The Press ( 30 January 2008 )
Peter Davey, 92-Year Old Sax-Player Uses Resonance to Boil Water Inexpensively.
HOT PROSPECT: Peter Davey, a 92-year-old Christchurch inventor and saxophone player, says he has used his love of music to come up with a device that boils water rapidly, in just the amount required.
Inventor and saxophone player Peter Davey has come up with a device that he claims boils water in no time.
He calls it the "sonic boiler" because he claims it uses the power of sound. How the heater actually works has confounded experts.
The device looks oddly like a bent desk lamp, with a metallic ball at the end instead of a lightbulb. When plugged into the power supply, and the ball is lowered into water, it boils the liquid within seconds -- even as little as a tablespoonful.
"Everybody boils twice the amount of water they need so I decided I would find a way to boil water and make steam more economically," said Davey, a former Spitfire pilot.
"This boils exactly what you want to drink."
Davey, who lives in a tumbledown two-storey historic homestead called Locksley in Dallington, has been using the boiler to make hot drinks for 30 years.
He said he first came up with the concept 50 years ago and it took him half of those years to figure out how to make the device.
"The principle is beautiful. I have cashed in on a natural phenomenon and it's all about music," he said.
"If I hadn't been playing the saxophone, I probably wouldn't have come up with the idea."
Davey noticed as he played the saxophone at home that everything resonated at a different frequency.
"The glasses will tinkle on one note. Knives and forks in the drawer will tinkle on another note and I realised that everything has its point of vibration," he said. "In the same way, a component in the ball is tuned to a certain frequency."
Davey said it took years of trial and error to get the device to where it is now. He has made a number of prototypes using the same principle, including a steamer.
Friends dropping by over the years have urged Davey to make them a sonic boiler and that got him thinking commercially.
Davey, who turns 92 today, is now looking for a manufacturer who will buy the technology and make the devices for the mass market.
"Nowadays, with the economy of water and electricity, I think it could be even more important than when I conceived the idea," he said. "They could sell a million of the things in China."
Davey estimated boilers could be made as cheaply as $9 each. He could imagine cafes using them as a gimmick to make express tea and coffee.
"I cannot wait to explain the principle to somebody who wants to take it on," he said.
The Press invited a retired Canterbury University engineer, Professor Arthur Williamson, to look at the boiler and he was stumped.
He watched Davey boil various quantities of water, took notes of the energy used and temperatures reached. He left scratching his head.
"I don't know enough about sound to know whether you can transfer that amount of energy via soundwaves. I doubt it," said Williamson.
He did remember an alternative kettle years ago that had two perforated metal plates inside. The power ran between the plates, through the water. "The resistance through the water provided the load. I wonder if it isn't working like that? Without taking it to bits, you can't tell."
The kettle was specially designed to prevent people getting a shock from touching the boiling water.
Williamson's verdict of the sonic boiler? "It is an interesting gimmick, irrespective of how it works. I would probably buy one as a gimmick. I think more homework needs to be done."
Also queuing up for a boiler, after first seeing one in the 1960s, is Stu Buchanan, leader of the Garden City Big Band and a friend of Davey.
"It's rather spectacular. I don't know why it has never taken off as a utensil for people. I think it's a class act," said Buchanan.
Davey was born in Hamilton in 1916. During World War 2 he flew Spitfires for the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. The squadron operated along the south coast of England, escorting bombers to Holland and Belgium, doing convoy patrols and fighter sweeps into France.
After the war's end he married and had two children. He bought Locksley in 1964. Davey shares the top storey of the homestead with his 55-year-old son, also called Peter, and a grey tabby cat called Santa. The ground floor is let to lodgers who help pay the bills.
Revolutionary Sonic Boiler Probably Not A Scam!
Well, we don’t really know how quickly Peter Davey’s “sonic boiler” is supposed to be working. The article says it boils the water “within seconds”, which is a bit of a fuzzy definition. I’d like to see exactly how fast it actually does boil it.
And if you want to transfer energy to a liquid, hitting the resonant frequency of that amount of liquid in that container is actually not a good way to do it. That’ll just spray water up the walls. And talk of “resonances” is of course practically diagnostic of crackpottery.
But, making the usual allowances for scientific illiteracy in the popular press, it’s possible that someone could have come up with a way to dump energy into water faster than your normal immersed heating element can do it.
Immersed elements are already pretty darn good, though.
The “2200-2400W” electric jug in my kitchen will bring half a litre of water to a good enthusiastic boil in about eighty seconds, and it draws as much power as you can get from the maximum ten-amp-per-socket current rating of 220-240V countries like Australia and New Zealand, where this inventor resides.
