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Electricity Recycler? Stupid Question? Answered

I was laying in bed a few minutes ago thinking about my idea to change the world, as i do every night before bed. I thought why can't or hasn't anyone made a electricity recycling generator? like why can't you take say..... a car alternator and make it produce enough electricity to run a small motor to spin the alternator as well as have enough energy left over to power devices? and then why couldn't this theory be applied to large scale generators? or why couldn't you electricly power a vehicle and somehow turn the wheels into basically 4 big alternators that generate power for the vehicle? going back to the alternator idea, is there no way to make an alternator type generator to use say 25 - 50% of its generated power to power itself and the other 50% to power devices? please point out the flaws its hurting my brain

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whatsisface (author)2007-11-20

I once saw an interesting design for a perpetual motion machine, which involved a waterfall/river powering a waterwheel which in turn powered a pump to pump water back to the top of the hill. I doubt it would work, but I might have a go one day ;-)

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Patrik (author)whatsisface2007-11-20

Generally speaking, when it's obvious that something would break one of the fundamental laws of nature, I tend to say "hm... there must be a fault in my reasoning somewhere", rather than "hm... I doubt it would work, but I might have a go one day". ;-)

I'm content to leave trying to break the laws of physics up to people who actually know far more about physics than I do. I think the chances that an "amateur" would discover something that world-altering are on the order of a billion to one or less. Last time something so fundamental happened was Einstein's discovery of special and general relativity a century ago. And he didn't exactly qualify as an "amateur".

There's plenty of really exciting science that can be done within the laws of physics as they are currently understood...

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chaoscampbell (author)Patrik2007-11-20

I have a HUGE problem with your logic. granted in our day it is often left up to the "PROS" to make the big discovery but the world altering ideas that made our world possable we're those made by people who said "No, everyone in the world is wrong, I'm right" for an example the world was once thought of as square, the man who discovered it wasn't was ridiculed and laughed at because his idea went against all the ideals and laws man had set for him. I personally think that the man who has no "restrictions" by knowing all the laws of science will be the most likely to try something that defies those laws. the man that follows the law knows whats going to happen the man that dosen't will try something the law abiding scientist would call shenanigans on I'm not saying don't learn science, but I am saying sometimes ignoring laws can open the doors to success (excluding of course, Criminal law. thats just not a good idea)

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guyfrom7up (author)chaoscampbell2008-02-01

good point, plus at one time people said it was impossible to fly, it couldn't be done. And now look at us.

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Labot2001 (author)guyfrom7up2008-02-01

lol, this reminds me of how my 6-year-old sister wouldn't believe me when i told her that someone's been on the moon :]

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just to prevent any silly comments....... my use of man in this post is in referance to huMANs. wasn't being sexist

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That's a very good point, I might still carry it out, if only to see *how* it fails.

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Patrik (author)whatsisface2007-11-20

Even better - you could do half an hour of research, and see how much electrical energy you can recover from a given mass of water at a given height (looks up some statistics on the best efficiency obtained by hydroelectric dams), and how much electrical energy it takes to pump water up to that height.

Actually, I'll do the honors, if you don't mind...

Top Google hits for "hydroelectric efficiency" indicate that "The
efficiency of today's hydroelectric plant is about 90 percent." That means that out of every 100 kWh of potential energy stored in the water, your waterwheel will only be able to extract at best 90kWh. The rest is lost due to friction, turbulence, etc.

Some power companies actually use something called "pumped storage", which is close to what you have in mind: during periods of low electricity consumption (i.e. at night) they will actually pump water *up* into the reservoir, which they can then use during peak consumption. That way they can run their other power plants (e.g. nuclear plants) continuously, despite fluctuating energy demands. Essentially, they use the water reservoir as a big energy storage device to even out the fluctuating demand.

Let's assume that the hydroelectric plant uses reversible turbines, so they can pump water back up into the reservoir at night with the same machinery they use to generate electricity during the day (i.e. simply reversing your "waterwheel"), and let's assume optimistically that you can do *that* with 90% efficiency as well. That means that if you spend 90kWh of electrical energy to run the pump, you will only be able to store 90 kWh worth of potential energy back into the water reservoir.

