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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I have looked at the loops considered the only way to think in the physics world however we are entering the field theory era now...things may change! Tesla understood that electricity is NOT the flow of electrons but the use of the electron tunnels they produce. Ponder that for a moment as you consider the 'particle theory rules'. If the tunnels are the highway for electricity, it isn't chasing electron motion that serves us but figuring how to direct the flow which is what we call 'electric theory' anyway, right? Tesla knew that energy simply exists and like a paddle in water if you give the water a new thing to do, it will do new things...therein lies the hope of free energy! Now that we have clearly defined and accepted that dark energy is throughout the universe without anyone making it...does it really still apply to consider the old never ending treadmill of the loop of energy in and energy out? It's already there just waiting for something new to do! I say instead of looking on your map to see how long the river is or deciding the best paddle to use, I suggest we all jump in with both feet and ponder the power of the water rushing past us as we strive to survive and swim to a new shore... It all begins when you realize that electrons go one way but 'current' goes the other in electric theory...magnets produce a lot of electron tunnels if you spin them. So does a temperature differential between two attached wires. Perhaps we need to think like with solar cells and figure how to collect what is already there. Please see the Seebeck effect, the Peltier effect and super conducting theory to argue with me. Thank you. The zeros and ones in Boolean Algebra only tell us what we are aware of and not what is actually all around energy... I think nature creates conditions that cause effects and we pay attention to the effects. I think that has occurred when discussing electricity for too long. We do not even have a clear definition of what energy is except the observable fact that it does work. That is not how dark energy is define so I guess it is something else? Or are we arrogantly sitting here believing in a flat earth because it looked that way to us? We need a new vantage point...don't you think? Tesla died far too soon or he might have provided that. His mathematics suggest that saying juice is either there or not was just the beginning of learning about electricity. I would say that might be a good beginning for free energy theory. Einstein was a great man as was Newton who only got hit by an apple... Forgive me...I have no answers only a different point of view...
Mr carver, How can you expect someone who understands money to invest with you in your idea if you do not believe in your idea enough to pursue with everything you have. People who have aquired wealth (excluding the current Rothschild's and Rockefeller's which are part of the .001% not the 1%) have had to lay everything on the line in the passionate pursuit of their dream. Unless you do the same to bring a viable producible prototype with a predictable profit margin and return on investment, why would they give you what they paid for with their blood, sweat, and tears. If you believe in your idea, then sell all your unecessities, put your house as collateral, build it then you'll find partners. Basic rule in investing is if they need your money they don't qualify for it, if they understood money and respected it they'd have it. Some books I'd recommend are the richest man in Babylon, and all Robert t kyiosoki's, that should get you started in the right direction. Getting your thinking right is key, I can tell by your post you listen to a lot of lamestream liberal media. The real 1% you rant about are your neighborhood quickie mart and restaurant owners, and your landlord, when their expenses rise so do their prices. Your view of classes hinders your pursuit of funding. To those with insight in the money realm your extremist left wing views show through when you say "1%ers" or "plutocrats" and make you quite uninformed and not worth listening to.
Something I noticed about everyone on this site is their paradigm on energy and oils role. In Russia when oil wells slow down they pull the pipe and use a rotorouter of sorts to refresh the well and sink a new pipe, good as new. But in some cases in small reserves they would be able to seemingly suck it dry. However, if they retried the area yrs later they hit oil again. If oil is truly a "fossil" fuel it would be finite, so who slipped in some more dinosaurs when the Russians weren't looking. Over 50 yrs ago now Russians found that reserves are being topped off by a deeper source and they've been tapping into it through a process aptly named super deep drilling. They've discovered that instead of being likened to an ore deposit or aquifers, the current reserves are merely overflow pools for a geological process going on much deeper. So if oil were extracted at the rate it's produced there will be a continuous ongoing supply If there is a suppression of information with oil, It's that it's abundant and can found anywhere. Why would authorities inform you of this? After all, governments control the public with it and rake in a lot tax money from it, the green movement wants it abandoned so they don't want to hear about it, and oil companies can name their price if it's precious commodity. As long as people believe in scarcity why tell them different, it aids all their agendas. Ever wonder why the "peak oil" scare isn't mentioned anymore.... The green movement has two types, those that are well meaning misinformed people wanting to do what they are told is right, and those who profit from it. The do gooders might be pacifists thinking if only we had abundant energy no-one would die in war, they don't understand people(or nature). Or they may hate oil for pollution. In this article Chris states a current physics fact elements can not be made or destroyed, so when hydrocarbons get emitted they eventually fall back to earth and begin their cycle back to oil, like rain to ground water. Carbon dioxide is necessary for plants to live and produce oxygen, it is often said that when the earth had higher levels of it that the climate was warmer. Perhaps the levels were higher because it was warmer not vice versa as there frozen gas pockets on the ocean floor. The sun is a chaotic nuclear furnace that can and does change our temp and atmosphere. I'm more worried about the c02 growing large maneating plants that produce so much o2 that insects and arthropods grow to immense proportions, scorpions and cockroaches are big enough. Sulfur, (the demon that brought us acid rain we heard so much about in the 80's), turns out since its reduction because of the clean air act has caused a deficiency of the mineral in cropland requiring it to be spread out anyway. Even if the these natural elements being cast into the atmosphere contributed to climate change, the earth itself expels them regularly and in greater volume, think helka, tambora, Santorini, toba, yellowstone, the Siberian trappes,etc...So even if we all walked everywhere and ate only plant based food substitutes, the planet will still change. I only say all this because the only hope man has is to delve into development of energy, life support, mining, and teraforming space. All of the worrying about and attempting change our current home will be pointless when something beyond us happens and were still anchored on terafirma. Whether our own planet acts up volcanicly or something cosmic makes this rock unlivible the old adage "dig your well before you are thirsty" will ring clear. When a gamma ray burst strips our atmosphere away leaving us thirty days or less of subterranean dwelling, it would not be a good time to start researching how to cope with zero gravity indefinitely without a resupply network. It's only a matter of when not if, so if you want to invent things to benefit man, then get us off this rock and cut our dependence of it.


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