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Patented Improvements in Perpetual Motion

The “magical” lifting power of buoyancy seems to have charmed and entranced both inventors and patent examiners confronted with physically impossible energy-creating machines. A surprising number of “buoyancy and gravity prime movers” have found their way into patents officially granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Apparently, buoyancy’s magic has charmed more than one patent examiner into allowing perpetual motion patents to issue. Or else perhaps it doesn’t take much improvement to make a better perpetual motion machine than what already exists.
Despite the accepted truth that “you can’t patent a perpetual motion machine” many people have patented them. At least on paper, these inventors seem to have achieved the impossible. In fact it is an embarrassment that the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, keeps granting patent after patent on these impossible machines. Each one involves hundreds of hours of wasted work on the part of the inventor and his patent attorney or agent, and several dozens of hours of examiner time to review and act on each of these patents.

The patent law requires that for a patent to be granted on an invention, the invention has to be at least “useful” which is to say able to perform and achieve its objectives. Also the description or specification has to “enable” the person of skill to be able to construct on that would actually work. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, has decided only one appeal involving a perpetual motion machine, Newman v. Quigg, 11 U.S.P.Q.2d 1340 (Fed. Cir. 1989). That court affirmed the district court’s ruling that declared Mr. Newman’s invention unpatentable both because the invention lacked utility and because the description was not “enabling”, in that the machine did not operate to produce the result that the inventor claimed, when the person of ordinary skill followed the teachings of Mr. Newman’s specification. Unfortunately, in the case of many of these perpetual motion machines, the fact that they cannot possibly work or be made to operate did not seem to block the way to a patent.

Perpetual motion involves obtaining an energy output, typically from a rotating shaft, with no energy input, i.e., no burning of coal or petroleum, no wind, no waterpower, and no nuclear fission being required. As often as not these are driven by “gravity” or “buoyancy”. Of course, for every operating machine there is an energy budget, with a surplus being needed to produce output energy. The energy input has to equal the energy output plus the amount consumed in the machine (such as frictional losses). The force the output shaft turns against has to be over-balanced by force in the other direction, or the output shaft won’t turn. This should seem like basic middle-school science to most of us, but if the machine is complex enough, the inventor and the examiner both miss out on where some force component comes in that keeps the machine from working. In each of these patented machines, by conveniently ignoring some basic facts, the inventor can simply leave off some of the counterbalancing forces, and make it look like the machine would work. Apparently more than a couple of patent examiners have been fooled.

In 1984 a client wanted me to get him a patent on a gravity-driven system he had drawn up, which he believed would unleash unlimited amounts of energy, using only the effects of gravity and buoyancy. Unable to convince him that his apparatus was inoperative, I at least talked him into having me run a patent search before we filed anything. What we found was a U.S. Pat. 3,934,964 to David Diamond, which was granted January 27, 1976 for a “Gravity Actuated Fluid Displacement Power Generator.” This was almost identical to what my client had proposed, and so I was able to stop him from wasting his resources on the basis that the same perpetual motion machine had already been patented!

At the time, this was quite a revelation to me – to think that an experienced patent examiner would let a perpetual motion patent application go forward! No doubt, the machine itself was so complex that it was difficult to figure out where the counterbalancing forces would come from.

In Diamond’s patent an endless submerged chain of cylinders each are open at one end and with internal weighted pistons and with hoses connecting the cylinders to one another. These cylinders travel underwater, going up and down around pulleys. On one side the cylinders were inverted and the weighted piston would drop down to push the gas in that cylinder into another cylinder that was ascending on the other side. The cylinders on one side were heavier and sank, due to the water behind the piston, and the others with more gas were lighter and buoyancy pushed them up.

Mr. Diamond (and Examiner Husar) completely overlooked the facts that (a) gas is compressible, (b) water at depth is at a greater pressure than water near the surface, and (c) the water that displaces the buoyant cylinders on the one side has to be displaced upwards the same amount by the cylinders that descend on the other side. The internal pistons are not so easily displaced as Mr. Diamond supposes. Examiner Husar also overlooked the fact that with no energy input, there could not be any energy output. Instead, Examiner Husar never asked the inventor to explain about where the energy to run it was coming from.

