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Don't read this update unless you are familiar with the topic from my posts here and here. And be sure to read the comments as well.

Okay, if you are playing along at home, you know I asked the company to do two things to demonstrate the credibility of their claims:

1. Tell us how much wattage the device produces over X period of time. 

2. Provide a video that is a continuous tracking shot of the working prototype from antenna to operating appliance, with no edits. 

I'll pause to remind you that 99% of claims "like this" turn out to be complete bullshit. I'm not backing the claims, just giving them their time in the sun to see what happens. I find this fascinating no matter the outcome.

I predicted that if this is a scam, the wattage estimates would be delayed or there would be some excuse for why they can't be produced. And if this is a scam, I predicted that the video of the continuous tracking shot of the prototype would never arrive.

So how'd they do?

The company produced for me a video of the technology from antenna to capacitors but it included an edit break before the working appliance. I rejected that video as being exactly what a scammer would produce. They acknowledge my point and plan to reshoot without an edit. The reason given for the edit break is that the camera had to be put down because it takes two hands to start the appliance safely in the lab environment. They will shoot again with one camera person and one operating the appliance.

Keep in mind that a video would not show how long it took to charge the capacitors, and one could never be sure there are no hidden power cords or batteries. But if the company can't produce a video showing the prototype working from antenna to appliance without an edit break, there's nothing here.

The company also offered this video, taken this week by another hobbyist who visited their lab because he works on the same sort of stuff. This video doesn't have the continuous shot either, but you'll see a lot more detail about the company's claims.

Next, I asked about the average wattage produced. Their lawyer, who has an electrical engineering background, produced what follows. I don't understand any of it, and I'm intensely curious whether they would dare to publish complete bullshit about electronics on this particular blog. That would be the worst scam strategy of all time.

My personal bullshit filter says that anything this complicated is intended to confuse. But that's just a bias based on pattern recognition. I'll let you decide how real it is.

Here's the LinkedIn profile of the lawyer/EE:

And here is his website.

And here is his wattage estimate analysis.


Analysis Procedure:
----------------------------
 

The Median Values Estimate, far bottom, is derived from calculations averaging a highly active ion harvesting period with a low active ion harvesting period to arrive at a Median Values Estimate.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Highly Active Ion Harvesting Period:

15 minutes to charge 75uF to 17.5kV.  With those numbers:

We have charged 75uF of capacitance to 17.5kV in 15 minutes. To calculate the current it takes to charge the capacitors to that voltage in that time, we use the following formula:

I=c(dV)/(dT)

I= 75x10^-6  x 17500 / 15(60)   The factor of 60 is introduced because the formula uses seconds, so we multiple 15 minutes by 60 to get the amount of seconds.

So, I=1.45mA

To calculate the power available, then, we multiply 1.45mA by 17,500 and we get 25.4W from the single collector.

Multiplying this by 4 to get an hour, a single collector produces approximately 100Wh or 360,000 Joules.

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Slow Ion Harvesting Period

In the case in which it took 2 hours to charge 75uF to 4kV:

We have charged 75uF of capacitance to 4kV in 2 hours. To calculate the current it takes to charge the capacitors to that voltage in that time, we use the following formula:

I=c(dV)/(dT)

I= 75x10^-6  x 4000 / 120(60)   The factor of 60 is introduced because the formula uses seconds, so we multiple 15 minutes by 60 to get the amount of seconds.

So, I=41.7uA

To calculate the power available, then, we multiply 41.7uA by 4000 and we get 167mW from the single collector.

Dividing this by 2 to get an hour, a single collector produces approximately 83mWh or 300 Joules.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Median Values Estimate:

So for median values, we have

I = 745uA with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 559uA to 931uA

P = 12.78W with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 9.59W to 15.98W

W= 50Wh or 180kJ with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 37.5Wh (135kJ) to 62.5Wh (225kJ)

Scalability and Economy of Scale:
----------------------------------------------

A preliminary test indicates that 1 ion collector of determined length located at 300 feet altitude approximates similar output compared to the combined proof-of-concept harvesting towers at 130 feet altitude, subject to repeatability tests and confirmation. The "two balloon" experiment conducted in 2006 strongly suggests that this technology is scalable, subject to repeatability tests and confirmation.

Preferred Method:

The preferred method of determining an average output is through the use of a Data Logger/Recorder. In the absence of owning a Data/Logger Recorder, the above estimates have been substituted.

------------ end ------------

Did they answer my question of how much wattage is produced on average?

Some of you asked why they don't just get a local university or other experts to take a look and validate their technology. I can confirm from my own experience trying to find an expert for that task that no one who answers to a boss knows how to get permission for this sort of thing. It looks like a career suicide mission.

