Thermodynamics & Free Energy

Peter A. Lindemann

The mainstream scientific community dismisses the idea of “Free Energy” or “Over-Unity” machines because they say that the behavior of such machines violates the “Second Law of Thermodynamics.” The purpose of this article is to squarely face this issue from an alternative science point of view. Many engineers and inventors, working in the alternative energy field, still mistakenly believe that the “Laws of Thermodynamics” are universally true. For them, the “free energy” machine can only be a clever scientific slight of hand where the machine becomes “outlaw”, breaking some fundamental universe law. For progress to be made in this field, the limitations and errors inherent in the “Laws of Thermodynamics” must be exposed. Only then will people realize that scientific experimentation is the only reliable tool for revealing the behavior of physical reality.

In order to bring this about, it will be helpful to quickly review some of the pivotal historical events which helped shape the modern scientific era with regards to thermodynamics. Before the year 1800, perpetual motion machines were considered possible and heat was not regarded as a form of energy. Both of these long standing assumptions, dating back thousands of years, were effectively toppled by the ideas of Hermann von Helmholtz in 1847 when he postulated that since no one had ever been able to build a working perpetual motion machine, that just probably, it was not possible. In order to deny the possibility of perpetual motion and hold the argument together, he had to assume that energy in the system was being conserved. It had long been observed that mechanical devices could not transfer energy perfectly. There was always some friction in the working parts. Friction was not only known to impede the transfer of energy in the machine, but it was known to produce heat. In order to simultaneously explain the work loss and the heat gain, so that conservation could be satisfied, Helmholtz postulated that heat was a form of energy consisting of a small, random motion in the molecules of matter. He went on to speculate that the loss of work in the machine as large scale motion was still present as heat in the small scale motion of the molecules in the material the machine was made of. He suggested from this that both the heat and work must be considered energy, and that it was the total that was conserved, rather than the heat or work separately.

By 1850, Rudolf Clausius was able to synthesize the work of Helmholtz, James Joule, Sadi Carnot and others to express a generalized statement that has become known as the “First Law of Thermodynamics.” It states that “energy can be changed from one form to another, but it is neither created nor destroyed.” By the time this thought became universally believed, it had totally transformed the intellectual landscape of mechanics, physics and energy dynamics. This was a clean break from the set of thoughts and assumptions that had come forward from antiquity. A new era in science had begun.

In understanding these historical developments, it is important to realize that besides the new theoretical explanation about the nature of heat, all of the other data that led to the new theoretical generalizations was derived experimentally. This can be illustrated by an observation made by Sadi Carnot in his extensive work regarding the behavior of heat in machines. He states that “in all cases in which work is produced by the agency of heat, a quantity of heat is consumed that is proportional to the work done; and conversely, by the expenditure of an equal quantity of work, an equal quantity of heat is produced.” This statement by Carnot was based on hundreds of experimental measurements. After such convincing experimentation, it was not unreasonable for Clausius to conclude that heat could be converted into mechanical work. It was, however, a theoretical leap of logic to conclude that energy, in general, could be changed from one form to another.

Before we go on, it is important, for our purposes, to be reminded that this new idea expressed as the “First Law of Thermodynamics” consists of a number of overlapping ideas and assumptions that can be expressed as follows:

1) Perpetual motion machines are impossible

2) The nature of heat is reduced to the random motions of molecular matter

3) Energy can be changed from one form to another without any explanation as to how this conversion is actually accomplished in any specific case

4) Energy is not created in or destroyed by its passage through a mechanism

5) All forms of energy behave the same way

All of these ideas are fundamentally inherent in “The First Law of Thermodynamics.” From an alternative science point of view, the experimental work of Carnot and Joule will stand for all time. It is the intellectual overlay of Helmholtz and Clausius, on this experimental work, where the problems are introduced. The theory of conversionand the ideas about the nature of heat will be taken up again later in this article, after more ground work has been laid.

The “Second Law of Thermodynamics” evolved out of further studies of the behavior of heat in closed systems. Remarkably, there is no one statement that is universally recognized as the definitive expression of this so called “Law”. Among the more popular statements which reflect the general understanding of the “Second Law of Thermodynamics” are the following: “In a closed system, entropy does not decrease”, “The state of order in a closed system does not spontaneously increase without the application of work”, “Among all the allowed states of a system with given values of energy, number of particles and constraints, one and only one is a stable equilibrium state”, and “It is impossible to construct a device that operates in a cycle and produces no other effect than the production of work and exchange of heat with a single reservoir.” For those who can fathom the language, these statements clearly do not all express the same idea. Some have broad ramifications while others are more narrowly defined. All of these statements grew out of the idea, expressed fairly well as the last statement in the series, that a perpetual motion machine could not be made that operated on the principle of a work/heat exchange when this process was limited to a known quantity of heat at the start. After that amount of heat was converted to work and the temperature of the reservoir was reduced to the ambient temperature outside, no further work could be expected to be produced. This is not only reasonable, but it is backed up by thousands of experiments. As long as the “Law” is clearly and narrowly defined as a statement that reflects upon the behavior of heat in closed systems, this author has no problem with agreeing completely.