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The Fourth State of Matter
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October 27, 1993
The following information concerns an amazing over unity device
called the Mark II and the Mark V. It uses plasma in an MHD
configuration. Thanks to Joel McClain for typing up the review and
bringing the rest of this information to all of our attention.
Book Review of THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER, Plasma Dynamics and
Tomorrow's Technology, written by Ben Bova.
Subheading, "A report on the exciting scientific breakthrough that
may solve the energy crisis."
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
New York and Scarborough, Ontario
P.O. Box 999
Bergenfield, NJ 07621
Date of Publication: April, 1974
Copyright: 1971, Ben Bova
Library of Congress Card Catalog Number 75-145445
MENTOR SERIES # MJ-1288
Original Cost: $1.95.00
Pages: 166, including Index
Dedication: To Arthur Kantrowitz and the men and women of the
AVCO EVERETT RESEARCH LABORATORY.
Other MENTOR Series books:
THE NEW ASTRONOMIES, By Ben Bova, MJ1283, $1.95
THE LAST PLAY: THE STRUGGLE TO MONOPOLIZE THE WORLD'S ENERGY
RESOURCES, By James Ridgeway, MJ1286, $1.95
THE GREAT OCEAN BUSINESS, By Brenda Horsfield and Peter Bennett
Stone, MJ1282, $1.95
THE BIOLOGICAL TIME BOMB, By Gordon Rattray Taylor, MY1162, $1.25
THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES, By Charles Darwin, MY 1050, $1.25
Book Review by Joel McClain
Believe it or not, I found this book in the Waxahachie Public
Library, while researching references to plasma. Having built a
Tesla coil to ionize a plasma tube, and subsequently having watched
as the driver melted, I was curious to learn more about the nature
What I did not expect to find was a reference and description of a
plasma based free-energy generator, which was operated successfully
over twenty years ago. The terminology for this type of generator
is a "MHD" generator, which is the acronym for MagnetoHydroDynamic.
To understand how it works, it is first necessary to understand the
nature of plasma, and why it is so special among gases.
The three accepted states of matter are, as we all learned in
school, solid, liquid and gas. A plasma is a gas which conducts
electricity. This small difference is the reason why the universe
exists, why lightning flashes, and how the sun generates light.
Plasmas exist in the air that we breathe, but in small proportion to
other gases. A large elestrostatic or electro-magnetic potential
will cause the gases to conduct, and that conduction is commonly
known as lightning.
Those gases which, under stress, conduct, are also called "noble
gases", because they do not form molecules with other gases. These
gases all produce differing colors of light when ionized, hence the
colored neon advertising signs which we commonly see used. Ionizing
is the process by which electrons are knocked free from their atoms,
leaving the atom with a net positive charge. In an ionized gas, or
plasma, the billions of particle collisions which result are
responsible for the glow of light.
The first "glow tubes" were invented by Sir William Crookes in 1879,
who was the first to realize that there exists a fourth state of
matter. Credit is also given to other pioneers in electrical and
research, such as Lord Ernest Rutherford, Luigi Galvani, Allesandro
Volta, Michael Faraday, Heinrich Hertz, Wilhelm Roentgen and
Guglielmo Marconi, and descriptions of their contributions are
The sun has recently been recognized as a MHD generator, and as of
this book's publication, working models were based upon the sun
itself. In the Mark V, for example, plasmas were elevated in
temperature and pumped past a magnetic field, creating an immediate
DC potential. Because the sun has a magnetic field, we see the
ionization as light. However, we do not have the ability to breach
the "Coulomb Barrier", or did not as of the writing of this book.
The sun can breach the barrier, and force protons, which normally
repel, together. In this way, the sun converts hydrogen into
helium, which is a noble gas, and thus creates the plasma effect.
We attempt to stress the gases in other ways, such as
electrostatically, because we cannot duplicate the heat and
pressures found in the core of the sun. In this, we have been
successful. The Mark V was the first successful generator of this
type, capable of 32 million watts of output, of which 10 million
watts were required to keep it running, for a NET GAIN of 22 million
The Mark V program was funded by the DOD, which needed a high-power
electrical generator for wind tunnel testing of spacecraft. The
Mark V was also capable of producing 600 million watts, for brief
periods of up to three minutes, ideal for the tests of that time.
Further developments must have occurred since that time, but of
those, we know nothing.
However, this creation of a pollution-free energy source did not
escape the attention of the politicians of the day. The White House
Science Advisor appointed a panel, headed by Louis H. Roddis, Vice
Chairman of Consolidated Edison of New York, to study MHD and make
recommendations. In 1969, the panel issued their report,
recommending a full-scale national program to utilize MHD
generators. The plan was to include the Department of the Interior,
the nation's utility companies, as well as the companies building
MHD generators. This was news to me, and I guess it also escaped
the press and other media sources of that time, and since then.
America was not alone in MHD research. At the time, the Soviets had
the most aggressive MHD research program. In 1969, the Japanese
announced that they had developed a MHD generator which was powered
by a superconducting electromagnet. It is safe to assume that those
programs have progressed substantially in the past two decades.
It is the author's contention that it is up to the people to guide
the world toward MHD based energy, an opinion which is shared by the
reviewer. This energy can effectively end hunger and war, and is
far too important to be left in the hands of scientists and
politicians. Claiming ignorance of science is no excuse...speak out
and vote if you want to see change, OR DO NOTHING and LEARN TO LIVE
with pollution and poverty and war.
Other topics covered in this amazing book include:
1. Astronomy; birth and death of stars
2. The sun, sunspots and solar flares
3. Plasmas for space flight
4. Heavy water for fusion (cold fusion? YES!)
5. Magnetic Mirrors and Magnetic Wells
This book, despite its small size, includes ample illustrations, and
is written in layman terminology. It is AN INSTANT REFUTATION to
those who claim that free energy is not possible. It is not only
possible, it has been done, and you paid for it with your tax
dollars! I heartily recommend this book for all, not just those
interested in science, plasma or ZPE, because if enough people read
it, we may yet see MHD generators popping up in our world.
