Lifter Ion Craft





The lifter or asymmetrical capacitor is a device invented by Thomas Townsend Brown in 1921 in Ohio. The effect later came to be called the Beifeld Brown Effect after collaborating with Paul Alfred Biefeld.


Basically the effect is to do with an electrostatic charge on a light object with different sized electrodes. The thrust produced is in the direction of smaller electrode to larger electrode, eg downwards. The craft then rises upwards and because you are continually supplying power to the capacitor, the charge never dissapates and so the craft floats. Another requirement for a lifter is that the electrodes remain at a constant distance apart, so that the thrust is continues and uniform.


If the craft were not tethered down and the power supply leads were long enough or maybe the craft had an onboard source, it would continue to float up to a theoretical limitless height. The effect is also known to work in a vacuum and has been successfully used as an Ion Motor on one of the space probes (I forget the name).


The other notable fact about the lifter as it is not polarised, eg it will work with the high voltage supplied either way around, skirt +or-, wire +or-. The only thing that matters is that the electrodes be of different sizes.


My Re-construction:



There are lots of people who have built a lifter, so I am in noway the first to do this. I was inspired by an article on the American Antigravity website from Tim Ventura. Another site I found most informative is the infamous Jean-Louis Naudin and his site.


Tim's articles are fairly clear on how to build a basic lifter, so I will simply provide them for download here:


Construction, Testing, FAQ


My lifter is a triangle having 3 sides of 20cm lengths. The negative electrode (aluminium foil skirt) has dimensions of 20x4cm. The positive elctrode sits 4cm up from the negative skirt. The frame is constructed entirely from 3x3mm square balsa wood lengths. The wire is scavenged from an old dc motor commutator, enamelled copper. To give a total weight of around 2.5g.


Power Supply:



The power supply for my lifter comes from a common old TV flyback, driven from my "Advanced Flyback driver" using an external BU508D transistor on a small heatsink. The reason I didn't drive the flyback from the IRF740's is because they have a V limit of 400v, and flybacks have a tendency to give very high back emf spikes, upto 1500v! So this was a job for a HV transistor.


The power requirement for a small lifter is 16kv DC upwards and around 5-10mA.


Flyback transformers are the obvious choice for this project as they give out DC, due to the inbuilt trippler and diode, at 13kv upwards.


In my setup, I ran the flyback from 42v DC and my driver from 12v. The current drawn by the flyback was measured at about 500mA. I estimate the flyback output to be around 19kv at max, which is quite alot for a flyback transformer.


By using my Advanced flyback driver I was able to vary the duty cycle and frequncy to control the height of the lifter. So that I could lift off with control and land. Now if thats not real solid state flight, I don't known what is!


Using a Flyback transformer:



Flyback transformers can be scavenged from old TV sets and are not even that expensive to buy new at around £12. They are ideal for anything requiring HVDC, but useless for HVAC as the tripplers can't be removed (trust me, I've tried).


You'll want to find a flyback from a big TV, as the acceleration voltage for the screen is generally higher than smaller sets. You could just use the TV chassis to power and run your lifter, but this is hazardous and ugly, for lact of a better word.


On the bottom of a flyback transformer there will be a horseshoe ring of pins. 2 of these, normally close to the left starting side, will be the drive pins. 1 of the bottom pins will be the ground from the HV output trippler. This is the negative supply for the lifter. You will be able to find it because it will have no connection to any other pin on the bottom. The HV output, the big red cable from the top, will need to be taken to the positive rail of the lifter.


Flyback transformers are also picky about which way round the drive current is, so if you get very little output, swap the drive wires around.


The frequency of drive will be around 15khz and duty for max output will be about 60%.


I have also been able to wind on an external primary drive coil to flyback transformers. This is handy if you can't locate the drive pins. Simply put some tape around the exposed ferrite core and wind 4-5 turns of thick insulated copper wire around the core. You can then drive it from a 12-15v input source.


In a TV, flybacks are normally driven by a chopper transistor which oscillates from a feedback coil at the resonant frequency. This is ok, but we wan't control over our lifter, so an external drive is preffered. They are also normally run from 45-100v!




The test setup
Ready for take-off
Flying without motors, Engines or by moving air
An interesting effect produced by DC HV, is the corona and the production of ozone (O3). This shot is taken from the same angle, just with the lights switched off.






Or download below


Construction and first flight!

WMV 4.58 Min 51Mb

(Right click and choose "Save As")


Final Thoughts:


There is alot of theories about what is causing the effects of the lifter, but it seems obvious to me what is the main contributor.


Remember back to when you were shown a combe being brushed through someones hair and then dangled over a pile of paper pieces? or when you had a balloon of rubbed it against someones hair and then shocked someone else by touching them!


I believe the main effect is no different to static electricity. Except the difference is, that with the balloon or combe, the charge dissapates from the moment you stop charging the item. In a lifter, you are continuously supplying a high voltage charge from an external supply and also given that the craft is very light, the resultant force is attraction between the two electrodes. The two electrodes are fixed at a set distance from one another and so the bottom skirt (large electrode) is "pulled" upwards towards the small electrode, making the craft levitate.


This theory comes from the fact that in my video demonstration you'll see that I bring a piece of polypropylene near one of the sides of the lifter and the craft gets "stuck" on the plastic. This is because I have a different charge or potential on the plastic stick to that of the electrode skirt and different charges attract, like repel.


Ionic wind is also thought to be another main component of the effect. There is alot of ozone produced when the lifter is running, but not nearly enough to cause the lifter to levitate I feel. This maybe 10% of the thrust, the other 90% is the static charge between the two electrodes.


I feel that isn't a viable method of propulsion due to the low thrust output and complexities, but is still enjoyable to demonstrate.


The search continues...






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© Oliver Hunt 2006-2008