Jovion Corporation of Menlo Park, Caifornia in partnership with the University of Colorado in Boulder aims to develop and commercialize a device for producing energy from the electromagnetic quantum vacuum. If successful, this could lead to a practical zero point energy device that would work just as well anywhere in the universe due to the constancy of this background electromagnetic radiation as it is presently understood. One proposed device would generate up to 20 kilowatts of heat from sugar cube sized device. The heat would need to be captured and converted to electricity. Micro-gap thermal photovoltaics could match up well for this application to convert 50% or more of the heat to electricity.
As of Feb. 4, 2009, the company has gone through $200,000 in funding, partially from POCi, as well as from DARPA and some private investors.
The POCi funding covers the design, construction and testing of a practical and scalable energy harvesting system. The funding is contingent on the satisfactory achievement of certain scientific proof of principle milestones relating to a prototype Casimir cavity device as described in a current research grant to Dr. Garret Moddel, Professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an inventor of the technology.
The patent is based primarily on papers published in the journal Physical Review by Hal Puthoff in 1987 and Timothy Boyer in 1975.
Bernard Haisch, who is a co-inventor, is quick to point out that this is all purely speculative at this point and that they have not yet been able to prove anything in the laboratory. The sporadic signals they have seen can’t be ruled out as experimental error. That said, the model is still “well worth pursuing”.
It is a “high risk / high gain” venture, he said, wanting to avoid the common mistake of overselling and underdelivering.
They are presently (as of Feb. 4, 2009) looking for major funding of around $10 million to carry out more sophisticated testing.
10cm X 10 cm parallel plates separated by 10 micron non-conducting strips aligned to form 5000 Casimir strips. Gas flow rate of 10 cm/second would generate 21-210 watts. A stacked set of 10 or more layers could yield 210 to 2100 watts (thermal) for a 10X10X10 cm block.
A one cubic centimeter “sugar cube” size block with 1.3 billion tunnels would generate 2150 to 21500 watts (thermal). The 0.1 micron tunnels could be assembled a layer at a time using microchip lithography and then assembled into stacks. Other means of manufacturing the channels could be possible.
This paper speculates, using current theories, that *net* energy MIGHT (and
only might) be extractable from the vacuum of space. Such a possibility does
not necessarily violate current thermodynamic laws since all we need to do is
to redraw our thermodynamic boundaries to include the vacuum energy of the
universe and its attributes. Dr. Puthoff is currently pursuing experimental
studies to ascertain whether or not there is tappable “excess” energy in the
vacuum (theoretical considerations cannot ascertain the answer to this although
there are several possible reasons why it could exist). Since the publication
of this paper, some preliminary experimental results by Dr. Puthoff and his
associates using a “condensed charge technology device” indicate that the
vacuum indeed has significant “excess” energy that is tappable; further work
to make sure of their results (to avoid the problems that plagued the cold
fusion controversy), and eventual publication will be done. A patent has
already been granted on this device: Patent Number 5,018,180…
Modern physical theory, specifically quantum electrodynamics (QED), tells us
that the vacuum can no longer be considered a void. This is due to the fact
that, even in the absence of matter, the vacuum is neither truly particle nor
field free, but is the seat of virtual particle-pair (e.g. electron-positron)
creation and annihilation processes, as well as zero-point-fluctuation (ZPF) of
such fields as the vacuum electromagnetic field, which will be the focus of our
Formally, the energy density associated with the vacuum electromagnetic ZPF
background is considered to be infinite. With appropriate high-frequency
cutoffs the ZPF energy density is still conservatively estimated to be on the
order of nuclear energy densities or greater. The enormity of the figures
describing the vacuum electromagnetic zero-point energy raises the question as
to whether these numbers should be taken seriously, whether they are due to
some defect or misinterpretation of the theory, whether the ZPF fields ought to
be considered as ‘virtual’ or ‘real’. There is, however, no question but
that the ZPF fields lead to real, measurable physical consequences. One
example is the very real Casimir force, an experimentally-verified
ZPF-induced attractive quantum force between closely-spaced metal or dielectric
plates. An elegant analysis by Milonni, et al., at Los Alamos National
Laboratory shows that the Casimir force is due to radiation pressure from the
background electromagnetic zero-point energy which has become unbalanced due to
the presence of the plates, and which results in the plates being pushed
together. (We will discuss this effect in more detail later when we
address the possibility of ZPF energy extraction.) Other effects which can be
traced back to interactions involving the ZPF fields in a fundamental way
include the Lamb shift (the slight perturbation of the emission lines seen from
transitions between atomic states), the van der Waals chemical binding
forces, the stabilization of atomic structure against radiative collapse,
quantum field mechanisms underlying the gravitational interaction,
and spontaneous emission.
“Ground state of hydrogen as a zero-point-fluctuation-determined state” by Puthoff, Physical Review D, 1987 Note: Physical Review D, a leading journal in elementary particle physics, field theory, gravitation, and cosmology.
We show here that, within the stochastic electrodynamic formulation and at the level of Bohr theory, the ground state of the hydrogen atom can be precisely defined as resulting from a dynamic equilibrium between radiation emitted due to acceleration of the electron in its ground-state orbit and radiation absorbed from zero-point fluctuations of the background vacuum electromagnetic field, thereby resolving the issue of radiative collapse of the Bohr atom.
As a scientific concept, the existence of zero point energy is not controversial although it may be debated. But perpetual motion machines and other power generating devices based on zero point energy are highly controversial. Descriptions of practical zero point energy devices have thus far lacked cogency. Experimental demonstrations of zero point energy devices have thus far lacked credibility. For reasons such as these, claims to zero point energy devices and great prospects for zero point energy are deemed pseudoscience.
The discovery of zero point energy does not improve the world’s prospects for perpetual motion machines. Much attention has been given to reputable science suggesting that zero point energy is infinite. But zero point energy is a minimum energy below which a thermodynamic system can never go, thus none of this energy can be withdrawn without altering the system to a different form in which the system has a lower zero point energy. The calculation that underlies the Casimir experiment, a calculation based on the formula predicting infinite vacuum energy, shows the zero point energy of a system consisting of a vacuum between two plates will decrease at a finite rate as the two plates are drawn together. The vacuum energies are predicted to be infinite, but the changes are predicted to be finite. Casimir combined the projected rate of change in zero point energy with the principle of conservation of energy to predict a force on the plates. The predicted force, which is very small and was experimentally measured to be within 5% of its predicted value, is finite. Even though the zero point energy might be infinite, there is no theoretical basis or practical evidence to suggest that infinite amounts of zero point energy are available for use, that zero point energy can be withdrawn for free, or that zero point energy can be used in violation of conservation of energy.
In principle, there remains the prospect of finding something that can be irreversibly altered or consumed to draw a net positive amount of energy through a zero point energy effect. Enthusiasm should be tempered by the realization that the Casimir effect produces tiny amounts of energy and those only in a non-renewable fashion
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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