Joel found this remarkable book and did the above review so
everyone could track their own copy....if you don't have it, GET
IT! It will open your eyes to much of the future technology
possibilities having to do with plasmas. Are they so EXOTIC?
No, everytime you turn on a fluorescent light or see a neon
tube, you are looking at a plasma. These are the low pressure
versions but pump it up, move it through a magnetic field and
SHAZAAM!, you have a generator!!!!
I think it would be useful to present the section relating to
power generation devices using plasmas in the MHD configuration.
From the GIFT FROM THE SKY section
The science of plasma physics is a new technology that will change
your life. Use of plasma technologies can help to build a world
that's free from hunger and want, free from pollution, a world in
which man can generate ALL THE ENERGY HE NEEDS to run his
civilization and yet still live IN HARMONY with the environment, a
world in which man can set out in earnest for the farthest reaches
of the solar system and perhaps even challenge the stars themselves.
But this beautiful world of the future won't come about by itself,
automatically. IF IT HAPPENS AT ALL, it will be because men and
women MAKE IT HAPPEN. To a large extent, it's up to you. Even if
you don't intend to be a scientist or engineer, you will be a voter
and YOUR DECISIONS can help to SHAPE THE FUTURE of ALL TECHNOLOGY
(can we say ALTERNATIVES?????). Informed, thoughtful citizens can
make certain that the benefits of science and technology are used
wisely, for the good of all the people. Those who ignore science
and technology, who dismiss it as something beyond their grasp, are
DOOMED TO HAVE OTHERS MAKE THEIR DECISIONS FOR THEM (are you
conspiracy buffs reading this?). This book is an introduction to
plasma physics and technology, written to give you a glimpse of a
possible future - YOUR future - so that you can make up your own
mind about this exciting NEW science (written in 1971).
Plasma is a fourth state of matter, quite different from the solids,
liquids and gases we're familiar with. Most people don't even
realize that plasmas exist. When they think of a fluorescent lamp,
they don't realize that it's PLASMA energy that makes it bright.
When a rocket bellows off its launching pad, it's PLASMA streaming
from the exhaust nozzles, NOT GAS. When a nuclear bomb spreads its
searing fireball, it's plasma that's destroying everything it
PLASMAS FOR POWER
The world faces a critical dilemma.
Modern civilization depends on energy. You have at your fingertips
more energy than a Roman Emporer could command from a thousand
slaves: energy from electricity, for the most part. This energy is
more than a convenience, it's a way of life. Anyone who's lived
through a power blackout knows how modern civilization depends
totally on electrical energy.
Yet despite this enormous demand for more electrical power, it seems
clear that we cannot continue to build more and more electrical
One problem is pollution. Power-generation plants produce air and
water pollution. In many parts of the United States, the pollution
load is already far more than it should be. Pollution is
threatening to alter the very basic ecology of our planet. If
unchecked, pollution will ultimately make this world unlivable.
Another problem is simply that you can't keep building power
stations indefinitely. If the demand for electrical power continues
to grow, we can picture a world covered with power stations, using
all the coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, thorium and any other kind
of fuel that exists on our planet. And the demand is rising faster
than new power plants can be built. There have already been serious
blackouts over large parts of the United States. Even more common
are "brownouts," where electricity is rationed so that everybody may
have enough to live on, while nobody gets as much as he wants.
These problems are, at heart, problems of EFFICIENCY. The pollution
that power stations produce is a function of their efficiency; the
more efficient the power-generation process, the fewer stations will
be needed. High efficiency stations will be better able to keep up
with the growing demand for power than stations of lower efficiency.
There are tremendous energies locked in plasmas. Can these energies
be tapped to provide abundant, pollution-free, efficient power?
Ever since Bethe announced that the sun is a thermonuclear reactor,
men have dreamed of producing CONTROLLED thermonuclear reactors HERE
ON EARTH. Such FUSION reactors could supply a virtually LIMITLESS
amount of cheap, clean power. Many of the world's best scientists
are working hard toward fusion reactors. But the task is
formidable, and results may not be forthcoming in the century.
What do we do in the meantime?
Plasma dynamics offers another opportunity: the magnetohydrodynamic
generator. Tapping the power of a stream of plasma, MHD generators
have been built for experimental purposes. They work NOW. And when
fully developed, they promise to produce electricity with much
higher efficiency and much less pollution than conventional power
stations can offer.
FROM FARADAY TO MHD
Michael Faraday discovered the basic principles of electrical power
generation about a century and a half ago. He showed that when a
material that conducts electricity is set in motion THROUGH a
magnetic field, an electric current is generated.
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) turned Faraday's laboratory work into
practical reality. In 1882 he showed the world that electricity
could be generated reliably and in sufficient quantity TO LIGHT UP A
CITY! Within a few decades most industrial machinery, lighting
systems, communications, home appliances, and now even heating and
air-conditioning units have been based on the availability of
inexpensive, abundant electrical power.
Edison's generators (or dynamos, as they were called) didn't use
plasmas. Even if Edison had known about MHD he couldn't have built
an MHD generator. There was no way to produce the amount of high-
temperature plasma that an MHD generator requires. And no materials
that could hold the plasma without being destroyed.
The heart of Edison's dynamo was a bundle of copper wires, called
the ARMATURE. The armature was spun rapidly in a magnetic field.
Being a conductor of electricity in motion relative to a magnetic
field, the armature had an electric current induced in it. Other
coils of copper, called BRUSHES, tapped the current and fed it to
the outside world.
During the first decade or so after Edison's initial success, there
was a battle between those who wanted to build electrical power
systems that produced direct current (DC) and those who thought
alternating current (AC) was preferable (Tesla and Westinghouse).
For reasons we needn't go into here, the AC proponents won. The
power you buy today comes in a form where the electrons that make up
the current alternate their flow direction sixty times per second
(60 cycle AC).
