Why perpetual motion free energy machines don't work

It still amazes me that with all our posts dedicated to trying to help homeowners save energy, our most popular posts are on free energy scams (mainly magniwork and hojo motor).  I've gone back and forth with the energy ignorant in the comment section of these posts, but I've never written a post dedicated to explaining why these products just won't work.  This post is speaking to those who are confused about perpetual motion devices that claim to create more energy than they consume.  If you notice in the title, I state they "don't" work, not that they "won't" work.  They don't work according to the existing laws of physics.  The future is unknowable. Perpetual motion devices have been attempted for as long as man started making complicated machinery. The goal of many unfortunate inventors  has been to create a machine that will produce useful work in a closed loop system, or in a system without any external forces.  Donald Simanek maintains an excellent history at attempts to create perpetual motion devices in his Museum of Unworkable Devices. In scientific terms, perpetual motion devices are impossible under the current laws of thermodynamics.   Being humans with tiny little brains, our understanding of the universe is limited, so there is always the possibility that the laws of physics will expand and/or change over time.  But as the laws currently exist, the two that are most frequently cited regarding perpetual motion devices are the first and second law of thermodynamics.  In summary (quotes attributed to C.P. Snow):

  1. First law of thermodynamics - Conservation of energy.  Energy can be transformed from one form to another, but it can't be created or destroyed.  "You cannot win (that is, you cannot get something for nothing, because matter and energy are conserved)."
  2. Second law of thermodynamics - Entropy. Systems always flow to a state of disorder.  "You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder; entropy always increases)."{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}

Wikipedia classifies the different categories of perpetual motion devices as follows: "One classification of perpetual motion machines refers to the particular law of thermodynamics the machines purport to violate:

  • A perpetual motion machine of the first kind produces work without the input of energy. It thus violates the first law of thermodynamics: the law of conservation of energy.
  • A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work. When the thermal energy is equivalent to the work done, this does not violate the law of conservation of energy. However it does violate the more subtle second law of thermodynamics (see also entropy). The signature of a perpetual motion machine of the second kind is that there is only one heat reservoir involved, which is being spontaneously cooled without involving a transfer of heat to a cooler reservoir. This conversion of heat into useful work, without any side effect, is impossible, according to the second law of thermodynamics.

A more obscure category is a perpetual motion machine of the third kind, usually (but not always)defined as one that completely eliminates friction and other dissipative forces, to maintain motion forever (due to its mass inertia). Third in this case refers solely to the position in the above classification scheme, not the third law of thermodynamics. Although it is impossible to make such a machine, as dissipation can never be 100% eliminated in a mechanical system, it is nevertheless possible to get very close to this ideal (see examples in the Low Friction section). Such a machine would not serve as a source of energy but would have utility as a perpetual energy storage device."

In summary, here are reasons why perpetual motion energy generation devices don't work:

Conservation of Energy - Say the law of conservation of energy wasn't a law.  You create a perpetual motion device that somehow overcomes all of the external forces mentioned above and you have a device that can operate itself perpetually (similar to the perpetual motion machine of the second kind listed above).  Now, your device can operate forever, but how can you extract any work from it?  If you take energy out of your machine, you will slow it down!  And no, magnets don't "create" energy, they just create a propulsion force.  To make magnets do work you have to add energy (i.e. spin them). I'm not sure I can spend too much time on this one point, because this is ultimately at the heart of perpetual motion energy generation machines.  If someone claims they can get energy out of a system, that energy has to come from SOMEWHERE!  It can come from the sun (nuclear), wind (which is created by the sun), gravity (one way trip), coal/natural gas/oil (dead organisms initially powered by sun), nuclear, humans (powered by food which is powered by sun), etc.  ENERGY HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE. There is no free lunch. Now, there is this tiny little issue of dark energy (also mentioned at the end of this post), but it is outside the scope of this discussion because I don't know too many inventors claiming their perpetual motion device operates on dark energy.