A few weeks ago another similar patent turned up for a machine deriving energy from “gravity” and “buoyancy” with no visible energy input. I was actually astounded that there could be another perpetual motion machine patent besides the Diamond patent. After all (I mistakenly believed) the Diamond patent was a rare mistake! Out of curiosity, and partly also to assure myself about the integrity of the US patent examining corps, I set about to look for other candidate patents for machines or prime movers that claimed to produce output energy without consuming any input energy. I was surprised that there were quite a bunch of these patents, relying on gravity and buoyancy as the energy source, nobly “saving the earth’s environment” by making us less reliant on our non-renewable energy sources. The collection I found is far from exhaustive; I am fairly confident that there are lots more patented perpetual motion machines.

Here are some of the choice Perpetual Motion Machine patents:

Denson, Sr. US Pat. 4,254,622, March 10, 1981, “Hydrodynamic Gravity Machine” concerns an array of hollow cylinders attached to an endless power chain that follows a path where buoyant force lifts the cylinders in a liquid-filled chamber, and then the weight of the cylinders pulls them downward in an air-filled chamber. At the bottom of the liquid-filled chamber, the cylinders pass through a “radial gate valve” that admits them (at no energy cost!) from the air chamber against the pressure of the water at the bottom of the liquid filled chamber. Denson has buoyant tanks attached to the gate that supposedly counter the water pressure at the gate. “Gate means are provided for admitting successive ones of the hollow vessels into the reservoir, where the gate means includes buoyant vessels submerged within the liquid for counterbalancing the hydraulic pressure of the liquid upon the gate means.” Then the process repeats.

Denson ignores that the force needed for pushing the cylinders into the bottom of the tank would balance out the forces from gravity and buoyancy, and at equilibrium nothing would move. The patent examiner failed to recognize this also, and failed to question whether this was a perpetual motion machine, despite some grandiose language in the patent specification that should have been a dead give-away: “It has long been known that an unlimited supply of clean energy is obtainable from harnessing the buoyant forces exerted on a closed vessel.”

Cole US Pat. 7,944,066 was granted May 17, 2011, for “Gravitational and Air Transfer Electric Generation”, for generating electricity by harnessing natural gravitational forces, using vessels submerged in liquid, and which rise when they are injected with compressed air. The air is transferred without being pumped by an external energy source. Cole claims that his “gravity electrical generating system . . . has the advantage of providing electrical generation systems which does not utilize fossil fuel or nuclear power, and has the further advantage of providing electrical generation more efficiently than the gravity generating system described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,905,312 [to wit, another perpetual motion machine]”

Hastings U.S. Pat. No. 8,011,182 was granted September 6, 2011, for a “Vertical Gravity/Buoyancy Power Generator” that uses weighted “variable density” containers that ascend and descend to drive one or more endless belts around rotating pulleys. The inventor here believed he had discovered a way of using gravity alone, in a closed system, to produce energy, claiming that his “vertical gravity/buoyancy power generator does not require the sun, wind, monopolize massive tracts of land or sea, or redirect scarce food resources. It can operate in almost any environment, can be located directly in the path of existing power grids, can generate distributed electricity for localized consumption, is not offensive to the eye or local environment and can operate around the clock, day and night without fluctuating output or unreliable operation as is the case with both wind and solar power.”

A fascinating and complex gravity and buoyancy based generator system is found in Pirincci U.S. Pat. No. 8,112,992, granted February 14, 2012, for “Jay Gravi-Buoyant Balls.” The “Jay” terminology apparently comes from the inventor’s name, Jay Pirincci. Pirincci’s “Jay Balls” drop down in an air-filled chamber, then pass (at zero energy cost) into the base of a water-filled column, and from there the balls rise to the top and roll down to the air chamber where the process repeats. There are conveyor belts on the liquid side and the air side that are moved by the rising buoyant Jay balls and by the falling Jay balls, respectively, to drive rotating shafts. Mr. Pirincci did not make any bones about his having discovered perpetual motion or something very like it, stating: “This gravitational force not only has existed since the beginning of time but it is always available everywhere, all the time without searching, discovering, mining and redesigning the earth or the environment. It is the force that keeps everything together and in tact [sic]. We know it’s power, what it’s capable of and that it is always there, everywhere, all the time. Mass or weight has a huge amount of energy behind it when it is coupled with the pull, speed and acceleration of gravity where it then can be the supply for an endless amount of energy. This invention will bring science closer to a Perpetual motion machine that produces electricity. This is what has been disclosed in this document.” [emphasis added]

Quite recently, U.S. Pat. No. 8,397,476 for a “Buoyancy Engine Using a Segmented Chain” was granted March 19, 2013 to Joshua W. Frank of Sedona, Arizona. Mr. Frank’s device operates (if it can be said to operate!) on the same general principles of gravity and buoyancy as do the other patented perpetual motion devices already discussed. This arrangement has an endless chain of segmented compartments, with the chain passing through a liquid chamber and an air chamber that are alongside one another. A divider separates the liquid and air chambers, and a reservoir aperture is positioned on the divider where the segmented chain passes from the air chamber to the liquid chamber, or vice versa.

