallove, Bill
Beaty, and Todd Kudtson for commenting (but not completely agreeing with)