Current Research

Cold Cathode Technology

Cold cathode plasma generation in the glow discharge regime. This is the current conduction state of ionization preceding the ionized gas avalanche breakdown that results in an arc discharge. Gas: atmospheric air
Voltage vs. current plot illustrating three main regimes of discharges through a gas (generic). Adapted from here.

Exciting new areas for research have emerged in recent years in the field of non-thermionic or ‘cold’ emission of electrons in gas discharge tubes. This research area has the potential to advance current knowledge in plasma physics and lead to the development of important new technologies. Quantal Research is actively pursuing original research with custom gas discharge tubes the construction of which allows sustained discharges in the abnormal glow region.

An important early contributor to work in this area is Friedrich Paschen, whose investigation of gas breakdown voltages as a function of pressure and electrode spacing led to what is known today as Paschen’s Law. The work of scientists Ralph Fowler and Lothar Nordheim provided explanations for field electron emission (FE) of bulk metals and remains a dominant tool for understanding the physics of cold cathodes.

Quantal Research’s current work on abnormal glow discharges suggests significant areas of departure from both the Fowler-Nordheim equations and Paschen’s Law pointing to the need for the further developments of theory in the area.

Simulations of Gas Discharge

Schematic illustration of identified regions of electrical discharge in a gas column. Adapted from here.
To corroborate both experimental findings and development of new theory, Quantal Research is actively involved with numerical and spatial simulation of events in DC gas discharge tubes, using custom computational tools implemented on large scale parallel Linux clusters (N>500). Drawing from existing 2D particle-in-cell (PIC) approaches for modeling gas discharge tubes, QR is developing 3D numerical simulation models capable of showing agreement with known experimental findings, which serve as benchmarks for the models developed. From this basis the simulation models are then extended to incorporate new theoretical work on cold cathodes through modification of the underlying mathematical models.
Some of our Tools

For experimental apparatus control we are using National Instrument’s LabVIEW (see www.ni.com/labview) to develop programs for automation of experimental runs and data collection. The interface hardware consists of National Instruments’ data acquisition interface along with some Arduino interface and control boards (see http://arduino.cc/en). For anyone interested in programming control of Arduino boards it is also possible to use the open source free development software found at www.processing.org . For modeling and theoretical exploration of plasma dynamics our team has worked with XOOPIC (object-oriented particle in cell*) open source software (see http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu or www.carma.astro.umd.edu for the user’s manual). XOOPIC has been set up to run in the open-source MS Windows based Linux emulator VirtualBox (see https://www.virtualbox.org). VirtualBox generates a virtual Linux platform in which we are able to run XOOPIC in the Ubuntu (v. 12.10) window system so as to facilitate exploratory modeling and code development. Any additional C/C++ code development can take place using the open-source Eclipse IDE (see http://www.eclipse.org). Plots of phase space and various configurations are possible in XOOPIC and MS Excel can be used to visualize any data dumps made from XOOPIC.

*Note: this is not to be confused with OOPic or object oriented programmable interrupt controllers.

Capacitive Storage Banks

Capacitor banks as bulk storage devices associated with alternative generation systems are being examined and designs developed for experimental builds and engineering testing. It is our intention to investigate the feasibility of replacing heavy and expensive battery systems with lighter more durable capacitors that are free of the environmentally unfriendly heavy metals found in many batteries.

For reference see*:

Atmospheric Charge

Atmospheric charge is being examined as a means to initiate operation of alternative generation systems wherever a starter charge is required in a terrestrial power generation application. Atmospheric charge energy densities do not even remotely approach the energy requirements of a modern industrial culture. However in remote locations that require self-sufficiency they are adequate to supply charge accumulation banks that can be subsequently used to initiate start up of devices whose operation is thereafter self-sustaining.

For reference see*:

*Please note: None of the listings of patents on this page in any way represent express or implied contractual agreements with any of the respective patent holders. Each is listed for reference only as an example of the principle being researched.

