30 thoughts on ““Clean, Limitless Power””

  1. Unless they are talking about how self-winding watches are powered by the user making macroscopic motions with their hands, this is a clear 2nd-law violation.

    Maybe there is a hole in the 2nd-law and they have found it?

    Engineering intuition tells me that this is like that reactionless microwave drive that only produced small amounts of thrust, too small to scale up. Yeah, so small that no one else can measure it.

    1. “Engineering intuition tells me that this is like that reactionless microwave drive that only produced small amounts of thrust, too small to scale up. Yeah, so small that no one else can measure it.”

      DARPA might beg to differ (perhaps):

      The EmDrive Just Won’t Die

      “More than 20 years after its introduction, the EmDrive is still being tested in labs around the world, including DARPA. But the controversial thruster’s do-or-die moment is quickly approaching.

      When DARPA put money behind the controversial EmDrive in 2018, it looked like a big gamble. Many physicists had dismissed the revolutionary space drive as simply fake science. Now its EmDrive project is greenlit for Phase 2, DARPA told Popular Mechanics in February this year. Meanwhile, other teams are hoping to reach a final demonstration of the technology later this year.”


        1. Yeah what’s up with that? Everybody suddenly decide to ignore Todd Ritter’s PhD thesis? (that aneutronic fusion is energy upside down). Did it get disproven somehow? I didn’t hear a peep about that!

          1. My mistake.

            I can’t remember the name-change for the Fraud Formerly Known as Cold Fusion. Kind of like you cannot call Global Warming even Climate Change anymore, you have to call it Climate Emergency?

            Aneutronic is for those weird energy cycles involving Helium 3 or Boron Something of at even more insane temperatures.

          2. Why is DARPA more trustworthy than NOAA?

            If you express skepticism of something DARPA announces, Mr. Biden won’t denounce you as a “reactionless drive denier.”

            It is much like you can trust Wikipedia* on hard-science and mathematics articles, on anything with any political angle, not so much.

            *Yes, I look up topics I know something about for confirmation in Wikipedia. There article writers on math concepts used in engineering appear to be written by math weenies who sometimes offer unnecessarily complicated expositions, but by and large, what I find is consistent with the way I learned and understand many key concepts.

          3. Ritter’s thesis showed that the power ratio of power obtained via fusion divided by power lost to bremsstrahlung radiation is under unity for aneutronic fuels. Well over unity for the lighter fuels. The issue is that you’d have to raise the energy level/density of the pinch plasma to near those of the sun in order to contain the emitted xrays and thus prevent the bremsstrahlung losses for the heavier aneutronic fuels. A lose-lose proposition.

          4. The thesis assumes a thermal plasma. A sound premise for most plasma devices, but dubious when you have a potential gradient comparable to particle energy over a distance similar to or smaller than the mean free path.

        2. “Yeah, and “aneutronic” fusion doesn’t seem to die, either.”

          I suppose that ultimately I am trusting the competence and honesty of DARPA that if they approved a “round two” that there must have been good data from round one. Is there any reason that you are aware of to not trust DARPA’s competence and/or integrity?

        3. I can’t remember the name-change for the Fraud Formerly Known as Cold Fusion.

          LENR Low Energy Nuclear Reactions.
          There is definitely weirdness happening there. But not through electrolysis. But pushing high voltages through palladium wires loaded with deuterium gas does very interesting things. Tom Claytor’s experiment at Los Alamos got real quiet. Not because of excess energy. It’s just that the world probably doesn’t really need a super cheap way to make tritium.

          1. I have not seen experimental elimination of Earth’s geomagnetic field as a contributing factor. Have you?

      1. “Why should DARPA be any better than NOAA in terms of truth of results?”

        Let’s see….the difference might be that if the DARPA run “Phase 2” is successful the likely next step might be orbiting a half dozen or so “microsats” with the EmDrive apparatus installed. Then switch them on and let’s see what happens. If they work the satellites should spiral out of earth orbit past escape velocity and basically keep on going. In other words unlike climate change there is a foreseeable near term timetable for indisputable proof of concept. Either it works or it doesn’t.

    2. “However, there is power dissipated by the load resistor, and its time average is exactly equal to the power supplied by the thermal bath.”, from the abstract.

