Future Energy eNews April 5, 2004
By JIM YARDLEY, New York Times, March 14, 2004http://query.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?tntget=2004/03/14/weekinreview/14yard.html&tntemail1
BEIJING — For all the hoopla about China's booming economy, its manufacturing muscle and its potential to become a great power, the world's most populous country is struggling to keep the lights on. And the sporadic blackouts that plagued much of China last year are raising complicated questions for the Communist Party and for the rest of the world:
How and where will China get the energy it needs to maintain its economic growth? And how much will the environment suffer for it?
"It's one of the hottest issues facing the international energy industry," said Scott Roberts, chief representative in the Beijing office of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm based in Massachusetts. "The growth has been explosive, and I think it has caught many people in China and elsewhere off guard."
China's emergence has already roiled commodities markets, as the country has become a voracious consumer of energy and raw materials. Last year, its oil imports rose by nearly a third. It also built so many new cars, factories, airports and high-rises that it passed the United States to become the world's biggest steel importer, according to the Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau, a British-based information clearinghouse for the steel industry. Last year, China accounted for almost a third of the world's consumption of finished steel.
Electricity consumption jumped by 15 percent. Domestic coal production rose by 100 million tons - and still there were shortages.
Yet China's appetite today is modest compared with what is estimated for the future; the country's energy needs are expected to more than double by 2020. This prospect has the Communist Party reportedly rolling out plans for at least 100 new power plants, including nuclear, hydropower and coal-fired ones. It has also raised concerns that efforts to improve China's polluted environment will be muted by the demand for power.
China is trying just about every possible avenue to satisfy its power demands, and none offers a completely risk-free or "clean" solution. Plans call for at least 20 nuclear plants to be built by 2020. Hydropower projects, regarded by many Chinese officials as a clean power source, are threatening to disrupt the ecological balance on many important rivers that flow out of the high Tibetan plateau.
China's primary energy source, and its dirtiest, is coal, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the power supply. Coal is a primary source of greenhouse gases, and experts predict that by 2020 China could pass the United States to become the world's biggest source of carbon monoxide. That this is happening is perhaps not surprising, because America is an economic, if not political, model for China.
"The fundamental problem is that China is following the path of the United States, and probably the world cannot afford a second United States," said Zhang Jianyu, program manager for the Beijing office of Environmental Defense, an American-based advocacy group.
In an address earlier this month before the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao captured the competing pressures of the economy when he cited environmental protection and called for building a "conservation-minded society." Yet he also exhorted the country to develop more energy sources.
"We must speed up the development of large coal mines, important power generating facilities and power grids, the exploration and exploitation of petroleum and other important resources," he said.
Michelle Billig, a former energy attaché in the United States Embassy in Beijing, said China's leaders are improving energy efficiency and becoming more environmentally friendly. She noted that China is completing the creation of fuel-efficiency standards that are better than those in the United States. The government is also experimenting with buses and taxis that run on natural gas and expanding its use of ''clean'' coal technology.
"In some ways, they are addressing these issues a lot more seriously than we are in the United States," said Ms. Billig, now an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.
But experts agree that such efforts, as yet, are making only a tiny difference and that too often environmental restraints are brushed aside to meet the demand for power. Mr. Zhang said China's environmental degradation is already being measured in economic losses. He said state officials estimate that acid rain causes about $13 billion, while air pollution reduces the annual gross domestic product by about 3 percent.
China is also often inefficient in its energy use. Mr. Roberts, the Cambridge Energy consultant, said that the worst Chinese industries waste 70 percent more energy than their counterparts in the United States. He also noted that China's electricity consumption grew by 15 percent last year and 10.4 percent in 2002 - a spike in demand he said was equal to total power consumption in Brazil. "They are adding a middle-sized country every two years in terms of energy consumption," he said.
This helps explain why energy security is an increasingly important issue for Chinese leaders, particularly regarding oil. China began importing oil in the early 1990's, partly because its own supplies were leveling out, but also because of rising demand. Now the American invasion of Iraq has shown Chinese leaders, dependent on Middle East oil, how vulnerable they could become.