A Brief History of Energy Research from First Principles

  1. 13.7b BCEBig bang (as per current accepted western science theory).
  2. 4.57b BCEStar creation, fusion, evolution and generation of successively heavier and more complex elements.
  3. 4.54b BCEPlanet creation with evolution of environments sentient life forms could evolve in: lightning discharges producing building blocks of DNA from atmospheric gases.
  4. 3-4b BCESolar energy: evolution of single cell organisms, multi-cell organisms, algae, diatom growth in water, plant growth on land, eventually feeding of life forms on food from other life forms.
  5. 525m BCEMuscular energy: chemical energy from digestion of foods created initially by solar energy, then converted to mechanical energy, acting on the world, being acted on by the world by the muscles of other life forms.
  6. 400k BCECombustion: burning of fuel created from solar energy, plant growth, etc.; first fires either from volcanic activity (geothermal energy), lightning (electrical energy) or heat from meteoric impacts (gravitational potential energy/mechanical energy) setting fire to combustible materials. Combustion also from friction, starting of fires by humanity. Mechanical energy: mass flows such as wind, water flows, wave action in oceans. Potential energy converted to mechanical energy: avalanches, rock slides, water flowing from a higher to lower level.
  7. 9k BCEInventions to convert energy: inclined plane to alter potential energy of an object by raising it to a greater height; invention of the wheel (sliding to rolling friction); chemical to mechanical, Chinese invention of the rocket.
  8. 3k-1k BCECreation of axle and paddle wheel to convert mass flow of wind/water to mechanical form we can use; transportation of objects and materials goes from horse back to sled (surface friction) to wheels (rolling friction).
  9. ~50 BCECreation of closed vessels to capture thermal energy of fire in water, generate steam, convert this energy to mechanical work through directed flow.
  10. 1763Creation of closed vessels with a directed outlet in the creation of rockets by early Chinese; invention of of the aeolipile as described by the Greek Hero of Alexandria. First western experimentation by individuals such as Taqi al-Din (Turkish) and Giovanni Branca (Italian). James Watt (English) contributed perhaps one of the largest steps forward in steam engine invention.
  11. 1800Discovery and characterization of infrared radiation (heat as electromagnetic radiation).
  12. 1821Discovery of thermoelectric effects to convert heat to electrical energy.
  13. 1823Creation of combustion engines to do work.
  14. 1831Creation of electrical generators to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy.
  15. 1832Creation of electric motors to re-convert electrical energy to do mechanical work.
  16. 1887Discovery of photoelectric effect and subsequent discovery of solar cells to convert light to electrical energy. Discovery of thermoelectric effects to convert heat to electrical energy. Discovery of electromagnetic radiation.
  17. 1896Discovery of fissile materials (radioactive elements) having penetrative radiation and generation of heat resulting from fission reactions in radioactive decay process.
  18. 1901-1924Discovery of wave/particle duality.
  19. 1905Discovery and characterization of the nature of light (photons).
  20. 1932Discovery of fusion and explanation of at least one component of the sun’s source of power.
  21. 1940 – 1970Ongoing discovery and investigation of myriad of subatomic particles, components and sources of nature’s basic forces.
  22. 2011 – ?On the horizon: speculation, ongoing investigations at string, quantal, particulate, nanoscale and macroscale levels, and discovery of as of yet not fully characterized nor understood natural spectra of energy in nature, such as zero point energy, dark matter, dark energy; potential for tapping natural sources requiring no combustion of any kind.

Categories of Energy Sources

The Quantal Research team recognizes four main categories of or sources of energy: 1) conventional; 2) alternate; 3) conventional renewables; 4) non-conventional or infinite.

1Conventional energy sources are defined as those that are finite in duration – in human terms – and fixed in quantity. This would include human physical power, animal power (beasts of burden), and carbon based fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and peat. This also includes radioactive sources.

2Alternate energy sources are defined as those which though finite are essentially infinite in human (though not geologic) terms. This would include geothermal which is derived from the heat of the earth’s inner strata and whose duration far exceeds that of known or estimated length of human evolutionary periods; this source suffers from geographic restrictions (locations where the earth’s crust is thin). This would also include fusion derived from deuterium and tritium whose use is currently essentially untapped owing to the thus far lack of success of fusion reactors.

3Conventional renewables energy sources: This category includes biomass renewable sources such as any plant products that are directly burned, e.g. wood, or any plant or other biomass derived fuels such as methanol, palm oil, or biodiesel. Though these may be renewable they nevertheless ultimately involve the oxidation or burning of the end product with resulting carbon emissions. The products in this category involve enormous effort put into producing them and are in direct competition with food production or forests for arable land. We also include in this category: 1) solar energy for heating or electrical power generation; 2) tidal energy; 3) wind power; 4) hydroelectric; 5) hydrogen. These last five are constrained either by geographic latitude, time of day, meteorological variation, seasonal variation, or geographic location (hydrogen is being included here only in cases where it has been generated from electrolysis rather than being a by-product of the petroleum industry). QR is actively involved in improving efficiencies of this class of energy generation systems.

