Creation out of nothing
- The ultimate free lunch

Whether or not the current climate crisis is a legitimate eschatology remains to be seen although a fundamental paradigm shift does appear to be underway, writes Mark Gibbons CEng MEI.

It seems that a serious crisis in the collective human conscience must somehow be resolved through the destruction of one failing paradigm and its replacement with another, more successful one [1]. The collapse of outdated beliefs, values and preconceptions poses a threat, both to our sense of identity and our perceived place in the universe, threatening to manifest as a self-fulfilling eschatology. Whether or not the current climate crisis is a legitimate eschatology remains to be seen although a fundamental paradigm shift does appear to be underway.

By the 1980’s, Prof. Alan Guth, now of MIT, had developed the modern theory of cosmological inflation, or a mechanism for the Big Bang, characterizing it as ‘[…] the ultimate free lunch’ [2]. In this model of inflation, as the energy of matter increases by a factor of 1075 or more, the energy of the gravitational field becomes more and more negative to compensate. The total energy, matter plus gravitational, remains constant and very small, and could even be exactly zero. This phenomenon arises when a state of matter having high energy density cannot rapidly lower its total energy. Under such a condition a ‘false vacuum’ is established. Crucially, the negative pressure of the false vacuum creates a repulsive gravitational field that acts as the driving force of cosmological inflation.

Whilst modern cosmological concepts such as the Big Bang, worm holes and heat death of the universe are relatively familiar, these ideas do not normally impinge upon our day-to-day, lived experience. For the most part, our lives are stable and subject to increasing complexity; order overcomes chaos [3]. Knowledge is built upon simplified models that provide useful frameworks for navigating reality, despite the contradictions and paradoxes that naturally arise. However, if these discontinuities in understanding are rigorously pursued, new possibilities can emerge. Such an investigation is reported here whereby the reconciliation of classical thermodynamics with quantum vacuum energy reveals a potentially unlimited source of zero-emissions energy that is universally accessible.

The false vacuum represents a constant energy system in which positive kinetic energy is equally matched by negative potential energy with the opposite also being true.

Initially, a false vacuum is established experimentally in a condensed matter system incorporating clathrate hydrate cage structures able to host methane molecules via van der Waals interactions [4]. Through manipulation of the system under negative pressure conditions it is possible to establish a quasi-thermodynamic cycle able to perform phase-change work within a fixed volume, that is the methane molecules can separate from their clathrate hosts. The self-gravitating potential of the van der Waals interaction is held responsible for the majority of this phase-change work so representing and additional source of energy distinct from heat and work input. The work can be either negatively-contracting or positively-expanding. Only through incorporation of this additional interaction can energy conservation be established for the quasi-thermodynamic cycle. The van der Waals force itself is a consequence of quantum dynamics.

The false vacuum represents a constant energy system in which positive kinetic energy is equally matched by negative potential energy with the opposite also being true. Combining Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula with Maxwell's electromagnetic wave equation establishes a relationship between the total energy of a system and relative permittivity/ relative permeability so that the electric and magnetic properties of the system can be tuned thermodynamically. These electromagnetic variations are accompanied by complex reorganization of the clathrate cage structures. It is these self-organizing, dissipative structures that prevent the system from rapidly changing total energy when subjected to external thermodynamic interactions. Such a constraint is responsible for local stability conditions meaning that energy cannot be minimized and entropy cannot be maximized.

The electric field is excluded from the system, breaking the symmetry of the system from 3-dimensional to

Further experimental research applied the above findings to a variable-volume, kinetic system, that is one capable of generating mechanical work via a piston expander [5]. Whilst work is successfully produced, it cannot be attributed to the long-range interaction between clathrate cages and separated methane molecules and another explanation becomes necessary. In this case, the crystal-fluid reveals no outgassing phase-change but remains at almost constant density in a liquid phase; there is a continuous liquid-liquid phase change that is unable to account for the mechanical work in terms of conventional Carnot heat engine efficiency or fluid dynamics. However, the existence of a constant energy oscillator does allow the presence of other unusual properties to be determined, these being hyperbolic curvature of the underlying manifold, variable inertia of the system, and transient magnetism with associated superconductivity.

Magnetic properties are revealed through the calculated thermodynamic response functions (density, specific heat capacity and isothermal compressibility) and associated scaling laws that describe the critical behaviour of the system [6]. In turn, these properties reveal superconducting-like behaviour and a phase transition from Type-2 superconductivity to Type-1 dual superconductivity where the magnetic field, as the order parameter, reduces to zero [7]. In a dual superconductor, the roles of the electric and magnetic fields are exchanged so that in this case the electric field is excluded from the system, breaking the symmetry of the system from 3-dimensional to 2-dimensional. This is a consequence of deconfinement of effective magnetic monopoles in a system that is geometrically frustrated, that is the molecular magnetic spins are initially prevented from aligning to reach the most energetically favourable ground state [8]. The magnetic monopoles, analogous to vortices or worm holes, are in fact topological defects generated such that the total energy of the system remains constant; the strength of the false vacuum imposes magnetic charge fractionalization.