A December 2003 analysis of China's energy situation by Deutsche Bank noted that in response to the Iraq war, China has begun building a group of storage facilities to create a strategic oil reserve. The report also noted that the country is aggressively pursuing oil deals around the world, from neighboring Kazakhstan and Russia to other oil fields in South America and even Canada. Earlier this year, President Hu Jintao made visits to African countries with significant oil fields.
For now, power officials are warning citizens that another spate of blackouts is likely. Last year, nearly two-thirds of the provinces and autonomous regions experienced varying degrees of blackouts. This year, officials say, could be as bad, or maybe worse.
2) To the Stars
Zero point energy emerges from realm of science fiction, may be key
to deep-space travel
At least two large aerospace companies and one U.S. Defense Dept.
agency are betting that "zero point energy" could be the next
breakthrough in aerospace vehicle propulsion, and are backing those
bets with seed money for ZPE research.
If their efforts pay off, ZPE-driven powerplants might enable Mach 4
fighters, quiet 1,200-seat hypersonic airliners that fly at 100-mi.
altitudes as far as 12,000 mi. in about 70 min., and 12.6-hr. trips
to the Moon.
ONE OF THOSE companies, BAE Systems, launched "Project Greenglow" in
1986 "to provide a focus for research into novel propulsion systems
and the means to power them," said R.A. Evans, the project leader, in
a technical paper last year. Although funding levels have been
modest, Greenglow is exploring ZPE as one element of the
program's "project-directed research," according to John E. Allen, a
consultant to BAE Systems.
At least one large U.S. aerospace company is embarking on ZPE
research in response to a Defense Dept. request, but the company and
its customer cannot be identified yet. National laboratories, the
military services and other companies either now have or have had low-
level ZPE-related efforts underway.
The concept of zero point energy is rooted in quantum theory, and is
difficult for even the technically minded to grasp. But theories
validated by meticulous experiments have confirmed that so-
called "empty space" or what scientists call the "quantum vacuum"
actually is teeming with activity. Tiny electromagnetic fields
continuously fluctuate around their "zero-baseline" values, even when
the temperature drops to absolute zero (0 K) and all thermal effects
A leading researcher in this realm of new physics, Hal E. Puthoff,
director of the Institute for Advanced Studies here, explains zero
point energy this way: "When you get down to the tiniest quantum
levels, everything's always 'jiggly.' Nothing is completely still,
even at absolute zero. That's why it's called 'zero point energy,'
because, if you were to cool the universe down to absolute zero--
where all thermal motions were frozen out--you'd still have residual
motion. The energy associated with that 'jiggling' will remain, too."
For most technologists, quantum theory conjures up images of
extremely minuscule particles and field effects. Why would aerospace
companies and governments invest in researching "jiggles" that defy
measurement? Because those quantum or vacuum fluctuations--
the "jiggles" of zero point energy--if tapped somehow, could produce
stupendous amounts of energy and enable deep-space voyages that are
impossible for today's propulsion methods.
Spacecraft capable of interstellar travel will approach the speed of
light, and may have to extract energy from the vacuum of space.
However, researchers could be years or decades from achieving the
breakthroughs necessary to build such a propulsion system. Credit:
NASA BPP/LES BOSSINAS
"Human transportation within the Solar system will only become
technologically practical if there is a breakthrough in terms of
speed, coupled with an adequate energy/fuel supply," Evans said.
Energy densities (the amount of energy per unit volume) of the
quantum vacuum are comparable to those of nuclear energy--or even
greater. Consequently, its potential as an energy source is
Quantifying the potential of ZPE is difficult, and scientists are
reluctant to translate the huge numbers predicted by quantum theory
into terms easily grasped. Puthoff's explanation is particularly
graphic, though: "It's ridiculous, but theoretically, there's enough
[zero point] energy in the volume of a coffee cup to more than
evaporate all the world's oceans," Puthoff said. "But that's if you
could get at all of it, and you obviously can't. So, when it comes to
a practical amount of ZPE [that might be extracted from the vacuum],
you're still talking about maybe 1026 joules/cubic meter.
"The potential is practically limitless; way beyond what can be
conceived. But until we learn what ZPE embodiment to use [an
engineering process to extract ZPE], and to what frequency we can
effectively extract the energy, it's really hard to make a practical
statement about how much you can actually use," he cautioned. "So
far, the embodiments are pitifully small. [Experiments] have produced
about the same amount of energy as a butterfly's wing--picowatts or
so. But the potential is there."
