Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters: the Biefeld-Brown Effect

Back in the 1920s, a young man named Thomas Townsend Brown discovered that if he charged a capacitor with high voltage direct current, the capacitor would exhibit thrust in the direction of the + positive electrode. Off and on for the rest of his life (he died in 1985) he worked on these devices, trying to make a practical propulsion device using this principle. While in college, Brown worked with physicist Paul Biefeld, and the professor's name was added to Brown's when the phenomenon was named "the Biefeld-Brown Effect" (hereafter "B-B").

Basically, a B-B device consists of a small or sharp electrode separated by dielectric material (an insulator, in other words) from a large or blunt electrode. In this form the device is a type of capacitor. When fed high voltage (20,000 volts) DC current, the capacitor will develop thrust leading from the small/sharp electrode and away from the large/blunt electrode. Brown maintained the device thrust toward the positive + pole and away from the negative - pole, but modern experiments have shown the B-B effect works in either polarity. What is important is the electrodes must be differently sized--hence an "asymmetrical capacitor."

A lot of people maintain the B-B effect is electrogravitic; that is, the electrical current acting on the capacitor somehow counters, or interferes with normal gravity. I do not believe this. The effect is clearly the result of excess ions being thrown off the small/sharp electrode, flowing toward the oppositely charged large/blunt electrode. In normal air, the ions pick and charge air ions, adding to the cascade and increasing the thrust. In a vacuum, or under insulating oil, asymmetrical capacitors can still exhibit thrust, though it is usually much weaker. This is because only the ions coming off the forward electrode are present without charged air ions to help push.

This Instructable will describe how to build twin rotary thrusters as a demonstration of the Biefeld-Brown effect. If you prefer to believe this is a form of anti-gravity, you are welcome to do so. My purpose is show you how to build the device, not debate Brown's electrogravitic theories.

New video as of 8/3/2012, showing new type rotors powered by relatively low voltage from a microwave oven transformer:

New video of the thrusters with a different power supply:

No1Nos2 months ago

Also.. http://www.gizmag.com/cannae-reactionless-drive-space-propulsion/33210/

No1Nos2 months ago

Ion wind does not explain this phenomenon..

Mr. Apol (author)  No1Nos2 months ago

Propulsion of the ACTs is certainly the result of ion wind. It's the result of ions being emitted from the lead electrode and being accelerated by the trailing one. If you watch my other video on Instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Biefeld-Brown-Elec... you will see the effect of streaming ions even when the electricity applied is insufficient to move the thrusters. That's what's happening in your video; the ACT vibrates a bit because of the high voltage DC coursing through it. This phenomenon has been studied over the decades by everyone from NASA to a French aerospace company. In a vacuum (or near vacuum, since perfect vacuums are hard to obtain) a thruster can still twitch a bit because it is throwing off ions still. The ACT in your video doesn't really move much because there are no air ions to provide 'wind' to assist pushing. I once showed by rotary ACT to a physics professor I know. He was puzzled how something as heavy as the thrusters could be propelled so fast by mere ions. He even did calculations to figure out how much thrust was needed, and the figure he got seemed far too high for my simple apparatus to achieve. What he forgot was the cascading effect of ions coming off the electrodes, ionizing the air molecules around them and being drawn back by the rear electrode. This is an important distinction. A simple device with a single electrode will not produce as much thrust as an ACT, even if the single electrode spews tons of ions. The ions from the device alone cannot propel it; it takes air to complete the effect. I learned this from a Brazilian expert, Antonio Carlos M. de Queiroz. He has a wonderful site here (http://www.coe.ufrj.br/~acmq/links.html).

There's no antigravity going on here. The B-B effect can be surprising, but it's not inexplicable.

sitearm3 years ago
@Mr.Apol; The video was good to watch; I am curious why you turned lights off for part of it (I was looking for green glows or something). The instructions were even better, especially learning what can be done with old CRT's. My favorite line from your Instructable was, "May have weird side effects around your house." Nothling like playing around with 20,000-30,000 volts at home :)

Cheers! :)
Site
Mr. Apol (author)  sitearm3 years ago
I turned the lights out to see any corona, etc. from the thrusters. In fact there is quiet but noticeable discharge between the electrodes. Since sparking is bad for thrust, I'd like to eliminate it, but I haven't found away to do so entirely, yet.

Paul
Mr. Apol (author)  Mr. Apol1 year ago

Sparking can be eliminated by using resistors (rated for high voltage).

3 years ago
@Mr. A; Oh! And I forgot, there is a wonderful SciFi story from years ago where the government showed a scientist an alien antigravity machine and, after that, he struggled to finally make one, which was 1,000 times bigger and heavier. After he showed them that it worked, they admitted to him that they had faked the evidence. Because he (by fiat) believed that it could be done, he came up with a working prototype. Ah, the SciFi of a few decades ago...

Cheers! :)
Site
3 years ago
@Mr. Apol; Hi! OK I will look again to see the discharge. However, as you wrote, discharge between the electrode does create .. interesting effects.

*now is thinking of Bride of Frankenstein but that's for another post*

Cheers! :)
Site
Mr. Apol (author)  leviterande2 years ago
I have made a few modest experiments trying to isolate the force that propels the ACTs. I've found nothing at work but ionized air. There have been a number of serious experiments done by NASA, the Army, etc., but no true "electrogravitic" force has been found.

