"The Problem of Increasing Human Energy," Century, 1901
"I read some statements from Carnot and Lord Kelvin (then Sir William Thomson) which meant virtually that it is impossible for an inanimate mechanism or self-acting machine to cool a portion of the medium below the temperature of the surrounding, and operate by the heat abstracted. These statements interested me intensely. Evidently a living being could do this very thing, and since the experiences of my early life which I have related had convinced me that a living being is only an automaton, or, otherwise stated, a "self-acting-engine," I came to the conclusion that it was possible to construct a machine which would do the same. As the first step toward this realization I conceived the following mechanism. Imagine a thermopile consisting of a number of bars of metal extending from the earth to the outer space beyond the atmosphere. The heat from below, conducted upward along these metal bars, would cool the earth or the sea or the air, according to the location of the lower parts of the bars, and the result, as is well known, would be an electric current circulating in these bars. The two terminals of the thermopile could now be joined through an electric motor, and, theoretically, this motor would run on and on, until the media below would be cooled down to the temperature of the outer space. This would be an inanimate engine which, to all evidence, would be cooling a portion of the medium below the temperature of the surrounding, and operating by the heat abstracted".
"Much of this task on which I have labored so long remains to be done. A number of mechanical details are still to be perfected and some difficulties of a different nature to be mastered, and I cannot hope to produce a self-acting machine deriving energy from the ambient medium for a long time yet, even if all my expectations should materialize".
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David Spector (Saturday, 14 November 2015 01:08)
This self-running engine, if it could be built, would probably work, since it would generate energy by transformation (slightly reducing the temperature of the Earth), through conducting heat. It is not a perpetual-motion machine, and would not violate thermodynamics or any other part of physics. It would be similar in some ways to current and very practical geothermal electrical generation units.
However, it would produce adverse effects on Earth's weather and climate. And it would cost billions, possibly trillions of dollars to build, if it could be built at all. It is wonderful as a thought experiment, but it offers no practical benefit, in my opinion, and is not an example of "free energy".
Ernst (Monday, 09 May 2016 03:30)
Within the next 2-3 month I will put a video on my channel (TheMage00000) showing how it is done.
(before the end of July, 2016)
James (Tesla Research) (Thursday, 19 May 2016 19:35)
Hi Ernst. Your laboratory is awsome! I'm waiting to see your experiment.
I decided to put this topic in the section of myths and controversial topic because there is not so much information and it is a good topic for a debate. I don't have any doubt that it could work but I want to remark a difference between the modern concept of "free energy" (which appear in internet) and the concept of Tesla to get "free energy" because it's really not the same. Tesla meant that it is possible to get energy from the ambient, and it is not a contradiction with modern science (renewable energy consist of getting energy from the ambient too). It wasn't a perpetual motion machine without friction or anything like that.
Ernst (Friday, 17 June 2016 03:41)
It is controversial, that is true. So are your remarks on free energy.
Thr problem is not with Tesla's plan, though.
It is a blind spot in modern science.
If all goes well, I will show you real soon.
Tom Booth (Thursday, 18 August 2016 10:23)
I am working on building such an engine as Tesla described. I fanyone wishes to follow along with the progress I will be posting updates to the following site from time to time. Any help, comments or suggestions would be very much appreciated.
Also feel free to visit my Facebook page
Greg (Wednesday, 18 January 2017 02:19)
According to Peter Lindemann, this device could be built using current technology and off-the-shelf parts: http://free-energy.ws/pdf/self_acting_engine.pdf.
This article is a must read, and has helpful references to other experimenters, and their patents and devices.
H. Tomasz Grzybowski (Monday, 21 August 2017 17:41)
It is a good question if a Classical Perpetual Motion Machine of the Second Kind can work. It is conceivable that it can work, because Heat Pumps have OVERUNITY efficiency - so called Coefficient Of Performance (COP).
I have a proof that it is possible to systematically violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics - please read my article "Diode Rectifies Thermal Noise" in Research Gate. H. Tomasz Grzybowski, email: email@example.com
Dhan (Monday, 30 April 2018 20:42)
Hi, Tesla didn't have the technology to build his "Self-Acting Engine".
