I will be flying back to Europe on Monday, so I will be out of touch for a day or so. Meanwhile, I would like to thank a reader for pointing this out:
I am very, very skeptical of their claims, so I was surprised to see that they got them past a patent examiner. US Patent 7,379,286 was granted on May 27, 2008. The patent reads in part:
A system is disclosed for converting energy from the electromagnetic quantum vacuum available at any point in the universe to usable energy in the form of heat, electricity, mechanical energy or other forms of power. By suppressing electromagnetic quantum vacuum energy at appropriate frequencies a change may be effected in the electron energy levels which will result in the emission or release of energy. Mode suppression of electromagnetic quantum vacuum radiation is known to take place in Casimir cavities. A Casimir cavity refers to any region in which electromagnetic modes are suppressed or restricted. When atoms enter into suitable micro Casimir cavities a decrease in the orbital energies of electrons in atoms will thus occur. Such energy will be captured in the claimed devices. Upon emergence form such micro Casimir cavities the atoms will be re-energized by the ambient electromagnetic quantum vacuum. In this way energy is extracted locally and replenished globally from and by the electromagnetic quantum vacuum.
The whole thing reads like pseudoscience, and the idea of harnessing zero point energy has a history of attracting crackpots. But personally, I don’t know enough about the physics to point to a particular invalid claim in the patent. To my knowledge, such a device would constitute a perpetual motion machine, and would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Perhaps someone who knows the physics would care to comment?
Bernard Haisch is the principal inventor. You can see from his Wikipedia biography that he has a history of involvement with fringe science. It doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but it certainly makes the whole thing smell even fishier.