Friction and external forces - This is really an expansion of the law of conservation of energy. Friction occurs when molecules of one thing come in contact with molecules of another thing.  Rub your hands together and feel heat generated.  That heat is energy leaving your body.  Anything operating on Earth will encounter external forces. Thought exercise time!  Think about driving your car down a flat highway.  Bring your car up to speed.  Go ahead, whatever speed you want, there is no speed limit here.  Now take your foot off the accelerator.  What happens?  You car is going to slow down and eventually stop because of air resistance (or friction between the air outside and the body of your car), rolling resistance between your tires and the road (or friction between asphalt and rubber) because gravity (external force) is pulling your car towards the earth, and the internal friction between all the working parts of your car (pistons, wheel bearings, crank shaft, etc.). Ok, we're done with the cute little thought exercise.  Now imagine that car is some perpetual motion machine.  Guess what, all those external forces are still there!

Entropy - This is the hardest to explain but it is also the most obvious.  Basically, everything in the universe wants to go to a state of disorder. Buildings don't build themselves, and when they're built, they eventualy fall down.  Heat always flows from hot to cold. Everything dies.  Everything falls apart.  Maybe one day the universe will start collapsing in on itself, time will reverse itself, and this won't be the case.  But in the known lifespan of the universe (13.75 billion years) entropy has always (100% of the time) increased.   A perpetual motion machine would result in no net disorder, which has never happened in 13.75 billion years.  Not a fan of history dictating future, that's fine, how are you going to get past conservation of energy? Michio Kaku (who graduated first in his Harvard physics class, received his doctorate from Berkeley, and taught at Princeton) addresses perpetual motion machines in chapter 14 of his excellent book Physics of the Impossible.  In his book, Kaku breaks down "impossible" into three classes (summarized below):

  • Class 1 impossibility - impossible today but do not violate known laws of physics
  • Class 2 impossibility - technologies that sit at the edge of our understanding.  If possible, they may be realized thousands or millions of years in the future
  • Class 3 impossibility - technologies that violate the known laws of physics.  If possible, these technologies would represent a shift in our understanding of physics

Kaku labels perpetual motion a Class 3 impossibility (teleportation and telepathy are Class 1, time machines are a Class 2).  He states in the closing of chapter 14 on perpetual motion:

Because creating a true perpetual motion machine may require us to reevaluate the fundamental laws of physics on a cosmological scale, I would rank perpetual motion machines as a Class III impossibility; that is, either they are truly impossible, or we would need to fundamentally change our understanding of fundamental physics on a cosmological scale in order to make such a machine possible.  Dark energy remains one of the greatest unfinished chapters in modern science

Do you understand why I'm referencing this?  An expert in theoretical physics labels perpetual motion as 1 of only 2 class 3 impossibilities in all of theoretical physics (the other being precognition). Finally, I must address a claim that I see all the time regarding free energy devices.  Conspiracy theorists claim that the big bad energy companies are suppressing free energy devices because it will destroy their profits.  This is complete and utter rubbish. Let me tell you how I would get around this issue if I had stumbled on the greatest discovery in all of history:

  1. Chronicle my discovery in exhausting detail.  Paper, electronic, pictures, videos, etc.  Create hard copies and store them with trusted love ones.  Email electronic copies to email addresses I make up on multiple different hosts.  Take out multiple safety deposit boxes in many different states/countries and store identical copies of my research in each one.
  2. Create a company whose purpose is to build and sell my device or power from my device.  Make sure to find a good attorney to ensure all legal work is in proper order.  Getting a good attorney is critical.
  3. Go to investors/universities/press and demonstrate my findings.  Sell shares of my company if capital is needed.  Venture capital guys are pretty good at making money on any kind of idea, there is no need to go to the energy companies.
  4. Become the richest and most famous person in the world while alleviating many of the world's problems.

How could the big bad energy companies hurt my plan?  They couldn't.  Nobody can stop someone else who has a powerful idea.  Sure, the person who created the idea could be murdered, but if step 1 is followed properly, the idea still lives on. Would you really fear death if you had the idea to change the lives of 7 billion people?  Blaming large energy corporations is the cowards excuse for why his/her favorite perpetual motion device won't work.  Of interesting note is Andrea Rossi and his cold fusion energy generator.  Rossi seems to be following the steps above, and is in the middle of step 3.  We'll see if the device (which is not perpetual motion, but is cheap, clean energy) works or not.  Hopefully he reaches step 4. Hopefully you now understand why perpetual motions machines won't work according to the existing laws of thermodynamics.  Could the future change and could dark energy provide unlimited power?  Sure it can, but until then, machines will never operate perpetually, much less create free energy. End of story.


