One of the first investigations at Ottawa Skeptics involved a local inventor who claimed to have invented a device that would solves the world’s energy problems. The invention is called the Perepiteia and the inventor is Thane Heins. Thane was an energetic and optimistic fellow that didn’t let the naysayers and doubters get in his way. That is at least how his initial media coverage in the Toronto Star two years ago portrayed him.
After hearing about the Star’s coverage of this supposedly amazing invention I contacted Thane to set up a show and tell. He politely invited us to visit his lab setup at Ottawa University. Thane’s been using space donated to him by one of the engineering professors (I believe he’s still there too). Six of us from Ottawa Skeptics visited his lab. We were all engineers (with one exception): one computer engineer, one physics engineer, one mechanical engineer, two electrical engineers, and one instrumentation technologist.
He showed us his approximately one-foot diameter wheel of permanent magnets being spun by a motor plugged into an outlet. Next to the wheel were of a bunch of fixed electromagnets hooked up to a bunch of meters and switches. He showed that after the wheel was at its max speed, he could flip a few switches and the wheel would spin up faster. He then told us that this was proof that his device was using more power than was being input.
See part of his demonstration to us here:
We had an interesting discussion with Thane. He insisted that this was not a perpetual motion machine, which was puzzling because if his machine did what he claimed, then it was definitely a machine that could run perpetually. He did admit to violating the law of conservation of energy, but that didn’t seem to bother him. We tried to explain to him why that was an extraordinary claim that would require much more evidence than a simple demonstration of a wheel spinning faster but he remained unimpressed.
He went on to explain that his machine works in the opposite way that the brakes in a hybrid cars work. Thane said that braking creates energy and that hybrids put that energy into the batteries. From his view, his device would just use the energy from acceleration to charge the batteries. I’m not sure how this would work since the energy is already being used to accelerate the car. For braking, the car is just turning the car’s kinetic energy into electrical energy using the brakes. We didn’t buy this analogy so we just left it as a “difference in opinions”.
One thing that I noticed during the demonstration was that if I turned the wheel by hand (while the machine was off) there was some resistance. In other words, I couldn’t just spin the wheel by hand and have it spin for more than a few seconds. Hmmm…
After the demonstration we went to work to try to figure out what was going on. We published our findings in a report here. In our report, we request that he measure the torque in order to determine the actual power output of the device. The fact that the motor speeds up does not mean that it is producing more power; the power output is a function of torque and speed.
About a year later, another skeptic came to the scene. This skeptic, also from Ottawa, who writes under the pseudonym Natan Weissman (because he sometimes works for companies involved with renewable energy that may have the same investors as Thane) published a more detailed explanation for Thane’s machine. What followed was a very interesting and telling back and forth between the inventor and the skeptic. I recommend reading the comments, especially those by Natan. In the course of the conversation, Thane dismisses his critics as “whiners” and throws in a couple inappropriate political jabs.
Judging by his latest video (below) not much has changed. He is still not measuring the output power. Notice how he focuses on the speed only (the RPM meter shows the speed). He has an open invitation for us to visit again, but I’m not sure what that would accomplish. He has yet to implement the simple requests we made to alleviate our skepticism. One can only wonder why he has not done so.
On a more positive note, I am happy to see that the spinning wheel with glued on magnets is now shielded. It was pretty frightening to see a wheel spin at such high speeds in person with pieces glued on to it. Imagine if one of those magnets came loose while the wheel was spinning at thousands of RPM!