That staggering potential has kept researchers pursuing a "new
physics" that some critics classify as near-science fiction. Still,
respected scientists and government agencies believe the quest is
worth investing time, effort and money. In 1986, the U.S. Air Force's
then-Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) at Edwards AFB, Calif.,
solicited "Non-conventional Propulsion Concepts" under a Small
Business Innovation Research program.* One of the six areas of
interest was "Esoteric energy sources for propulsion, including the
zero point quantum dynamic energy of vacuum space . . . ."
In particular, the late Robert Forward, a respected scientist
consulting for RPL (now part of the Air Force Research Laboratory
system), recommended additional research of the "Casimir effect,"
which had suggested the existence of ZPE decades earlier. This
phenomenon is attributed to H.G.B. Casimir, a Dutch researcher, who,
in 1948, confirmed the reality of quantum vacuum energy by
calculating the value of a small force between two uncharged metal
"IF YOU PUT TWO metal plates very close together, they partially
shield some ZPE frequencies," Puthoff explained. "That means the
energy bouncing back and forth between the plates is less than the
energy outside, so the plates get pushed together. Radiation pressure
outside the plates is greater than radiation pressure in the somewhat-
shielded area between the plates. The plates coming together convert
vacuum energy to heat."
In 1997, Steve K. Lamoreaux, a University of Washington atomic
physicist at the time, conducted precise measurements of the Casimir
effect. His results almost perfectly matched the predictions of
quantum electrodynamics theory, according to a peer-reviewed paper in
the Jan. 6, 1997, issue of Physical Review Letters
(*Many of us participated in this famous 1986 SBIR solicitation, proposing to evaluate existing non-conventional energy technologies -- a term coined by engineer George Hathaway. - TV )
3) Air force clips the wings of UK wind power
LAURA NELSONNature 428, 111 (11 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428111a http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v428/n6979/full/428111a_fs.html
Britain's bold plans to generate more electricity from wind energy may be shot down by the Royal Air Force (RAF), which says that wind farms confuse its air-defence radar system.
But wind-energy advocates are pressing the air force to ease up on rules that currently prohibit wind turbines from being located within a radius of 74 kilometres of any of its 13 air-defence radar stations.
Earlier this month, the Royal Society, Britain's science academy, intervened in the dispute. It wrote to both the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to point out that the RAF's stipulation could derail government plans to generate 10% of electrical power from renewable sources by 2010.
David Wallace, the society's vice-president, wrote in the letter that nearly half of the wind farms proposed so far in Britain have been successfully opposed by the MoD because of their proximity to air-defence stations. Wallace said that the restrictions were a "significant obstacle on the prospects for developing the UK wind industry".
On 1 March, the society gave written evidence to an inquiry by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on renewable energy. The society said that it was concerned about the number of applications for wind farms that had been turned down.
The MoD says that the 30- to 40-metre-long blades used on typical wind turbines can mask radar signals from low-flying aircraft or produce false alarms by reflecting radar beams. The wind-farm restriction is based on two RAF studies carried out in 1994 and 1997, the contents of which remain classified.
Other European countries do not impose such restrictions. Germany, for example, demands a distance of only 5 km between wind farms and radar stations. But MoD officials say that there are more low-flying aircraft in the United Kingdom.
A working group of representatives from the MoD, the DTI, the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Wind Energy Association was set up two years ago to address the problem. But it has so far failed to agree on whether the MoD rule is technically justified.
Instead, the group has discussed ways to avoid the problem, such as using radar systems that can distinguish between wind turbines and aircraft. The MoD may implement the more sophisticated radar in 2008, but the system is expensive and the ministry does not believe it will completely solve the problem. The Royal Society is urging government ministers to step in and resolve the dispute.
To the Editor:
Your March 18 news article "Study Disputes Idea on Global Warming"http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/18/science/18WARM.html gives the impression that our research goes against the consensus scientific view that global warming is a serious concern. While our research does suggest that climate models are somewhat overestimating 21st-century warming, our work does not argue against the seriousness of the problem.
