Thane Heins: 'Holy crap, this is scary,' inventor says

'Holy crap, this is scary,' inventor says

Feb 04, 2008 04:30 AM, Tyler Hamilton, Energy Reporter

It all began back in 1985, when Thane Heins, having studied electronics at Heritage College in Gatineau, Quebec, started thinking about how magnets could be used to improve power generators.

But it wasn't until after the 9/11 attacks that he started seriously experimenting in his basement, motivated by the desire to reduce our dependence on oil and the countries that back terrorism.

Heins tinkered away, making what seemed like good progress, until one day in early 2006 he stumbled on to something strange. As part of a test, he had connected the driveshaft of an electric motor to a steel rotor with small round magnets lining its outer edges. The idea was that as the rotor spun, the magnets would pass by a wire coil placed just in front of them to generate electrical energy – in other words, it would operate like a simple generator.

The voltage was there, but to get current he had to attach an electrical load to the coil – like a light bulb – or simply overload it, which would cause it to slow down and eventually stop. Heins did the latter, but instead of stopping, the rotor started to rapidly accelerate.

"The magnets started flying off and hitting the wall, and I had to duck for cover," says Heins, surprised because he was using a weak motor. "It was like, holy crap, this is really scary."

By overloading the generator, the current should have caused the coil to build up a large electromagnetic field. This field typically creates an effect called "Back EMF," described as Lenz's law in physics, which would act to repel the approaching magnets on the rotor and slow down the motor until it stopped. Some call it the law of diminishing returns, or a law of conservation.

"Lenz's law is essentially magnetic friction, which is a form of resistance not unlike the wind resistance your car experiences when driving down the highway," explains Heins. More friction means more power is necessary to maintain a constant speed.

Instead, the opposite happened. Somehow the magnetic friction had turned into a magnetic boost. Back to the car analogy, it's like the wind moving from the front to the back of the vehicle.

Days later, Heins realized what had happened: The steel rotor and driveshaft had conducted the magnetic resistance away from the coil and back into the heart of the electric motor. Since such motors work on the principle of converting electrical energy into motion by creating rotating magnetic fields, he figured the Back EMF was boosting those fields, causing acceleration.

But how could this be? It would create a positive feedback loop. As the motor accelerated faster it would create a larger electromagnetic field on the generator coil, causing the motor to go faster, and so on and so on. Heins confirmed his theory by replacing part of the driveshaft with plastic pipe that wouldn't conduct the magnetic field. There was no acceleration.

"What I can say with full confidence is that our system violates the law of conservation of energy," he says.

"Now, is that perpetual motion? Will it end up being that?"

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