In This Town We Obey the Laws of Thermodynamics

On February 29, 2008, six members of Ottawa Skeptics converged on the Colonel By building at the University of Ottawa for a demonstration of the “Perepiteia Generator”, which internet rumours and media reports (but not the inventor himself) have been dubbing a Perpetual Motion Machine – a remarkable claim, and certainly within the mandate of a Skeptics organization to investigate. We were met there by the machine’s inventor, Thane Heins, who demonstrated his apparatus for us a couple of times, and discussed it with us for about an hour.

The generator and the “observations”

The apparatus (see Figure 1, below) consists of a small induction motor (cannibalized from a Ryobi bench grinder), on the shaft of which is mounted a wheel (the “rotor”). On the wheel are glued six rare-earth disc magnets. As the wheel spins the magnets pass close to the ends of several coils wound on steel cores. The rotor-and-coils assembly therefore constitute a simple electrical generator: pass a magnet near a coil of wire, and it induces a voltage in the coil.

Figure 1: Perepiteia Apparatus


The generator coils can be connected in various ways, from open circuit to dead short. Heins’ demonstration consists of running the motor with various electrical loads applied to the generator coils, from open circuit (no load) to dead short (maximum load). His claims about the generator center on an odd phenomenon: that when the coils are shorted, the motor speed increases, instead of decreasing as might be expected. However, this effect is only observed when there is a magnetic path from the generator rotor back into the motor (through the “wheel” assembly and the motor shaft). If a section of the steel driveshaft is replaced with a brass coupling (ie, a non-ferrous material) the effect disappears.

Heins interprets the motor speed-up as representing an increase in output power, for no increase in input power – a clear violation of the law of Conservation of Energy. His hypothesis seems to be that the magnetic field induced in the coils is coupled back into the rotor, and thence to the motor, feeding back energy in a self-reinforcing way.


Heins’ primary fallacy is in assuming that increased speed represents increased torque or power. While this seems intuitive, it is in fact wrong: torque does not necessarily increase with speed. Normally, an induction motor operates in a range where torque (blue curve on Figure 2, below) actually decreases with speed (ie. the grey area on Figure 2). This makes sense if you consider that increasing the mechanical drag on the output shaft will slow down the motor, thus the torque must be increased to prevent the motor from stalling. So the observed speed-up of the motor is simply irrelevant, without actual measurements of output torque. Once the motor’s torque curve is known, the output shaft power can be calculated as speed times torque (red curve in Figure 2). Heins’ academic host, Professor Habash of the U of O, has informed me by email that to date no such torque measurements have been attempted.

Perepiteia Diagram 2

Complicating the analysis of Heins’ apparatus is the fact that he is not running his motor at full voltage and normal speed. Instead, he supplies it from a variac (a device for varying AC voltage), at a voltage well below the 120V that the motor is designed for. As a consequence, it runs at only a few hundred revolutions per minute, instead of the approximately 3500rpm one would normally expect to see from it. Running it at such a low speed causes it to overheat, which makes it impossible to run for long periods, and necessitates the use of a small fan to cool it after each run.

It should be noted that Heins is not the first to build a machine of this general design. In 1969, a New Zealand inventor Robert Adams developed a fairly similar-looking generator (though his was driven by a DC motor), which shows the same counter-intuitive speed-up behaviour under electrical load. Again, however, no actual increase of output power over input has ever been measured.


We began by asking Heins about the media reports that he is claiming to have invented a perpetual motion machine. We were somewhat encouraged at first when he assured us that the use of that term was an invention of the media, and he himself made no such claim. He then talked about being able to apply his invention to “regenerative acceleration” in electric cars. When asked for further information about this, he began by claiming that both braking and accelerating a vehicle consume energy, but with his machine he would be able to use the energy of acceleration to recharge batteries, as is presently done for braking. It soon became apparent that his definition of energy and energy consumption was somewhat different than those used in conventional engineering and physics.

Getting back to the description of the generator’s behaviour, Heins went on to explain that the observed behaviour was a violation of Lenz’s law, and by extension a violation of the law of Conservation of Energy (aka the 1st law of thermodynamics). He was apparently unaware that this is essentially the definition of a perpetual motion machine. When pressed on the issue of conservation of energy, Heins retreated into saying “That’s just my opinion, and I’m entitled to my opinion”.

3rd Party Analysis

In April 2007, Heins’ backers had the Perepiteia tested by a Kinectrics (formerly the Research Division of Ontario Hydro), a consulting lab in Toronto. The Kinectrics report concluded:

From the results of the test carried out at Kinectrics, although it was not possible to prove, the theory of back EMF may well have an effect in the magnetic loading effect on the motor generator arrangement as tested. Further tests should use a motor that can be driven at both the rated current and speed, so as to establish what the true effect the back EMF has on the generator output in direct comparison with the motor input conditions on both acceleration and deceleration of the motor.

Translated from engineerese, it says: “We think there’s something interesting going on in the magnetics of this thing, but running the motor in this odd way makes it too hard to study properly and get good results.”