The superconducting phase transition, or broken symmetry, is itself associated with an emergent gauge field. The magnitude of this scalar field is determined by both the critical correlation length (the alignment of magnetic spin patches) and the variable inertia associated with the self-organizing, dissipative clathrate cage structures. The gradient energy of this scalar field is represented on the surface of the system. The critical correlation length imposes a hyperbolic geometry, or negative curvature, on the underlying space manifold. The effect of this is to exponentially increase the ratio of hyperbolic space to Euclidean space so that both the magnetic permeability (μ0) and vacuum energy (Uvac) become ‘concentrated’.

Self-organizing clathrate hydrate structures are also responsible for a system that is highly degenerate, that is a large number of states with the same energy can exist. Whilst the system can attain metastable states, it is always on the threshold of instability. Small positive or negative pressure perturbations produce divergent critical behaviour that manifest as large variations in system volume. The energy required for these volume changes, and the associated mechanical work, positive or negative, can flow to or from the scalar field via the energy potential established across the effective magnetic monopoles. The electromagnetism of the system thereby couples to the energy of the scalar field potential, as ultimately derived from quantum vacuum energy.

The ultimate energy source is identified as the quantum vacuum; universally accessible, emissions-free, 100% available and therefore entirely secure.

The superconducting phase transition is consistent with Ginzburg-Landau theory revealing gauge invariant coupling of a scalar field to the Yang-Mills action. This means that the experimental results are fully renormalizable; they are scale invariant such that colour confinement in elementary quarks and relativistic length expansion/ time contraction can both be described. Nobel laurate Philip W. Anderson anticipated such a breakthrough in 2011 when writing [9]:

‘In the 21st century one revolution which can take place is the construction of generalizations which jump and jumble the hierarchies [ie. symmetry-breaking], or generalizations which allow scale-free or scale-transcending phenomena [ie. self-organized criticality].’

It is remarkable that both symmetry-breaking and self-organized criticality are uncovered in the coupling of system electromagnetism to a scalar field potential and that energy can flow via charge fractionalization (or magnetic monopoles) in either direction; either to or from the quantum vacuum. A schematic description of the positive work stage is given in Fig.1 below:

Fig. 1 Interaction of false vacuum with quantum vacuum for the case of positive work

The 0.5-litre device produces around 200J/stage with 1.6kN of force to deliver 8W net power. This derives from an effective system expansion ratio of 100:1, approx. It operates in both directions such that a double-acting reciprocating engine is feasible. Energy density is an exponential function of the differential between the crystal-fluid temperature and its critical temperature. Precise control over this parameter provides a basis for the next stage of technology development and scaling-up.

The findings and investigations summarized above reveal an energy technology delivering net energy gain. The ultimate energy source is identified as the quantum vacuum; universally accessible, emissions-free, 100% available and therefore entirely secure. The environmental impacts and material resource issues associated with other renewable energy technologies are also avoided [10]. However, such a radical development in energy technology would probably, if successfully scaled, produce unforeseen consequences. Removing a limit, in this case finite resource availability, can initiate an inflationary, and often uncontrollable, move towards another limit. Such a response echoes the process of exponential coupling to quantum vacuum energy itself and may provoke some antagonism and mistrust towards the new energy technology, as seen with genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Once the genie is freed from the lamp, its entrained entropy cannot be reversed but its energy may serve our collective will. But be careful what you wish for…

[1] T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970), Chap. XIII.

[2] A. H. Guth, The Beamline, 27, 14 (1997), The Inflationary Universe.

[3] G. Nicolis and I. Prigogine, Self-Organization in Nonequilibrium Systems: From Dissipative Structures to Order through Fluctuations (Wiley, New York, 1977).

[4] M. Gibbons, J. Phys. Commun., 5, 065005 (2021)

[5] M. Gibbons, J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys., TBC (2022)

[6] A. Cheung, University of Cambridge, Phase Transitions and Collective Phenomena lecture notes (2022)

[7] J. A. Annett, Superconductivity, Superfluids and Condensates (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004), Chap. 2,3,4.

[8] R. Moessner and A. P. Ramirez, Physics Today, 59, 2, 4 (2006).

[9] P. W. Anderson, More And Different: Notes From A Thoughtful Curmudgeon (World Scientific, New Jersey, 2011), Chap. II.

[10] A. Bleicher and A. Pehlken (editors), The Material Basis of Energy Transitions (Academic Press, London, 2020).

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