Now imagine running a waterwheel and a pump simultaneously... Suppose you have 367 tonnes of water stored at a height of 100 meters - that conveniently contains 100 kWh worth of potential energy. Running all this water past your water wheel will be able to extract 90 kWh worth of electrical energy from this. Running the pump using this 90 kWh worth of electrical energy will be able to pump up enough water to store 81 kWh worth of potential energy, or only 297 tonnes at 100 meters of height (or all 367 tonnes up to a height of 81 meters).

Here's some more info on hydroelectric power, if you want to learn more:

http://www.usbr.gov/power/edu/pamphlet.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectric_power

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killerjackalope (author)Patrik2008-01-21

the systems used there have nothing to do with trying to make magic energy they are simply saving money by using cheap energy to refill the reservoir to sell as expensive energy during high demand times. Fiscally it's more than 100% efficient because the difference in price is enough to sell the cheap energy used to pump it up as expensive energy despite having used more energy to pump it up, It's not using the same energy to do it...

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whatsisface (author)Patrik2007-11-20

You just pee'd all over a 16 year old's 30 minute pipe dream :'-(

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Patrik (author)whatsisface2007-11-20

That's ok - if you have any amount of imagination, there's plenty more where that one came from. And I bet some of those other ones will actually be physically possible! Would you rather have found out about this ten years from now, after spending a few $1000 trying to get it to work in your garage? ;-)

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whatsisface (author)Patrik2007-11-20

Well I was thinking more a desktop model, but it's a valid point.

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Patrik (author)whatsisface2007-11-20

An easier example may be to look at what would happen if you just do without the electrical generator and motor, and simply connect your waterwheel to your pump mechanically.

In fact, let's consider a bucket chain, where on one side you have full bucket of water going down (your waterwheel), and on the other side you have full buckets of water going up by the same distance (your pump).

What you are trying to achieve is a situation where you have *more* water in the buckets going up than in the buckets going down. If you have any understanding of levers and pulleys it is easy to see that this is impossible.

It is equally impossible when you separate the waterwheel and the pump electrically...

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guyfrom7up (author)2008-01-21

look up johann bessler I got really into it for a while, then I found this place, lol. It's a fun thing to think about at night, then your dreams make up stuff for you. now answer this question, why do car manufactures release cars that get about 21 mpg, while people make stuff in the garage that get's like 300mpg. WHY

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Labot2001 (author)guyfrom7up2008-02-01

the oil guys pay them to do that :]

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chrchcol (author)2008-02-01

This is an extremely great question and is not stupid at all. I think questions like this should be asked by everyone. I would like to offer a few different view points on this topic. Whether I believe in the laws of physics or not, and most certainly I do believe one day many of these laws will be proven as misguided theories. I offer my ideas as a middle ground. In your automobile there are many energies that come into play. While they are not created, most are not used efficiently. Your car battery holds a small charge to spark the car, the gasoline enters the carbarator, the alternator recharges the battery and runs certain components in your car while you are moving. All of this driven by the combustion engine. Thats kinda solid or at least that is energy supplying energy. Then you have a huge energy source that is not tapped, momentum. Your engine is driving your car, but momentum and the force of weight on your vehicle while its moving is an energy source in and of itself. If you attach dc generators to each wheel hub with some way to engage and disengage them, when you engage them you are not using the power of the engine. Your using the momentum built up on the wheels. By disengaging them when you stop you are releasing the stress on the wheels and once again your engine would not be taxed. I believe this same theory could be applied no matter what your running your engine on. Including an electric vehicle, that could be an additional stand alone way to charge your battery bank. In closing, while its true that the engine drives your car, momentum is a separate energy within itself. PS. The reason that there are cars being made with incredibly low gas mileage and there always seems to be obstacles to efficient running alternitative energy sources is because oil is a trillion dollar a year industry.

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uguy (author)chrchcol2008-02-01

Do you really believe we don't have 50 MPG automobiles because of some huge oil industry conspiracy?

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chrchcol (author)uguy2008-02-01

I am not sure that I would call it a conspiracy its common sense. Enough research is given to viable alternatives, have you ever noticed that every one of them has been claimed not good enough. Or many that are efficient upon themselves but than still have to rely on gas to make them more efficient. Conspiracy no, but then again we are in the middle of a war that is more about securing our oil interests then anything else.