The predicted global warming over the 21st century is so large (up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit), and the potential effects so serious, that slight overestimates of this warming make little difference — just as reducing the size of a firing squad from 10 shooters to nine makes little difference to the person being executed. Our research should provide no comfort to those arguing against policies to combat global warming.
ANDREW E. DESSLER
College Park, Md., March 20, 2004
The writers are, respectively, an associate research scientist, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, and an associate professor of physics, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
By CHRIS DIXON, New York Times,March 28, 2004 http://query.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?tntget=2004/03/28/automobiles/28AUTO.html&tntemail1
FIVE to 10 years ago, when the future seemed to belong to electric cars - and California clean-air rules forced reluctant automakers to offer them - a small but enthusiastic group of optimists and environmentalists signed on as pioneers. While a few bought electrics outright, most signed leases that obliged them to return the vehicles after a few years.
Regulators and auto manufacturers have since pinned their hopes on newer technologies, like hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles and, further in the future, hydrogen cars. Electric autos have become orphans, abandoned in favor of more promising offspring.
Parental neglect has, in fact, turned into infanticide. General Motors and Ford are taking back electric vehicles when the leases expire - not to resell them, but in many cases to crush them. The companies have refused to sell them to leaseholders, saying there are not enough on the road to justify the maintenance costs, and they want to avoid liability for any problems that might arise. They see electric cars as an interesting but failed experiment that taught valuable lessons for the future.
But some drivers, upset at losing their cheap-running, zero-emission cars even as gasoline prices jump, are fighting back.
One Ford lessee, William Korthof, has hired a Los Angeles civil rights lawyer, Nora Quinn, to press his case. She says she may file a class-action lawsuit against G.M. and Ford on behalf of lessees.
"I am personally, morally offended by the idea that they would destroy these functional vehicles that have such a positive environmental impact," Ms. Quinn said.
Ray Levinson of San Francisco says he may also retain Ms. Quinn. Not only does he drive a Ford Ranger EV pickup, he has compiled a long, green résumé as an environmental programs manager for the United States Postal Service on the West Coast. In 2000, he organized an initiative that put 500 electric Ranger-based postal trucks on Southern California streets; he later oversaw a huge solar-power installation.
Although Mr. Levinson's lease ran out on Feb. 25, he has refused to return his 2000-model truck. He said that before the lease expired, he sought to buy the truck for the $7,000 residual value indicated on his contract. "The next day," he said, "I got a call back that said, nope, no option, turn it in."
Ford's response is similar to that of G.M., which has quietly reclaimed most of its ground-breaking EV-1 electric cars, from some 800 lessees, since production ended in 2000. G.M. has crushed many of the cars, undeterred by rallies and mock funerals organized by the EV-1's devoted fans.
After $1 billion to develop the bullet-shaped electric speedster, G.M. canceled the EV-1 after building about 1,000 cars. Dave Barthmuss, a G.M. environmental manager, said that although many lessees loved the EV-1, it didn't make enough money and cost too much to keep on the road.
"But we've learned a heck of a lot from the EV-1 in terms of technology transfer and what is necessary to sell advanced vehicles like hybrids and fuel cells," he said.
Mr. Barthmuss added that although many cars were crushed - he prefers "recycled" - vital parts were retained for the 100 or so that remain in private hands until all leases end in August. Other EV-1's will live on in museums or as research vehicles.
Ford, too, is quietly reclaiming its electric trucks. Most of the 1,500 Ranger EV's went to commercial fleets, but Ford also leased about 200 to individuals and sold a few. Only 180 or so remain in fleets; about a dozen are still in private hands.
Several Californians who leased Rangers, including Mr. Korthof of Pomona, who installs solar panels, and Dave Raboy, a rancher in Catheys Valley, near Yosemite, received letters from Ford offering to let them buy their vehicles when the leases expired. But they said that when they tried to exercise this option, they were turned down.
In December, Mr. Korthof retained Ms. Quinn. She cited several grounds for a possible lawsuit, asserting that contrary to Ford's assertions, several lessees were not told they couldn't buy their Rangers when the leases ended. She said Ranger and EV-1 drivers had no other options if they wished to drive electric vehicles. And she asserted that EV-1 lessees were being required to pay for wear and tear on crushed cars.
Mr. Barthmass said that wear and tear charges were not unusual for leased cars, and that not all EV-1's were being crushed.
