The Magnetosphere Has A Ton Of Energy. Can A Guitar Amp Company Tap Into It?

Researching a piece on vacuum tubes, we stumbled on something unexpected from Electro-Harmonix, best known for guitar amplifiers and audio tube manufacture. In a break from their core business, they plan to tap energy from the magnetosphere. This came as something of a surprise to their guitarist customers who were no doubt expecting a fancy new effects pedal, but it seems they’re serious.

The magnetosphere is the region of space surrounding the earth in which the earth’s magnetic field has most influence, and unlike the tidy pattern of magnetic field surrounding a bar magnet that you might have seen with iron filings at school, it’s distorted by the constant buffeting of the solar wind. This means that a significant quantity of potential energy is stored in its compression, and it’s this energy that Electro-Harmonix have their eye on.

Like Fox Mulder: we want to believe. Unfortunately the trouble with such ideas is readily visible with a quick web search; they attract a significant number of what one might charitably call cranks, and there is no shortage of unsubstantiated claims surrounding conspiracy theories, silenced genus inventors, and their mystery devices. Weird and wonderful descriptions and cryptic circuit diagrams abound, so separating the wheat if there is any from the inevitable chaff becomes a challenge. We respect that the Electro-Harmonix team are professional engineers who we hope are unlikely to become caught up in the weirder part of the Internet, but we’ll reserve our judgement until they provide more technical details of what they propose.

Header: NASA, Public domain.

55 thoughts on “The Magnetosphere Has A Ton Of Energy. Can A Guitar Amp Company Tap Into It?

    1. Yeah, there’s nothing difficult about the core concept – stick a moving wire across a magnetic field and current comes out. The problem is you need to somehow put that cable up there and get the power down here. Like you said – space elevator could do it. Too bad there’s all those niggling engineering challenges around actually building one.

      1. The wee snag with this idea is the lack of a return conductor. Yes, a moving conductor through a B field, or a stationary conductor in a varying B field will end up with a potential across it, but if you can’t return the current, then nothing’s gained.

        Potential solution A – really big space station acting as a capacitor with Earth, thus allowing the AC component of the varying conductor/B field interaction to do work on current and thus provide power at the base of the tether. Probably worn’t work as capacitance unhelpfully low. Not done the math, not going to do the math. But in favor of building massive space station and finding out :)

        Potential solution B – 2 (or more) space elevators all linked to the same counterweight but located far apart on earth. Naturally this would form a nice big loop or set there of which would allow current to flow. Also probably wouldn’t work – because if it did work and current flowed, then the forces on the tethers would act sideways and push the weight about in almost certainly unuseful ways. Still, we should build a big station and find out…

        And if I’ve been wrong about electrical stuff, and current can flow down a cable without a return conductor, then can we still build a really really big space station?

        1. Yeah. That return wire cannot be on the same cable as the induced current will cancel out each other.
          Assuming that you can make enough of a loop area to harvest the energy, it would create an opposite force to try to slow down. i.e. convert kinetic energy into electric energy as nothing comes for free. Hate to see the space station crashing down.

          1. Money you say.. If you’re sitting comfortably and wearing the the standard issue tin foil hat, let me continue..


            What we really need are several more moons, ideally closer, and some very large carbon brushes on slip rings around the equator. Then somehow link all the moons together by making them run in conductive slots rather than using this gravity nonsense. The rest will sort itself out.

      1. Earlier in my life, I thought how great it would be to have such a source of energy…

        Then I thought about the consequences a bit further, and realised that its a really bad idea. If it became possible to gain abundant and ‘free’ energy, and we widely used it on our dear planet earth, we would cook ourselves pretty quickly.

  1. > there is no shortage of unsubstantiated claims surrounding conspiracy theories, silenced genus inventors, and their mystery devices.