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Patrik (author)chrchcol2008-02-01

In electric or hybrid cars, recovering energy from the momentum of the car is called regenerative braking. If you've ever test-driven a Prius, you can watch the battery being charged when you apply the brakes gently (I believe friction brakes do kick in when you need more braking power). This is one of the reasons why hybrid cars outperform no-hybrid cars especially in areas with lots of stop-and-go traffic, such as in cities.

I've also heard of city buses using a big flywheel to do regenerative braking (this was years ago in Europe, in the pre-hybrid era). Needless to say, a flywheel storing as much energy as a city bus doing 40 mph is a force to be reckoned with...

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CameronSS (author)2007-11-19

It would break the laws of physics. Let's say that you have an electric motor and a generator, such that the motor turns the generator and the generator powers the motor. All of your ideas basically boil down to that. If both the generator and the motor were 100% efficient, then ALL of the rotational force put out by the motor would be converted to electricity by the generator, and ALL of the electricity put out by the generator would be converted to rotational energy by the motor. This is physically impossible, due to friction, electrical resistance, and other inefficiencies, but let's pretend we've just broken that law, and move onto the next problem. If you try to "tap in" to the electricity put out by the generator, then the motor will have less power to use, and will put less power to the generator. Let's say that you tap 25% of the power put out my the generator. This leaves the motor with only 75% of the original power. The next time around, another 25% is removed, leaving only 75% of 75%, or 56.25% of the original power, to run the motor. Thus, every time around, you lose power, until the amount remaining in the system is effectively zero. It's actually an exponential curve that approaches zero without reaching it, but it effectively reached zero very quickly. As you can (hopefully) see, drawing power from a closed loop will cause it to slow down, as will ANY inefficiency below the theoretical maximum of 100%. Even an efficiency of 99.999999999% will eventually slow down and stop the system, without drawing out any power. I hope I have sufficiently explained this, and haven't just confused you more. We have two electric cars, and we get asked this question all the time. It's difficult to explain to someone who doesn't just logically "get it," no offense intended toward you.

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chaoscampbell (author)CameronSS2007-11-19

I kinda get it, but I don't get it. the thing I don't get is why no one can make a generator that generates more power then it requires to run it........... like i get that physics are involved and junk......... but like........we've put a man on the moon, we have the ability to store 32 gigs into a stick the size of a small lighter........ we can make computer chips that caculate more in a second then 5000 human brains in an hour why can't we make an ultra efficent electric generator???

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Patrik (author)chaoscampbell2007-11-19

"the thing I don't get is why no one can make a generator that generates more power then it requires to run it"

Of course, if you could achieve this, you could hook up the generator to an electric motor, that drives the generator, which powers the motor, ... If you let it build up high enough, you could run the entire world's energy needs off your hypothetical "ultra efficent electric generator".

Essentially, such a machine would violate the first law of physics: you can't generate energy out of nothing! You cannot have a generator which produces more energy than it takes to run.

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jackncarri (author)Patrik2008-01-21

Patrik Go to www.fuellesspower.com and check out what they have to offer

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Patrik (author)jackncarri2008-01-21

To quote the guys from Car Talk:

Bo-o-o-gus!

The stuff on that website ranges from misleading at best, to physically impossible and downright scams at worst.

Sure, you can run a car on water - provided you pump a lot of electricity into it first to produce hydrogen, and then burn the hydrogen. And you'll get a car that can drive maybe 50-100 miles on a full charge, at a price per mile which is likely a good deal higher than with gasoline. Same thing with driving a car on air: you'll fist need to use a lot of energy to compress air, then run the car using compressed air.

There is no "free" energy here. Just different ways to store energy that are likely far less efficient than a high-powered electric car battery...

Look at it this way: if this stuff works so well, why aren't they out there producing electricity "for free", and selling it to consumers, small businesses, etc. For that matter, why don't they sell the completed devices, rather than just the plans - doesn't that seem like a strange business plan to you?

Answer: if they only sell you the plans, they can always claim you must have done something wrong when the device doesn't work. Or they can point you to the small print where it says that this device won't actually generate any free energy...

