Back-Engineered Methernitha – Notes
Note 1 – For more information on the Pidgeon machine see "Electrical Influence Machines" by John Gray 1903 pp206 & "Philosophical Magazine" Dec 1898 pp564, and of course the Pidgeon patents.
Note 2 – See "Modern High Speed Influence Machines" by V.E.Johnson 1921 pp76. Johnson was not only a researcher of electrostatic machines but was also an innovative constructor of them, and as such was keen to try any technique that made his generators more powerful than even the specialised Wommelsdorf multi-disc condenser machines. This book is an absolute must for those who wish to work in this field. Another 'must' is the website of Antonio Carlos M. de Queiroz which is absolutely full of information about (and with links to) present-day developments in electrostatic machines.
Note 3 – See "Self-Excited, Alternating, High-Voltage Generation Using A Modified Electrostatic Influence Machine" by M.Zahn et al, American Journal of Physics Vol 42 (1974) pp289.
Note 4 – The Methernitha designers have taken a basic Pidgeon electric field system and added a few modifications of their own, partly to lock a certain polarity of charge to a certain area so as to stabilise it, and also to boost certain areas with charge. As in their use, for example, of an extra field plate located at the top-centre in front of the front disc (just under the rectifying valve), note also that this plate, or antennae key, is indirectly coupled to the rest of the circuit, via a coil setup. Much the same occurs with the two plates slightly below it, these plates are connected to a brass terminal which connects to a copper wire that goes down and winds in a coil shape around a hollow plastic tube, and inside the tube will be another wire or small coil that draws off the electric charge. So these three plates are using not direct connection but induction to get their charge.
Note 5 – By looking at how each of the photographed machines have been constructed you can see that these are high quality crafted structures. I would think each would start off as sub-assemblies fitted together by pairs or small groups of members, those sub-assemblies of wooden base, big cans, perspex framework, discs with bearings and axles, when completed would be passed on to the electrical engineers of the community who would then fit the wiring connections, vacuum tube rectifier and make sure that not only did they work but that they looked like a work of art.
Note 6 – The Fleming valve had been around since 1905 and while it progressed to the thermionic valve and audion, by 1922 the ‘Pearson and Anson Effect’ was discovered whereby oscillating currents could be produced with a resistor, capacitor and thermionic valve coupled together.
Note 7 – See US Patent 1,540,998 (9 June 1925) Conversion of Atmospheric Electric Energy by Hermann Plauson. He also wrote a book of the subject titled "Gewinnung und Verwertung der Atmospharischen Elektrizitat" in 1920 in German.
Note 8 – Whilst some have seen the smaller 300 Watt machine’s discharger/rectifier quite open and not encased in a vacuum tube the vacuum tube models would be much more efficient and would waste less current. Also, the rectifier tube must have a heated filament (which on the 3KW machines can be seen as a glowing line running the whole length of the grid and coil assembly between the two black end caps, and in the films you can see faint flashes coming from behind the rectifier so possibly the filament is wrapped around the other side of the grid/coil assembly as well). Coolridge, back in the 1900’s, discovered that no discharge from the cathode to the anode would occur, even at 100,000 volts, unless the filament was heated (Physics Review Vol 2 Dec 1913 p418). Aluminium mesh will give off electrons quite readily and can be used as a cold cathode – but a heated cathode offers the advantage of being able to control the oscillations.
Note 9 – The two long upright tubes are without doubt choke coil assemblies in precisely the right place to slow down the current where it gets oscillated and rectified. In a choke the higher the flow of current the greater will be its resistance to that current flow. An even better form of choke will have some form of iron core inside it.
Note 10 – I have come up with 6 different circuits for this oscillation section, some of which include small quartz crystals. (See notes 13 and 16 on frequency of oscillation). The black dial at the rear of the 3kw machine is most likely to select a variety of capacitances so as to control the oscillations of the circuit, which in turn control disc rotational speed.
Note 11 – The phenomenon of electrostatic motors has been well researched over the years (see "Electrostatic Motors" O.Jefimenko in "Physics Teacher" Vol 9 March 1971 p121-9, and in "Electrostatics – And Its Applications" by A.D.Moore (1973) p131-147; "Electrostatic Motors" by B.Bollee in "Philips Tech. Review" Vol 30 1969 p178-194). The Methernitha Testatika generators (see a recent report by 30 engineers) auto-rotate, after they have been started by hand, by the same principles of these ES motors.
Note 12 – J.G.Trump worked for the US Air Force and pioneered some highly efficient electrostatic machines around the 1960’s (see"Electrostatic Sources of Electric Power" in "Elec. Eng" 66:525 June 1947; and "High Voltage Generation in Space:The Parametric Electrostatic Machine" in "Progr. Astronaut. Rocketry" (vol 3 – Energy Conversion for Space Power) 1961 p745).
Note 13 – Although the ‘Linden Experiment’ was thought to register a frequency of 80-140 MHz this does not necessarily mean that the Methernitha generators would oscillate at that rate also. Such a frequency seems unnecessarily high.