Modern generators, after nearly a century of development, are still
based on Edison's design. The heart of the modern generator was
built at the turn of the century or is a brand-new nuclear power
plant. And despite intensive engineering efforts, powerplants based
on such generators seem limited to efficiencies of about 40%, AT
A source of mechanical energy is needed to make the armature turn.
Modern generators use turbines to provide mechanical energy. In
most systems, steam is used to turn the turbine. Hydroelectric dams
use falling water to spin the turbines. And, more recently,
generators using gas turbine engines (similar to aircraft jet
engines) have come into use for special purposes.
The steam turbine plant is the type that generates the overwhelming
majority of the world's electrical power. It begins with a heat
source, to boil water and make steam. The heat source can be a
furnace that burns fossil fuel - coal, oil, natural gas - or the
heat source could be a nuclear reactor. It's ironic that the most
advanced source of energy that man's been able to develop, the
energy of fissioning atoms, is used for nothing more glamorous than
In a conventional power generator, we start with heat energy (fossil
fuel or nuclear), which is converted to steam. The steam PUSHES the
turbine blades. The mechanical energy of the turbine is then
converted by the armature into electrical energy. The generator is
thus an ENERGY CONVERSION device, converting heat energy into
mechanical energy, and then mechanical energy INTO ELECTRICAL
Back to Faraday for a moment. Remember, he didn't discover merely
that a copper armature rotating in a magnetic field WILL GENERATE
ELECTRICITY. Most emphatically not. He made the MUCH MORE PROFOUND
discovery that ANY conductor of electricity MOVING RELATIVE TO A
MAGNETIC FIELD will generate electricity.
PLASMAS are CONDUCTORS OF ELECTRICITY!
THE MHD GENERATOR
Faraday understood the basic principles of MHD interactions. In
fact, he tried to measure the electrical currents flowing in the
River Thames. He reasoned that the river was fairly salty and
therefore a reasonable conductor of electricity. And as it flowed
to the sea, it was moving to the Earth's magnetic field. Could he
measure the current that MUST BE FLOWING through it?
The answer was a definite NO. The Earth's magnetic field is much
too weak, the flow of the river was too slow, and the conductivity
of salty water FAR too low, to show a measurable current.
In an MHD generator, we'll see that three basic factors determine
the performance of the generator; plasma conductivity, magnetic
field strength, and the plasma's flow speed, MHD engineers would
like to have all three as high as possible.
Although some plasmas are much better conductors than salt water,
they're still far from the conductivities of most metals. The best
man-made plasmas have conductivities that are several hundred
thousand times lower than that of copper. However, plasmas can be
made to move at supersonic speeds, and magnets can produce hundreds
of thousands OF GAUSS. And, as we'll see shortly, there's a trick
that can GREATLY ENHANCE the conductivity of a plasma, too.
If you move a plasma through a magnetic field, it's possible to
generate an electrical current DIRECTLY FROM THE PLASMA. You can
by-pass the whole mechanical system of turbines and armatures that
conventional generators need. The MHD generator is called a DIRECT
CONVERSION device: it converts heat energy directly to electricity
without having a mechanical stage in between.
In principle, the MHD generator is quite simple. There are NO
mechanical moving parts, ONLY THE PLASMA MOVES. The MHD generator
is basically a pipe, surrounded by a magnetic field coil. At one
end of the pipe is a heat source: at the other end, an exhaust
stack. Electrodes in the pipe tap off the current that's generated.
The MHD generator produces DC power ONLY. Various schemes have been
tried for making AC generators, but to date the simplest and
cheapest way to produce AC is to convert the MHD generator's output
in a conventional inverter.
Before we can understand how the MHD generator can be almost
completely free of pollution, we must look at the generator itself
The plasma is produced in the heat source by simple THERMAL
IONIZATION. That is, the heat raises the temperature of the
molecules to the point where ELECTRONS BREAK FREE. The resulting
plasma is only SLIGHTLY ionized, even in the hottest burners
available today. There are other ways to ionize a gas, such as
using electrical fields or ultraviolet light to excite the
electrons. In practical MHD generators, though, the thermal
ionization is the simplest and cheapest technique.
The plasma runs through the pipe - which we'll call the MHD CHANNEL
from now on. The plasma is forced through the channel by simple gas
pressure, much like the situation in a rocket nozzle. As we'll see
throughout this chapter, there are many similarities between the MHD
generator and rocket engines. In fact, the MHD generator can almost
be thought of as a way to produce electricity from a rocket.
The magnetic field is arranged to run perpendicularly to the
direction of the plasma flow. As Faraday showed, an electric
current is generated in a direction that's perpendicular to both the
magnetic field and the plasma flow.
EFFICIENCY AND PROBLEMS
The MHD generator offers the possibility of much higher efficiences
than turbogenerator poower plants. The best steam turbogenerator
plants are barely more than 40% efficient. Modern nuclear stations
are less than 35% efficient. Calculations have shown that the first
MHD power stations will be at least 50% efficient. Moreover, the
MHD system will be open to further improvements. Conventional
turbogenerators have been refined for nearly a century to reach
their present-day level; it's doubtful that they'll be capable of
any significant further development.
Even better, though, is the advantage of SCALING. By its nature,
the MHD generator becomes MORE EFFICIENT as its size INCREASES.
Losses in the MHD generator are mostly associated with the CHANNEL
WALLS - friction between the walls and the flowing plasma, heat loss
TO the walls and the flowing plasma, heat lost to the walls,
electrode losses and other effects. The power output, on the other
hand, is a product of the VOLUME of the plasma in the channel. This
means that as the size of an MHD generator INCREASES, the losses
rise with the square of the size (two-dimensional wall effect) while
the power output rises with the cube of the size (three-dimensional
volume effect). This "three-halves" relationship means that the
BIGGER the generator, the BETTER its efficiency.