Heins has protested the report, complaing among other things that some of the data tables give the wrong units (millivolts instead of volts). However, even when corrected, Heins’ calculations still show output power on the range of fractions of a watt, for several hundred watts being input to the motor. Not a promising start for a “free energy” device!

Update When we met with Thane Heins in February, there had been a flurry of activity and media coverage. Heins had recently demonstrated his device to Markus Zahn (professor of electromagnetics at MIT), and Zahn had indicated that the observed effect was “interesting” and warranted further investigation. Riadh Habash, professor in the electrical engineering department at the University of Ottawa had provided Heins with lab space, and assigned 5 4th year engineering students to assist him. NASA had invited Heins to Florida to demonstrate his aparatus, and a patent application had been submitted.

Dr Habash was unavailable to accompany Heins on the NASA demo. Heins asked Dr Zahn if he was interested, and received the following response (which Heins posted at

Dear Thane:

It seems to me that before you give more high level demonstrations, that you need to do more homework on your induction motor speed up due to the presence of a strong permanent magnet. As I and others have stated, the effect is most likely due to the magnetic hysteresis of the iron material that gets shifted by the permanent magnet to a new DC operating point. If not already done I also think you need to do some careful performance measurements such as measuring shaft speed and terminal current magnitude and phase with and without the presence of the permanent magnet as a function of line voltage. You should also measure the magnetic hysteresis curve with and without a permanent magnet present of your simplest motor configuration that you demonstrated to me. This is not difficult to do. I attach a video entitled “Measurement of B-H Characteristic” that shows how this can be done with an oscilloscope, two resistors and a capacitor. It can also be done with an integrating op-amp circuit. The attached text materials from the book by Haus and Melcher entitled Electromagnetic Fields and Energy also describe the measurement method and theory. In any measurements you should also measure the true electrical power in from your outlet power (voltage, current, and phase angle) as well as shaft power (torque and speed).

Any talk of perpetual motion, over unity efficiency, etc. discredits you, now me, and your ideas. I would not want to go to NASA or anywhere else to help promote your invention until basic testing and measurements are done so that the cause of shaft speed up due to a permanent magnet is understood and that the foolishness is stopped of hinting that your motor violates fundamental laws of physics.

Best of luck to you,
Markus Zahn

Commenting (on about the status of the student’s work, Heins wrote (in all caps, as appears to be his custom on that forum):


I have been able to find no reports about the trip to NASA, so either it is highly classified or did not happen.

Most disturbing of all, however, is the fact that there has still been no measurement of the behaviour of the apparatus under physical load – Heins continues to extrapolate from the speed and acceleration characteristics.


Heins appears earnest and basically honest, but persistently self-deluded. While some of the phenomena Heins demonstrates may be interesting, the evidence of a real and measurable effect appears to be lacking. Heins claims that the behaviour of his apparatus is contrary to what is predicted by known physics, yet he applies standard physics calculations to demonstrate his point. He sets up the motor to operate under extreme conditions, but applies analysis used for normal operation. He does not seem to understand the importance of demonstrating the response of the apparatus to an actual physical load, despite the fact that many people (including those who at one point were sympathetic to his project, but now have doubts) have recommended he do this, and even provided instructions. While the speed-up behaviour of the generator currently lacks an established explanation, there is no reason to think that it represents any challenge to currently known laws of physics.

More Information

Copy of the patent application.

Wikipedia article on the Perepeteia machine, includes links to some debunking articles.

Information about the Adams motor can be found here.

More than you care to know about perpetual motion machines is at the Over Unity forums (“overunity” – when the energy output of a device exceeds the input)

04. May 2008 by seannna
Categories: Local Research, Ottawa Skeptics Investigation | 12 comments

Comments (12)

  1. SO, are there any use of the Perepiteia? He should focus now on how to use the idea… Not just bragging about what he has done…

  2. hello,
    Its been three years since you posted this article. Are you aware that Thane his now demonstrating his device under load:

    Why do you dismiss the observed acceleration of the rotor as evidence of over unity? In order to increase the angular speed of any rotor Newtonian mechanics says a torque must be applied. However, because it increases without a an applied torque this IS explicit evidence that Newton’s second law has been bypassed.

  3. hello,
    Its been three years since you posted this article. Are you aware that Thane his now demonstrating his device under load:

    Why do you dismiss the observed acceleration of the rotor as evidence of over unity? In order to increase the angular speed of any rotor Newtonian mechanics says a torque must be applied. However, because it increases without a an applied torque this IS explicit evidence that Newton’s second law has been bypassed.

  4. Please see the designs on Scribd perpetuum mobile of Ramiro Augusto Salazar La Rotta, in “Thermodynamics fall” or “REVOLCÓN TERMODINÁMICO” or “GRAVITY MACHINE SALAZAR”, THEY REALLY WORK, you can publish, because from the same Web page can be lowered, RESPECT THE COPYRIGHT IS CLEAR .

