The term Free Energy is applied in several ways. It is a well defined concept in thermodynamics which will only be explained in short below. The usurpation of this term by charlatans seeking to obscure their unfounded claims about what boils down to a perpetuum mobile (PM) are of principal interest here.
The idea of a PM is a very old concept and happens to be one of the oldest and most persistent scams in history. As web wisdom has it, science rejects this concept basing in 13th century. In 1775 already, Paris University seems to have decided to no longer investigate such claims. In most countries, a PM could only be patented upon presentation of a functioning prototype which, however, is not possible. Claims by alleged inventors their PM cannot obtain a patent to provide an excuse for the secrecy they employ are thus unfounded. Several museums worldwide sport fake PMs, e.g. the Deutsche Museum Munich. Therfore, even upon presentation of a prototype, a thorough investigation will be neccessary.
Nevertheless, several inventors managed to make a decent living from such machines. An early example is the American inventor John Keely who started collecting substantial amounts of money in the 1870s. Until his death 1898, he lived from amounts invested in his inventions, which he demonstrated, but never had independently examined and he never produced a prototype - a striking parallel to all modern PM inventors.
Free Energy in scientific physics
The term Free Energy is clearly defined in scientific physics and used as Helmholtz free energy or Helmholtz potential. In physics it is a measurement for the useful work obtainable from a thermodynamic system, the amount of energy that can be utilized according to the second law of thermodynamics Helmholtz free energy.
Free Energy as a synonym for a perpetual motion device
In esoteric conspiracy theory circles, Free Energy is an allegedly inexhaustible type of energy which could replace both fossil and renewable energy sources (solar power). According to supporters, its use was resp. is allegedly prevented by influential but otherwise unspecified groups. No objective evidence of such an energy is known.
Closely related to the esoteric hypothesis of Free Energy is the idea of a perpetual motion device. Such a device is not possible, as its existence would violate the thermodynamic laws of energy conservation in physics. Free Energy supporters often use the term "overunity" to express that these machines allegedly produced more usable energy than is fed into them (efficiency > 1). A number of frauds and profiteers offer commercial "free energy machines" or generators. In addition, fisherman's stories of an alleged suppression of the invention are often spread. Typical examples are Water-fuelled car, Cold Fusion or Felix Würth AG.
As usual in other pseudosciences, there is no common nomenclature among the exponents of Free Energy. There are several alternative terms which are used as synonyms for Free Energy, as e.g.:
- Nonconventional energy
- NET (Nonconventional Energy-Technology) oder NCET (Non-Conventional Energy Technology)
- Zero-point energy (see also Claus Wilhelm Turtur)
- Space energy
- Tachyon energy
- Vacuum energy
Some of these terms have other meanings in science so that proponents of Free Energy can argue that free energy was known and researched in scientific physics, too.
The terms space energy, vacuum energy, and zero-point energy intend to suggest a relation to quantum mechanics, where systems in bound state at absolute zero, but still possess quantum mechanical zero-point energy. Zero-point energy in quantum mechanics has nothing to do with an inexhaustible energy source and the conservation of energy principles apply strictly in quantum mechanics.
The existence of a free energy field from which suitable machines can draw energy is not documented and there is no agreement in which way such a proof could be obtained. There are even no clues of what kind such a field should be. Authors postulating such a field implicitly assume that it would be of "psychic" or subtle energy nature and not interact in a measurable way with the physical world – just with free energy machines. It must be assumed that the term Free Energy or space energy is used as an ersatz hypothesis solely to avoid the term perpetual motion which is known for a fiction, and its use will result in immediate rejection by the audience and potential customers. The concept of Free Energy corresponds to usual esoteric concepts. Furthermore, free energy is a serious term from physics, the concept of which is not known to or understood by many.
Business models and fraud
In the past, several attempts were promoted to market Free Energy investment methods with fraudulent intent. An overview can be found here: Free Energy Business models. While not all these frauds apply the term Free Energy, they do share the unfounded claims and the ultimate failure.
Versions of this article in other languages
- Deutsch: Freie Energie