Now look at thermal efficiency. All generators are essentially HEAT
ENGINES, and the amount of energy you can EXTRACT from them is
DIRECTLY RELATED to the TEMPERATURE DIFFERENCE between the hottest
and coldest ends of the system. In engineering practice, this means
that it's desirable to operate with as high a peak temperature as
Turbines are limited in the peak temperature they can handle. If
the gas blowing across the turbine blades is TOO HOT, the blades
will be destroyed. Despite the refinements of the toughest modern
metal alloys and the best designs, turbines are still limited to
operating temperatures well below 800 degress Kelvin (1000 degress
MHD generators operate today at top temperatures of about 3000
degress Kelvin. They can easily achieve peak temperatures beyond
the fondest dreams of turbine engineers. This is both the great
strength and main headache of MHD power generation.
For the MHD generator NEEDS these very high temperatures. Unless
the plasma fed into the generator is sufficiently ionized, its
conductivity will be TOO LOW to allow the generator to work. And
the easiest way to ionize a large CONTINUOUS FLOW of gas is BY
Still, most gases are very difficult to ionize by heating; the
temperatures required are VERY HIGH. Air, for example, must be
heated to about 4500 degrees Kelvin before a significant percentage
of molecules start to shed their electrons. Conventional furnaces
can't reach such a temperature.
(the following is the MAJOR KEY to understanding how to
effectively produce power using the MHD system......Vangard)
The way around this problem was found by the American plasma
physicist, Richard J. Rosa (born 1927). While a graduate student at
Cornell University, in the mid-1950's, he discovered that by adding
a small amount of METALLIC material to a low-conductivity plasma, he
could increase the conductivity to a point useful in MHD power
generation. Rosa called this technique "seeding."
A burner operating at 3000 degrees Kelvin can produce a plasma with
sufficient conductivity for MHD if the combustion gas is "seeded"
with a small amount of metallic powder. Potassium salts are
commonly used as "seed" material in large MHD generators. In
smaller machines, the more expensive metal cesium is often used.
The reason behind the "seeding" technique is that the metals are
ionized QUITE READILY at temperatures where gases hardly ionize at
all. So most of the free electrons in an MHD generator's plasma
stream come from the metallic "seed."
While conventional burners can reach temperatures useful to MHD,
nuclear reactors can't. This may seem strange, since the
temperature within the fission elements of a reactor, where the
atomic nuclei are splitting apart and releasing energy, must be
astronomically high. But nuclear reactors are designed to run at
low-temperature: less than 2000 degrees Kelvin. If the metal
casings that hold the fissionable material get much hotter than
this, they may weaken or even break apart. This could cause
destruction of the reactor (not necessarily an explosion) and might
permit highly radioactive material to escape from the shielded
Therefore, nuclear reactors can't deliver the high temperature
needed for an MHD heat source. Higher temperature reactors are
being developed, and rocket reactors such as the ROVER nuclear
rocket engine have reached temperatures useful for MHD, but only for
a very short time. While nuclear reactors will probably be mated
with MHD generators sometime in the future, it seems clear that the
earliest MHD power plants will use furnaces that burn fossil fuel.
THE DRIVE TOWARD MHD POWER
Faraday understood the basics of MHD, and as early as 1910 several
experimenters took out patents on various versions of an MHD
generator. None of them were successful, mainly because their
inventors couldn't heat the plasma to a temperature high enough for
In the late 1930's, Bela Karlovitz (born 1904) of the Westinghouse
Research Laboratories built an MHD generator of considerable size
and complexity. However, it also failed to work in a practical way.
The science of plasma physics hadn't yet reached the point where the
details of ionization and the dynamics of plasma interactions with
magnetic fields were understood well enough to design a workable MHD
In 1938, shortly after Bethe's announcement of the sun's energy
source, Arthur Kantrowitz (born 1913) decided to study the problems
of developing a fusion reactor. He was a gas physicist at the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics facility in Langley,
Virginia. NACA was to be revamped, twenty years later, into the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, the nation's
Kantrowitz's first attempts at building an experimental fusion
reactor fell far short of approaching the conditions in the core of
the sun, as he had expected. World War II forced an end to
research, except for direct war-related work, and Kantrowitz devoted
his efforts to jet-engine developments.
By 1949 he was an associate professor (and later full professor) at
Cornell University. He began to try new ideas that might lead to a
successful fusion reaction. The main problem was to produce a
plasma of ultra-high temperature. Kantrowitz developed the shock
tube as a laboratory apparatus for producing very high gas
temperatues. A shock tube is a length of pipe in which a shock wave
can be driven through the gas to be studied. The shock wave
momentarily heats the gas to a very high temperature, in some cases
high enough to ionize the gas significantly.
Kantowitz soon realized that simple shock tubes wouldn't come close
to producing fusion temperatures. But he also found that there were
many intriguing things to investigate in gases that were heated
"only" to 10,000 degrees Kelvin or so.
"I was diverted from studying the fusion problem," he said in a
conversation in 1970, "and I've been diverted from it ever since."
One of the causes of his diversion was his realization that
practical MHD generators might be attainable.
Several fields of study gained tremendously during and after World
War II. One of them, as we've seen, was plasma dynamics. In
addition, the infant Space Age was starting to produce rocket
burners and new materials that could stand up to the fiery heat of
Between 1950 and 1955, Kantrowitz and several of his graduate
students at Cornell demonstrated that electrical power could be
produced in a shock-tube model of an MHD generator. In 1955, these
men left Cornell to establish the AVCO Everett Research Laboratory,
in Massachusetts. Their first objective wasn't MHD. The laboratory
was set up to study the missle re-entry problem, and advise the Air
Force as to whether or not a nose cone could be built to withstand
the intense heat of re-entering the atmosphere at nearly 30,000
kilometers per hour.
Much of the work on the re-entry problem was also applicable to the
plasma condititions inside an MHD generator. In 1958, Rosa built
the first successful MHD generator. Called the Mark I, it produced
slightly more than 10 kilowatts.