The sonic boiler could be running at 15 amps or more, but that’s cheating; 15-amp sockets are special equipment (used for things like air conditioners), and anybody can boil tons of water in half a second if they’re allowed to use as much electricity as they like.
About 500ml is the minimum amount you can put in most electric jugs without leaving some of the heating element hanging in the air to overheat. It’s also two mugs worth of liquid. So, as Peter Davey says, people certainly do often boil more water than they need. But making an electric jug of conventional design that can heat one mug worth of liquid is not a great engineering challenge. Let’s do the sums and see how fast such a jug could perform, in Physics Experiment Land where pulleys have no friction and cows are spherical.
The (physics, rather than dietary) calorie is the amount of thermal energy necessary to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one Celsius degree. So if you start with 250 millilitres of water at 25°C (which means almost exactly 250 grams of it) and need to raise it all to 100°C, you need 75*250=18,750 calories, which is 78,450 joules.
A joule is a watt-second. So if you’ve got a 2400-watt heater that transfers heat with perfect efficiency to water, you must run it for 32.7 seconds to do this job.
Taking that into account, my electric jug is, clearly, not that far from the theoretical maximum water-heating efficiency.
Assuming its element could be fully submerged in only 250ml of water, that water would boil in about forty seconds, which is only 1.22 times the Physics Experiment Land time for the job.
Given that the element has to heat up from the inside out, and that some energy is lost through the walls of the jug, and that some more is lost to internal evaporation and sound and so on, this electric jug is clearly working about as well as it even theoretically could, when you take real-world limitations into account. Some other 2400-watt heater, built in such a way as to be less limited, could only possibly do the job in 82% of the time, unless it was magically getting energy from nowhere. And Peter Davey does not appear to be making any such claims.
(I’m also assuming that he’s not cheating by pre-heating the boiler before it’s dipped in the water. It’s not hard to boil water “instantly” if you drop a red-hot rock in it.)
So I say good luck to this bloke. He may well have come up with a genuinely new and interesting heater element design, which may have advantages over existing bare immersible heaters, which are generally rather dangerous things. And his heater may work very nicely with even small amounts of water, which in itself is a step forward; you can get electric kettles with the element built into the baseplate which work with arbitrarily small amounts of water, but they take longer to heat up in the first place because of all the extra metal around the element. There may indeed be a niche for this sonic heater, if it performs as advertised.
But there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. If the sonic heater works very much faster, in seconds-per-gram terms, than any old discount-store electric jug, then it’s another perpetual motion machine, which would have a few applications beyond just making a quick cup of tea.
9 Comments »
1. Technically, you could change the pressure of the water to make it boil at a lower temperature. That’s cheating, though. (This actually might be how the device works; it also gives a reason for the talk of resonance.)
Comment by evilmrhenry — January 31, 2008 @ 7:24 pm
2. Well, the picture doesn’t give any indication of a pressure vessel, and a device that lowered the air pressure in an unsealed container filled with water would act as a straw and draw the water out.
The thing about resonance is that its main useful property in an application such as this would be to transmit mechanical energy- and given that converting electrical energy to mechanical energy is not as efficient as converting electrical energy to thermal energy, then even if your mechanical->thermal conversion is 100% efficient, you’ve used more energy than you would if you converted electrical energy directly to thermal energy, which is bloody close to 100% efficient as it is.
Unless there’s something weird like sonoluminescence going on (possible I guess) I can’t see how this is more effective than an straight resistive element job.
Comment by dabrett — January 31, 2008 @ 9:07 pm
3. Out of curiosity… what’s the energy coupling like of a microwave oven? Does a 1000W microwave heat up water as fast as a 1000W kettle would? I’m assuming that the 1000W lable is the power available within the cooking area, as the magnatron is hardly 100% efficient.
Comment by jaws_au — January 31, 2008 @ 10:46 pm
4. About your water heating math…been along time since I was in high school chemistry, but isn’t getting water to the boiling temperature the easy part of boiling? I seem to recall that there’s a “transition energy” you need to pump in to actually make the transition from very hot water to steam.
Comment by opus7600 — February 1, 2008 @ 12:31 am
5. I wonder if this device includes one of those ultrasonic transducers that atomize water like those “cool mist” vaporizers. You turn it on and the water immediately starts bubbling and you get a mist out of it. The water isn’t getting any warmer, but you get the illusion of boiling. The fact that the inventor is using his bare hands to hold the glass of boiling water gives me pause. Even though glass is, in general, a good insulator, it isn’t that good.
