From time to time in science and engineering somebody develops an idea that seems to have legs, but with time the legs go away, and all that remains is the interesting idea. Such was, for example, Nikola Tesla. I don't mean to imply that Tesla accomplished nothing, but rather that much of what he did has turned out not to be very useful, at least within the path technology has taken.
Tesla Coil in action
Another candidate for this category is the asymmetric capacitor. Say what? Examine the following photo:
Asymmetric Capacitor "Lifter" built by J.L. Naudin
This device, the Lifter, is about two feet across, is constructed of balsa wood, aluminum foil, and thin copper wire, weighs just a few grams, and is doing exactly what it appears to be doing: floating in mid-air with absolutely no external supports. It uses the Biefeld-Brown effect discovered by Thomas Townsend Brown in 1928. The basic design of the Lifter is fully described in the Townsend Brown US Patent 2949550 filed on Aug 16, 1960 titled Elektrokinetic Apparatus.
It turns out that one of these devices can be built weighing about 250 grams, with a payload capacity of about 60 grams. At this stage, the energy is externally applied trough thin copper wires attached at two points of the device, but there is no apparent theoretical reason why the power could not be generated onboard or stored onboard, making the device completely autonomous. If the 4:1 ratio of total weight to payload can be maintained, and if the internal generator can be kept within these limits, then it's only a matter of engineering and time before one of these devices built to human scale finds it way into commercial use.
Here is a detailed breakdown of what a basic Lifter consists of:
Basic "Lifter" components
(Click for larger picture)
Here is an actual photo of a hovering Basic Lifter with components labeled:
Hovering Basic Lifter
(Click for larger picture)
These devices use specially tuned power supplies producing about 30 KVolts (30,000 volts). An experimenter can easily get one of these at an electronic store, even from an old TV or PC. You can get specific directions at this website. Naudin's experimental setup was simplicity itself:
J.L. Naudin's experimental set-up
The generator with a couple of inexpensive enhancements is attached to the Lifter by two thin copper wires. When you close the switch, the Lifter jumps into the air. In his experiments, Naudin restrained the Lifter with four thin nylon threads, since otherwise it would lift up and crash into the ceiling (or rip off the thin copper wires, if they aren't long enough).
Naudin has also constructed a maneuverable Lifter Craft using this technique, where he has set up differing voltages for the front, left, and right sides of the craft. Appropriately applying voltage this way causes the craft to dip forward, left, or right, and slid down the "slope". The effect seems to be completely controllable, so that, in principle, by scaling up you could construct a maneuverable craft with sufficient payload for power supply, controls, and pilot, etc.
J.L. Naudin's Lifter-Craft in level flight
J.L. Naudin's Lifter-Craft in a right-hand turn
Here is a short video of the basic Lifter being powered up, and two more short videos illustrating the Lifter-Craft in level flight and maneuvering. (You'll need RealPlayer for this. Download a free copy here.) These obviously are very primitive and basic experiments, but they definitely show an effect at work that can, in principle, be scaled up to accommodate human passengers. Along the way are, of course, smaller passengers, like Orville, the mouse:
Orville, awaiting lift-off in Maximus I
Orville – the world's first Electronaut
This means, possibly, that before too long, we may be using an entirely different kind of aircraft, one that has:
- Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) capabilities,
- reduced aerodynamic drag,
- increased flight time and thus operating range,
- an absence of mobile control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator ) and thus no reflective mobile surface to the radar waves,laminar flow,
- high maneuverability (an adaptive flight envelope ) due to an intelligent control of the
- full silent flight,
- quasi null thermal signature,
- electric power requiring no fossil fuel
Then again, it might be that all this will result in nothing more than a fun Science Fair experiment with no practical application, like the Tesla Coil illustrated at the beginning of this article. Only time will tell.