PBT
2 years ago
Germans began work on a magnetic propulsion unit long ago but the guy who was in charge of the program never finished the prototype before the end of the war last i saw his family keeps it in their house now it looks almost done but you can tell some parts from it are missing i wouldn't be surprised if it worked though since it was captured germans that got the US space program going after their scientist where captured and forced to work for us in a base not far from 51 if i'm correct i forget the exact name of the base anyway you should be able to find some info and maybe the video on it from the history channel somewhere on you tube
2 years ago
there are so many stories about such propulsions coming from Germany before and during the war. I believe most of them are true.. but which one are you referring to?
tzq33tdq3 years ago
are there kits??? and would it work if it had a higher voltage???
THIS IS EXTREMLY EPIC!!!
Mr. Apol (author)  tzq33tdq3 years ago
No kits, sorry. That's what the Instructable is for. :-)

Higher voltages give greater thrust. Tests have been made with B-B devices up to 300,000 volts and more.

PBT
T0C3 years ago
This is seriously awesome.
But can I use a 555 driven Flyback to drive it? it can put out well over/under 20kV and it's rectified.

(Also about the CRT, when you take out the suction cup touch it to ground also take a ground wire and touch the hole where the suction cup was, just to be safe. Some monitors have up to 75kV inside and that probably will kill you. )
Mr. Apol (author)  T0C3 years ago
A flyback would certainly work. The output is rectified (that's the power source in a CRT).

CRTs need to be handled carefully, that's for sure.

Paul
3 years ago
Well then I guess I'll get started now.

Hehe learned that the hard way years ago...

Really cool instructable btw!!
They could use this for space ships. Use the pulse effect to slowly gain speed. Using nuclear reactors for the energy source. Would these be for effecient than Proton shooting method?, and possibly more effective while keeping a stable system?
Thomas Meek3 years ago
Is the Biefeld-Brown Effect the same principle that makes the "electric Whirlie" go?
Mr. Apol (author)  Thomas Meek3 years ago
Basically, yes. The ACT is more powerful because it uses both poles (having a trailing, oppositely charged electrode accelerates the ions) while a simple ion whirligig does not.

PBT
Dream Dragon3 years ago
I am really fascinated by this, I've seen the "Ion Lifter" experiments and wondered if they were a similar principle. Well done for posting this fascinating demonstration.
just mike3 years ago
I think it would go faster if you used Red Bull cans instead of Pepsi. :)
blackcorvo3 years ago
Wait... a ceirtain scientist named Brown created an incredible kind of capacitor, and died in 1985.

WE'RE IN THE WRONG TIMELINE, MARTY!
ProCactus3 years ago
Hello,
Wow, ill have to look into this, Bizzare

And maybe next time you can narrate the video.
I had to stop watching, Like watching grass grow.
slilleker3 years ago
very interesting! I ponder if this is somehow relates in theory to Tesla's Flying machine - which never came to fruition, people have done experiments using weights and stuff but i think its meant to use magnets rotating within a chamber which is charged so there is a constant thrust.
Ortzinator3 years ago
Thrusters to maximum!
The reason it works is because round electrodes don't emit corona easily, while pointy ones spew it out like mad. So if only one side is spewing electrons, there is bound to be some sort of thrust!
slack-man3 years ago
This was a cool build. I've had an interest in the B-B effect for quite some time. Jean-Louis Naudin has done a lot of research with various "ionic" thrusters, including the NASA "Orbital Maneuvering Propellantless Thruster", based on US patent 6411493.

"Lifters" are a interesting related device that is easy to duplicate. A quick google search will bring up JNL Labs and other sites.
arthujt3 years ago
summit racing has a 30 dollar 60kv ignition coil that might give a little more boost for your project! www.summitracing.com
I have used some in my HHO projects that work just fine!
Mr. Apol (author)  arthujt3 years ago
Ignition coil output is AC and won't work on thrusters unless rectified to DC--but it's a good idea.

PBT
jesteract3 years ago
The video shows the High Voltage DC supply being generated off a PC monitor's EHT and the monitor's power is fed through a Variable Mains transformer... Hmm Don't think there's enough control through the variable transformer, as PC monitors firstly nowadays come as universal 100-264VAC 50/60 Hz mains and secondly if the mains input AC supply is lowered the EHT circuit will simply stop functioning if the input supply's below the lowest threshold, mainly due to the fact that the Switched Mode power supply circuitry on the monitor's board would shut down, thus not providing the required control voltage for the line driver circuitry.

A simpler EHT supply could be designed using an EHT transformer with a wire looped twice around the ferrite and the ends of this wire connected to an electronic halogen transformer and a halogen bulb as a dummy load. The electronic halogen transformer could then be connected to a conventional mains dimmer. up to 65KV can be generated off a surplus EHT coil in this manner.
Mr. Apol (author)  jesteract3 years ago
Actually the variac powers the CRT monitor at AC voltages as low as 70, but the monitor does shut down below that. The main function of the variac is to provide a safe on-off switch.

All sorts of DC power supplies are possible. I chose the CRT as being the easiest to set up.

PBT
menahunie3 years ago
As you mentioned it is the Ions that is causing the thrust.
A very very low powered Ion "engine".
I did a similar project in school and made little rockets on a pendulum causing them the swing.
Electorials3 years ago
wtf!
I didn't know this was possible!
Nice creation ;)
gorth3 years ago
This is a simple ion engine. I built one of these in the 70's from a plan in a 1969 encyclopedia. Very cool !!!
Lectric Wizard3 years ago
How fast will this thing spin ?? Very Interesting!
Mr. Apol (author)  Lectric Wizard3 years ago
Thanks to all for the kind words.

Recent improvements in wiring have improved on my previous top speed of 46 RPM. I'm now getting about 60 RPM.

More professional builders have done even better. See Greg Leyh's results here: