© 1992, 1993, 1996 CORREA&CORREA. All
POWER FROM AUTOELECTRONIC EMISSIONS
(EDITED EXCERPTS FROM "ADVANCED COMMUNICATION ON A NEW POWER TECHNOLOGY",
LABOFEX DEVELOPMENT REPORT S3-001)
P.N.Correa, MSc, PhD, and A.N. Correa, HBA
Labofex Experimental and Applied Plasma Physics, Ontario, Canada
1. OVERVIEW OF LONGITUDINAL ELECTRODYNAMIC INTERACTIONS AND ANOMALOUS CATHODE REACTION FORCES IN XXth CENTURY PHYSICS
2. OVERVIEW OF THE CORREA PAGD/IVAD TECHNOLOGY
3. THE AUTOGENOUS PAGD REGIME
1. OVERVIEW OF LONGITUDINAL ELECTRODYNAMIC INTERACTIONS AND
ANOMALOUS CATHODE REACTION FORCES IN XXth CENTURY PHYSICS
"Our laws of force tend to be applied in the Newtonian sense
in that for every action there is an equal reaction, and yet, in
the real world, where many-body gravitational effects or
electrodynamic actions prevail, we do not have
every action paired with an equal reaction."
H. Aspden, 1993
Anomalous cathode reaction forces varying in proportion to the square of the input current were first identified separately by Tanberg and Kobel, in 1930, during studies of cathode vaporization in "vacuum"-arc discharges (VADs) and stationary cathode spots (1,2). In his original paper, Tanberg made a case for the presence of longitudinal forces on electrodynamic interactions, which he attributed to the counterflow of vaporized cathode particles (1), but K. Compton demonstrated that the vapor jet only accounted for <2% of the reaction force's magnitude (3). He suggested a different interpretation of the the electrodynamic anomaly, arguing for a mechanical rebound, at the cathode, of charge-neutralized gas ions that hit the cathode in the course of the discharge (bombardment rebound) (3).
In the 1940's, little work was done on the North-American continent on the presence of longitudinal forces in plasma discharges. The notable exceptions may have been the self-funded research of W. Reich and of T.H. Moray. Reich claimed to have discovered a spontaneous pulsatory activity of the space medium in cold cathode diodes sealed at high vacuum, and to have achieved oscillatory frequencies that reached 30 Kc (4). He equally claimed to have designed a motor circuit driven by the cyclic discharge in question, but all the details of the circuits were kept secret by Reich, and have remained so since the burning and banning of his publications by the FDA in 1956. His suspicious death in prison followed shortly thereafter in 1957. M.B. King (5) has suggested that anomalous lightning balls were produced in corona discharge tubes designed by T.H.Moray (6), possibly by tuning the plasma diode to resonate with heavy ion acoustic oscillations (7), but again the details are scanty. To our knowledge, no one has reproduced the vacuum experiments of Reich or Moray.
German electromagnetic cannons were retrieved by the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-committee in 1945, which reportedly were capable of firing lightning balls into the atmosphere (8), and Dr. H. Aspden has drawn our attention to the efforts of Kapitza, in Russia, to drive the formation of plasma balls in vacuum tubes with an RF source (9). Kapitza apparently realized that the energy densities of lightning balls were of the magnitude required to initiate nuclear fusion. During the fifties, the US fusion program also investigated the suitability of utilizing anomalous reaction forces in exploding wires subject to high current surges and in 'axial pinch' voltage reactors, to create alternative neutron sources (10).
Admission of longitudinal interactions has always been problematic for the relativistic law of Lorentz (11), as well as for the Bio-Savart treatments of Ampere's Law (12). Quantum treatments of (high) field-emission, such as the Fowler-Nordheim law (strong fields pull out electrons with low energies, ie Fermi electrons) (13), also did not take these interactions into account.
Subsequent research in the 1950's concentrated mainly on the study of cathode and anode spots, as well as on cathode erosion by crater formation (14-15). Confirmation of Tanberg's longitudinal flow hypothesis would have to wait until the 1960's, but mass spectrometric studies carried out by several groups (16-19) indicated that the atomic particles involved were not neutral atoms, but mostly singly and multiply charged ions with energies exceeding the total VAD voltage. Measurements performed by Kimblin (20-22) of the fractional ion current supplied to the VAD, suggested a nearly invariant contribution in the order of 6 to 10% of the total VAD current. Combined with the detection of some neutral atom contributions to this anomalous reaction flow, these findings caused much initial resistance among arc physicists.
By the 1960's, it had become apparent that the presence of tremendous electrodynamic forces acting longitudinally in the direction of the discharge could not be accounted for by the Lorentz/Bio-Savart Law. Moreover, as Plyutto et al remarked, the Tanberg vaporization hypothesis also could not explain the observed dependence of cathode reaction forces on gas pressure, nor the high velocity plasma streams emerging from the cathode (18). Plyutto's model of an ambipolar mechanism, where the electrons sweep the ions forward as a function of the anomalous rise of potential in front of the cathode spot, while the spot moves backwards, may well explain the dynamic relation of these forces, but not their initiation mechanism.
An understanding of the diverse experimental electrodynamic anomalies, and one that could unify disparate observations at that, would not be forthcoming however until 1969, when the Journal of the Franklin Institute published Dr. H. Aspden's seminal paper on his Law of Electrodynamics (23):
F = (qq'/r3) [(v'.r)v - (m'/m)(v.r)v' - (v.v')r]
where m'/m is the ratio of positive ion mass to electron mass. Analyzing the proportionality of the current quadrature phenomenon observed by Tanberg and Kobel in copper and mercury VADs, Aspden contended that if one took into account the mass ratio between electric particles of different q/m ratios, an 'out-of-balance' electrodynamic force would necessarily arise to act along the discharge path (23). In 1977, Aspden would file a British patent application (24) utilizing thermal conversion of the high anomalous acceleration of cathode-directed ions by electrons in VAD plasmas (25), but his circumstances did not permit him to pursue the work experimentally (26). Aspden's patent for a VAD-based ion accelerator and associated energy transfer processes, utilizes advantageously the anomalous reaction forces developed during ion acceleration to design a thermoelectric generator that would release the "intrinsic energy" of the interaction, as well as a coupled cyclotron-type chamber (devoid of the characteristic D electrodes) for centrifugal acceleration of the released ions (24).
Mounting evidence for longitudinal electrodynamic forces was then emerging from the study of relativistic electron beams (27-28), high-frequency plasma spikes (29-32), anomalous plasma heat transfer (28, 33-34) and anomalous discharge structures (35). Three possible plasma instability mechanisms have been discussed in the literature for the explanation of the observed anomalous energy transfers, invoking magnetosonic waves (35-36), ion-acoustic plasma instability modes (37-38) or the vacuum-field effect caused by the Zero-point energy (ZPE) (39-45). More recently, others have suggested that these nonlinear interactions, such as the ion-acoustic plasma instabilities, high density abrupt electrical discharges, and microprotuberance field emission indicate the presence of resonant coherences with the ZPE (46-47).
However, all these phenomena were predictable from, and in agreement with, Aspden's Law - but this fact was simply ignored, even if the Lorentz's Law could not account for the experimental anomalies observed when a circuit was closed by distinct fluxes of charge carriers of different mass, while Aspden's Law effectively did. Particularly vexing to researchers, was the behaviour of cathodes in cold VADs and the emergence of the electron distribution required to satisfy ion production in the gas (48).
Since the 1980's, Aspden's theoretical framework has received recognition (49-53) and direct or indirect experimental confirmation (49-50, 54-55). In the mid-eighties, Prof. P. Graneau and his group showed that electrodynamic explosions induced by kilovolt pulsed ion discharges in pure water were greater by three to four orders of magnitude than expected by established theory (54-55). As Aspden pointed out, these results again should be understood in terms of the m'/m scaling factor (56-57), but Graneau has rejected this explanation. Yet, Graneau's proposed model of the alpha-torque forces (58-59), is not warranted by the findings of Pappas, which instead are consistent with Aspden's model of electrodynamic action (49).
More recently still, G. Spence has patented an energy conversion system exploiting the electrodynamic mass ratio difference of electrons and ions in a magnetic separator and accelerator chamber having a basic analogy with Aspden's patent (24), but utilizing a different technique for the centripetal capture of the accelerated charge carriers, as based on a modification of the betatron principle that employs an homogeneous magnetic field (60). Spence's device, however, suffered from periodic breakdown, usually after several hours of operation, owing to problems believed to be connected with the thermionic ion-emitter guns (61).
During the same decade, investigation of externally pulsed electrodynamic anomalies in Russia was in full swing, with the objective of harnessing a new source of power (62) and, in 1989, the Novosti Press Agency released news of Prof. A. Chernetskii's design of a plasma reactor that operated with a "mysterious" regime which was termed by Chernetskii the "self-generating discharge", and which appeared to serve as a source of overunity energy, as it allegedly played havoc with the one megawatt substation driving it (63).
Despite all these rather significant strides in theory and experiment on the investigation of anomalous electrodynamic interactions, little in fact has been done, since Tanberg and Kobel, on the investigation of cathode reaction forces in parallel or coaxial electrode discharges that involve autoelectronic emission, particularly with respect to the initiation mechanisms on the unstable region straddling the abnormal glow discharge (AGD) and the "vacuum"-arc discharge (VAD) regions. At the time that, at Labofex, we were making the first inroads into this problem in the wake of our X-ray studies, an interest in this region was also kindled by the search for high-power switches that might replace flash-over switches (triggered gas gap breakdown switches), rotating arc switches and other VAD interrupters.
For planar electrodes having aligned central holes (the so-called pseudospark channel), it has been shown that a different type of discharge exists between the Paschen minimum and the vacuum arc breakdown, having more characteristics in common with the glow discharge rather than with the VAD, and which has been termed the pseudospark discharge (64-67). Because of the fast-switching on action of this discharge, in addition to power switching applications, the triggered pseudospark discharge has also been utilized as a source of high-density electron and ion beams, and to generate both laser and microwave radiation, as well as X-ray flashes (64, 68-70). Coaxial and multigap pseudospark discharge switches have been designed and patented which, because of their fast breakdown phase, operate with anomalously high cold-cathode emissions much greater than possible with thermionic emission devices (71-72).
Prior to these recent developments in pseudospark discharges, the cold-cathode abnormal glow discharge (AGD) region had only been utilized for the uniform transport of vaporised organic coatingsin vacuo, with externally DC- or AC-pulsed abnormal glow discharges, as based on a patent by E. Manuel (73). Manuel, who coined the term Pulsed Abnormal Glow Discharge, did not employ auto-electronic 'field' emission to trigger the pulsation of the glow discharge - in fact he wanted to avoid it, and thereby avoid slippage of the externally pulsed AGD into a VAD regime- as he intended that only the organic coating of the cathode, but not the cathode itself, be vaporised.
External pulsation of an electrical field, eg a plasma, may be achieved by very different methods that belong to well known prior art: in gas breakdown devices (eg Plasma-pinch accelerators, Lewis-type or other bombardment engines, and MPD thrusters (74-77)), as well as in arc discharges (eg. arcjet engines (78)) this may be typically achieved by the advantageous utilization of the Paschen law (when the required gap breakdown voltage falls below the applied open circuit voltage as a function of admission of the gas propellant) or by the utilization of older methods, ie capacitive or high-frequency discharges, the latter being apparently Chernetskii's method; the utilization of externally shaped pulsed DC or AC input waveforms, as in Manuel's patent (73) is another form of externally switching a plasma discharge on and off; segmentation of continuous current flow can also be achieved utilizing any manner of switches, mechanical, electronic, opto-electronic, plasma discharge-based (glow, pseudospark or arc switches) or commutators (including contact separation switches, relays, rotary commutators, etc); finally, as in pseudospark switches, a trigger electrode receiving an external signal is utilized to switch on the discharge (71-72).
2. OVERVIEW OF THE CORREA PAGD/IVAD TECHNOLOGY
"Nietzsche, as a critic of science, never invokes the rights of quality against
quantity; he invokes the rights of difference in quantity against equality, of
inequality against equalization of quantities. (...) What he attacks in
science is precisely the scientific mania for seeking balances, the
utilitarianism and egalitarianism proper to science".
G. Deleuze, 1962
Our point of departure was a serendipitous observation - made while studying sustained X-ray production - of quasi-regular discontinuities in glow discharges having a minimal positive column at very high vacua (10E-5 to 10E-7 Torr) and at low to medium voltages (10-50 kV DC). These events, which were associated with X-ray bursts, spontaneously originated localized cathode discharge jets that triggered the plasma glow in a fashion quite distinct from the flashing of a photocathode or from an externally pulsed plasma glow. It would soon become apparent that these discontinuities were elicited by spontaneous electronic emissions from the cathode under conditions of current saturation of the plasma glow, and could be triggered with much lower applied DC field strengths. The discharge was distinct from the VAD regime in that the plasma channel was self-starting, self-extinguishing, and the regime was pulsatory (79). In fact the discharge could be mimicked with externally interrupted VADs, analogous to chopped current arcs (80-81).
Pulsation of current saturated abnormal glow discharges (AGDs) was originally described by E. Manuel (73) who utilized externally formed DC pulses or AC oscillations to drive the cyclic operation of a plasma discharge tube in the AGD region (see Fig. 1), but in the absence of auto-electronic emission.
The pulsed plasma discharge regime we had isolated also operated in the AGD region, but it cycled autogenously between points F-E (Fig. 1) as a function of being triggered by spontaneous auto-electronic emissions from the cathode. What characterizes the functioning of the Correa reactors and differentiates them from all the foregoing arc emitter devices and the triggered pseudospark switches (PSS), as well as from Manuel's externally pulsed abnormal glow discharge apparatus, is the method of the discharge initiation as much as the method of its extinction. The discharge of interest is a pulsed abnormal glow discharge, but this pulsation is triggered autogenously at low applied field by a spontaneous electronic emission under cold-cathode conditions (80-82). Furthermore, this emission-triggered pulsed abnormal glow discharge is repetitively cycled in a self-generating or endogenous action, thus originating quasi-periodic discharge rhythms, whose frequency depends on a host of identified parameters. Both the spontaneous electronic emission and the auto-generating aspects of the discharge are joint cathode and reactor properties affected by multiple operational and physical conditions, foremost amongst which figure the metal composition of the cathode (work function), the negative pressure range, the magnitude of the input current, the large electrode gap distance, the nature of the residual gases and the cluster of electrode area effects discovered by the Correas (79-84).
Given the self-pulsing and self-producing characteristics of this discharge, we have termed this veritable regime of plasma discharge we have isolated in reactors with diverse geometries designed to optimalize it (and its volt-ampere characteristic), the emission-triggered Pulsed Abnormal Glow Discharge, or autogenous PAGD for short. The PAGD regime is an homeostatic structure (a fluctuating order) of cyclically recurring discontinuities. Reactors designed to operate in the PAGD region of plasma discharge constitute effective plasma pulse generators with diverse applications (85).
Unlike pseudospark switches, the PAGD events do not need to be triggered externally or by the interposition of third (trigger) electrodes, though they can be triggered inductively or "electrostatically" at prebreakdown potentials. They are in fact autogenous events where the observed emissions occur at low applied fields for quasi-regular periods, to generate quasi-regular cathode current jets. Unlike the PSS, which utilizes intermediate gap insulators to prevent the degeneration of the discharge into a full fledged VAD, the PAGD regime in the Correa reactors is self-extinguishing because of the inability of the discharge to complete the channel, as promoted by the synergism of the diverse physical parameters we have identified and analysed (79-82, 85). Whereas in the PSS switches the discharge channel is formed by the electrode holes or guides, the incomplete PAGD channel is free-forming.
The autogenous PAGD regime deploys extraordinarily large cathode reaction forces, associated with the rebound of anomalously accelerated ions striking the cathode and the anomalous ion counterflow (vaporized cathode metal and gas ions) being swept forward by the emitted electronic flux. The PAGD abnormal reaction forces depend on the intensity of the electronic-emission events that trigger the abnormal glow discharge, and are thus rather distinct from the externally pulsed, emission-independent abnormal glow discharges of the Manuel apparatus (73). In fact, these forces are virtually absent in externally pulsed flashover glow regimes, be they normal or abnormal.
In comparison to VADs, the autogenous PAGD reaction forces also appear to be much greater. Whereas the particles leaving the cathode in the Tanberg VAD device had average kinetic energies in the order of 80 to 90 eV (1,18), the particles forming the PAGD vortex have extraordinarily high energies that have been calculated to reach 0.5->1 MeV (86-88)! And they do so with typical power input consumptions that are lower by >1 order of magnitude, with cathode fuel losses <2 orders of magnitude and with vapor velocities >100x those typically observed in VADs. Because of these characteristics of the emission-triggered PAGD, the regime transduces anomalous reaction forces that are 100x greater than those found in VADs (82, 86, 88), in the range found by Graneau's group for arc-water explosions (54-56, 89). This extraordinary behavior is intimately related to the incompressible nature of the medium (56) in which the autogenous PAGD occurs, the ratio of the cathode ion mass to the electron mass (26, 86, 90), and the nature of the plasma regime, particularly the PAGD extinction mechanism, which prevents the discharge from reaching a steady-state plasma generation (91). In other words, the PAGD appears to obey precisely the tenets of Aspden's Law of Electrodynamics.