So while failure to get an expert's opinion fits the pattern of a scam, it also fits the pattern of an inventor with no credibility and a lab in a cow field.

I'll remind you again that things "like this" turn out to be bullshit 99% of the time. Don't lose that context. But let's reject ideas based on data, not pattern.

My personal view comes down to this. The basic idea of getting energy from the air is proven science. You can see other experiments of this type on Youtube. The company's claim is that they tried different antennae until they found one (graphite/graphene) that works far better than others. That seems plausible to me because it would be surprising if all antennae performed the same.

What we don't know is whether the new antenna is so much better that it could make this technology economical. The inventor doesn't know that either. He's asking for money to find out.

The critics among you have pointed out that it is unlikely there is enough energy in the air to be harvested economically. I say that if the invention can (for example) collect ions for three hours and light a bulb for half an hour then that feels like something worth developing further. But the company hasn't shown that it can do what I described in a way I find credible.

I'll close by reminding you again that this sort of thing turns out to be bullshit 99% of the time. Skepticism is warranted.

What do you think now?

---------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a great graduation present

 

 

 

 
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Jun 3, 2014
Has anybody checked to see if these guys are near transmission lines?
Farmers have been doing this for years:

http://www.industrytap.com/electromagnetic-harvesters-free-lunch-or-theft/1805
 
 
Jun 1, 2014
It's really too bad that you don't feel embarrassment like normal people, as you claim, because it would save you a lot of trouble on this. It's not particularly embarrassing that you initially fell for this scam, but after the dozens of intelligent and thoughtful comments on your blog that clearly explain that no matter how real the science is here, there is no practical benefit that can EVER be gained from this technology, you continue to insist that there is something here that everyone is missing. How about you hire millions of poor people to run around shuffling their sock feet on carpeting? You'll get a lot more electricity, a lot more efficiently, from this similarly real science.

[Where is the part where I keep insisting something is here? Is that where I say that things like this are 99% likely to be bullshit? I've not seen any credible evidence to support the inventor's claim. But the criticisms are mostly just as non-credible (because of incompleteness) to my ears. And I think people do want to know if this is a scam or unsupported optimism or something real that science says can't work but sometimes gets wrong. -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 1, 2014
Scott, there's another company trying to fund clean energy on Indiegogo which, I think, sounds much more legit. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/focus-fusion-empowertheworld--3

Instead of patents, this guy has peer reviewed scientific papers and he recently delivered a lecture at Oxford about his technology (which is much better than his indiegogo video , see http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/05/focus-fusion-uses-natural-instabilities.html). And, this company only needs about $100k to reach their goal instead of $3M. You could probably fund that yourself without feeling too much pain. It might be less than you paid all those economists a few years back.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 31, 2014
Scott,

I'm still interested in whether or not you think this is:
a) A couple of misguided crackpots who really believe they're onto something, or
b) A deliberately planned scam designed to steal people's money.

[i've narrowed it down to either an optimist with insufficient data or the worst scam attempt of all time. I don't know how many successful scammers show their work to this many engineers and scientists. Seems like a bad strategy to me. And keep in mind that they asked for this scrutiny. -- Scott]
 
 
May 31, 2014
EMU: "a) Is it even legal? For instance, putting an induction coil around a power line and powering your house with this would definitely be theft, even though it's "wireless" too."

Well...nobody owns the ions in the air so you're not actually stealing it from anybody.

OTOH the FCC might have something to say about the huge radio blackspots you'd create by installing tens of thousands of energy !$%*!$% antennas in your garden. eg. Your neighbors might lose cellphone coverage.

You'd also run into problems with the city's planning department for creating a huge eyesore.
 
 
May 31, 2014
Befuddled123: "Data loggers that capture and record instantaneous current and voltage can be bought for a few hundred bucks I believe."

Yes, any $500 multimeter will do that.

But ... none of them will do it at static electricity voltages.

[I'm told that $13K is a closer estimate to what it would cost. -- Scott]
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 31, 2014
Let's assume they're not fiddling the numbers, the machine works, and their results are exactly what they're claiming.

On a slow day they get 167mW from a collector? Fine. I'll accept that for a 30 foot mast.

OTOH their "statistics" to boost the number is junk. Nobody wants to turn off their TV or air conditioner just because it happens to be a "slow" ion day. We have to assume that there's only 167mW available from your installation. Any extra is just a bonus.

So... how many collectors do we need for a single 60W light bulb?

359 of them.

According to this page the average household uses 2kW:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_energy_consumption

Assuming you can store zero with zero losses you need about 12,000 towers to cover that. In practice there'll be power losses in the capacitors and transformers so you'll need about 15,000 collectors to do the job.

15,000 collectors. Per house.

Yes, you could install less of them but even 100 would be less than 1% of the average electricity bill.