Although far from a practical power plant, the Mark I was an
historic step. For the first time, a sizable amount of electrical
power had been produced FROM A PLASMA. MHD power generation was a
Britain, France, Russia, Japan, West Germany and several other
nations quickly embarked on MHD development programs. In the United
States, many industrial firms and Government and university
laboratories started MHD studies. Among them were Atomics
International, General Electric, Gulf General Atomic, Westinghouse,
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Argonne National Laboratory
(Atomic Energy Commission), Stanford University and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Navy and Air Force both
set up active research programs in MHD.
The largest and best-publicized program was put forward by AVCO
Corporation, under the leadership of Kantrowitz, and with the
cooperation and financial support of a group of electric utility
companies. Starting in 1959 they embarked on a program to develop
practical MHD generators for utility power stations.
THE TWO AXIS APPROACH
Their plan of attack involved developing two rather different kinds
of experimental MHD equipment, and has been dubbed the "two axis"
Under this plan, large high-power MHD generators were built to run
for only a few seconds at a time. The basic aim of these tests was
to determine how a plasma behaves under conditions such as a full-
sized MHD power plant would require. For this purpose, running
times of a few seconds are perfectly adequate, because the plasma
attains equilibrium conditions within a second or so after the
burner first turns on. That is, in about one second, the plasma has
reached a steady-state condition. Its physical behavior will stay
the same as long as the generator operates.
AVCO's Mark II experimental MHD generator went into operation in
1961. It was designed to produce at least one megawatt (MW) of
power output during run times of ten seconds. It eventually
produced 1.5 MW. But more important, it produced enough
experimental data so that engineers could begin designing bigger MHD
generators with full confidence that they'd perform as predicted.
The success of the Mark II led to the eventual development of the
Mark V self-excited MHD generator. The Mark V had more than ten
times the power capability of the Mark II. Its channel could handle
a total plasma flow of 130 pounds per second, compared to the 11
pounds per second of the Mark II. And the Mark V produced 32 MW of
total power output. Yet in physical size, the Mark V was only
slightly more than twice the Mark II's dimensions. This clearly
showed the scaling advantages of the MHD generator.
The Mark V was a SELF-EXCITED generator. That is, part of the GROSS
POWER output was fed into the copper electromagnet, TO KEEP IT
RUNNING. The magnet was started by power from a BANK OF BATTERIES,
but within a few seconds the MHD generator ITSELF was POWERING THE
MAGNET! The copper magnet took about 10 MW of power, leaving better
than 20 MW available AS POWER OUTPUT!
The Department of Defense had sponsored development of the Mark V.
Once it had proven itself, the Air Force contracted AVCO to build a
similar MHD generator at the Arnold Engineering Development Center
(AEDC) in western Tennessee. This time, the MHD generator was no
longer to be an EXPERIMENTAL piece of apparatus. It was needed to
do a specific job.
AEDC was developing a new type of wind tunnel, for testing advanced-
design aircraft and spacecraft. The wind tunnel was nicknamed
LORHO, which, translated from engineering jargon, meant that it was
to be a wind tunnel that operates at LOW ATMOSPHERIC DENSITY,
capable of simulating the low densities found very high in the
Earth's atmosphere. The Greek letter RHO is an aerodynamicist's
shorthand notation for gas density. Thus the low RHO wind tunnel
The LORHO wind tunnel needed a burst of electrical power. The
"pilot" facility, a small-scale model wind tunnel that would be used
to check out the basic design concept, was going to need 20 MW for
up to three minutes. The full-scale LORHO facility would need 600
MW. Buying bursts of power like that from the local utility was an
unlikely possibility, even though the local utility was the low-
cost, Federally-operated Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). An
electric power grid that's set up to provide constant power for
homes and industry simply can't hand over 600 MW for a few minutes
at a time, unless some very expensive special equipment is built
into the system. And even then, the Air Force would have to run
their wind tunnel at off-peak hours, such as between midnight and
An MHD generator is ideally suited to provide a short burst of high
power. And, the Air Force realized, an MHD generator could be built
right at the LORHO site and be COMPLETELY SELF-CONTAINED. No need
to bother anyone off-base, including TVA. So the "pilot" scale 20
MW LORHO generator was built, and HAS OPERATED as designed.
While the Mark II, Mark V and LORHO generators tested the ability of
MHD generators to deliver high powers, another type of MHD rig
providing answers about long running times.
AVCO's Long Duration Test Facility (LDTF) was designed to test small
MHD generators over time spans measured in months rather than
minutes. These long duration tests were aimed at producing data on
the MHD hardware and its ability to stand up to the high
temperatures and other problems associated with high-speed flows of
The MHD equipment tested in the LDTF was purposely kept small, since
the costs of running larger hardware would be much higher. But even
though the LDTF channels were limited to 10 kilowatts (kW) output
power, the channels, electrodes, and other components had to face
exactly the same temperatures, corrosion proglems, and other plasma
effects that a large-sized MHD generator faces.
The LDTF used a variety of fuels, including low-quality fuel oil and
coal, types of fuels that are rarely used in conventional generators
because of their corrosiveness and pollution products. MHD
generator channels were tested for hundreds of hours, around the
clock, without let-up. They showed no harmful effects. This
evidence has led the engineers to believe that MHD generators will
be able to use low-grade fuels that currently can't be used in
conventional turbogenerator power stations.
A NATIONAL MHD PROGRAM
By 1968, enough had been learned about the design and performance of
MHD generators to prompt the Government into taking a serious look
at this promising application of plasma technology.
The White House Science Advisory appointed a special panel to
examine the progress and prospects for MHD power generation, and
report their findings to the Office of Science and Technology.
In 1969, this panel, headed by Louis H. Roddis, Vice Chairman of the
Consolidated Edison Company of New York, presented its report.
Titled, "MHD for Central Station Power Generation: a Plan for
Action," the report outlined a plan for a national program to
develop full-scale MHD power generation stations. The report
recommended a cooperative program involving the U.S. Department of
the Interior, the nation's utility companies, and the industrial
firms that are developing MHD generators.