So, take the ultrasonic transducer out of a vaporizer, add a traditional resistive heating element, and you get a device that makes water appear to boil right away, and you can stall any skeptics until the regular heating element actually heats the water.
One other thought came to mind: a small-scale reverse-cycle air conditioner, which has been mentioned by Dan on several occasions. Assuming you could get the dimensions of such a device small enough, you could put a whole lot more power into the water than just the energy from the wall socket.
Comment by Mohonri — February 1, 2008 @ 1:15 am
6. You can see in the picture that the person just out of the shot is holding a temp probe in the water. So I doubt he’d be fooled by simulated boiling.
Comment by Jax184 — February 1, 2008 @ 8:03 am
7. Well, he does mention sonics and heat pumps are great for cheating thermodynamics - maybe he has built a very small thermoacoustic heater. If you squint hard enough that bulb might even be a Helmholtz resonator - although I am not sure that such would be useful in this application.
If the device is a mini-heat pump (rather than an immersion heating element that does not need to be fully submerged) then that is a terrific achievement - whatever the technology.
Comment by aLUNZ — February 1, 2008 @ 1:16 pm
8. Actually, no this is not really that new. This technology and immersion ultrasound horns/plates/cups are already used by many researchers in the fields of chemistry/physics/health. However, it will never be used for this reason, there is no way. Look up Sonochemistry in google. Back to the drawingboard… or your day job. Interesting but bad idea.
Comment by Sonochemist — February 2, 2008 @ 12:07 pm
9. Oh I forgot to add….Depending on the frequency the temperature of the bulk solution and the temperature of the solution during ultrasound could be different. Also, it doesn’t take much energy to get the “boiling” effect you see when ultrasound is induced on an aqueous medium. Less than 10W.
Esa Ruoho ( February 3, 2008 )
More on the Sonic Boiler
The photos shown to date reminded me of a website I found a couple of years ago describing a similar thing. Here are my notes from that find;
"As a sensitive musician Mr Davey noticed, that there was such a frequency of the motor and propeller buzzing, when the aeroplane cabin and his body were getting into a resonance. At this unique resonance frequency he always was experiencing an influx of heat in his aeroplane cabin. He did not know yet, that in future this phenomenon will be utilised in ultrasonic weapon systems for effective and undetected killing of people. But he decided to test whether the same phenomenon is to appear, if a metal hemisphere which simulates his pilot cabin is submerged in water and is excited into a resonance frequency. So he found two tops from old bicycle bells, joined them together, tuned one of them to 50 Hz frequency, attached electricity wire to each one of them, and thrown them into water. Surprisingly, water started to boil extremely fast. So he made his first heater patent based on this observation. This patent was already registered in 1944. After a hero return from the war, he had a device, which repetitively proved to everyone who measured it, that it has the efficiency decisively exceeding 100%. Realising this, he believed that the world is going to pounce on the opportunity of production and use of this technical miracle. After all, people are full of declarations about apparent saving on energy, resources, about protection of our natural environment, etc. However, the reality turned out to be completely opposite. Immediately after it was experimentally confirmed that the device has unexplainably high efficiency, the heater and the inventor fell into disfavour of various institutions that are interested in selling electricity and that protect the monopoly on electrical power. In the result, this extraordinary invention received an extraordinary treatment! Namely authorities were doing everything in their powers to disallow the production and sale of this heater in New Zealand. One of legal tricks that were used against this heater, was that it was declared officially to be "unsafe to health and life of users". (Please notice that practically every electrical device working on 220 Volts can be declared unsafe, if someone in the position of authority wishes to put it down.) In turn in New Zealand it is impossible to undertake the production and sale of anything, that is not officially approved by the government. In the result, Mr Davey was fighting for almost 50 years to receive a permit for the industrial production of this heater. And during these almost 50 years, the permission was continually refused to him, no matter what research outcomes he submitted to please authorities, and no matter how hard he tried. But it is interesting, that in Australia an electric jug with a heating element of the design very similar to the Davey’s heater was put in mass production (this Australian jug most probably is produced in there still even today). This Australian jug is working on the principle of electrical resistance of water (i.e. not telekinesis as the heater of Mr Davey does). Water that it heats is a resistor, in which heat is generated because of the electric current flows through this water. This Australian jug is exactly the same "dangerous to the health and lives", like the telekinetic heater of Mr Davey. Only that it did not encountered in Australia similar bureaucratic resistance because the energy efficiency of it is "normal". When I met Mr Davey for the first time in 1990, he still was appealing to authorities, and still had a hope to receive a permit for the production of his heater - in spite of these almost 50 years of lost battles with bureaucrats. He was even showing to me a large stock of components he gathered to start a production immediately after the permit is granted to him. However, he gave up the experimental production of research copies of his heater.