4Non-conventional or infinite energy sources: This category grows out of contemporary theory and investigations of sources of energy found throughout cosmos, not just stars. The associated processes are of such a scale, extension, energy density, and duration as to essentially be infinite in human terms. QR is keeping abreast of current theory and experimental evidence and is itself working to apply recent findings to potential new generation systems.

Glossary of Terms

Casimir Effect
In quantum mechanics there is an assumption that space is not empty but filled with electromagnetic fluctuations. When two uncharged conducting plates are placed very close together, the space between them only allows waves of specific lengths to exist in that space. Since this limit results in there being far more wavelengths outside that space the two plates experience a force pushing them together. This was first predicted by the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir in 1948 and first measured at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1997. This is an experimental verification of the presence of these fluctuations which exist even in the vacuum of space, thereby leading to the term “vacuum energy” sometimes known as “zero point energy”. In a larger context some scientists indicate this could be the cause of the phenomenon of sonoluminescence which remains to be understood. See sonoluminescencevacuum energy, and zero point energy.

Closed System
Any system that does not interact with its environment in any way. Strictly speaking this is nearly impossible. However, systems can be created to be so efficiently shielded from their surrounding environment that the interaction with it is minimized and introduces only slight inaccuracies in measuring the nature or performance of that system.

Coefficient of Performance (COP)
The ratio of energy given out by a system against that put into the system.

Efficiency
A measure of how effectively a system converts input energy into the desired effect the system outputs or produces. For example, for a system where half of the input energy is lost as heat dissipated to the surrounding environment instead of being output as the desired effect we would say that system is only 50% efficient. If 75% of the input energy is output in the desired effect we would say the system is 75% efficient, and so forth. In the case of heat pump systems where existing heat from the environment is gathered and concentrated in the system’s output when the heat energy output is 3 times the electrical energy used to run the pump we say the heat pump is 300% efficient.

Entropy
See below: Thermodynamics, Second Law.

Open System
Any system which interacts with its surrounding environment. Strictly speaking no system is completely isolated from its surroundings. See above: closed system.

Perpetual Motion (perpetuum mobile)
The property of a device or machine that runs forever, is self-powering and may even produce more energy than it takes to operate it. In closed systems it is universally agreed that this is an impossibility and violates the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Self-organization
The phenomenon whereby a system in disorder spontaneously self-organizes. Perhaps one of the most well-known researchers of this was Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003). Winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Prigogine defined the role of dissipative structures in thermodynamic systems far from equilibrium. He showed how dissipative structures can nevertheless exhibit order when three conditions are met: 1) the system is far from equilibrium; 2) there exists a flow of energy through the system; 3) the material composing the system is characterized by non-linear equations that describe the material’s response to influxes of energy.

Sonoluminescence
A phenomenon in which ultrasonic sound waves impinging on a liquid cause cavitation or formation of a bubble of gas in which rapid extreme oscillation of the bubble’s volume causes the bubble contents to give off light. There are currently a number of theories explaining why this occurs, but no definitive experimentation yet exists to confirm which one gives a complete explanation.

Thermodynamics, First Law
This law is referred to as the law of conservation of energy. Simply put, it states that energy is neither created nor destroyed but can be changed from one form to another. It describes an energy bookkeeping approach which says that the original energy existing within a given system plus the energy added to that system from without equal the new internal energy of that system plus the work done by the system. This law applies to both systems that are closed and isolated from the surrounding environment and to those that are not.

Thermodynamics, Second Law
This law is generally considered to be a statement about the irreversibility of heat flow from a region having higher temperature to one having lower temperature. The law further indicates reversal of the flow can only occur if work is done on the system from without. Extrapolated to the entire universe this law indicates cosmos will trend irreversibly from a state of order to disorder and that this disorder – also known as entropy – will only increase toward the unavoidable and irreversible heat death of the universe.

Thermodynamics, Zeroth Law
In simplest terms it posits that a system whose component parts are at different temperatures will tend toward a state in which those parts are in thermal equilibrium, meaning they eventually become the same temperature.

Vacuum Energy
In our current understanding electromagnetic fluctuations are present throughout all cosmos whether matter is present or not.

Zero Point Energy
The energy associated with the lowest possible energy state of a system.