MHD POWER PLANTS
As MHD generators are developed and proved out at the high power
outputs and long running times necessary for the electric utility
companies, two major types of power plants will incorporate MHD
generators into their design. In utility-company jargon, they're
called the PEAKING PLANT and the BASE-LOAD PLANT.
The peaking type of operation will probably be the first to use MHD.
An MHD generator would be added on to a conventional turbogenerator
plant, to be used only for short times, when a heavy demand for
power is being felt. The word "peaking" thus has two meanings; it
refers to the peak demand periods, the "rush hours" for electrical
power; and it also refers to the fact that the MHD generator will
use the peak temperature of the TOTAL SYSTEM.
When the MHD generator "peaker" is in operation, it will produce
tens or perhaps hundreds of megawatts of power. Its exhaust plasma,
still very hot, will be used to boil water for the steam turbines in
the rest of the plant. Thus the MHD generator ADDS TO THE TOTAL
EFFICIENCY of the whole power station.
While the peaking plant can be thought of as a conventional steam
turbine plant with an MHD generator attached in front, the base-load
plant is more like an MHD generator system with a steam system
tacked on behind. The base-load plant is the heart of a utility's
electrical system, the kind of plant that generates most of the
system's power throughout the day and night. A base-load MHD plant
would begin with an MHD generator. But since the exhaust from the
MHD channel is still so hot and energetic, this exhaust will be used
to make steam and generate still more electricity with conventional
turbine equipment. The differences between the base-load plant and
peaking plant are mainly those of size and aim. In the peaking
plant, the MHD generator will probably be small and used only for a
few hours per month. In the base-load plant, the MHD generator
(though still small in physical dimensions) will produce at least
half of the total plant's power output (500 MW or more). And the
base load MHD generator will be designed to run for thousands of
The best base-load plants of today, the fossil-fueled steam plants,
are slightly better than 40% efficient. The earliest MHD base-load
plant will be between 50% and 60% efficient. While we'll see
shortly that this has important implications for pollution control,
this increased efficiency of MHD also is vitally important to the
economics of power generation. Cost studies of MHD power plants
have shown that they'll be more economical to build than
conventional or nuclear power stations. And the cost of electricity
produced by MHD will be lower, a fact that should make both the
utility owners and the bill-paying consumers smile with pleasure.
There's a third type of MHD system that might find possible use in
the utilities' power grids; the emergency MHD generator.
The base-load plant is designed to operate for thousands of hours;
the peaking plant will operate for a few hundred hours per year. An
emergency MHD plant might operate for as little as a few hours, or
even minutes, per year. But when it's needed it MUST perform.
The electric utilities are required by law to have a certain
percentage of their total power generation capacity HELD IN RESERVE.
Each utility grid has several power stations that stand by - ready
to come on the line with power if an emergency situation develops.
The aim of this, of course, is to avert shortages or blackouts. Of
the reserve plants, some must be kept as "spinning reserve." That
is, the boilers are hot, the turbines are spinning, and the
generators have been hit so quickly that even the spinning reserve
wasn't on-line fast enough to prevent a black-out.
Moreover, as the increasing frequency of blackouts and brownouts has
shown recently, the utilities' reserves are being stretched
perilously thin. The demand for electrical power is growing much
faster than new power stations can be built.
An emergency MHD generator could help to clear up the problem.
An MHD generator like the LORHO machine could sit totally shut down
for months, then come on the line with its full power in a minute or
less. Turning on an MHD generator is very much like turning on a
rocket engine; within the time it takes the plasma to go through the
channel, the MDH generator is putting out full power. The generator
can remain idle, costing practically nothing until it's needed.
Then it can come on the line with tens or hundreds of megawatts.
The difference between an emergency generator and a peaking unit
isn't hard and fast. The economics of power generation may show it
will be better for the utilities to build peaking MHD generators and
have them available as emergency units when needed.
POLLUTION AND NATURAL RESOURCES
The MHD generator's advantages in pollution control, in conservation
of natural resources, and in ecology can be summed up in a single
Electric power stations make several kinds of pollution. There's
THERMAL POLLUTION of water. Steam power plants take in water from a
stream or lake, use it to make steam, and then discharge the water
BACK INTO ITS SOURCE at a temperature higher than it was ORIGINALLY.
Fish, plants, and - most important - scavenging bacteria are often
killed by being exposed to temperatures higher than they're
accustomed to. In severe cases, the stream can be turned into a
lifeless sewer. Nuclear power stations are even worse than fossil-
fueled plants when it comes to thermal pollution of water, because
they operate at lower efficiences, and thus have more heat to
Then there's the familiar AIR POLLUTION of the fossil-fueled
station's belching smokestacks. The nuclear plants are quite clean
when it comes to air pollution. But the exhaust products of the
combustion that takes place in the fossil plants' burners foul our
air with unsightly and unhealthy soot, carbon monoxide, and oxides
of sulfur and nitrogen.
The big, ugly dark clouds coming out of the stacks are an obvious
eyesore. But the invisible gaseous compounds such as the oxides of
nitrogen are probably more dangerous, harder to identify, and much
harder to get rid of. The sulfur oxides can be controlled to some
extent by using fuels that are low in sulfur content.
There's a third type of pollution that's connected only with nuclear
generators: radioactivity. While there's been much strong public
reaction to the potential hazards from radioactivity, there seems to
be much less danger of a nuclear reactor exploding or accidentally
letting a harmful amount of radioactivity loose than the dangers
from air and water pollution.
Thermal pollution is nothing more than WASTE HEAT. The higher a
generator's efficiency, the more of the energy originally in its
fuel will come out AS ELECTRICITY, and the less waste heat there
will be. While no machine is going to be 100% efficient (hah!), the
MHD generator will be half-again as efficient as the best modern
turbine systems. This means less waste heat, per kilowatt-hour of
Moreover, it will be possible to develop MHD power stations that
require NO STEAM CYCLE at all. Instead of feeding the MHD
generator's exhaust into steam boilers and steam turbines, jet-
engine type gas turbines can be built into the MHD station instead.
