A perpetual motion machine is a machine that, once it’s started, won’t stop and doesn’t need any additional energy to keep going. That means the machine could be used as a source of unlimited free energy. Which is great, so why don’t we just make one? Well, it isn’t because of some conspiracy theory by the energy sector. The reason none have ever been built is because they’re actually impossible to build since perpetual motion breaks the first two laws of thermodynamics. The first law is that energy is constant; it cannot be created or destroyed. The second is that entropy will either increase or remain the same. Essentially, you can never get a greater output of energy than inputted and energy will always decrease over time.
While it may be impossible to build a perpetual motion machine, since the 1200s, inventors from many walks of life have tried to build them and these are 10 of the most interesting designs.
10. Boyle’s Self-Flowing Flask
One of the simplest ideas for a perpetual motion machine comes from the 17th century Irish chemist and physicist Robert Boyle. His design is simply to have a tank of water with a hose on the bottom that runs water from the tank directly back into the same tank. Of course, this system doesn’t work because gravity doesn’t work that way. For water to leave the tank, it needs to flow to a container that is lower than the original one. If you don’t believe us, you can test this with materials around your home or you can easily buy some at a dollar store.
But what if there was a chemical fluid that could be used that constantly reacted and pushed the liquid through the hose? For example, in the video above, the YouTuber tries beer (good choice!) and it at least pushes liquid through the hose. The problem is that the cycle would stop when the beer stops carbonating. However, again, finding a chemical that never stops reacting is just as impossible as creating any other type of perpetual motion machine.
9. Monopole Magnet
Magnets have two poles, north and south, and opposite poles pull magnets together while the same poles push them apart. But there are also hypothetical monopole magnet particles that would only have one pole. In 2014, researchers created synthetic monopole magnet particles, 85 years after they were first theorized. Despite them only recently being discovered, some YouTubers claim to have built or bought one, and there are some magnets that are claimed to be monopole on Alibaba. Of course, we have to say, buyer beware.
If we could construct monopole magnets, they could possibly lead to free energy. In the video for this entry, a man creates a supposed free energy machine using a few dollars’ worth of material from a hardware store and a monopole magnet he bought on eBay. He hammers two nails into a board, and cuts tiny slits in the nails to hold the wire that is formed into a ring. In between the two nails and under the ring, he places the magnet, which causes the coiled wire to spin, creating energy.
The biggest problem with this type of machine, besides the lack of scientific evidence that monopole magnets are real, is that there is too much friction on the materials so they would have to be replaced, meaning this would never be a true perpetual motion machine.
8. Rolling Ball Wheel
This attempt at a perpetual motion machine was designed by German mathematician, scientist, and physicist Jacob Leupold and the design was published in his Theatrum Machinarum Generale Vol. 1 in 1724. The machine uses an overbalancing wheel and rolling balls.
The idea is that the balls will always be rolling, which shifts the weight of the wheel, and gravity simply takes over. Sadly, while it may sound like this might work in theory, it doesn’t because it needs external help to keep moving.
7. Water Mill and Pump
It’s believed designs for the water mill and pump perpetual motion machine, and variations of it, have been around since the 1600s, and quite possibly earlier than that. The idea is that water falls from the top of the machine, which makes the water mill turn, and that ultimately powers the pump that brings the water back to the top, creating a cycle of energy.
The problem is that there is too much friction involved with the design and it actually doesn’t work outside of computer models. So, back the old drawing board, we suppose? Geez, you expect better out of your 17th century scientific theorists.
6. Paul Scheerbart’s Weight-Driven Cogwheel
German born Paul Scheerbart wasn’t a mathematician or an engineer like many of the other inventors on this list. Instead, he was a writer known for his work in the fantastic genre. Despite a lack of formal training, Scheerbart spent two and a half years trying to build a perpetual motion machine in the laundry room of his house. His machine – which looks strangely familiar – was finally revealed in 1910 in his book The Perpetual Motion Machine: The Story of an Invention.
The system uses one giant wheel and two sets of smaller rollers and a weight. The problem with his design, like many other perpetual motion machines, is that the main cogwheel needs external power to keep its momentum. That being said, it is still the best perpetual motion machine designed by a fiction writer.
