The inventor Thomas Engel demonstrates a motor to us that never runs out of fuel, because it works with the strength of neodymium magnets – leaving us a bit disoriented.
Normally, you wouldn’t even have to bother to read beyond this point, because something like this can’t truly exist. But this time we’re not talking about some crank with an idea. This one was honored in 1972 with the prestigious Rudolf Diesel Medal for inventors, he has well over a hundred patents to his name and has been lecturing at universities all over the world.
The inventor lives in Baden-Baden and he has a place in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the motor is located. So we drive off with mixed feelings to beautiful Switzerland.
Engel’s motor is running. During the three hours we are there, it is chugging along quietly, interrupted only by some experiments we will be talking about later. There is no noticeable development of heat. The seems familiar, the motor obtains its power from neodymium (NdFeB) magnets. Those are the strongest permanent magnets known, a disk as little as a one-Euro coin can hold about kilograms of weight. Neodymium is a rare earth element, much used in electronics. Magnets made out of this material are used in nuclear spin tomography and in wind generators, they drive water pumps of heavy trucks and keep tools steady.
The magnets are manufactured using a mixture of neodymium, iron and boron which is pressed into form and sintered. They are then magnetized with a strong electric impulse. The energy used for magnetization, however, is not what keeps the magnet working. Several suppliers of those magnets have assured us that the power of the magnets doesn’t diminish – even after years of use. So it seems that the magnets can do work constantly without getting degraded. The only thing those magnets don’t like is great heat.Engel’s idea was that it should be possible to convert that power of the magnets into rotary motion. He built a machine made of brass, resembling a miniature lathe.
The rotor is a disc with magnets fixed to it. The shaft turns in ceramic bearings. A disc magnet fixed at the correct angle and distance from the rotor but which itself is able to rotate (Engel calls it the mirror) can affect the rotor magnets.
There is attractive and repulsive force, depending on the orientation of the poles: the rotor can thus be set in continuous motion, as long as the mirror keeps rotating. The mirror’s rotation regulates the speed of the rotor.
The exact form and disposition of the parts is difficult to ascertain, Engel had to experiment at length with those parameters. If the mirror is a tad too distant, the magnetic field breaks down.
On the other hand, if it is too close, the neodymium magnets will rip the construction apart. The mirror hangs in a kind of outrigger. Two electric wires connect to the lower end with crocodile clips. There is a tiny electric motor that rotates the mirror. So it isn’t possible to do without electricity altogether? The inventor signals his disagreement.
“Eight milliamperes at nine volts”, he says. That is only a control mechanism. The power at the shaft is much greater. Engel also thought about a mechanical drive for the mirror directly from the rotor shaft, but opted against this as it would considerably increase mechanical complexity.
We wanted to know more. The rotation is about 400 RPM. We don’t have an instrument to measure mechanical power. So we are having to use the finger brake. It is difficult to stop the rotation by grabbing the shaft. The motor only comes to a standstill after considerable heat developed on the calluses of our hands.
A little hand made propeller out of plexiglass doesn’t impress the motor at all; we would really like to know how much power the machine turns out. With a bit of dexterity, one can turn the mirror by hand and set the rotor in motion. There is hardly any resistance when turning the mirror. We therefore hazard an assertion: The output felt at the shaft is clearly greater than the input needed to give the impulse. Of course measurement was only done with human sensors.
Mr. Engel is convinced that his machine uses the enormous energy which is inherent in quanta, those inconceivably small components of atoms which were first described by the physicist Max Planck in the early part of the last century. He therefore calls his machine an “quantum deviation apparatus”. – German Inventor solves permanent magnet motor puzzle