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Frank, Once again for the cheap seats. There is a difference between asking for evidence to prove these claims, and saying it cannot be done. Every time a request for evidence is made, the same bs excuses pop up about a conspiracy and how they are in danger if they do. Show us the proof that these can power a home with modern appliances without using any outside power period. Until this happens, this is just another in a long line of scams.
I AGREE WHOLE HEARTLY with everything You said B .. However .. that's NOT what I said .. the TOPIC line here is.. "Why perpetual motion free energy machines don't work" and the Real answer is NOT that it can't be done. but that NO One has figured a way yet. all this bickering over SHOW US your proof.. NO I don't wanna die crap.. is all well .. just that Crap.. Look i'm NOT saying that Some folks out there haven't died over there inventions etc.. So I was basically referencing from my "cheap Seats" as you call them :) .. that the article bites!!! in so many words.. NOW DO I think it's possible.. YES.. DID I see a YOU TUBE video of a guy showing how his Prepetual motion machine worked.. ( SORT OF worked ) .. but .. after viewing his video on how he did it. I think he stopped working on it. which is a shame because after looking at it. I FIGURED a way to MAKE it do What he did NOT have it do to be prepetual properly .. and If I could find that video and contact the person I'd purchase his device from him. or work with him, and make it work correctly!
I think that everyone here should watch the documentary "Thrive, what on earth will it take?" on YouTube. Its a two hour movie and worth every minute.. If you want to keep walking around like a zombie then please be my guest, but if you want to truly help change the world start there. We are being suppressed, monitored, and squelched of our own true genius by the 1%. please wake the F$@K up before it's too late!!! Think about it; Do you really believe that the universe labored for billions of years, only to bring forth a species (humans, duh!) that would ultimately become an enemy to every other species and it's own home (earth)? I don't think so... There are solutions, there have been huge breakthroughs in technology, medicine, and energy, but we don't hear about them on the news.. Suppression! If we want to change the world, we can't ask an oil economy to help us, we have to do it.
This most definitely IS a scam. I decided to give it a shot to see if it could actually work even to a small degree. Their videos proved to be totally misleading and when contacted with a question about it, they provided zero support and were completely deflective in the only answer they would give. They do however put you on their mailing list to try and suck you in to even more of their scam but I sent them a notice that they might as well remove me from their list, and that I would put the word out to all those that I personally know who were interested in this project and post a notice about this fraud on the web as well.
I agree with every thing you said B .. But I was referencing the article itself .and people like Chris who all feel it's NOT possible.. I mean the TOPIC of the discusion is "Why perpetual motion free energy machines don't work" .. NOT about SCAMS .. cheap seats or not .. Perpetual motion is possible.. IMO .. I did see a You Tube video of one a guy made.. it did NOT work properly it had a major issue/flaw in it.. I'd love to find that video again and purchase the device cuz I don't believe he works on it anymore.. and it's sitting collectin dust in his cellar .. cuz I figured out how to FIX the problem he had!! i'm NOT saying the machine would WORK at that point? I don't know.. I just know the issue he had. I have the solution for it. I'm not saying that after implimenting my 'fix' for it. that the machine won't just run for 1 minute and start to smoke and burn up either.. LOL
ckmapawatt's picture
Frank, the title of the article explains why they currently DO NOT work. It's an educational article to help with all of the confusion out there because there are many non-engineers/physicists who love to chime in on a topic that they have no clue about. My purpose is to explain why they<strong> dont work according to the known laws of physics</strong>. Once someone proves that they will work and rearranges the laws of physics, I'll be happy to change the title.
Josh, I believe ya. I have my own ideas about this ("free energy" or "perpetual motion") subject, but haven't had the time. ...and my guess about your "next project" is anti-gravity, but who knows?... Anyway, your "have faith and keep trying" sentiments are what the human experience is all about. Cool.


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