5. Magnets and Gravity
A physical constant on Earth is gravity, which is bad news if you’re a terrible yet dedicated tightrope walker, but it is good news in terms of creating perpetual motion machines because it is a constant source of force. An attempt at a perpetual motion machine that utilizes that force is the perpetual wheel that was patented in 1823. It’s a fairly simple set up: a large wheel is turned by a small iron ball that is being pulled towards the magnet.
While the video above may look like this is feasible, the wheel does not actually spin like that without external help; also, after some time, magnets become demagnetized, meaning it is not an unlimited source of energy.
4. Force of Gravity Perpetual Motion Machine
This so-called perpetual motion machine uses two vertical rods. The rod at the center is straight, but the second one is tilted. Then there are three horizontal bars that run across the two vertical bars, connecting both vertical rods. Finally, there is a weight that is attached to the center rod. This means that the counter-clockwise torque and clockwise torque are equal, and since the torques are the same, the vertical rod pushes more on the bottom arm than it does on the top arm. Since the top and bottom rods are the same distance from the vertical axles, there is more torque pushing one way than the other, allowing the system to spin.
A writer at Wired analyzed this specific video and believes there are hidden motors in the machine. If there aren’t, then he believes the spin is caused by angular momentum and torque. That means it would spin for a while, but not perpetually.
3. Neodymium Magnets
The strongest batteries commercially available are neodymium magnets, which were developed by General Motors in 1982. This design takes advantage of these batteries and creates momentum by placing magnets with the same poles against each other on a wheel. When two magnets with the same pole meet, they push each other apart and in this case, it spins the wheel.
A bonus with this design is that it is frictionless, which is an especially big bonus over other proposed perpetual motion machines because friction leads to entropy – meaning the machine will eventually slow down. The main reason this isn’t a true perpetual motion machine is because the magnets will eventually stop working and will need to be replaced.
Thane Heins is a Canadian college dropout who has been working on a perpetual motion machine called Perepiteia since 1985. Heins is so dedicated to the machine that he says that he lost his wife and custody over his two children over it. So, you know, his priorities may be slightly skewed.
Nevertheless, Heins says he is so dedicated because he claims that the machine has the ability to generate a large amount of power from a little electrical input, thought to be impossible. What’s interesting is that the tests show that the generator somehow turns magnetic friction into a magnetic boost, which causes the motor to accelerate, creating a positive feedback loop. If the tests are correct, that would mean that Perepiteia breaks the first law of thermodynamics. It’s like a light bulb that powers itself using energy from its own light.
In 2008, Heins showed Perepiteia to MIT professor Markus Zahn, who is an expert in electromagnetic and electronic systems. Zahn said Perepiteia originally stumped him and the machine was definitely worth looking into. But, he later clarified it was not a perpetual motion machine because it needed to be plugged into the wall. Yet Zahn says that the machine still could be an important discovery that could improve motors. Although there are many skeptics, Heins is hoping that his invention will lead to electrical cars that power themselves through accelerating and braking.
1. Finsrud’s Perpetuum Mobile
A lot of these proposed machines are fairly simplistic and use a minimal amount of parts. On the other end of the spectrum is a supposed perpetual motion machine by Norwegian sculptor and mathematician Reidar Finsrud. It’s a complicated system that uses a wheel, magnets, and pendulums. Its system ensures the wheel is always dipping, so the ball, which is pulled by magnets, is always rolling around the track.
Supposedly during testing done over the course of three days, the ball maintained a constant speed measured to 1/25 of a second. An engineer who studied the machine said it could maintain 80-90 percent efficiency, while most devices, like a combustion engine, only have 30-50 percent efficiency. Finsrud claims that his machine has an efficiency rate of over 100 percent, and therefore it creates free energy.
Finsrud believes that his machine, if built to the proper scale, could provide free energy to the world. He is also worried his machine might be too revolutionary, so he’s forced to keep it locked in a safe in his basement.
So while it may not be a true perpetual motion machine, it is an impressive feat of engineering.