    Well, unfortunately the linked article does seem to be exactaly that, considering that the inventor got the idea after reading about a silenced inventor who built a free energy device that no one wanted to buy, and thinks he knew how said free energy device works.

    One could intertain the thought “maybe the device really worked, and no one believed the origional inventor because he claimed it was a free energy device, when it was actually pulling energy from the mahnetosphere”.

    On the other hand, this device was supposedly only 60lbs, and generated 80KW.
    Based on some rough mental calculations, that’s enough to perpetually fly. (A quick search indicates 50W/lb to 200W/lb as the range of power to weight needed to fly. This mythical device has a rate of 1,333W/lb, without the motors /wings)

    This seem suspect to anyone else???

  2. Giant wire loop traveling in a translunar orbit
    Also need it with a big solar sail
    As it comes towards earth it harvests energy
    As it heads towards the moon, sail is oriented to catch solar wind
    Also needs a robot sailor to keep sail properly trimmed (oriented w respect to wind for you non sailors)
    Energy is dumped by microwave transmission to space station antenna

  3. The best way to pull energy from the magnetosphere is with a device that many of us will already be familiar with: the humble magnetic compass.
    Of course, the energy received is only ever enough to swing a small iron needle mounted on a low-friction bearing, so not much hope for it to provide power for anything else.

  4. Tubes also attract cranks, and a lot of professional engineers are huge cranks, so you’re kind of sitting on a crank nexus here. I suggest attaching a huge crank to extract energy from the torsion between the three.

  5. If only the men in black hadn’t silenced Tesla’s plans for free energy for all. All it would have took is a 200 meter high T-coil tower, every 2 kilometers across the globe, and many, many firemen.

      1. That’s just what “they” want you to think.

        Who’s to say they world wouldn’t have been better if everyone wore rubber soled platform boots, had Van de Graaff chiq hairdos, and could do a passable impression of an angry sith lord anytime they went by an earthed metal object? Have you asked the people? No. Because people like you only think of themselves.

      2. Looks like it was actually JP Morgan who had agreed to fund Tesla’s research at that time, pulling the funding when he realized the Wardenclyffe project was morphing from a radio tower into a power transmitter because Marconi beat Tesla to the radio patents. (follow the wiki trail for sources if you want).

  6. Reading the linked explanation and read that the “free energy” of the magnetosphere is about 10^15 J (same order that the energy produced by a 900MW power plant in 10 min, not so big but why not).

    I assumed magnetosphere is a uniform sphere about 1000km around Earth (Earth volume excluded) so a volume about 10^20 cubic meter.

    This energy thus has about 10-5 J per cubic meter (according to Wiki, combustion like gasoline is in the order of 10^5 J/m^3 and electric from lithium battery 10^4 J/m^3)
    So they look to gather an energy (and this require some energy) that is on billionth more diluted than any easy gatherable chemical energy around us.

    They really are engeneers ?

  7. The last time they strung a cable in space from the shuttle things didn’t go well. Try bigger and blow up everything. Biggest zap possible! There is a charge between solar space and planets and comets.

  8. no need for space based relays. the energy flows in current rings at the poles and equator. the oceans get these currents by induction. telluric currents or GICs. you can rectify them with liquid metal gallium and galfenol and thorium nanoparticles. high frequency radioisotope rectifier like morays swedish stone

  9. Whatever happened to the plan to mine asteroids, and build massive solar panels that orbited earth, power sent down as microwave?

    That got a big hit in the seventies.

  10. Hey remember that story about guy who was restoring an old synthesizer and got accidentally high off the LSD stuck between the keys?

    I think we may have another case here.

  11. I’m worried – if we start dicking with the magnetosphere we’ll end up like the Martians, sucked all the energy out of it, no atmosphere and forced to live underground in subterranean cities.

    I’m going to invest in an air compressor.

  12. so the good folks at EHX are planning to use the earth itself as a giant guitar pickup… i will bet anything that it naturally plays Third Stone From the Sun…

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