Without the necessity for steam, the power station can run without
drawing any water whatsoever, except the slight amount needed as a
coolant in various parts of the machinery. But the coolant can be
kept in a "closed loop" and recycled continuously without drawing
fresh water from outside the plant or rejecting heated water.
An MHD-gas turbine station would still generate waste heat, and in
fact may be slightly less efficient than an MHD-steam system. But
the waste heat from a gas-turbine cycle would be rejected to the
atmosphere, not to a natural water source. In many parts of the
United States, where water is scarce and can't be used as a dumping
pool for waste heat, the MHD-gas turbine station offers perhaps the
only way of developing large power stations. And the heat that's to
be rejected to the atmosphere might be used in other ways, too.
There's still some energy in that exhaust gas; some enterprising
engineer will probably come up with a scheme for turning it into
The same efficiency that keeps thermal pollution low in an MHD
generator will also tend to help reduce air pollution. If you get
more kilowatts per pound of fuel, you can use less fuel to get the
power you want, and thus produce less air pollution.
But the exhaust of an MHD generator is loaded with pollutants, just
the same. In fact, it's so bad that it's good! There's more of the
oxides of nitrogen and sulfur in an MHD exhaust than in a
conventional generator's smokestack (assuming that the MHD station
is burning low grade, sulfur-rich fuels). And the MHD exhaust
contains an extra pollutant that conventional machines don't have;
the potassium "seed" material that was injected into the burner to
enhance the plasma's conductivity.
The seed material and the high temperature of the exhaust plasma are
the two keys to controlling MHD generator's air pollution.
First, the potassium seed is valuable. To make MHD economically
atttractive as possible, it's necessary to recover the seed rather
than let it escape out of the stack. So, built into the MHD station
is an efficient particle separator that will shake all the
particulate material out of the exhaust gases. The potassium will
be recovered and recycled. All the soot and fly-ash and other
pollution particles will be trapped before they get into the air
outside the station.
Removal of the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur is a bit trickier, but
much more elegant.
As the plasma comes out of the MHD generator channel it is loaded
with these oxides. But the temperature of the MHD exhaust is very
high, high enough to allow some interesting chemical reactions to
take place. If the exhaust gases are put through an expanding
nozzle, like a rocket nozzle, the gases will quickly cool down to
the point where the nitrogen and sulfur oxides can be removed from
the gas stream by well-known chemical separation techniques.
Experiments have shown that this can be done, while still not
cooling the exhaust so much that it becomes useless for steam or gas
turbines. And the nitrogen and sulfur oxides so recovered can be
sold for fertilizer production!
So recovering the potassium seed and nitrogen and sulfur oxides both
helps the economics of the MHD station and leads to a final exhaust
gas that contains little more than harmless carbon dioxide,
molecular nitrogen, and water vapor.
In this discussion of MHD and pollution, we've assumed that MHD
power stations will use CONVENTIONAL furnaces and burn fossil fuels.
As we'll see shortly, the possibility of practical nuclear-MHD
stations isn't out of the question, but certainly appears further
downstream than fossil-fueled MHD generators.
The MHD generators will be able to burn fuels that can't be used in
steam turbine plants. In essence, the MHD system will help to save
our existing supply of coal, oil and natural gas, bu using low
grades of coal and oil that are currently considered unfit for use.
There are several reasons for this. First, the MHD generator system
can trap the sulfur oxides in its exhaust and even make commercial
use out of them. This means that MHD stations can burn high-sulfur
coal without causing increased air pollution. Steam turbine plants
can't do this, and right now many of this nation's coal reserves are
lying idle and unused.
Also, the MHD generator can handle highly corrosive fuels without
trouble, which turbines can't do. Again, this means that fuel
reserves now being ignored can be utilized to produce useful
electrical power. It could also mean new jobs and new dignity for
the people of the depressed coal-mining regions of our nation.
And the possibilities of building MHD-gas turbine systems that need
little or no water can have ENORMOUS implications for the Western
regions of the United States, and all other water-poor areas of the
In many western states there are huge deposits of low-grade coal and
virtually no water available for industrial use. MHD power plants
can use that coal and don't need water. Cheap, abundant electrical
power could attract new industry to regions that are now depressed.
New towns and cities could be built, perhaps, based on RATIONAL
PLANNING and NEW TECHNOLOGY. The flow of people from the
countryside into our already overcrowded and decaying older cities
might be checked IN THIS WAY.
A fanciful dream, maybe. But it's fascinating to think that softly-
glowing plasma in Crooke's discharge tubes of a century ago might
have such IMPORTANT IMPLICATIONS for the nation and the world before
this century is finished.
POSTSCRIPT ON SUPERCONDUCTING MAGNETS
You recall that when we discussed the AVCO Mark V self-excited MHD
generator, we pointed out that 10 MW of the generator's power went
into feeding the copper magnet. From an economic point of view, a
power generator would be much better off if its magnet didn't need
any electricity. There are natural magnets, such as lodestones, but
they're much too low in field strength to be used in any practical
large-sized power generators.
In 1960, researchers at the Bell Telephone Laboratories announced
the discovery of something that seemed miraculous; a combination of
materials that produced a magnet capable of nearly 100,000 gauss YET
DIDN'T NEED ANY ELECTRICAL POWER INPUT once it was energized. This
was the first high-field-strength SUPERCONDUCTING magnet.
Superconductivity had been known since 1911. Certain materials such
as MERCURY lose all electrical resistance when they're cooled down
to a temperature near absolute zero. Such temperatures are called
CRYOGENIC, from the Greek KRYOS, which means "icy cold." The
superconductors discovered in 1911 were capable of only rather
modest magnetic field strengths, and were useful only as scientific
But the superconducting materials discovered in the 1960's are
capable of sustaining fields of 30,000 to 400,000 gauss! (modern
strengths are in the millions) These materials are all compounds or
alloys of metals such as niobium, zirconium, tin, titanium, and a
When an electrical current is put into a superconductor, the current
REMAINS CIRCULATING through the material continuously, with NO
MEASURABLE RESISTANCE. So you can charge up a superconducting
magnet and then disconnect the electrical power. The magnet will
remain energized INDEFINITELY, as long as it stays superconducting.