While battery-powered vehicles made barely a ripple in the marketplace, they inspired near-religious zeal among many of those who bought or leased them. The impetus to sell electrics in California came in 1990 with a state mandate that 2 percent of automakers' sales had to be zero-emission vehicles, called ZEV's, by 1998. The mandate was to rise to 10 percent by 2003.
Automakers bitterly fought the requirement, arguing that it unreasonably manipulated the marketplace and forced consumers to buy vehicles for which they had shown relatively little appetite. In 2003, facing the prospect of prolonged litigation with G.M., regulators altered the ZEV mandate to include hybrids and hydrogen vehicles.
Mr. Korthof said his Ranger was a perfect match for his solar-panel business, since he can charge it using his own panels.
Mr. Raboy, whose lease expires in April, also charges his vehicle with panels on his ranch. "We're just trying to do our part," he said, "Not use gas, protect the environment and help with foreign oil in a small way."
Mr. Korthof said that when his lease ended in December, he refused to return the truck but continued to make the $480 monthly lease payments. After what he described as several angry calls from the company, his lawyer, Ms. Quinn, contacted Ford. She said Ford would not agree to let her client keep the truck even if he signed a waiver agreeing to assume responsibility for its upkeep. But Ford has since left Mr. Korthof alone and is accepting his payments.
In contrast to G.M. and Ford, Toyota has allowed lessees to buy its remaining RAV4 EV's, and the company will continue to service them. "We offered these up for purchase, and when we did that we knew that we had a commitment from that point forward," Nancy Hubbell, a company spokeswoman, said.
Honda, which produced about 300 EV-Plus cars, allowed lessees to keep the cars so long as they do not require new batteries, unavailable parts or expensive service.
Ms. Quinn said she saw no reason Ford or G.M. could not sell the cars with titles that would indicate that the vehicles were no longer be supported by the manufacturers.
But this is not how Ford wants to do business, said Philip Chizek, the company's marketing manager for sustainable mobility, particuarly with a technology that he said was never intended to be on the road for more than three to five years.
"Once the vehicle gets in the hands of the owner, they can make modifications that wouldn't be proper," he said. "They may not be up to Ford's standards in terms of preventative maintenance.
"Once you hand off the keys to someone with that type of unlimited liability, it puts Ford in a bad position. And that's not the type of customer relationship that we want."
Mr. Chizek said that when the trucks were leased, "we told them upfront that this was a limited lease and that the probability of them extending the lease is very slim because the technology would be outdated."
Less than two years after Mr. Levinson recommended that Ford receive the electric postal truck contract, the company pulled the vehicles out of service, saying batteries were not available, and substituted gasoline-powered Windstar vans. Had he known that his hoped-for 12-year fleet would be gone so soon, another bidder would probably have won the contract.
Today, he said, he just wants Ford to honor a more personal environmental commitment. "It costs me $1.25 to charge the truck to get a 50-mile range," he said. "It's just criminal that in this time of war for oil and these ridiculous prices for gasoline that I would be forced to give up something that's helping clean the air, eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and is just such a great vehicle to drive."
By KENNETH CHANG, NewYork Times,March 25, 2004 http://query.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?tntget=2004/03/25/science/25FUSI.html&tntemail1
Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington.
Despite being pushed to the fringes of physics, cold fusion has continued to be worked on by a small group of scientists, and they say their figures unambiguously verify the original report, that energy can be generated simply by running an electrical current through a jar of water.
Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed.
No public announcement was made. A British magazine, New Scientist, first reported the news this week, and Dr. James F. Decker, deputy director of the science office in the Energy Department, confirmed it in an e-mail interview.
"It was my personal judgment that their request for a review was reasonable," Dr. Decker said.
For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule.
"I am absolutely delighted that the D.O.E. is finally going to do the right thing," Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. "There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics."
The research is too preliminary to determine whether cold fusion, even if real, will live up to its initial billing as a cheap, bountiful source of energy, said Dr. Peter Hagelstein, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been working on a theory to explain how the process works. Experiments have generated small amounts of energy, from a fraction of a watt to a few watts.
Still, Dr. Hagelstein added, "I definitely think it has potential for commercial energy production."