Given the self-pulsed characteristics of the autogenous PAGD regime, the pulse generator effectively functions as a simple DC inverter producing quasi regular large discontinuous "AC" pulses that, once filtered from the associated DC signal, can be directly utilized to power and control electromagnetic motors, relays and transformer circuits. This line of investigation culminated in the patented design of basic PAGD motor and other inverter circuits (91-92). This was the origin of the Labofex Motor Drive (LMD) which utilizes innovative motor principles based upon a total control of the variables affecting PAGD production (applied voltage, applied current, residual gas nature, pressure, electrode area, reactive gap distance, electrode geometry, cathode work-function, etc) (91-92). Similar applications would soon follow for transmission of the generated impulses across space, the design of DC inverters and of polyphasic systems (91-92).
Once we had isolated and optimalized this novel plasma discharge regime with respect to all of its parameters, we found that our measurement instruments indicated the deployment of discharge energies greatly exceeding the energy input responsible for the release of the charged carriers and the initiation of the discharge (91,93). Through the coupling of a secondary circuit to the PAGD reactor, now made double-ported, we succeeded in capturing directly, as electrical power, the anomalous energy deployed by the ion discharge pulses at the cathode. This was the basis of the XS NRG (Excess Energy) Conversion System, a patent for which was granted to the authors by the USPTO in 1995 (90). We had discovered that the PAGD-based abnormal cathode reaction forces could be used for the generation of power, if the excess energy that they deployed were electronically captured in a system effectively functioning as a power generator. Conversion of energy by creation of plasma instabilities with energies in excess of breakeven would thus result in the production of power. One arm of the closed system performs an entropic operation of loss of energy (this energy is spent in the injection of the pulse generator, to trigger its spontaneous plasma discharge), while the pulse output is then captured by a second arm. On the energy balance sheet, the energy accumulated in the second arm of the system consistently and substantially exceeds the energy lost by the first arm (88, 90, 93). Like all known experimental energy-surplus generating processes, such as the thermonuclear fusion process or the Spence machine (60), energy has to be spent for energy to be generated through the PAGD plasma regime. Unlike any other claim that we know of, for a machine capable of achieving breakeven conditions, the XS NRG results are reproducible and measurable. In other words, these are experimental results and not mere theoretical inferences. In fact, unlike many patents we have discussed above, our patents show explicit and extensive results for the operation of our energy converter system.
In accordance with Aspden's treatment of the Law of electrodynamics (23, 56, 95, 97), our invention of the XS NRG Power Generation System is made possible by the engraftment of the extraordinarily large PAGD reaction forces transduced by distinct plasma flows, as a surplus of electric energy in closed charge systems. To borrow the language of Prigogine, these apparently closed systems give rise to self-organizing structures that are in fact transiently open physical systems, when they elicit anomalous reaction forces under specific conditions of performance. It is as if, through the auto-electronic metal/plasma interaction and the self-extinguishing characteristic of the PAGD regime, electrical power is directly squeezed out of metal 'in vacuo', by virtue of a pulsatory interaction with the polarized 'vacuum' field energy.
It is possible that, as Aspden has suggested (94), field polarization of the vacuum results in reversal of the cyclic motion of the local space lattice (the ZPE), the displacement of which, in turn, causes transient resonant vacuum-field states in the system. A closed system would thus behave as an open system, and it could systematically develop out-of-balance forces (94-96). To paraphrase Aspden on this subject, it is the correct interpretation of Newtonian Dynamics and Newton's 'rule' that prevents us from ignoring the reacting field environment of electrodynamic interactions, all the more so, when these interactions develop mutual actions that appear to contravene Newton's Third Law (97).
