Energy, the ability to do work, is the most important dynamic, organic, and vital part of the human drama. For the past 10,000 years, we have simply grabbed some wood, oil or coal to make a fire. Yes, our ancestors did it even back in the Stone Age. It has been an easy way to cook food, heat our caves, and explode gasses in metal cylinders with pistons. Many believe that we should just continue this human family tradition, even if our collective population has ballooned to billions across the planet and the carbon from our campfires keeps collecting in the atmosphere.
It is been scientifically concluded that, since carbon dioxide is such a stable molecule, the CO2 from the first Model T Fords is still floating around in the atmosphere. And what about those cars? In 1950, the US was producing half of the world’s oil and used most of it to power the automobiles. Fifty years later, we don’t even produce half of our own oil. Furthermore, the climate crisis has now burst our bubble of continuing to burn cheap energy, since fuel-based energy is no longer cheap and the effects of global warming are becoming more apparent every day.
Nikola Tesla, the father of AC electricity, countered this trend a century ago when he said, “If we use fuel to get our power, we are living on our capital and exhausting it rapidly. This method is barbarous and wantonly wasteful and will have to be stopped in the interest of coming generations.” Tesla further went on to state, “With its full development and a perfect system of wireless transmission of our energy to any distance, man will be able to solve all the problems of material existence.”
Today, the wireless transmission of electrical energy is emerging on several fronts. MIT professor Marin Soljacic has a short distance wireless power demonstration with two coils using magnetic resonance and thinks he is following in the footsteps of Tesla.
However, Professor Emeritus James Corum, of the University of West Virginia, can rightly be called a world’s expert on Nikola Tesla’s wireless electricity since he has published dozens of articles on Tesla’s designs with amazing scientific accuracy regarding the earth-ionosphere capacitor circuit that only distributes power when the consumer turns on the appliance. In contrast, the U.S. electrical grid loses approximately 2/3 of its energy on the way to the final distribution point, even if the customer never uses it! At the 2003 Nikola Tesla Energy Science Conference in Washington DC, sponsored by Integrity Research Institute, Dr. Corum stated that Tesla’s basic concepts of transmitting power with high efficiency (over 95%) around the globe had been confirmed from his perspective. Corum has also written about Tesla’s “magnifying transmitter” and his extremely low frequency (ELF) oscillator, which are integral parts of what Telsa’s Wardenclyffe Tower was designed and built for in 1903. Professor Konstantin Meyl from the University of Furtwangen, Germany also has written about wireless power transmission and has a working demonstration model that can be seen on the web, powering a small boat remotely. All of this evidence confidently points to the development of wireless electricity for much of the world in the future.
What else is available for the energy of the near future and how will energy distribution look in the short term, just a few decades from now? One easy answer is that the power grids of the future will mix and match the energy sources in order to network assets. These will include biomass converters, solar, wind, microturbines and geothermal configured as dispersed small-scale generators, combined with other distributed resources such as flywheel storage devices and sophisticated control equipment, in order to avoid investment in large, costly central power plants. This is the plan of ABB Ltd., a Swiss based engineering company that has recently divested itself of building large power plants in favor of community-based energy infrastructure.
Another future trend that holds promise is the concept of “Energy Islands” that provide a diversified, sustainable combination of wind, solar and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) all together on an island. Most of these will be located in the equatorial regions where the temperature difference between the surface and 1000 meters depth exceeds 20°C. The concept will be launched later this year at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challengewhich offers a $25 million in prizes to innovative solutions that combat global warming.
I am optimistic about ZPE rectifier diodes with “zero bias” as the best solid state means for converting the quantum vacuum fluctuations into single direction, direct current (DC) electricity.
Dating back to the 1980’s, Dr. Gerard O’Neill, MIT professor and author of Space Colonies, developed a plan for space solar power (SSP) which has recently gained support from the Pentagon. SSP is a design that would replace fossil fuel energy generation for major, earth-based centralized power systems. Recently, Space Solar Power Institute presented Congressman Bart Gordon, Chairman of the Committee of Science and Technology, with a draft for the formation of a privately-owned SunSat Corporation. Internationally, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) began testing the ‘microwave power transmission system’ for their planned Space Solar Power System (SSPS), conceived as giant solar collectors in geostationary orbit, with plans to be up and running by 2030.
The National Research Council (NRC) of Canada has developed a relatively cheap, efficient, and non-polluting technology to convert the energy of ocean currents into electricity. The Davis Hydro Turbine, invented by engineer Barry Davis, is designed to produce electricity from ocean tides. At the Second Conference on Future Energy in 2006, in Washington DC, sponsored by Integrity Research Institute, Blue Energy International’s Martin Burger described his company’s available Micro Power System for the remote domestic customer kilowatt needs. He also presented the Midrange ocean turbine for remote communities in the hundred-kilowatt range and lastly, the Mega Power System tidal fence for an ocean inlet megawatt generation. Burger described six prototypes that have been built and tested under the auspices of the NRC, proving the concept is viable.