Dr. Decker said the scientists, not yet chosen, would probably spend a few days listening to presentations and then offer their thoughts individually. The review panel will not conduct experiments, he said.
"What's on the table is a fairly straightforward question, is there science here or not?" Dr. Hagelstein said. "Most fundamental to this is to get the taint associated with the field hopefully removed."
Fusion, the process that powers the Sun, combines hydrogen atoms, releasing energy as a byproduct. In March 1989, Drs. B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, two chemists at the University of Utah, said they had generated fusion in a tabletop experiment using a jar of heavy water, where the water molecules contain a heavier version of hydrogen, deuterium, and two palladium electrodes. A current running through the electrodes pulled deuterium atoms into the electrodes, which somehow generated heat, the scientists said. Dr. Fleischmann speculated that the heat was coming from fusion of the deuterium atoms.
Other scientists trying to reproduce the seemingly simple experiment found the effects fickle and inconsistent. Because cold fusion, if real, cannot be explained by current theories, the inconsistent results convinced most scientists that it had not occurred. The signs of extra heat, critics said, were experimental mistakes or generated by the current or, perhaps, chemical reactions in the water, but not fusion.
Critics also pointed out that to produce the amount of heat reported, conventional fusion reactions would throw out lethal amounts of radiation, and they argued that the continued health of Drs. Pons and Fleischmann, as well as other experimenters, was proof that no fusion occurred.
Some cold fusion scientists now say they can produce as much as two to three times more energy than in the electric current. The results are also more reproducible, they say. They add that they have definitely seen fusion byproducts, particularly helium in quantities proportional to the heat generated.
After a conference in August, Dr. Hagelstein wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, asking for a meeting. Dr. Hagelstein; Dr. Michael McKubre of SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.; and Dr. David J. Nagel of George Washington University met Dr. Decker on Nov. 6.
"They presented some data and asked for a review of the scientific research that has been conducted," Dr. Decker said. "The scientists who came to see me are from excellent scientific institutions and have excellent credentials."
Scientists working on conventional fusion said cold fusion research had fallen off their radar screens.
"I'm surprised," Dr. Stewart C. Prager, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, said. "I thought most of the cold fusion effort had phased out. I'm just not aware of any physics results that motivated this."
(Also see Physics Today article:http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-57/iss-4/p27.html
7) The Techno Maestro's Amazing Machine: Kohei Minato and the Japan Magnetic Fan Company
A maverick inventor's breakthrough electric motor uses permanent magnets to make power -- and has investors salivating
When we first got the call from an excited colleague that he'd just seen the most amazing invention -- a magnetic motor that consumed almost no electricity -- we were so skeptical that we declined an invitation to go see it. If the technology was so good, we thought, how come they didn't have any customers yet?
We forgot about the invitation and the company until several months later, when our friend called again.
"OK," he said. "They've just sold 40,000 units to a major convenience store chain. Now will you see it?"
In Japan, no one pays for 40,000 convenience store cooling fans without being reasonably sure that they are going to work.
Nobue then takes us through the functions and operations of each of the machines, starting off with a simple explanation of the laws of magnetism and repulsion. She demonstrates the "Minato Wheel" by kicking a magnet-lined rotor into action with a magnetic wand.
Looking carefully at the rotor, we see that it has over 16 magnets embedded on a slant -- apparently to make Minato's machines work, the positioning and angle of the magnets is critical. After she kicks the wheel into life, it keeps spinning, proving at least that the design doesn't suffer from magnetic lockup.
She then moves us to the next device, a weighty machine connected to a tiny battery. Apparently the load on the machine is a 35kg rotor, which could easily be used in a washing machine. After she flicks the switch, the huge rotor spins at over 1,500 rpms effortlessly and silently. Meters show the power in and power out. Suddenly, a power source of 16 watt or so is driving a device that should be drawing at least 200 to 300 watts.
Nobue explains to us that this and all the other devices only use electrical power for the two electromagnetic stators at either side of each rotor, which are used to kick the rotor past its lockup point then on to the next arc of magnets. Apparently the angle and spacing of the magnets is such that once the rotor is moving, repulsion between the stators and the rotor poles keeps the rotor moving smoothly in a counterclockwise direction. Either way, it's impressive.