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Weissensteinburg (author)Patrik2008-01-21

I'll call your bluff!

Our very own KipKay has found a way to get free electricity.

=p

The thing about the compressed air cars, is that while it may be less efficient, it can also be more environmentally friendly, because the electricity used to compress that air can be from a better source than internal combustion.

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Patrik (author)Weissensteinburg2008-01-21

Re: compressed air - this is one that falls more on the "merely misleading" side of the line.

"The gas tank is removed and thrown away!" - in exchange for a compressed air tank which probably takes up more space.

124 miles on a full tank? Hohum...

No info on efficiency... so how does this compare with batteries, for starters? If it's a simple retrofit of an existing internal combustion engine, I doubt it's going to be even close to competitive.

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Weissensteinburg (author)Patrik2008-01-21

What i mean, is that whatever people are using to compress air may be powered by solar energy, or something like that. In general, isn't wall power more friendly than ICE?

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Patrik (author)Weissensteinburg2008-01-21

In the US, at the moment, not really, no...

Considering that most US electricity is still generated from fossil fuels (and more and more from coal). Sure, a big power plant may run more efficiently than a little car engine, but once you take all the conversion and transmission losses into account...

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CameronSS (author)Patrik2008-01-21

Come on!

I thought you knew better, Patrik! An electric vehicle, even when the electricity is produced by coal, is vastly more efficient than an ICE. Remember that probably 90% of that cloud coming from the power plant is being made to power factories and businesses, not even your home. Compared to all of the other electricity consumers, the percentage needed to charge a battery pack is minuscule. I can't recall the exact figures at the moment, which would render this comment vastly more credible (darn), but even using coal, electric cars are more efficient. Compressed air would be slightly less efficient, but would have the advantage of instant (less than ten minutes) refueling. Also, other systems that don't require electricity could be used to compress the fuel. No, I can't think of any off the top of my head.

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Patrik (author)CameronSS2008-01-22

You're going to make me look it up, aren't you. :-D

My claim is based on a comparison between plugin and regular hybrid vehicles, not full electric versus non-hybrid - I definitely should have qualified that, and I apologize for glossing over that important distinction.

<dig, dig, dig>

Alright, here we go - this is the best I could come up with on short notice...

The most authoritative study of plugin hybrids at the moment is one completed recently by the Electric Power Research Institute. This is the first one that has done a really good job at taking electricity production scenarios into account, and the results stuck with me, because they were somewhat of a surprise for me as well. Couldn't find the higher level summary I read earlier, but here's a relevant quote from the Executive Summary (page 7, emphasis mine):

"In 2010, current coal technologies result in 28% to 34% lower GHG emissions compared to the conventional vehicle and 1% to 11% higher GHG emissions compared to the hybrid electric vehicle.

In year 2050, however, GHG emissions fall as higher emitting technologies are assumed to phase out of the electric generating fleet."

In other words, US electricity production is currently still so dirty, that right now, in the US, on average, a plugin hybrid would actually pollute a little more than a non-plugin one.

Of course, in areas where electricity production is cleaner (e.g. here in Alameda, a whopping 57% of our electricity is renewable, plus another 28% large hydroelectric), plugins, and all-electric vehicles definitely do have a significant edge. And even on average, we expect the US electricity production to get significantly better as old plants are being phased out and new technologies phased in.

So yes, by all means: go electric cars! Just don't underestimate how far we still have to go in cleaning up our electricity production...

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Patrik (author)Patrik2008-01-22

Well wouldn't you know...

Here's another article that I just ran into by accident, dated from last week:

Promises of plug-in hybrids

"We analyze the effect of charging a significant number of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) in the United States using presently available night-time spare electric capacity in the short term and new base-load capacity in the long term. Nationwide, there is currently ample spare night-time utility capacity to charge even a large fleet of PHEVs. Using the mix of generating plants expected to be used for PHEV charging, we find that, while driving on battery power, PHEVs compared to their conventional hybrid counterparts reduce CO2 emissions by 25% in the short term and as much as 50% in the long term."

It seems the major difference with the previous study is the focus on night-time charging, which enables more efficient energy sources to be run 24-7, shifting the balance towards overall cleaner energy sources.

