Conversation with an Energy Heretic - Part II
By Bill Moore
"Emerging energy," as Dr. Tom Valone and his colleague like to refer to what conventional science considers fringe or pseudo-science, faces a real conundrum.
The very people who are qualified to understand and weigh in on the merits of the matter, are often the least likely to do so for fear that it will tarnish their careers. And it isn't because they've carefully studied the literature or conducted serious investigations for even to do that much might stain their reputations as scientists.
So, we are left with a handful of people like Dr. Valone who continue to labor in a field that the mainstream considers unfruitful and unproductive at best and downright heretical at worst.
Still, there remain so many unanswered questions -- like what propels all those hundreds of toy lifters experimenters around the world have flown for years now -- that makes the fringe so intriguing ground to explore.
And not just the fringe. Valone is just as interested in the conventional as the unconventional. During our discussion he talked about an article he just published in Future Energy magazine that highlights what he considers five important breakthroughs in solar energy in the last year that will make it even cheaper to tap into. He lists them as follows:
- Flexible PV solar batteries that never need recharging as long at they have access to light.
- StarSolar's development of high-efficiency, low-cost solar cells.
- The discovery that it's possible for one photon to excite multiple electrons in a photovoltaic cell, which greatly improves their efficiency. [Edd note: Valone mentions Los Alamos Labs in the audio, but it appears he confused LAL with NREL for this discovery].
- Notre Dame researchers find that ultraviolet light can activate electron migration in nano-size particles of silicon and titanium. This opens up a much wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum to produce electricity through photovoltaics.
- Boeing SpectroLab's creation of solar cells that are in the range of 40% efficient, nearly twice the efficiency of the best commercial PV cells, outside of triple junction cells manufactured almost exclusively for the space industry.
In part two of this interview, we talk about why he believes there is something real about the energy at the far edges of science. You can listen to the entire 30-minute discussion using either of the two MP3 Players at the top of the page or by downloading it to your computer hard drive for transfer and playback on your favorite MP3 device.
IN BRIEF: Synopsis of Part II of the Interview
Another conventional technology he likes is production of on-site electricity from a plant's waste heat, and he know of several such facilities now in operation. This allows the company to disconnect from the grid.
And yet, he points out, we need a 50-80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions if we are going to minimize the environmental impact of global warming.
But beyond what are clearly conventional energy and propulsion systems, Valone thinks the emerging field of electrokinetics (also known as electrogravitics) shows promise well beyond the toy lifters. He and others believe that the B2 Stealth Bomber has some of this technology incorporated into it, enhancing its stealthiness and even possibly providing a small margin of propulsion.
Another example is the Casimir effect, which is now accepted and understood to be the means by which geckos can climb up glass windows and insects can walk on ceilings. It turns out that if you are within a millionth of a meter of an object, the Casimir force creates a powerful attraction. Microscopic hairs on the pads of the gecko are just the right size to create the Casimir effect. It is so powerful at the micron level that it destroys nanoscale devices.
However, Valone has identified a number of different ways to manipulate the effect and create potential micron-scale engines, which can be chained together to create power plants capable of producing kilowatts-to-megawatts of energy.
He sees the environment forcing us in the coming two decades to be more energy efficient in energy production, which he also sees as a misnomer. When Zero Point Energy is understood and accepted some day, we'll understand that we are not "producing" energy, but simply converting it from one form to another.
We are bathed in a sea of energy and an enormously powerful one at that. The challenge isn't so much how to tap it, we'll eventually figure that out. The challenge is do we have the maturity and wisdom to use it wisely? We will have to become, Valone believes, a single world community and the European Union shows that it can be done.
It is more a sociological problem than a technological one, he concluded. Free energy is our destiny, as free as the air and as the water.