Next we move to a unit with its motor connected to a generator. What we see is striking. The meters showed an input to the stator electromagnets of approximately 1.8 volts and 150mA input, and from the generator, 9.144 volts and 192mA output. 1.8 x 0.15 x 2 = 540mW input and 9.144 x 0.192 = 1.755W out.
But according to the laws of physics, you can't get more out of a device than you put into it. We mention this to Kohei Minato while looking under the workbench to make sure there aren't any hidden wires.
Minato assures us that he hasn't transcended the laws of physics. The force supplying the unexplained extra power out is generated by the magnetic strength of the permanent magnets embedded in the rotor. "I'm simply harnessing one of the four fundamental forces of nature," he says.
Although we learned in school that magnets were always bipolar and so magnetically induced motion would always end in a locked state of equilibrium, Minato explains that he has fine-tuned the positioning of the magnets and the timing of pulses to the stators to the point where the repulsion between the rotor and the stator (the fixed outer magnetic ring) is transitory. This creates further motion -- rather than a lockup. (See the sidebar on page 41 for a full explanation).
Minato's motors consume just 20 percent or less of the power of conventional motors with the same torque and horse power. They run cool to the touch and produce almost no acoustic or electrical noise. They are significantly safer and cheaper (in terms of power consumed), and they are sounder environmentally.
The implications are enormous. In the US alone, almost 55 percent of the nation's electricity is consumed by electric motors. While most factory operators buy the cheapest motors possible, they are steadily being educated by bodies like NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) that the costs of running a motor over a typical 20-year lifespan comprise a purchase price of just 3 percent of the total, and electricity costs of 97 percent. It is not unusual for a $2,000 motor to consume $80,000 of electricity (at a price of 6 cents per kilowatt hour).
Since 1992, when efficiency legislation was put into place at the US federal level, motor efficiency has been a high priority -- and motors saving 20 percent or so on electrical bills are considered highly efficient. Minato is about to introduce a motor which saves 80 percent, putting it into an entirely new class: The $80,000 running cost will drop to just $16,000. This is a significant savings when multiplied by the millions of motors used throughout the USA and Japan -- and eventually, throughout the world.
Minato's invention and its ability to use remarkably less power and run without heat or noise make it perfect for home appliances, personal computers, cellphones (a miniature generator is in the works) and other consumer products.
The magnetic motor will be cheaper than a standard motor to make, as the rotor and stator assemblies can be set into plastic housings, due to the fact that the system creates very little heat. Further, with the motor's energy efficiency, it will be well suited for any application where a motor has limited energy to drive it. While development is still focused on replacing existing devices, Minato says that his motor has sufficient torque to power a vehicle.
With the help of magnetic propulsion, it is feasible to attach a generator to the motor and produce more electric power than was put into the device. Minato says that average efficiency on his motors is about 330 percent.
Mention of Over Unity devices in many scientific circles will draw icy skepticism. But if you can accept the idea that Minato's device is able to create motion and torque through its unique, sustainable permanent magnet propulsion system, then it makes sense that he is able to get more out of the unit than he puts in in terms of elctrical power. Indeed, if the device can produce a surplus of power for longer periods, every household in the land will want one.
"I am not in this for the money," Minato says. "I have done well in my musical career, but I want to make a contribution to society -- helping the backstreet manufacturers here in Japan and elsewhere. I want to reverse the trends caused by major multinationals. There is a place for corporations. But as the oil industry has taught us, energy is one area where a breakthrough invention like this cannot be trusted to large companies."
Minato was once close to making a deal with Enron. But today, he is firmly on a mission to support the small and the independent -- and to go worldwide with them and his amazing machine. "Our plan is to rally smaller companies and pool their talent, and to one day produce the technology across a wide range of fields."
Guest Commentary to Minato article added by IRI (thanks to ZPEnergy.com)
Kohei Minato has been working in this field for many years. I have no reason to doubt the facts presented in this story, which appeared March 12, 2004. It is a remarkable and important achievement.
Magnetic Power Inc. http://www.ultraconductors.com
(*IRI recommends visiting the European Patent Office website which is more user-friendly than the USPTO to view patents:http://gb.espacenet.com/espacenet/gb/en/e_net.htm?search5 . Enter "US5594289" for example in the box labeled "Publication Number" -TV)
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