To put it in perspective: One small wind generator can produce *kilowatts* of power.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_wind_turbine

[Remind me, was the first crude prototype of a windmill in a hobbyist's barn as efficient as today's windmills or do things improve a lot over time? -- Scott]

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 31, 2014
As mentioned before - his maths is wrong. This gives the impression (rightly or wrongly) that they have no idea what they are doing.

The maths is *REALLY* simple. The energy in a capacitor is Capacitance*(Voltage squared) divided by 2.

So to charge a 75uF capacitor to 17.5 kV, you used 11.48 kJ of energy. Around here, energy costs about 24.4 cents/kWh at retail pricing.

So, type this into google to see how much energy it has harnessed:

[ 11.48 kJ * 24.4 cents/kWh in cents ]

The answer? Less than 0.08 cents. At peak production they are generating 0.08 cents every 15 minutes.

ie: At peak production they are generating (at retail prices) : 0.3 cents per hour.

That's peak production.

What part of that technology is promising?

[I can't answer that question, and obviously the data isn't compelling yet. But if, for example, he's getting these trace amounts of energy from a tiny antenna, wouldn't a larger antenna surface provide more energy? What if you shingle your house with this material? Would that be several thousand times more energy production with the same technology? (Unless that causes other electrical interference.) And keep in mind that the claim is that there are far more ions at higher altitudes, so a tower three times the height gets you to entirely different economics. I'm with those of you who say the data isn't yet credible, but scaling up seems entirely within the "might work" category to me if the small wattage numbers are a new record compared to similar inventions of the past. -- Scott]
 
 
May 31, 2014
The guy definitely gave you an answer: it says nine to 15 watts. The caveats are: I don't know where he got his numbers (hopefully they come from actual experimentation, but they could just as easily have been pulled out of his ass) and nine to 15 watts is not a lot of power. It's about enough to power one fluorescent light bulb. Is this the output of the entire array of towers and capacitors shown in the video? If so, the land is worth way more as a cow pasture than the device is as a generator.
 
 
May 31, 2014
Here's the math for energy in a capacitor:

http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/capacitors-energy-power-d_1389.html

Calculate W using their values, divide by 15 minutes, you get 12.76

ie. 0.5*(17500*17500) * 0.000075 / (15*60)

(you can copy/paste that in Windows calculator...)

Their calculation: 25.4

They got it wrong.

PS: This is electronics engineering 101, not advanced hyperphysics.

Assuming they're not lying: That might be their best result ever, the real average could be a lot lower...
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 31, 2014
Scott, I don't think it's possible to take this much further in this blog.

We blog readers only get to know what these guys chose to tell and nothing prevents them from just lying. They write that they charged a 75 μF capacitor to 17.5KV in 15min. At this stage I ask myself, what reason do I have to believe that?
Even if they provide a video, it's just that, and even you have acknowledged that they could cheat.

At this point it's not about answers anymore, not even about inspections, not even about inspections by James Randi. If you want to help these people, sponsor someone you trust and who is willing to reproduce their work. With this guy and his people keeping a good distance away rom the installation site. For instance, any university will be happy for a paid job that keeps some EE bachelor students busy for a few weeks. That way it will be too many people, and too many people not of the "inventor's" choosing to keep up the scam. And we get some real data.

For me, the only magic thing is that carbon nano thingie. But since they just used some photo grabbed from the internet, I suspect it doesn't even exist yet and their supposedly promising measurements have been arrived at using more conventional materials. Therefore the whold thing should be reproducable today by conventional means.
 
 
May 31, 2014
Well, like what was mentioned before, they did their energy calculation wrong. They are using V*I*t to computer power, using the average current and final voltage. The formula they should be using is 1/2*C*V^2 which comes out to only 11 kJ or about 3.2 Wh. This is the kind of rookie mistake a first year physics or engineering student would make. So, they clearly don't have anything more than a passing knowledge of how capacitors work which would lead me to have doubts about their rest of their claims about their electronics.
 
 
May 30, 2014
I have been trying to catch up on this thread and post my views. First my quals, I am a registered engineer working on energy and power related issues for 20 years. I have reviewed dozens of technologies for utilities and have seen my fair share of false claims.

I could group the following remarks.
- Their team is weak and their presentations are worse.
Well duh, they sure are but that does not prove or disprove anything really

- The concept is bogus
The concept has merit but massive missing pieces. I would recommend as a starter review this page.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_atmospheric_electrical_circuit
Note the existance of 'fair weather' ions were recognized in 1752

Basically their idea is to make the reverse of a lightning pole to capture fair weather ions.

Their math is actually not that bad, but I did not see the size of their collector.

