5 Reasons Why Perpetual Motion Machines are Impossible

It is believed that there would be no global energy crisis if one could build a perpetual motion machine. Creating a machine that does not require energy input is a pipe dream. Such devices are impractical according to the unchangeable principles of physics, as energy cannot be generated or destroyed and cannot be increased or decreased.

A perpetual motion machine is strictly what its name implies—it moves continuously. It implies that it never ends. Not at all. It won’t be beneficial even in the unlikely case that someone creates a device that runs indefinitely. There won’t be any more energy to charge a battery; it will only generate enough energy to keep itself running.

Many scientists and engineers have attempted to design perpetual motion machines, but we know this is impossible. Why? The simple and the most obvious reason is that it would be against either the first, second, or both principles of thermodynamics.

Let’s take a look at all the failed attempts to construct this impossible machine and the reasons why a perpetual motion machine cannot exist.

5 Infamous Failed Attempts In The History Of Building A Perpetual Motion Machine

Many designs that advertise themselves as perpetual motion machine designs may be found online. Unfortunately, perpetual motion devices are not conceivable due to the underlying physics of our cosmos. We know that we cannot break the laws of physics, but that knowledge never stops men from trying to break them. Let’s look at the five infamous failed perpetual motions machines from the history of humanity:

1. Archimedes’ Sphere

Discoveries of the ancient world were made in the 3rd century by Greek engineer Archimedes. This discovery was called Archimedes’ Principle. That’s right, the guy who understood that the water in his bathtub was revising upward as his body pushed it out of the way. When the realization hit him, he screamed, “Eureka!”

His disciples tried to make this the basis for building a perpetual motion machine called the Archimedes’ Sphere. It required an aquarium with a tight lid without any fish. Inside would be a light ball filled with air, a heavy load, a fastener, and a metal rod supported on a stand fastened with nuts. Then, the entire setup has to be tilted horizontally to the ground and rotated once.

Theoretically, the mechanism will take just one push to start and then rotate forever. The load will always drag the ball down, but it won’t get submerged; therefore, rotate the entire setup to stay afloat. It sounds legit.

But the problem lies here. The friction of the metal rod and the water against the aquarium glass will eventually surpass the buoyant force affecting the ball. The mechanism will stop working within several minutes.

2. The Overbalanced Wheel

Bhaskara the Learned, an Indian mathematician, devised blueprints for a wheel that, once it started spinning, would never stop in the 12th century CE. He planned to fill the slanted vials with mercury so that the wheel would continually spin in an infinite circle since one side would always be heavier than the other.

But Bhaskara’s invention, also known as the “unbalanced wheel,” proved ineffective because it disregarded the meticulous laws of physics. Since then, scores of others have made similar unsuccessful attempts to reimagine Bhaskara’s work.

Some innovators used rolling balls in place of the mercury, while others tried using weights on swinging arms. None has succeeded, so people keep trying to make it work.

3. Endless Flow of Water

Even the brilliant physicist Robert Boyle, who lived in the 17th century, gave prey to the temptation of perpetual motion. He pictured a flask with a downward-curling tube at the bottom. Such a silly idea! Capillary motion is expected to transport the liquid upward to get collected in the flask when it is introduced into the flask and exits via the tube.

The eternal flask is demonstrated in several online videos, but none of them discloses the secret pump that powers it. What use would it serve even if it were to work? The process would immediately end if we tried to obtain energy from the water’s circulation.

What about the bird toy that drinks endlessly? The silly-looking bird swings back after dipping its beak into a glass of water. Once you remove the water, it puts its beak in again and continues doing so. That must be perpetual motion. A heat differential brings on the illusion, but it is only temporary. The bird eventually stops dipping when the water in the glass evaporates. Such a useless device, but a cute toy, though!

4. The Self-Sufficient Windmill

Mark Anthony Zimara, an influential figure in the 15th century, was a philosopher, alchemist, physician, astrologer, and the creator of a so-called self-sufficient windmill. He planned to connect a windmill to massive bellows mechanically. A little prod would cause the bellows to blow air toward the windmill, which would revolve and power the bellows.

However, this design was only proposed and planned. Even if they completed it, we know it wouldn’t have worked! It was never constructed and was left halfway.

5. Bishop John Wilkins’ Perpetual Motion Device

Bishop John Wilkins, one of the founders and the first secretary of the British Royal Society, discussed the hardship of executing perpetual motion. He designed a so-called perpetual motion device with the help of the time’s discovery of lodestones, i.e., magnetism. The lodestone was a substantial piece of rock that was enclosed in an iron ball. An iron ball, a magnetic lodestone, and two diagonal ramps made up this contraption.

The ball was propelled up the ramp in the direction of the lodestone, after which it dropped through a hole and headed down a lower ramp. They then hauled it again after rolling back down through a different hole to the straight ramp. As we can predict, the ball would climb up the ramp and get stuck to the magnet. It didn’t even descend to the lower curved ramp.