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CameronSS (author)Patrik2008-01-21

Did you see the prices? The plans are $300. One sucker would be enough to cover the cost of the domain, the site design, and the CDs. Anyone else would be pure profit. Not a strange business plan--a fraudulent, yet deceptively brilliant business plan.

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CameronSS (author)chaoscampbell2007-11-19

But as seemingly impossible as all of those achievements are, none of them required breaking the laws of physics. It is impossible to get more energy out of something than you put in. Even something that seems to put out more energy than it consumes, like a solar panel, requires energy. In a solar panel, light from the Sun bounces around electrons in ways too complex to explain here, but only generates 10%-40% of the input sunlight as electricity. The only inventions that have managed to achieve efficiency of over 100% are those that are used to steal people's investment money. The only device that puts out more energy than it consumes is a nuclear reaction, in which matter is converted to energy. This has the somewhat annoying side affect of vaporizing small cities and contaminating the planet with inordinate amounts of radioactive fallout. Someone else care to try to explain? Kiteman? LasVegas? Weissensteinburg? Eric?

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ooh! I got an intelligence reference! Just for that, I'll give it a shot!

Let's use the example of attaching a generator to a wheel. It's not even a matter of a super efficient generator, it's that you can't get all the energy you started with to the generator. Look at an internal combustion engine. just during the combustion, energy is lost via heat from the explosion. Then, energy is required to pump the piston and turn the crank shaft. And then again, turning everything to transfer energy to the wheel...not to mention if we're talking about a moving car. All the motion occurring in this cycle requires energy. The energy used to move the car cannot be used for the generator as well.

Think of it like this: when you're pumping iron in the gym, it takes more energy to lift five pounds than it does ten pounds. It's the same thing with this generator, the more stuff that that engine is working, the more energy used.

I hope that makes sense.

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Goodhart (author)2007-11-19

If one "generates" some electricity and doesn't "use it all"; in some areas, the electric company will "buy it". I am not sure how all that works, as I haven't really looked into it much.

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chaoscampbell (author)Goodhart2007-11-19

ummm.......ok.......... but what I'm talking about is like.........eternal power........ renewable resource............... make an electric powered generator and make it power itself and other devices like take a gas generator with household electrical outlets on it. now imagine its electrically powered not gas and it gets its power from itself

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CameronSS (author)chaoscampbell2007-11-19

It's longer than I planned, but did you read my message below? I think that that's the best I've managed to explain it so far...yay!

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Goodhart (author)CameronSS2008-01-21

In a word (or two), it counter-entropic :-)

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Goodhart (author)chaoscampbell2007-11-20

I suppose it would be easiest to say it this way: In the world you are looking for, 1 + 1 = 3+

In the real world, GIGO; or 1 + 1 = 1 & 1 that is, in order to create a system that just "breaks even" one would have to eliminate all other forms of physical output. Friction for one, as Kiteman remarks, heat for another, the losses due to induction and a multitude of other factors that make a real world (macro) "perpetual motion machine" impossible, even in a vacuum.

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killerjackalope (author)Goodhart2008-01-21

I did however make a functioning on in crocodile clips program...

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SpinningCone (author)2007-11-21

jut to add my 2 cents. its not a stupid question at all, perpetual motion machines have been around for ages, some more convincing than other but all are fake.

i did a physics presentation back in college on perpetual motion machines. they are a lot of fun to present. you *always* get somebody from the crows who till go "but what if..." it makes ome great teaching too.

overall no mater how good it looks its always fake. and the "well if this was frictionless or you could make a perfect this.. " arguments are never valid. even if you gave somebody a frictionless bearing or a water seal that was 100% efficient you could never get more energy out of a closed system than you put in.

but the universe is even more subtle than what has been mentioned here. probably 99% of al perpetual motion machines are of the 1st kind. that is they attempt to violate the 1st law of thermodynamics which boils down to conservation of energy (energy is never created nor destroyed yadda yadda) but its much harder to wrap your brain around a PMM of the 2nd kind which attempts to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics which is entropy. some good examples:

buoyancy machines are very popular. the idea is you have say wooden blocks on a chain (like a caterpillar track but vertical) split vertically by 2 different densities. say water and air. the idea is the blocks will fall on the one side in air and float on the other side in the water thus generating a perpetual rotation.

