Perpetual Motion Machines

Perpetual motion machines are machines that produce an unlimited supply of energy, or just never stop. Inventors have tried for centuries to find a working perpetual motion machine, but all have failed, sometimes producing novel ideas, though. It can be shown using the First (conservation of energy) and Second (entropy can never decrease) )Laws of Thermodynamics that any perpetual motion machine is impossible, even though people still try in vain to find them.

Most perpetual motion machines are based on a simple machine, the overbalanced wheel, which was invented during or before the Middle Ages. The idea is that the weighted rods are on hinges so that they stay close to the wheel while going up, and stick out when going down on the wheel, so that the right side will always have more weight, and the left side will always have less, and so the wheel, once started, should never stop.

Villard's Wheel

The problem with this idea is that there are more rods on the left side, and so the weights balance out, and friction eventually brings the wheel to a stop. Many other types of overbalanced wheel have been tried, such as rolling balls inside a wheel, rolling balls on tracks outside a wheel, adding more hinges, and adding complex linkages which don’t really do anything.

Many attempts also have been made with buoyancy as a factor, such as a chain of  ping-pong balls entering a cylinder of water on the right side of the chain, which would supposedly provide more than enough lift for the next ball to enter the chamber, and so on. The problem of having no water spill out of the chamber when the balls enter it is, of course, another problem!

Some perpetual motion machines are so crazy that they appear to be jokes. For example, there’s Zimara’s windmill, a machine that goes roughly as follows: The windmill is turned, which squeezes the bellows, which makes air travel through the pipe ,powering the windmill, which squeezes the bellows… and so on.

Zimara's windmill

Of course, on each run, some air particles will miss the windmill, resulting in energy escaping from the system, which eventually stops.

Another great example of a “joke” perpetual motion machine is F.G. Woodward’s wheel. The wheel, supposedly unbalanced on the top roller, will try to rotate counter-clockwise and go down, except that it will not go down because of the bottom wheel, so it will rotate forever.

Any checking with a physics engine, doing force and torque analysis, or just rotating the entire thing will show that it will eventually stop due to friction, like all of the other machines.

Despite the number of proofs of impossibility and failed attempts, a quick look at the internet easily shows that people are still trying to find the right configuration of springs and gears for an impossibility.

    • Alfonso
    • April 13th, 2010

    Damn it! Physics always wins!! ò.ó That’s not fun ¬¬

    • Hello
    • April 16th, 2010

    Well, because they cannot be developed as isolated system, at least try to find the one which minimum energy escaping from it.

    • I think that this can be solved in a manner much simpler than some of the newer perpetual motion machines. For a system with the minimum energy escaping from it, take a very smooth ball rolling down a smooth and nearly frictionless surface. Or, for another example, take the swinging of a pendulum, such as the pendulum in the Foucalt’s Pendulum experiment.

      Another method, much more costly than the others, for making a system move almost forever is to send out an object into orbit or into space. Although it is a solution, it would mostly end up costing you a lot.

  1. While I appreciate the view held by many concerning the impossibility of perpetual motion devices,I tend to think otherwise.
    I grew up in an environment where I was not exposed to the argument on perpetual motion. Some years ago(in my early twenties), I happened to have had the notion that it is possible to cause a wheel to rotate on its own and sought to find out how by making designs and analysing them theoretically. After several years I finally came up with a design which provided much theoretical hope towards this end and to date I togather with several who have analysed the wheel have come to the conclusion that the design offers theoretical possibility.
    Much later when I came across debates on the subject on the internet and the historical records/writings on attempts made I came to the conclusion that there are several mistakes concerning the search made by many. My first designs were actually versions of the overbalanced wheel. I discovered that no kind of overbalanced wheel could work as it would go against the known laws of science if at all it worked. But then I realised that it is possible to attain perpetual motion by a wheel which satisfies known scientific laws. The wheel actually has an inbuilt mechanism which provides the energy to propel the wheel. The mechanism itself relies on weights which provide push from their gravitational pull.I may not discuss much concerning the principles used in the design but wold just like to state that the lack of a working perpetual motion is not prove that it is impossible to have one.
    My belief is that perpetual motion is possible.
    It is in historical records that the well known scientist-Willem Gravesande- went to German during his time to examine such a device made by a German inventor( Johann Bessler) and came to the conclusion that perpetual motion is possible. I think such a conclusion from a man of such stature cannot be taken lightly.
    what we should do is try to search for it till we find it.