It has been built by several people.
Two German inventors have designed a refridgerator that generates electricity.
G. Wisemann has also designed a "Self-Acting Engine".
Free-Energy is more correctly called OVER-UNITY where the Coefficient Of Performance ( COP ) is greater than 1 i.e. COP>1 ...
The COP is the OUTPUT ENERGY divided by the INPUT ENERGY FROM THE OPERATOR. The excess comes from the "environment".
A "normal" refridgerator has a COP=3, thus it is a "Free-Energy" machine.
A WINDMILL has a huge COP.
A SOLAR CELL has a VERY BIG COP, thus is also a "Free-Energy" machine.
Suncat2000 (Friday, 15 March 2019 15:51)
What Tesla is describing has already been built, but at a smaller scale. You can buy them as Thermo-electric Generator modules (TEGs). They work using the Seebeck Effect, translating temperature difference to current. In reverse, they are Peltier Cooling or Thermo-electric Cooling modules (TECs). They don't do a lot of work individually, but assembled in series or parallel, they can produce quite a bit of electricity or cooling. So...this is a real thing, not a controversial one at all.
Mofuna2019 (Tuesday, 05 November 2019 02:05)
This article doesn't even scratch the surface of what Tesla was talking about. He mentions the thermoelectric device from the ground to space only as an example to show that such a concept has merit and is not based on fantasy. If you actual read his full article he goes on to state it may be possible to extract this same energy without extending a device all the way to space. His Wardenclyffe tower was just such a device. So long as there exists a gradient in energy, either of hot and cold, positive and negative, slow and fast, then energy can be extracted to perform work. It is not energy from nothing, it is energy extracted from the environment.
Tom Booth (Tuesday, 26 November 2019 05:18)
Tesla's project for a "self-acting engine" seems to be on the order of a heat engine or Stirling Engine running on ice, or more correctly, the heat in the surrounding "medium". The "medium" being simply, the surrounding atmosphere or air.
The engine thus running on ambient heat, he argued, could power a refrigeration unit to keep the ice cold and prevent it from melting.
Tesla, attempting to exstract the maximum energy, instead of ice, sought to use liquid air as a "cold hole" to run his engine.
He believed it possible for such an engine to continue in operation due to the fact that incomming heat energy is converted by the engine into mechanical work and so does not appreciably add to the cold sink.
In otherwords, put simply, a Stirling Engine running on ice and powering a refrigerator to keep the ice cold would really be running on ambient heat that would be converted into work.
So little heat would actually ever reach the ice that the refrigeration unit would have very little work to do so as to prevent the ice from melting.
That is, in other words, if a heat engine were set to run on ice below the ambient instead of heat, above the ambient, it would be accessing the inexhaustable heat stored in the atmosphere by the sun which is renewed daily and accessable everywhere around the globe.
This is in contrast with Carnot's theory of heat as a 'fluid' which he believed passed through a heat engine unchanged like water through a turbine which we now know was wrong.
Tom Booth (Wednesday, 12 August 2020 17:47)
I've finally gotten around to doing some actual experiments with model Stirling engines, to test out Tesla's statements.
First of all, I simply took an ordinary Stirling engine and did some common sense optimizations. I replaced the steel bolts holding the engine together with less heat conductive nylon bolts and also added Regenerator ports to the displacer. This alone resulted in improved performance:
After these simple improvements, I completely insulated the cold side heat exchanger or "sink", to test Tesla's claim that heat DOES NOT need to pass through a heat engine, but instead is converted to other forms of energy.
Quite remarkably, the engine RPM increased with the connection with the ambient sink blocked by 1/2 inch of styrofoam insulation.
This suggests that there is actually internal cooling (conversion of heat into mechanical motion) taking place within the engine, so that the insulation is actually preventing the backward flow of heat into the engine from the "sink".
KS7 (Tuesday, 01 September 2020 23:14)
I believe the simplicity & ingenious in developing this engine is very simple only when we acknowledge the creators (God) creations and his fingerprints on the earth and humanity!