usually the first thing is well its impossible to perfectly separate the water with a bulkhead so the machine will leak and wont work. doesn't matter, even if you could suspend a solid block of water in air the machine wont work due to how the pressure of the water where the blocks "enter" and the vectors of how buoyancy works. the machine would never work. (but when you see an animation it looks so plausible)

another good one is completely theory. it is theoretically possible to turn any matter into pure light, and then back again. the idea is you build a machine that can do this . you turn a rock into light then beam it 500 feet up and turn t he light back into a rock. then use its newly found potential energy to do some work. event ho this is entirely theoretical it still cant work. why? when the rock turns to light and is sent against a gravitational pull the light will redshift. in the process of redshifting it will actually lose energy. when you put the rock back together at the top it would actually have lost mass exactly equal to the potential energy gained from its "height" in the gravitational field. granted this would be marginal and a perfect conversion of mass to energy however there is still no net gain.

if your interested in the 2nd type of PMM there should be diagrams of a Radiometer PMM where yo have a radiometer bulb attached to a ratchet and a wire , its a bit complicated but it involves turning the chaotic and minute collisions of the gas in the radiometer into an organized mechanical energy by winding a wire. which would go against entropy and all that.

but keep wondering and asking cuz thats how we learn. you should also give at least basic physics (read Newtonian) a try. you will never look at the world the same when you realize things like how your car breaks are merely converting your kinetic energy into thermal energy or that all that math you took (or didn't take) can actually do somthing that isn't a stupid word problem.

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Hmm hadn't heard the light one before... You could use it as a way of converting energy efficiently but it depends on the energies involved in making something turn in to light, I suspect they'd be kinda big... Also some kind of vaccum would have to be involved to keep the light from slowing down/getting filtered out... However isn't one of the theories about hitting lightspeed that the stuff going at lightspeed turns in to light... My only problem with everything about this is that an object turns from protons, electrons and neutrons to photons... Doesn't add up, kind of like fission but very very different...

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killerjackalope (author)2008-01-21

well there's regenerative braking and stuff in electric hybrid ehicles but there's alot of unused energy out there like Giant factories chimneys could have a slow turning turbine in each creating energy with a generator. What's wrong with water wheels? when a dam isn't applicable a river with a water wheel could still be powering stuff, just because it's old tech doesn't mean it's bad. Also there's a river that flows under parts of te city in belfast that could turn a turbine and generate power right where it's used, is it? nope No energy is wasted as it cannot be destroyed or created but it can't be used by us as we have no way to harness it like sound energy is considered wasted as is heat, Old deli ovens use incandescent bulbs to heat food and light the cabinet, there's a good use of energy that's apparently useless. Though energy could surely be borrowed from the magnetic field created by massive alternating current power lines, somehow...

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zachninme (author)2008-01-21

Although its hardly 100% efficient, don't we already do this?
Doesn't the engine move the car *and* charge the battery?

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guyfrom7up (author)zachninme2008-01-21

I think a lot of that is pointless (to some extent), it just causes more energy to be consumed

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Labot2001 (author)2008-01-21

perpetual energy.

i've thought of similar ideas before. from what i've been told, it's impossible.

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guyfrom7up (author)Labot20012008-01-21

actually most devices are out of balance wheels and are gravity driven, gravity is a source of energy as water is the source of energy for watermills. Hence these devices wouldn't work in space

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NachoMahma (author)2007-11-20

. It's not a stupid question. I little naive, perhaps, but not stupid. Who knows, you may be able to figure out how to get around all the reasons it can't be done. Keep asking questions.

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Goodhart (author)2007-11-20

And then, we can enter the world of quantum physics; where this all falls apart. Of course, at this point in time we are unable to harness the oddities of energy that have presented themselves there, and the size is too minute to say, provide energy to a generator, but the world has yet to see what this line of investigation with bring forth to fruition. It's an exciting field to watch.

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gyromild (author)Goodhart2007-11-20

It is interesting to note that we still haven't been able to find a unified theory between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Both work so well in their own domain yet at the same time contradict each other. Einstein couldn't figure that out, perhaps someone from here could, someday =)

It seems like we are still a long way from from unraveling the mysteries of the universe.

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