Another trend that can be called a revolution is the transformation in the solar industry by multiple breakthroughs on all fronts in the early part of this new millennium. Los Alamos National Laboratory has recently broken through the single electron barrier by shrinking the elements of a solar cell down to a few nanometers. Now each captured photon of light can be made to generate not one, but two and even more electron charge carrier. Producing this multiplicity of electrons, a feat duplicated by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), is a sign that photovoltaic (PV) cells will soon be seen on the market with two to three times the output for the same size cell as before (Physical Review Letters, V. 92, p. 186601, 2006 and Nano Letters, V. 6, p. 424). A new mechanism for focusing light on small areas of photovoltaic material could make solar power in residential and commercial applications cheaper than electricity from the grid in most markets in the next few years. At half the cost of conventional solar panels, Soliant Energy, a startup based in Pasadena, CA, has developed the new solar modules. Konarka is another breakthrough company that has developed low-cost plastics for solar cells that are efficient across a much broader spectrum of light than traditional cells, allowing them to draw energy from both the sun and indoor lighting.
A new mechanism for focusing light on small areas of photovoltaic material could make solar power in residential and commercial applications cheaper than electricity from the grid in most markets in the next few years.
Since its material is lightweight and flexible it can be colored, patterned and cut to fit almost any device. Konarka envisions embedding its material in cell phones, laptops and toys to provide power on the go. Clothing could be woven with the material to supply power for handheld electronics, and signboards, traffic lights and rooftops could be fitted with solar strips. Thus, solar power will become ubiquitous in the near future because of so many current advances in this energy field.
There is also a revitalized and refurbished nuclear industry on the horizon for the near future. Why? Because the nuclear waste problem has been solved. Little attention was paid to the First International Conference on Future Energy, originally scheduled for the U.S. State Department in Washington DC but then forced into a local hotel by official government pressure.
However, notably, the only speaker to “pass muster” during the coerced “peer review” was Dr. Paul Brown, whose nuclear remediation discovery was praised by the only physicist on staff at the State Department, Dr. Peter Zimmerman. His company, Nuclear Solutions, used gamma rays (high energy X-rays) to zap mixed nuclear waste by knocking out one neutron on the average through “giant dipole resonance.” The amazing part is that this process was also independently discovered by the Institute for Transuranium Elements overseas a few years later, also with the nuclear material sealed in acrylic while it is treated with a tabletop gamma ray laser. The treated waste has a short half-life of hours or weeks, compared to the originally unacceptable thousands of years. With the demise of the government’s Accelerated Transmutation of Waste (ATW) program, going the same way of the doomed Tokamak, the door opens for a lower energy treatment that does not activate the waste while trying to treat it, as ATW continued to do throughout its trials. This is where onsite Laser-Driven Photo Transmutation of long-lived radioactive waste finally will step in, reviving the fission reactor program, with heightened security and elimination of off-site radioactive transport or long term storage.
One easy answer is that the power grids of the future will mix and match the energy sources in order to network assets. These will include biomass converters, solar, wind, microturbines and geothermal configured as dispersed small-scale generators.
Energy experts and historians of energy agree that as societies advance and complexify, they need more and more concentrated, intense forms of energy, like rocket fuel instead of gasoline. Furthermore, for mobile modern societies of the future, transportation will be pollution-free and versatile. For example, of the several converging trends for getting around, “ultracapacitors” are being developed for electric cars to completely replace batteries. They have lighter weight and ten times the energy density of lead-acid batteries. The company to watch is EEStor, a startup from Cedar Park, Texas that is collaborating with Zenn Motor (TSX: ZNN) to roll out new highway speed vehicles by the Fall of 2009.
In the future energy portfolio, another surprising development is the permanent magnet powered motors which are an emerging trend bound to come to market. A number of developments, such as the Spiral Wankel Magnetic Motor and other different designs, all point to the use of the “magnetic gradient” in the same way we presently access an electrical voltage or a change in altitude for hydropower. Professor Emeritus Theodore Loder of the University of New Hampshire is a pioneer in the field and presented developments at the Second International Conference on Future Energy in 2006. In addition, Dr. Thorsten Ludwig and I are co-authoring a paper on “Magnetism as a Zero-Point Energy Effect” because quantum mechanics is filled with zero point energy (ZPE) references explaining the spinning of electrons that cause magnetic fields.
A number of discoveries in the field have made zero point energy (ZPE) much more understandable and accessible to the common physicist. A recent book based on a feasibility study has helped to educate the public about the available means in the future for using ZPE to produce useful electricity and even force production. I am optimistic about ZPE rectifier diodes with “zero bias” as the best solid state means for converting the quantum vacuum fluctuations into single direction, direct current (DC) electricity.
While moving away from petrochemicalbased electrical energy for appliances and transportation is important for the future, there is growing interest in new methods of healing beyond petrochemical based pharmaceuticals. The use of electricity on the surface of the human body, for countering free radicals, pain, and a host of diseases, is becoming more popular with the alternative health community, since it is also free of side effects (More about ‘energy healing’ in a future issue of SuperConsciousness Magazine).
Tesla further went on to state, “With its full development and a perfect system of wireless transmission of our energy to any distance, man will be able to solve all the problems of material existence.”
There are many other promising future energy avenues, too numerous to mention. The work of Josef Papp, who used a patented mixture of noble gases in a closed internal sparking engine, is an exciting example being well-funded by the Infinite Horizons company in California. The plan is to run a modified car engine for a few thousand hours on the same mixture of inert gases that minutely undergo nuclear transmutation with each explosion. Every few months the gas will need to be replaced but at a very low cost compared to gasoline and without any pollution whatsoever.
It can be said that the future will be so bright; you might want to wear shades.