- Why dont they just buy a data logger, they are cheap.
- At 20kV reading true power, they most certainly are not cheap, maybe $5k~$10k. They can run as much as $100k easy. High Voltage is not something to fool around with.

- Why don't they provice a cost?
Cost for industrial scales are a fraction of what they are producing. A factory to make they would run in the $100 million , but there is a massive difference in costs when buying from Radio Shack vs. a long term high volume direct contract with a manufacturer. Solar cells have come down by 10 times over the past 10 years. Difficult to project using back of the envelope methods.

I would be happy to help review stuff and I suspect their technology will wind up with dozens of other technologies I have reviewed as 'Interesting, marginally cost effective, but only in nitch applications'. The competitive markeplace is tough to introduce new technologies.
 
 
May 30, 2014
Hi Scott,

I don't know the correct place to send this, but I read your blog today and at the bottom I saw the link for CalendarTree.com and I checked it out. As I read over your pricing, I couldn't help but think of something I had read not long ago regarding pricing of an app/program/SAAS like CalendarTree.

You may have already visited this site: http://www.kalzumeus.com/blog/ but if not, I think you would enjoy it - kind of like the Mensa meetings where everyone has time on a Saturday night and they aren't always the best at personal hygiene but you understand what they are saying and what they mean...

This guy is - in my opinion - a fascinating read and a clever guy. I particularly enjoyed this post...

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2014/04/03/fantasy-tarsnap/

I found his website when I was searching for heartbleed and he had a good post on it as well.
 
 
May 30, 2014
I can't figure out for the life of me why you keep harping on this website. It's not even creative on their end, they stole the idea right out of Atlas Shrugged. If it wasn't a scam, they'd get venture capital, not raise money by crowd sourcing.
 
 
May 30, 2014
So, in their best case scenario you'd need four 130 foot towers to power a 100 watt bulb, and in their low case, you'd need 600 towers to power a 100 watt bulb. Why is this interesting?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
For starters, harvesting ions out of the air to produce power is feasible, just not entirely economical. Way back when... I had the idea to trail a mile or two long chain of nano-carbons to power the motors to fly a very high (100,000 ft ) ultralight and use it for communications or similar. The idea was feasible, but just how much juice can you get out of the air like that? I was in college and vaginas were my priority. No, I'm not an OB/GYN... I'm an artist.

Long story short, in my opinion, yeah, the science is there, it can be done. But, by what method, means and feasibility, I don't know. Science is advancing all the time and who knows, maybe this can be useful in some context.

But the way they're going about it, the obtuse nature of their video, lack of actual science and credibility tells me that if they want money to pursue this, they need to get their !$%* together.

I wouldn't send them a nickel.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
Yep, the math is wrong. Rookie mistakes and gross errors. "multiple" instead of "multiply" for example. no decent lawyer would ever let that through, they get paid to be precise in both terminology and exacting detail. This is a scam. They are just trying to fund their hobby.

--------------------------
But then there's this, since no one who matters goes back to look at old blog entries:
http://news.yahoo.com/israel-solves-water-woes-desalination-053359192.html

For those that thought desalinization was a bad idea, or too expensive, here's a country-sized solution that is actively working today. The quality of life benefits alone seem to make it a bargain.
 
 
May 30, 2014
I wonder if anyone considers the energy cost to generate exotic components in these systems in relation to the amount of energy they are capable of helping produce before they fail? My guess is that will be the failing point of most inventions that seem to be doing miracles. Rare earth magnets, graphene, etc.
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
I think that answer of the average wattage is basicly, "your milage may vary, considerablely". Which is what we would expect from such a device. This thing is (basicly) a longwave radio antenna intended to collect atmospheric static electricity, and like all natural forces, the local static varys due to the local climate, current weather, daylight versus nightime (ions are created when certain wavelenghts of (mostly) UV light manages to strike an actual atom of air (mostly oxygen) before hitting the ground). Even taking their wattage claims at face value (as already noted by others, they aren't quite right) then the same square footage of accumlation area is better served (my orders of magnitude) by a solar cell array. Since atmostpheric static is created by sunlight, the amount available near the ground drops off in a manner similar to a solar cell's output curve during cloud cover & nightime, and you will capture NOTHING on a particularly humid day, or during a storm. In order to collect anything worthwhile after dark, the collector would have to be at least as high as the D layer of the ionosphere, which is too high for mankind to even fly. Perhaps this kind of collector might be worthwhile if used at the same location as a solar array power house, or as a way-off-grid power plant, but I doubt even that. I can replicate this single collector's output using a 10% efficient consumer grade solar panel of about 2 square feet. Think of the resources that have been committed to just build the collector antenna support towers! I don't think that their research is invalid, nor do I think that it's a "scam" per se, but nor do I think that this avenue of research will ever beget anything profitable.
 
 
 
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