These five machines were just the beginning of humanity’s ever-curious mind in the attempt to create a source of endless energy. There have been numerous attempts in fields like magnetic, electrical, and mechanical to create a perpetual motion machine that might solve the global energy crisis.

What Conditions Are Required To Construct A Perpetual Motion Machine Successfully?

It is not feasible to construct perpetual motion devices. To continue operating, the energy put into a machine must remain without being lost. Let’s see what the requirements to construct one successfully are:

  1. Dodge Friction: There must be no contact between any moving elements. Due to the friction that would arise between the two, this is the case. The machine will eventually lose heat energy due to this friction. Smoothing the surfaces alone is not enough because no item is ever completely smooth.
  2. Vacuum Surroundings: Because of the friction when moving parts come into contact with air, running the machine anywhere will result in energy loss. Since we are discussing perpetual motion machines, even if the energy lost due to air friction is relatively minimal, the device will ultimately run out of energy and cease to function if there is a loss mechanism.
  3. Sound Proof: Ensure the machine does not produce any noise or humming during its operation. As we know, that sound is also a form of energy and will eventually result in energy loss.

Why Is It Impossible To Make A Perpetual Motion Machine?

The law of conservation of energy states that we can’t create energy. We can only transform it from one form to another. At the same time, power loss is inevitable in any mechanism, given friction and other additional aspects. Without external support, all possible machines will stop sooner or later.

Perpetual motion machines are impossible
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Image/Pixabay

Let’s assume merely for the argument that we manage to create a perpetual motion device. In reality, a perpetual motion device is essentially a way to store energy. Will we be able to harness its energy? Yes, but only to the extent of the energy utilized as the movement’s initial input. We must remember that we cannot generate energy; it must always originate somewhere.

Therefore, if you manage to construct one, you will require energy to initiate the motion. Given that we cannot generate energy, you will only be able to gather this type of energy. So, such a machine would be a great toy, never an endless energy source. A useless piece of equipment.

If we look closely, perpetual motion machines don’t break any law of physics or thermodynamics. Although perpetual motion machines are energy conservant, they require frictionless motion. The gravitational radiation generated by an orbiting moon would make it lose energy even if it were in a vacuum.

As far as a truly lossless “machine” is concerned, we can think of the closest thing to it being a superconducting coil in persistent mode, in which the current will continue to flow without any loss for at least ten million years. Keeping the coil at a normal temperature is crucial because it can lose energy if cold. So, the dream of extracting energy from a self-sufficient machine without slowing it down is still a dream. It cannot be done unless humans learn to control and harness nuclear energy properly.

Is The Universe A Huge Perpetual Motion Machine?

Despite assuming we are immortal for the sake of this question, we cannot prove that a universe is a machine. The reason for this is that we are unable to determine if the system is closed. There is a possibility that the universe exists in an infinite universe or as a multiverse community. We would only answer this question if one were immortal and omniscient, which is impossible to achieve.

A deeper question is whether all energy is conserved or if there is some gradual, nearly undetectable diffusion or destruction somewhere at the “edge” of the universe. However, it would still depend on how it is defined as a “closed system.”

Even though a perpetual machine exists in the universe, we cannot verify it or create such a machine with any certainty. We can only theoretically predict perpetual machines but not observe them. Consequently, we wouldn’t likely be able to recognize true perpetuity despite our mortality and subjectivity; even if we were able to create a hypothetical machine, we wouldn’t know whether dilating a perpetual machine would diminish its perpetuity.

It could be that there are perpetual machines that represent the universe, and they might be called atoms. No way! With each splitting of an atom, humanity proves that it can only destroy nature and not create it. It aims to destroy the universe as a tribute to the act of splitting an atom.

How Close Are Humans To Creating A Perpetual Motion Machine That Works?

Perpetual motion clock
Image by 12022868/Pixabay

This question has been around for centuries now. It remains the same as the last time one checked. Whatever the cost of free energy you are looking for, there are many options. You can take advantage of the differences in wind, ocean waves, or geothermal heat.

Then it is guaranteed that there will be an endless stream of cosmic energy, be it photons of visible light or cosmic rays, invisible to our senses, penetrating the ionosphere. You can use energy this way, or you can collect cosmic rays and use it in a smaller form.


In 2021, German scientists created a time crystal. This microscopic object repeatedly changes its state over time and can go on like this forever. Although the crystal doesn’t generate any energy, it doesn’t lose any, despite friction or other influential factors. So, does it mean we can make a perpetual motion with this time crystal? Can this be a breakthrough in the science of perpetual motion machines? Is finally perpetual motion machines not impossible in real?

What do you think? Comment your thoughts!

If you liked this article, check out: ‘Can We Get Stuck Inside a Time Loop? Let’s Explore the Fascinating Consequences!’



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