Frank’s machine fails to account for all the energy costs or for all the counterbalancing forces. For one thing, the column of water in the liquid chamber will be at a greater pressure at the bottom than at the top, but Frank doesn’t account for that. The force in one direction due to buoyancy and gravity will be counter-balanced by the force in the other direction at the “aperture” where the segments have to go from a lower pressure to a higher pressure. Frank does not discuss that at all. But then, Frank’s invention is only an improvement to a buoyancy/gravity perpetual motion generator, as the patent claims seem to focus on the geometry of the segments so they form a solid surface where they pass through the reservoir aperture, whether or not the machine generates any energy as a result.

Professor Emeritus Donald Simanek of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania has compiled quite a list of patents that have been granted on perpetual motion machines, although it seems that list needs constant updating. See: Prof. Simanek’s list includes: H. L. Worthington. Pat. No. 1,859,643, Magnetic Motor (1932); J. W. Poysa U.S. Pat. No. 1,963,213, Magnetic Motor (1934); Norman L. Dean U.S. Pat. No. 2,886,976, System for Converting Rotary Motion into Unidirectional Motion (1959); E. Baumgartner U.S. Pat. No. 3,194,008, Positive Buoyancy Prime Mover (1965); Dan K. McCoin U.S. Pat. No. 3,292,365, Power Conversion Apparatus and Method Utilizing Gravitational and Buoyant Forces (1966); E. Rutkove U.S. Pat. No. 3,625,089, Gravity Wheel Apparatus (1971); David Diamond U.S. Pat. No. 3,934,964, Gravity-Actuated Fluid Displacement Power Generator (1976); Robert L. Cook. U.S. Pat. No. 4,238,968, Device for Conversion of Centrifugal Force to Linear Force and Motion (1978); Howard R. Johnson U.S. Pat. No. 4,151,431, Permanent Magnet Motor (1979); Leslie R. Hinchman and Robert B. Hinchman U.S. Pat. No. 4,184,409, Hydraulic Engine (1980); Caldwell U.S. Pat. No.. 4,667,115, Energy Machine Generating Hydraulic Energy (1980); Howard R. Johnson U.S. Pat. No. 4,877,983 Magnetic Force Generating Method and Apparatus (1989); Robert W. Willmouth U.S. Pat. No. 4,818,232, Gravity and Power Driven Power Generators (1988); James Harvey U.S. Pat. 5,335,561, Impulse Converter (1994); Howard R. Johnson U.S. Pat. No. 5,402,021, Magnetic Propulsion System. (1995); Michael Tarnoposky U.S. Pat. No. 5,921,133, System and Method of Energy Conversion of Gravitation into Mechanical Energy by Means of a Sequence of Impulses of Force (1999); Brad A. Forrest U.S. Pat. No.. 5,944,480, Buoyancy and Gravitation Motor (1999); Paul T. Baskis et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,109,123, Rotational Inertia Motor (2000); James Woodward U.S. Pat. No. 6,347,766, Method and Apparatus for the Generation of Propulsive Forces Without the Ejection of Propellant (2002); Thomas Bearden U.S. Pat. No. 6,362,718, Motionless Electromagnetic Generator (2002 ); Mikhail Tarnopolsky et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,601,471, Main Block of Drop-power Station (2003); Ralph E. Love U.S. Pat. No. 6,694,844, Apparatus to Recover Energy Through Gravitational Force (2004); and Ernest Eun Ho Shin U.S. Pat. No. 6,734,574, Buoyancy-driven Electric Power Generator (2004). Most of these seem to be too silly to discuss at any length, but the reader can investigate them, if there is any interest in doing that.

Charming may be the notion of cost-free energy from magical gravity and buoyancy, but patents on impossible machines do not advance the progress of science and useful arts, and are a waste of patent examiner resources. I hope they at least have some entertainment value for the reader; yet it is a shame that so many have gotten through the patent examining process.