Once upon a time I was a real mad scientist. I was into non-conventional propulsion with the idea of somehow interacting with the quantum vacuum fluctuations, the zero point energy field. I was into it despite having only a vague understanding of what that was and without regard for how unlikely or impossible anyone said it was to interact with on a macro scale. But we all had to come from somewhere, and that was my introduction to the world of high voltages and homemade capacitors.
And along the way I made some pretty interesting, or different, capacitors which I’ll talk about here.
Large Wax Cylindrical Capacitor
As the photos show, this capacitor is fairly large, appearing like a thick chunk of paraffin wax sandwiched between two wood disks. Inside, the lead wires go to two aluminum flashing disks that are the capacitor plates spaced 2.5cm (1 inch) apart. But in between them the dielectric consists of seven more aluminum flashing disks separated by plain cotton sheets immersed in more paraffin wax. See, I told you these capacitors were different.
I won’t go into the reasoning behind the construction — it was all shot-in-the-dark ideas, backed by hope, unicorn hairs, and practically no theory. The interesting thing here was the experiment itself. It worked!
I sat the capacitor on top of a tall 4″ diameter ABS pipe which in turn sat on a digital scale on the floor. High voltage in the tens of kilovolts was put across the capacitor through thickly insulated wires. The power supply contained a flyback transformer and Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier at the HV side. As I dialed up the voltage, the scale showed a reducing weight. I had weight-loss!
But after a few hours of reversing polarities and flipping the capacitor the other way around and taking plenty of notes, I found the cause. The weight-loss happened only when the feed wires were oriented with the top one feeding downward as shown in the diagram, but there was no weight change when the top wire was oriented horizontally. I’d seen high voltage wires moving before and here it was again, producing what looked like weight-loss on the scale.
But that’s only one of the interesting capacitors I’ve made. After the break we get into gravitators, polysulfide and even barium titanate.
The gravitator capacitor was created by T.Townsend Brown to control gravity and is described in UK patent GB300,311. My implementation was a 30cm (12 inch) long chunk of Bondo resin with two aluminum electrode plates and 29 more isolated plates evenly spaced in between. In one of the photos you can see it under construction. It was made in two pieces, each with a white plastic mold into which a plate and resin was added. The resin then hardened, the mold was raised, then more plates and resin was added, and so on until each piece was half the length of the final capacitor. They were then glued together using more resin to produce the one long piece you see in the photo of the test setup.
The test was a horizontal one this time with the gravitator suspended as a pendulum. No movement was ever detected. However, usually when this test is done, one or both of the feed wires is a small diameter wire with a thin enamel coating i.e. magnet wire. At these voltages, that enamel breaks down easily and ionization to the air results, acting as a jet and creating some form of propulsion. We’ve seen this type of ion propulsion before when we talked about the homemade flying machines called lifters.
The movement is usually small but the experimenter typically cycles the power supply on and off in time to the movement, creating a resonance just as does a person on a swing when they pull on the ropes and swing out their legs at just the right time. The result is a big movement, but not one that has anything to do with gravity control. In my case you can see I use feed wires with insulation thick enough to avoid breakdown, and so I got no movement.
One feature that was supposed to be beneficial in these non-conventional propulsion experiments was to have a high K dielectric, one with a high relative dielectric constant. Someone back then had found that polysulfide had a K of 2260, which is very high. For most materials the K is below 10. I managed to find a polysulfide sealant called Deck-O-Seal, a liquid plastic filler for cement joints around swimming pools. The diagram and photos show what I came up with.
Initially the brass wire was immersed in the polysulfide and the whole thing was suspended on the end of a rotor arm. But with high voltage applied there was no movement. From further research I found that the polysulfide product may contain electrically conductive material and so I moved the brass wire out of the polysulfide in hopes that the air would act as an insulator. This time I got ionization at the ends of the wire in the form of a bluish corona and a hissing sound. And as with the gravitator’s feed wires above, that produced a jet and resulted in a little movement. But again, I was after movement due to interacting with quantum vacuum fluctuations and so I abandoned that one.
However, I pressed on with my quest for a high K dielectric and managed to find a source of 99.9% pure barium titanate powder from Atlantic Equipment Engineers (product no. BA-901 in case you want some). Barium titanate can have a K in the thousands if it is at the right temperature, with the right electric field strength and with the electric field in the right orientation.
But the problem is turning that white powder into a solid dielectric with no air in it. One way to do that is to compress it under heat, or to sinter it, but I didn’t have the means to do that. Instead I experimented with mixing in paraffin wax as a binder, knowing that the resulting dielectric constant would be lower than with pure barium titanate. The best I got with this was a relative dielectric constant of 12.5 to 18.6.
Then I tried with an epoxy resin as the binder. With a lot of experimenting I got best results by mixing the resin and barium titanate in such a proportion that I got balls mostly 1mm or smaller in diameter, as shown in the photo. The capacitor I was after at the time was a cylindrical one. I used a 1/4″ diameter copper rod for the center electrode and aluminum mesh for the outer one. I fashioned a mold from two pieces of a plastic tube slit lengthwise and with the copper rod running through the center. I poured a little of the barium titanate and epoxy mix at a time into the mold and tapped it well in place, while it was still soft. With 86% barium titanate by weight I got a K of 27. That was the best I could do with this method, but it wasn’t in the hundreds or thousands as I would have liked. However, it was still impressive when compared to plain resin or wax capacitors whose K is usually around 2 or 3.
But the barium titanate one wasn’t my most ambitious one. That honor goes to a cylindrical capacitor whose dielectric was actually two separate pieces running down the center. One piece was made of epoxy resin and the other was made of paraffin wax. Full calculations were done for the dimensions and materials to match a hypothesis produced by a theory and of course that meant I couldn’t just use whatever I had on hand. As you can see I not only filled half the capacitor’s interior with wax but encased the whole outside of it too.
With the capacitor oriented with the wax piece on top, there was supposed to be a net upward thrust. Tests were done on a digital scale and also a triple beam balance, but there was no change in weight, and yet gently placing a playing card on top produced a weight change. As you can see, the scale was completely covered in grounded aluminum foil for shielding purposes. The voltage was only 8kV before sparking happened inside the capacitor but it was enough to test the hypothesis. The theory was found to be wrong.
So while I didn’t get the type of propulsion I was after, I did have a great introduction to working with high voltage, capacitors, new construction techniques and had a lot of fun along the way. Have you made any funky capacitors or done any non-conventional propulsion experiments of your own? Let us know about them in the comments below. If you tend to stick to the more conventional, there’s a lot to learn from our article on everything about commercially made capacitors.