Toronto Star: Electric motor polarizes opinion

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2009-03-12 18:32:22… Electric motor polarizes opinion   CHRISTOPHER PIKE/FOR THE TORONTO STAR Ottawa inventor Thane Heins is steadily winning supporters for his electrical motor, which he claims can produce more energy than it consumes. While many are skeptical of the theory, no one has been able to disprove it. (Feb. 12, 2009) Fierce debate rages around entrepreneur Thane Heins’ dogged pursuit of green engine Feb 28, 2009 04:30 AM Comments on this story (54) Tyler Hamilton ENERGY REPORTER Thane Heins, tired and a little grumpy after a long flight from California, walks onto the stage of an Ottawa conference room and begins a sales pitch that usually raises more eyebrows than money.One of three entrepreneurs chosen earlier this month to present at a “Pitch The Dragons” contest, a spin on the CBC show Dragons’ Den, Heins has invented a technology that he says will put out more energy than it consumes. His invention, he boldly claims, offers a way to make electric cars that can travel hundreds of kilometres from the energy in a small, inexpensive battery.It’s a tough crowd. One of the contest judges is TV-show judge Robert Herjavec, a multimillionaire who just minutes earlier shared with the audience his own story of success and the life it now funds – the fancy gas-guzzling cars, the mansion, the luxurious yacht.The two men are oil and water. Heins, who wants to help the world kick its fossil-fuel addiction, immediately gets his back up. Herjavec is dismissive from the get-go.“It turned into a shouting match in front of 300 people,” Heins says later that day. “I didn’t mind him kicking sand in my face, but the thing that really got me is when he said I don’t get it. He pushed me a little too far and I fought back.”It was just another day for this underdog entrepreneur, a man trying to convince mainstream society he has discovered something real, which in this case means it has broken a major law of physics.The Star first profiled Heins and his controversial invention a year ago. In a nutshell, he had figured out a way to eliminate the electromagnetic friction that typically limits the performance of an electrical generator – an effect known as “Back EMF.” Not only that, but he also learned how to redirect that magnetic energy so that, instead of causing resistance, it gave an electrical motor connected to the generator a significant boost.The result, as far as Heins was concerned, violated Lenz’s law or what’s often called the law of diminishing returns. For many, that equates to a perpetual motion machine, an impossible claim in the conventional field of physics.Within no time the story spread globally across the Internet, became chatter on blogs, and triggered a flood of email to this reporter’s inbox – some praising Heins for his determination, others calling the Star irresponsible for giving credibility to his claim. The story, love it or hate it, was the second-most read article on in 2008.Much has happened over the past 12 months. Heins still operates out of a lab out at the University of Ottawa, he continues to evolve his invention, and he routinely demonstrates those improvements to the world by posting videos on YouTube.“The last video I watched still showed evidence of some fundamental misunderstandings of physics, combined with wishful thinking,” said Seanna Watson, an electrical engineer who is also a member of a scientific group called Ottawa Skeptics.Heins gave the group a demonstration of his technology shortly at the Star’s story was published. Two months later Watson posted a critique online titled “In This Town We Obey The Law of Thermodynamics.” Yes, she admitted, the electrical motor does speed up without any increase in input power, but increased speed does not automatically mean an increase in mechanical work.“Heins appears earnest and basically honest, but persistently self-deluded,” Watson wrote. “While the speed-up behaviour of the generator currently lacks an established explanation, there is no reason to think that it represents any challenge to currently known laws of physics.”It’s a criticism Heins has heard before: You haven’t proved you’re right, so you must be wrong. At the same time, nobody has been able to prove he’s wrong.Some want to believe, or have kept an inquiring mind. Heins has been contacted by NASA, he’s had several investors, entrepreneurs, engineers and academics show up at his lab for a demonstration. Heins always obliges — he says he has nothing to hide.At one point last spring, rock legend Neil Young wanted to adapt Heins’ invention to power a 1959 Lincoln Continental MK IV, which is being entered into the $10-million automotive X-Prize – a contest in search of the world’s most efficient automobile.Heins, Young, and his engineer Uli Kruger had much dialogue over email and