      Doesn’t sound like any thermodynamic issue.

      But equally, they’re not suggesting it scales up significantly, but they did measure the output.

      (The headline is, of course, bullshit. I mean, yeah, it’s “limitless” in that it doesn’t need fuel, just to be in the world with ambient heat, but the magnitudes seem strictly bounded and very low.

      But might be useful, as suggested, for very low-power electronics.)

  2. I was going to say, this seems like a Maxwell’s Demon situation. There has to be some sort of cold-bath that heat is exhausted into, or thermal leakage of the diodes would be balanced by the forward current.

    Not that the second law of thermodynamics is entirely bulletproof – there are some well known frayed edges to statistical mechanics that allow you to do some things which are apparent violations. A lot of the serious thinking on the subject got swept under a “quantum” rug during the quantum mechanics revolution. Gibbs had a perfectly classical resolution of Gibb’s paradox, for example, that made explicit the inherent subjectivity of entropy, but “subjective” doesn’t mean “anything goes.”

    Equipartition of energy is another one: The Fermi-Pasta-Ulam numerical experiment demonstrates that it actually doesn’t manifest in weakly nonlinear systems.

    1. There are some funky things you can likely do on a macro scale. For example, if you had a drill bit with a 10:1 pitch, spinning so that it’s outer surface was traveling at 0.1C, the flutes would appear to travel axially at 1 C. Light going from tip to chuck would travel unimpeded along a flute, whereas no light could follow the reverse path from chuck to tip. If the working side of the flute was covered in tiny retroflectors, any light from the chuck would be reflected back to the chuck.

      So in a case where there was a cosmic body A at the tip and a cosmic body B at the chuck, and they both only emitted light along an axis between them, all emitted photons from both bodies would always end up at B.

      There are lots of other ways you can set that up, but the concept is that mirrored objects moving at significant fractions of the speed of light, or involving vast distances, can take advantage of the finite speed that light travels at to create direction-sensitive light transmission geometries that could create or enhance a thermal difference without any input of energy.

      It’s just really really hard to build and might only work in narrowly prescribed cases like the the one I set up with colinear light columns, ignoring all the other directions, where you then have to build to giant parabolic reflectors at two Lagrange points relative to the binary star system, and…

      1. Re: Your cosmic drill bit: I don’t think the drill bit would get to do this for free: The light travelling “against the grain” would reflect off the flutes: It would be doppler shifted in the frame of the flutes, and gain energy from the reflection. The drill bit would have to do work to maintain its speed blocking light from one of the directions.

        Interesting thought experiment though!

  3. Given 50V of stimulus and a measured current in the pW range, I find myself ill-convinced they’ve accounted for all possible stray signals.

  4. I couldn’t make head or tail out of the article. Whatever the researchers said, seemed to get garbled.

    “People may think that current flowing in a resistor causes it to heat up, but the Brownian current does not. In fact, if no current was flowing, the resistor would cool down,” Thibado said. “What we did was reroute the current in the circuit and transform it into something useful.”

    There’s no such thing as a “Brownian Current” through a resistor, only electrons and they most definitely do produce heat. Otherwise, why would it cool down.

    Resistors and all non superconductors produce Johnson-Nyquist noise.

    There is also the issue of the switching losses in the diodes and something has to drive the graphene.

    The article is nonsense, and from the hand waving, I have doubts about the actual research.

    1. If we can get measurement errors to all break in the right direction, this thing will scale!

  5. I almost e-mailed you links to this story, Rand, so I’m glad to see that you spotted it.

    My major professor for my Master’s degree had a number of ideas for implementing a “Maxwell’s demon”, which this clearly is despite the protestation of the authors. It was rather astonishing to me, since he was the closest I have ever known to a genius – and all of the other professors I knew thought the same thing.

    The ability to “harvest” the energy of a constant temperature reservoir would certainly be a boon to humanity. So would the ability to harvest unlimited amounts of food from everywhere, without effort. Neither is possible.

    Despite my deep affection for my late major professor, I saw at the time that his proposals for violating the Second Law were clearly wrong. He did have an insight into the Second Law that was – and remains – astonishing.

    This, however, doesn’t seem to me as anything other than a perpetual motion machine. But it deserves to be validated or disproved experimentally.

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