In a speculative fashion, it is indeed interesting to remark that the PAGD energies associated with emitted cathode ions are in the range needed for electron-positron pair creation. Significantly, the study of narrow, nonrelativistic positron peaks and of electron-positron coincidences in heavy ion collisions has led to the identification of low-mass "photonium" resonances in the 1 to 2 MeV range (lowest prediction at ~1.2 MeV (99)), which have been theorized as possible e-e+ quasi-bound continuum states of a pure electromagnetic nature (98-99), suggesting the existence of a new (ultra-nuclear and infra-atomic) scale for QED interactions (99). Lastly, it has been formally shown that pair production can be supported by a photon field in a nonstationary medium and in a threshold-free manner (ie for any electromagnetic wave frequency) (100).
From the foregoing, the question obviously arises as to whether there is any contribution on the part of the locally pervasive Zero-point vacuum-field energy to the tremendous events elicited during autogenous PAGD or IVAD functioning of the Correa reactors. In his US patent (46), K. Shoulders describes an energy conversion system having some analogies with our own, in that he is able to generate microscopic coherent charge entities (which he terms EVs, for electrum vallidum) by a field emission process (utilizing Nothingham heating of point cathodes or pure field emission mechanisms). By external pulsing of the discharge field, he theoretically obtains energy outputs that are greater than the energy input spent in driving the system. Shoulders has invoked the Zero-point energy of the vacuum as an explanation for the coherent charge behaviour he has identified in his studies (46).
While the microscopic Shoulders' EV entities have minimal and maximal values of 10E8 to 10E11 electron charges, and deploy energies in the order of 10E7 erg per triggered pulse, the macroscopic energetic events of the PAGD regime deploy 100-fold greater energies in the order of 10E9 erg per pulse (86-87, 101).
It is rather likely that the out-of-balance reaction forces observed in the PAGD plasma reactors are the result of the interaction of the PAGD/IVAD apparatus with the local fluctuations of the dynamic vacuum-field. Such behaviour has been described by Aspden, for a dynamic zero-point field obeying the principles of Quantum ChromoDynamics (94). Aspden has put forth a model for aether spin as triggered in response to a radial electric field vector and involving "inflow of kinetic energy in the aether itself" (102). He has readily recognized the importance of pulsing the glow discharge and interrupting the autoelectronic emission, in the context of tapping the aether spin while denying return of the kinetic energy fed into field system back to the plenum. Aspden writes (103):
The quantum mechanical treatment proposed by Fowler and Nordheim in 1928 (13) to explain arc initiation in terms of the pulling of electrons from metals by strong or high fields, has provided a scientific model for the discrete emission of electrons from the working cathode which, in this process, apparently violate the conservation laws, if just for an instant, and tunnel through the Fermi barrier. However, this quantum mechanical model never adequately accounted for the experimental evidence concerning arc initiation at fields and currents lower than those predicted, for arc discharges which present a Fowler-Nordheim slope. Nor does it account for operation of the Correa reactors in the autoelectronic emission-triggered low-field PAGD regime, where the experimental voltage-current characteristic is the inverse of that obeying the Fowler-Nordheim relation for high-field emission (79-82). Rehabilitations of the Fowler-Nordheim treatment, where the theoretical enhancement factor has been explained in terms of breakdown produced by heating of cathode microprotuberances (Joule and Nottingham effects), have been proposed to explain the results of VAD studies (15, 104), and these findings have been advantageously employed by Shoulders, in his design of point cathodes for field emission and for what he terms "pure field emission" (46).
In distinction from quasi-thermionic field emission, the cold-cathode autoelectronic emission characteristic of the autogenous PAGD and IVADs appears to employ a different initiation mechanism, as it is facilitated by large cathode areas rather than points, under the appropriate conditions of work-function, pressure, input current, etc.
It is likely that there is some relation between the mechanism responsible for the PAGD regime we have isolated, and its cluster of area-dependent effects, with the electrode area-dependent transient voltage instability of the glow discharge plasma recently reported in low power high-nitrogen/high-helium partial pressure CO2 lasers, albeit that this lasing instability is non-periodic (105-106). The periodic and current pulse aspects of the PAGD may in fact be what explains these nonperiodic lasing voltage spikes, in that their fortuitous occurrence probably stems from the PAGD threshold voltage-current characteristics: at low input currents, the auto-electronic PAGD emission is a rare event (79-82, 91). At these levels of activity, the deployed reaction forces are minimal or absent.