telephone about the rock star’s “LincVolt” project. At one point, Heins sent Young some information by email on the performance of his generator and copied the message to dozens of other people unrelated to Young’s project.Young replied to Heins that he didn’t appreciate his private email being broadcast to the world. “Please do not do this again!” he wrote, but then quickly breezed over the incident. “This in no way negates my enthusiasm and curiosity about your project,” he assured Heins.Heins, not one to worship the famous, sent a terse response: “I just sent you an email with proof that my generator violates the Law of Conservation of Energy and you are worried about your private email? Are you serious?” He accused Toronto-born Young of being shallow.The relationship eventually fizzled. Two week after that exchange, Young, in an email to the Star, was still gracious in his assessment of Heins’ invention. “I am impressed… it is on our list of things to watch.”Day by day, bit by bit, Heins’ passion and persistence is steadily gaining him supporters – people convinced that what they’re seeing is important enough to move the technology out of the lab and into real-world applications.Through his Ottawa-based company Potential Difference Inc., Heins has been in serious talks with a designer of small wind turbines in Montreal, a senior engineer from a large utility in Turkey, and a small manufacturer of electrical equipment in Toronto. He’s altered the design of his prototype as well by developing a high-voltage “self-excited” motor coil.“We can use it to accelerate (the motor shaft) from 100 revolutions per minute to 3,500 without adding an ounce of power,” according to Heins.His most promising partnership so far is with California Diesel & Power, a $10-million company that sells back-up generators for cellphone towers throughout California. AT&T is one of its largest customers.Owen Charles, head of technology at California D&P, viewed Heins’ demonstration videos on YouTube last year and was intrigued. He flew to Ottawa for a live demonstration and was convinced the technology worked, at least enough to pursue it further.“There’s acceleration, but what I don’t see is being able to harness more power out than power in,” said Charles during a phone interview. “But Thane is starting to get more and more watts, more power, out of the coil, in addition to the acceleration.”Heins’ made a prototype for Charles, who’s been demonstrating it to customers and contacts throughout California. During a demonstration to some AT&T contacts the motor was spinning at its full rated capacity using only 75 watts of power, when normally it takes 250 watts to do the same work. “To me, that makes the motor a hell of a lot more efficient.”In the diesel generator business, it means Heins’ technology – at the very least – can be used to get much more work out of a generator using the same amount of fuel. That’s enough for Charles, who wants to license the innovation. “We’re trying to become a West Coast hub for this type of technology.”But is it perpetual motion? “It has the potential to be that,” said Heins. “But there are many hoops we have to jump through before we get there.” Still, he believes that getting “there” is achievable. To add credibility to his claim, he plans to pay the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to evaluate the technology.It doesn’t help, however, that Heins often undermines what credibility he has earned. At times he seems to exaggerate the significance of certain events and relationships. He’s written emails to former U.S. vice presidents Dick Cheney and Al Gore claiming he’s got a way to eliminate the world’s dependence on oil and bring the troops home from Iraq. It’s the kind of behaviour that makes people turn away, not pay attention.He’s also working with The Orion Project, a non-profit group founded by conspiracy theorist Steven Greer, who has founded several UFO groups and claims to have been in contact with extraterrestrials. Greer believes the government is aware that perpetual motion machines exist and that there has been a massive global cover-up.Still, all the doubt and scepticism could vanish if California D&P actually makes a more efficient generator. The company has also entered the automotive X-Prize with plans, like Neil Young once had, to use Heins’ generator. “Within a month or two months, we should have that generator in a car,” said Heins. “All we’re going to try to do is run the car in the conventional mode, measure the number of miles we get out of it, then put our generator in and see if we can get more miles out.”If it demonstrates the dramatic improvement Heins expects to see, maybe Al Gore will pay attention. Are you interested in what’s really going on in the world, behind the facade? Then…www.checktheevidence… happened on 9/11?    

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