Note 14 – See "Plasma – The Fourth State of Matter" by D.A. Frank-Kamenetskii (1972) pp10, and Dr.Patrick Flanagan’s US patents 4,743,275(May 10 1988) and 4,391,773(Jul 5 1983).
Note 15 – The effect is very similar to the converging forces in a non-uniform field, the oscillating perspex blocks become one ‘electrode’ and the surrounding air in the room becomes the opposite ‘electrode’, and by the processes of electrophoresis and dielectrophoresis the electrically charged particles in the air (the electrons and negative ions) are drawn toward the central electrode, which in this case is the perspex block assembly (see "Nonuniform Electric Fields" by Herbert A. Pohl in "Scientific American" (Dec 1960) p107-8). I am much more inclined to believe that the ingenuity of the design of these types of machines comes from physicists and not electronic engineers.
Note 16 – Dr. Flanagan actually uses the electron field generator in his own special ionizer (see Method of Purifying Air and Negative Field Generator US Patent 4,391,773).
How does it work, I would think that while you have an alternating electron movement (and Dr. Flanagan reckons this effect occurs with a high voltage field alternating at above 20 KHz) at the metal electrodes, the perspex blocks sandwiched between them would transfer the electricity not through their mass but around it, as surface charge – actually in the layer of air right next to the insulator’s surface. Its the same principle as dielectric absorbtion - the perspex blocks don't discharge themselves fast enough to keep up with the alternating voltage and so they accumulate more and more charge - until it forms a layer of charge on the insulator's surface. This means that at a high enough frequency the surface-air molecules polarize, with the more mobile electrons separating from the slower bulks of those molecules and while the electrons get thrusted back and forth a secondary layer of (slower) positive air ions develops, and so on, and the process of high voltage high frequency polarization triggers the electron avalanche effect.
Note 17 – There are several definitions of Bifilar, one where the wires cancel out their magnetic fields, and one where the wires are wound to ensure a tight low-loss coupling, in this case you need all the flux you can get so it must be the latter – See "Transformers For Electronic Circuits" by Nathan R. Grossner (1967) p224 etc.
Note 18 – Most commonly used is Mumetal, which is an easily saturable magnetic material, routing magnetic flux through it rather than in the surrounding air, but that is probably not what is needed in this case. Also what you don’t need, is a system that discharges all of its generated power in short sharp shocks. What is needed is a Pulse Forming Network. "Such a network is an improvement on simple capacitor storage because of the cascading action from one capacitor to the next along the chain. At the beginning, all capacitors are charged to the same voltage but as soon as the first one starts to loose voltage, the one behind it is then free to discharge into it. This topping-up action, which trickles down the network from capacitor to capacitor, is the mechanism by which the voltage across the output terminals tends to hold onto its original level." (see – "High Energy Discharge Systems" A.P.Stephenson "ETI" [Electronics Today International]; March 1992 p24-26).
Note 19 – When voltage of a high potential and high frequency flows along a wire it does so on the outer surface (called the ‘skin effect’) and so the Methernitha would use thick wiring or even 1/8" tubing to connect its circuit.
Note 20 – Again, you want as much magnetic flux activity as possible so, if these transformers are wired ‘bifilar’ then it is to provide a tight coupling.
Note 21 – US patents 3,323,069 (May 30 1967) and 3,187,208 (June 1 1965). This system by Van de Graaff may be a little too complicated for the Methernitha, but, nevertheless, may be of some interest.
Note 22 – Dr. Flanagan modified his insulator blocks, made of resin, by doping them with paramagnetic granules (such as silicon carbide) to enhance even more the electron cascade effect; which is an idea that the physicist Thomas Townsend Brown first experimented with (by using lead oxide granules) in his US patent 3,187,206 (June 1 1965) to good effect. The surrounding air could also be ‘enhanced’ in similar fashion to improve its side of the performance (for those interested in the ‘physics’ of this see an article by W.A.Douglas Rudge "On Some Sources of Disturbance of the Normal Atmospheric Potential Gradient" in Proc. Royal Soc. A - Vol 90 (1914) pp571 etc).
Note 23 – Some other generators with similarities to the Testatika machine are the "Electrostatic Energy Field Power Generating System" invented by William W. Hyde (US Patent 4897592 of Jan 30 1990) is a rotor/stator variable capacitance machine capable of producing 300 KV. Other such generators are; "Parametric Electric Machine" invented by Ferdinand Cap (US Patent 4622510 of Nov 11 1986) which has a series resonant (LCR) circuit structured into it so that it oscillates - and indeed operates AT RESONANCE to ensure a high output; "Electrostatic Generator" invented by Dan B. Le May (et al) (US Patent 3094653 of Jun 18 1963) is a very ingenious system of variable capacitance; the "Electrostatic Machine" by Noel Felici (US Patent 2522106 of Sep 12 1950) is a good standard which utilizes a valve rectifier; and the "Electrostatic Generator" by William S. Spencer (US Patent 1415779 of May 9 1922) is an early rotor/stator generator which transferred its electric impulses through a transformer to produce a higher current output.