The design of the Davey's sonic heater is extremely simple. It actually is composed of two major parts only - see Figure K8 (3) from monograph [1/4]. The most important out of these two parts is a resonating hemispherical bowl (1) made of a sound inducing metal plate. The second part is a buffering hemispherical bowl (2) almost identical in shape to the bowl (1). This second bowl has the radius around 4 mm larger than the resonating hemispherical bowl (1). Both bowls are assembled symmetrically one around the other, means the hemispherical bowl (1) is placed inside of the hemispherical bowl (2). Coin is 32 mm wide = 1.25984 inches / Big bowl approximately 1.75 inches wide and .75 inches thick / Small bowl approximately 1 3/8 inches wide. Of course, apart from these two bowls, the heater also includes a long rod, nuts, washers, and electrical wires. These are to hold it together, to supply electricity to both bowls, and to allow the heater to be submerged into water that it heats. But these other parts are marginal additions only. The major parts are the bowls. During experimental production of this heater, the resonating hemispherical bowl (1) usually is made from an old cover for a bicycle bell. The dimensions of this hemispherical bowl are not important. It is only vital that it falls into a sonic resonance at the frequency of 50 Hertz, and that it has the outer surface which is parallel and equidistant from the external buffering hemispherical bowl (2). To each of these two bowls a different wire of the household electricity supply (i.e. 220 V, 50 Hz) is connected. The heater must be submerged in water that it heat. It brings water to the boiling point extremely fast. More details about the design and operation of this sonic heater is provided in subsection K3.3 from volume 10 of monograph [1/4]. After being constructed, the Davey's telekinetic heater must be "tuned" in two different manners. The first tuning depends on providing the hemispherical bowl (1) with such frequency of the own oscillations, that makes this bowl to resonate acoustically when a sound of the frequency 50 Hertz is emitted nearby. The second tuning of the heater depends on appropriate selecting the distance "L" between both bowls (1) and (2). On this distance depends the formation of the standing wave between both bowls. Thus it decides about the energy efficiency of the entire heater. From the information that the inventor repeated to me, I gather that the measurements carried out by New Zealand scientists suggested that this heater may consume even less than the equivalent for around 5% of the energy that it generates in form of heat. This would indicate, that the electrical efficiency of this heater is around 2000%.
Shocking History of Revolutionary Boilers...
The design of the Davey's telekinetic heater is extremely simple. It actually is composed of only two major parts - see "Fig. #B2" below, or see "Fig. K8 (3)" from monograph [1/4]. The most important out of these two parts is a resonating hemispherical bowl (1) made of a sound inducing metal plate - the inventor always uses stainless steel bowl. The second part is a buffering hemispherical bowl (2) - almost identical in shape to the bowl (1). This second bawl has the radius around 4 mm larger than the resonating hemispherical bowl (1). Both bowls are assembled symmetrically one around the other, means the hemispherical bowl (1) is placed inside of the hemispherical bowl (2). Of course, apart from these two bowls, the heater also includes a long pipe (8) which holds remaining parts together, two nuts (5) and (3) which fix both bowls in their proper locations, a washer (4) which allows to regulate the mutual distance "L" between both bowls, and electrical wires (6) and (7) which supply electricity to both bowls and allow the heater to be submerged into water that it heats. But these other parts are marginal additions only. The major parts are the bowls. During experimental production of this heater, the resonating hemispherical bowl (1) usually is made from an old cover for a bicycle bell. The dimensions of this hemispherical bowl are not important. It is only vital that it falls into a sonic resonance at the frequency of 50 Hertz, and that it has the outer surface which is parallel and equidistant from the external buffering hemispherical bowl (2). To each of these two bowls a different wire of the household electricity supply (i.e. 220 V, 50 Hz) is connected. The heater must be submerged in water that it heats. It brings water to the boiling point extremely fast. More details about the design and operation of this telekinetic heater is provided in subsection K3.3 from volume 10 of monograph [1/4].
Tuning of the heater:
After being constructed, the Davey's telekinetic heater must be "tuned" in two different manners. The first tuning depends on providing the hemispherical bowl (1) with such frequency of the own oscillations, that makes this bowl to resonate acoustically when a sound of the frequency 50 Hertz is emitted nearby. The second tuning of the heater depends on appropriate selecting the distance "L" between both bowls (1) and (2). On this distance depends the formation of the standing wave between both bowls. Thus it decides about the energy efficiency of the entire heater.
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