To remain superconducting, the material must be kept at a cryogenic
temperature. Usually liquid helium is used to refrigerate
superconductors. Helium liquefies at 4.2 degrees Kelvin. Most
superconductors lose their superconducting properties at
temperatures of between 10 degrees Kelvin and 20 degrees Kelvin.
Like all new discoveries, there were a number of practical problems
associated with superconductors. But most of these have been
solved, and large, reliable superconducting magnets are being built
today even though the exact details of the physics of
superconductivity aren't yet clearly understood.
For the MHD generator, superconducting magnets are a godsend.
First, they NEED NO POWER. Second, they produce much higher field
strengths than room-temperature electro-magnets, and MHD generators
can capitalize on high field strength more than conventional
An associated development that might prove useful for
experimenting with MHD generator systems is the Super Steam
Technology. SST can generate temperatures up to 6000 degrees F
which is well within that required to heat the plasma. We are
not aware at this time if such a hybrid system has ever been
attempted but it might work out.
Bob Paddock informs us that an older edition of Radio
Electronics or one of the popular electronics type of magazines
had a detailed article on MHD that showed home experimenters HOW
TO BUILD THEIR OWN!!! We would greatly appreciate this info as
it would be very useful to many folks wishing to experiment in
The combination of superconducting magnets and the SST with MHD
designs might yet yield something everyone could use. It is
puzzling why so many people don't choose to GET OFF THE POWER
GRID and work to develop STANDALONE power generation systems for
EACH AND EVERY HOME. The manufacture, sale and maintenance of
these units would provide a major boost to business despite the
eventual demise of centralized power systems.
Most of us here on KeelyNet foresee the INEVITABLE development
and USE of such STANDALONE power devices for not only home power
but also automobiles and other modes of transportation. We
continue to work to effect such breakthroughs.
Additional information from Joel
Hydrogen under enough pressure, such as at the center of the sun,
becomes helium, which is a noble gas. This is the beginning of
nuclear fusion. For this to happen, the pressure has to exceed the
"Coulomb Barrier", ie, great enough to force the protons together,
despite their natural tendency to repel. There isn't a force on
earth that will do that, so we use heat instead of pressure, ala the
H-boomer, to do the same thing.
If the fusion reaction were to self-sustain, there would be an
evacuation of all of the hydrogen on this planet, and there would be
only dust left. There was fear that this would happen before we set
off the first one, and a fusion reaction did occur, but it (luckily)
extinguished before gaining enough momentum to self-sustain. That's
why we test underground, now, not because of any special concern for
the long-term health effects of it.
The point of this is that without the plasma effect, ie the helium
to conduct electrons, there would be no stars, planets, or anything
else except hydrogen clouds. Heavy waters, such as deuterium and
tritium, are used to create cold fusion, and even though the
electrical output is miniscule and short lived, it shows that the
plasma effect does not depend solely upon heat and pressure, but can
be chemically created. If it can become self-sustaining, then there
exist a low power but premanent battery. However there are better
and easier ways to use the plasma effect for this purpose.
Pumping out a tube will enable you to build a "glow tube", in which
the trace amounts of noble gases will form clouds, conduct and emit
light. However, the weak emissions are not useful for either light
or energy. Using a tube which has already been pumped and then
filled with noble gases will do much better. Some experimenters
report that using a high DC voltage will push the electrons aside,
and permit access to the protons. A magnetic mirror will do the
same thing, and it is simply an electromagnet which runs the length
of the tube.
Because it creates N-S polarization, the electrons accumulate on the
plus side, where they can be tapped off. Also, the magnetic mirror
will force the gases away from the tube wall, thus keeping them from
cooling, which yields even higher gain.
In vacuum tubes, such as the mercury vapor, small amounts of solid
mercury are introduced to allow a controlled arc to occur across the
electrodes. This arc is useful in high energy applications, such as
rectifiers, when you need high current output. The energy across
the plate/cathode causes the mercury to vaporize, which is why you
get a flash when you first plug one in.
In other tubes, gases form with aging, and when they arc, you throw
away the tube. Arcing is wasteful, as it is a controlled breakdown,
and does not create the environment needed for above-unity.
Although a neon tube remains cool to the touch, the temperatures of
the subatomic particles are extreme. That is one of the most
interesting things about the plasma effect, in that there are
extremely high temperatures but VIRTUALLY NO HEAT!
The same thing occurs in the sun's corona. The temperature is
millions of degrees, but you could freeze to death in it. Because
of this, and the conductivity of the noble gases, it is relatively
easy to tap enormous amounts of ZPE by either electrifying the gases
or by spontaneous chemical reaction, ala cold fusion.
Pressurizing noble gases, and forcing them through a magnetic field,
will also create electric current, which was how the Mark V worked,
thirty years ago. Nixon nixed the idea of using this type of
generator to resolve energy problems. Free and non-polluting energy
does not serve the interests of anyone except the people, and we had
no say in the decision.
Find yourself a copy of the book that I mentioned, and get several
copies if you can...it sold for $1.95 new, twenty years ago.
All of the answers are there, including how to build a
Biefield/Brown that ACTUALLY WORKS!
It seems that Brown didn't mention the electromagnet inside the
discs, which was used TO PUSH ELECTRONS AWAY from the charged
surfaces (as was done in Searls flying disc). In other words, you
charge the plates to 200MV, and the EM field will keep the field
from arcing or dissipating, so once you apply the charge, you shut
down the power generator! Cool, huh?
If you have comments or other information relating to such topics
as this paper covers, please upload to KeelyNet or send to the
Vangard Sciences address as listed on the first page.
Thank you for your consideration, interest and support.
Jerry W. Decker.........Ron Barker...........Chuck Henderson
If we can be of service, you may contact
Jerry at (214) 324-8741 or Ron at (214) 242-9346
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