      • Iniobong
      • October 28th, 2012

      Yeah “search for it until we find it” is the spirit. one day, we shall invent a working perpetual motion machine. Its just a matter of time and research.

    • deepak
    • July 14th, 2010

    well, i don’t think energy cannot be isolated by normal means. And if it’s possible perpetual motion is possible and it wont voilate the laws of thermodynamics, cause the law will be applied to the isolation. The only perpetual motion i believe that exists is none other than universe. it’s never ending. So creating a perpetual motion needs to create an isolated universe. Good luck.

    • daryl
    • September 3rd, 2010

    There’s a problem about perpetual motion machine from the book “Hydraulics” 5th edition by king wisler and woodburn pp75-76 problem number 43, how come the machine wouldn’t work?

    • gabe
    • November 19th, 2010

    I’m not a scientist by any means, but I was wondering if you suspended a ball inside a vacume tube and set it in motion, would it turn forever. The ball would be suspended by magnets, such as the “floating globes” that you see in the stores. I don’t know if magnetic force would create some sort of friction to slow the rotation. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks…

    • Actually, the eddy currents from the magnets would progressively slow the ball down until it stopped. This is a common problem with many perpetual motion machines, but is usually secondary to the problems of friction in the other parts of the machines. Good attempt though.
      –Neil

      • Matthew
      • November 11th, 2015

      Even if this idea did manage to work, there would be no way to harness the energy from the ball. While I have been thinking that something like this, but instead its a cylinder rotating around a magnet, like an electric motor, would be able to harness the energy, like nbickford said, it would eventually stop due to the magnetic eddies.

    • Rick
    • January 14th, 2011

    I have thought about this unlikely invention a lot. I always get what I think is a good idea. Although usually the ideas are quite simple and I end up dis-proving my own ideas. I have what seems like a good idea now but don’t have the physics background to disprove it and it is bugging me.

    • Kim Andry
    • February 4th, 2011

    My father, recently deceased, spent his entire adult life working on his perpstual motion invention. It is a metal contraption with a wheel. I sat at his side in later years and followed his directions to make adjustments because he was too weak. I wish I had his scientific mind but I don’t. If anyone is interested in purchasing his lifelong almost achievement, you can email me at kimberlyandry@aol.com.

  2. 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 .,

    http://es.calameo.com/read/00104277114df755395ef (Free Energy)

    http://en.calameo.com/read/001042771ad92871f74fa (Thermodinamics Fall)

    Atte,
    RAMIRO AUGUSTO SALAZAR LA ROTTA

    • Olivia
    • February 25th, 2012

    What about this:
    You have a wooden box. Inside on each side including the bottom (no top) there are magnets glued. They all have matching polarities, they are all repelling from each other.
    I cover one side of a smaller magnet of the same type (same force, just smaller) so that the side exposed also repels from the magnets in the box.
    I drop the magnet in the box.
    It continues jumping around, and if it tries to jump upward, gravity brings it down.
    This is my science fair project. Hopefully there’s no flaws? Pleaaaaaaaase point some out if there are, I want to perfect it 😀

    • Richard P
    • February 28th, 2013

    Yea, I started coming up with theses when I was 9-10.. I thought I “invented” an idea!! I just had to find that right formula.. Lol!! Too bad it’s the formula of impossibility!! Ha!

    • Karl
    • March 28th, 2014

    What about Robert Boyle’s flask in an air tight environment?

  3. If you are told that perpetual motion is impossible, then that person must
    have had access to a time machine ———– travelled to the ‘end of time’
    ———— found out that perpetual motion IS impossible ———————-
    come back to the present day ————- and then told you”! I don’t
    think so, do you?
    If perpetual motion is ever found, and it breaks the ‘laws’ of motion ———
    too bad.
    BILL.

  4. Definitely possible since there is gravity to be exploited

    • Robert
    • December 12th, 2014

    Helicopters are not suppose to fly (at least that is what science says) but they do. To have any scientist say with absolution that something is impossible (forever) is silly. we have not discovered things we cant even comprehend at this moment in time

    • Codu
    • September 7th, 2015

    Free energy can’t exist but transforming ambient energy to mechanical energy is the right approach.

    The simple way:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Clock

    The hard(est) way:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Vasilescu-Karpen

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