The anomalous PAGD cathode reaction forces are inextricably linked to the intermittent ejection of metal plasma jets (from the PAGD cathode) under optimal conditions of operation in the PAGD regime and to the cyclic plasma instability that develops tremendous field reactions in the nonstationary vacuum gap. Independently from whether the PAGD singularities result from capture of some of the immense reservoir of energy priming the vacuum (107-108) or from some other unknown mechanism, cathode spot formation involves a net expenditure of the cathode metal per event, thus defining a process of fuel consumption (82, 83, 86, 88, 90).
At our laboratory, Labofex, we have broken new ground in plasma electrodynamics and in electron emissions from metals. We believe that, with our work in this field, plasma physics has acquired a new, practical and affordable significance for power generation, quite outside of thermonuclear fusion.
More recent developments at Labofex have further broadened the scope of the XS NRG technology. The design of improved autogenous PAGD reactors (83, 109), and of reactors capable of physical commutation of interrupted "vacuum"-arc discharges (IVAD) elicited under low-field conditions (110-111), has resulted from this ongoing effort. Utilization of IVADs in the XS NRG Converter System has several mixed advantages: larger input currents are possible (which the voltage-current characteristic of the PAGD precludes) with IVADs than with the PAGD, resulting, under the necessary conditions of operation, in still larger emission catastrophes; separation of the potential switch function from the trigger function (which may be electrodeless), and of both of these from the pulse output function at the collector, permits the utilization of triggered IVADs reactors integrated with the XS NRG Converter circuitry (11-113). Utilization of multireactor XS NRG Systems operating in either the PAGD or the IVAD regimes can be coupled to create modular power plants (84, 112) for diverse commercial and industrial applications (114-116).
3. THE AUTOGENOUS PAGD REGIME
"It may be concluded that the resolution of this long-standing problem
of the true nature of this basic electrodynamic law is not a mere
academic topic. Some deeper understanding of the law will have
practical consequences in discharge and plasma control."
H. Aspden, 1969
Fig. 1 is an idealized plot of the potential (on a linear but arbitrary voltage scale) between the principal electrodes of a vacuum discharge tube with increasing current (on a logarithmic scale in amperes). Curve A, below its intersection with curve B at point E, represents a typical relationship between current and voltage for cold cathode discharges, including auto-electronic emissions, whilst curve B represents a typical relationship for thermionic glow discharges, including thermionic emissions. The high-current intersection of the two curves at point E represents a transition into the vacuum arc discharge (VAD) region (curve C) with the establishment of a continuous low resistance plasma channel between the electrodes. With increasing current from very low levels, curve A presents an initially rising voltage or "positive resistance" characteristic, through the Townsend discharge (TD) region, a flat characteristic through the constant discharge (CD) region, a falling voltage or "negative resistance" characteristic through the transitional region discharge (TRD) and normal glow discharge (NGD) regions, to a minimum, before once again rising to a peak at F and then falling to an even lower minimum, equal to the sustaining voltage for a vacuum arc discharge, through the abnormal glow discharge (AGD) region. The rising potential over the first portion of the AGD region is believed occasioned by saturation of the electrodes by the glow discharge, which causes the potential to rise until auto-electronic emission sets in allowing the potential to fall again as the current rises further. In practice, the increasing interelectrode potential following saturation, and other factors such as electrode heating, leading to thermionic emission, will tend in conventional tubes to result in a premature transition from the AGD into the VAD regime, following a curve similar to curve D shown in Fig. 1.
Essentially, the autogenous PAGD regime relies on the use of gas discharge tubes designed to avoid premature transition from the NGD to the VAD regimes, and capable of being operated in a stable manner in that region of the characteristic curve of Figure 1 extending between points E and F, within the AGD region. The peak F that characterizes the abnormal discharge region means that as the applied current is increased linearly within this region, the resistance of the 'vacuum' medium in the tube first increases with increasing current, only to subsequently decrease, still with increasing applied current, down to the minimum resistance value corresponding to the sustaining potential of a "vacuum" arc. Expressed in terms of resistance characteristics, the autogenous PAGD regime spans, as a function of applied current, a subregion in which a positive resistance characteristic changes into a leading negative resistance characteristic. The pulsed regime of the AGD is only sustainable when the intensity of the applied current is greater than that needed to rapidly saturate the plates, but not so great as to set up a VAD.