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"Real science opens windows for us to look through. We're right at the footsteps of the most interesting scientists around."
- Larry Niven

Harvest Power From Stray Energy  
  A means of collecting enough energy from stray electronic impulses to power a device.  

The idea of being able to harness random or stray energy, whether of mechanical vibration or electromagnetic impulses is an important one, and this is the first reference to this idea that I know about, in science fiction or otherwise.

“My aero utilizes stray electronic energy as the old time sailing vessels used the winds of the ocean. But here we obtain both lifting force and propelling power from the losses of the regular energy beams. Of course you know that there are some losses in our standard beam transmission systems. These are very slight, but are constantly building up a supply of stray impulses, completely filling the earth’s atmospheric envelope and extending far out into space. This storage of energy will continue as long as it remains unused, and until my discovery there was no means of tapping this huge reservoir. In the meanwhile all space is gradually filling up with these stray electrons, which are merely chasing each other about at terrific speed but producing no useful energy.

“The most important part of my discovery is a peculiar metal alloy which has the property of absorbing this potential energy and converting it into useful forms. If the use of this form of energy ever becomes universal, the present stored supply will eventually become exhausted. When this occurs, the use of the stray impulses will have to be reduced to a total amount not exceeding the usable losses of the regular energy systems. We have no free energy here and never will have. We are merely increasing the efficiency of the present energy systems.”

From The Golden Girl of Munan, by Harl Vincent.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1928
Additional resources -

Here's a description of this marvelous device:

All of the propulsion machinery and the controls were housed in a cubicle in the bow which was not over twelve feet square. In the center of this, mounted on a heavy pedestal, was a sphere about two feet in diameter. For all the world this reminded Roy of one of the globes used during his school days in the study of the geography of the earth and other planets. The sphere was constructed of metal having a purplish tinge and its surface was covered with fine corrugations. Two small driving motors were in evidence, and the sphere was so mounted as to permit its axis to be swung into any angle with relation to the longitudinal axis of the cigar-shaped vessel. Mounted upon a pair of encircling rings and so arranged that its position with relation to the sphere could be varied at will, was a truncated cone about a foot long and six inches in diameter at the large end. This object was constructed of the same purplish metal and its axis was directed towards the contour of the sphere tangentially.

In the front of the room was the control platform. Two or three control levers, a periscope arrangement for obtaining unobstructed vision in all directions, and a glass case containing the navigating instruments completed the equipment of this pilot house.

“You have observed the sphere and the conical object trained upon it. Both are of adamite, the alloy which I mentioned. When in operation, the sphere is protonically charged, and the truncated cone of adamite collects the electrons, taking them from their regular orbits and redirecting them in a continuous stream against whichever portion of the sphere it is pointed at. If you remember your ancient history, you will recall that in the early twentieth century a vessel for travel on the ocean surface was invented by one Flettner. This vessel obtained its driving force from the winds by means of two large vertical rotors on the deck. In much the same way as these forces were transmitted to the hull of Flettner’s vessel, we utilize the stray electronic energy to drive our aero.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Golden Girl of Munan
  More Ideas and Technology by Harl Vincent
  Tech news articles related to The Golden Girl of Munan
  Tech news articles related to works by Harl Vincent

Harvest Power From Stray Energy-related news articles:
  - Vibration Energy Scavenging By Tiny Generator
  - Crowd Farms And 'Coppertops'

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