    Really works, moves, rotate, have the force, POWER TO CREATE WORK AND HEAT AND VIOLATES THE FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS. THIS IS A DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM SYSTEM, spontaneous, CONTINUOUS and macroscopic GENERATED BY A NON-EQUILIBRIUM DYNAMIC, CONTINUOUS AND MACROSCOPIC between cyclic subsystems, internal to the system. THE NO-EQULIBRIUM BETWEEN CICLIC SUBSYSTEMS IS CREATED BY SIMPLE AND KNOWN FORCES action-reaction (Newton’s Third Law). (Free Energy) (Thermodinamics Fall)
    Bucaramanga, Colombia.
    phone: 3183032469 (celular)

  5. The most important thing is that its operation, no discussion, because it relies on basic physics, as demonstrated by the force vectors, in FIGS.

    No one can deny the force of displacement, of a fluid on rigid body (less dense the fluid), immersed in the fluid (eg, the buoyancy of a boat, ship, submarine, etc.)..

    With the difference that the hollow rigid body, changes shape as it rotates (escualizable or movable), but with constant total volume (half empty, not absolute). , as it turns, not having air pressure.

    A rigid body escualizable or movable (which changes its shape according to the angular position) with internal vacuum pressure can change shape easily without extra external forces, only the inertia move generated by the pressure difference of the fluid ( air at atmospheric pressure and fluid pressure) on the asymmetric rigid body escualizable, which presents different amounts of areas, as it rotates in contact with fluids (cited above).

    Ramiro Augusto Salazar La Rotta
    Cédula de Ciudadanía N º 91227727 de Bucaramanga, Colombia.

  6. Its operation is obvious.

    The prototype no has been built, so no operation has been verified, but not required, because obviously it works.

    Guaranteed to work, because it relies on known phenomena, and also has theoretical support (theoretical viability).

    The balance of forces, suggest a continued imbalance for the two subsystems, the tank (subsystem 1) and the rigid body escualizable (according to their angular position, subsystem 2), due to those resulting Forces from the tangential components the movement for both sub-cycles.

    In the first sub-cycle (Tank) its center of mass moves to the left, because the tank contains more liquid fluid in his left side, with respect to the right (weight imbalance with respect to its center geometric rotation of the tank).

    The second subsystem, its rotation or imbalance, is generated by a pressure difference of the fluids, creating differences between components of tangential forces on the rigid body escualizable (Subsystem 2), causing a shift, constant, contrary to the “subsystem 1” .

    For practical purposes (subsystem 1) is immobilized and taken advantage of, the turning force Subsystem 2, generating energy (work and heat), free, clean and unlimited.

    Well, I think it’s clear why it should work.

    Sincerely, 😆 😆 🙂 🙂

    Ramiro Augusto Salazar La Rotta
    Cédula de Ciudadanía N º 91227727 de Bucaramanga, Colombia.

  7. He forgot, in the case of the prototype, working at high pressure hydraulic oil tank (sub-system 2). if you look at the top of the tank lid, and is divided into the geometric center can be observed (the left side of the lid), which has a larger contact area with the hydraulic fluid. as pressure (high) inside the tank, is constant, then the top (the left side of the lid), is exposed to greater strength, compared with the right part, causing a constant imbalance within the tank (without gravity, space).

    On the other hand, a force equal and opposite spins the “sub-cycle 2”, on to an area (vertical projection) equal to the one that causes the imbalance in the “sub-system 1” (minus the small area on the left side of the “sub-system 2,” which enters the tank top left).

    Ramiro Augusto Salazar La Rotta

  8. Pingback: Skeptics in the Pub: Free energy and perpetual motion | The Ottawa Skeptics

  9. Dear Ottawa Skeptics,
    Thank you for compiling this overview of material concerning Hein’s generator. It is difficult to find academic responses to the supposed perpetual motion machine videos that are abundant on the internet. As a non-physics person, I cannot detect the fallacies that are involved! Magnets, electricity, and even basic physical movement are a mystery to me, but I dislike to call “fraud” because of generalizations or to be satisfied that I have detected error simply because a device seems to operate in contradiction to the laws of thermodynamics. I believe that, given the attention these devices are attracting, they present an opportunity for physics education. It would be wonderful if there were more easily available information on the principles of these machines and their balance sheets of energy. Unfortunately, an article like yours has proven hard to come by for these many other devices.
    Also, I notice some comments on this article are attempting to renew the debate. Do you have time to clean this up, or maybe answer the challenges?

  10. Pingback: In This Town, We Still Obey The Laws Of Thermodynamics | The Ottawa Skeptics

  11. I’m an electrical engineer… this thing sounds interesting, but I think the statement from Markus Zahn about taking basic electrical readings is spot on. The fact that the inventor insists on avoiding this tells me this device is nothing special. He either knows it’s nothing special and thus avoids the analysis, or he’s done the analysis and found nothing special.

    These “over-unity” inventions would be an EASY sell, ridiculously easy sell if any of them worked… Instead the tin foil hats go on and people run around screaming about persecution from the status quo. It’s ridiculous.