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Just last week while developing a new CCTV camera system I accidentally produced a free energy generator. I know, what are the odds?

So now I'd like to make some money. Unfortunately, this device is so simple and effective that I cannot release the plans - the destructive potential is too great. I seriously doubt my ability to protect the design if spied upon or interrogated, so I need to monetize this without anyone knowing what I'm doing.

The device itself is trivial to build. It directly adds thermal energy to matter in a target region near the device. The first version cost me £1 in materials, weighed 500g with a volume of 1l and heated a 10cm³ spherical region 1m away from itself. I was unable to find an upper limit to the power it could produce before the device and my entire kitchen burst into flames (you see why I need money?) but I believe it can continually sustain at least 1MW. I can scale the device up or down with all the above variables changing linearly (a 2l device would cost £2, weigh 1kg and provide up to 2MW to a 20cm³ sphere 2m away). Power production can be turned up/down extremely fast.

Assume I am a 25 year old engineer in the UK with no special connections, £10k in savings and access to £20k in credit if necessary. I am willing to spend years on this plan if the return is sufficiently large (e.g. if it takes a decade to have a cheap gigawatt power plant pouring its profits into my bank account that is fine).

How do I monetize this device without revealing my invention or raising enough suspicion to prompt an investigation?

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    $\begingroup$ The question Concealing my earth-changing invention might give you some nice tips. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 10 '17 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ This isn't about worldbuilding. It's about telling a story. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 10 '17 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ Have a fake power plant that's a facade for your real generator? Make it a "solar concentrator" so you can use things like sheet metal and rubber hoses to claim it's arbitrarily large and connect to the grid using whatever permitting process is required... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Jul 10 '17 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with having to build a facility to hide it in is the inspections required by the government. You need to use it to take over a country that's accustomed to dictatorship, and use it to keep yourself in power along with defending your country against the big boys. Is your name 김정은? $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 10 '17 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations! You've just invented something where you can make mountains of money by following usual procedures of patenting it, making a demonstration model and licensing its manufacture and sales. Banks will falling over themselves to finance further developing your technology. Once the world knows about your invention, you'll be on easy street. Hiding it is a poverty trap. Easy & better to monetize publicly. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 11 '17 at 12:10

21 Answers 21

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You could use your invention to power computer hardware to "mine" a cryptocurrency like bitcoin. "Proof of work" cryptocurrencies like bitcoin deliberately waste enormous amounts of energy generating redundant cryptographic hashes. Today, most cryptocurrency mining happens in places with cheap electricity, because the limiting economic factor is the cost of the electricity wasted relative to the value of the cryptographic tokens generated.

If you had a limitless source of free electricity, you could use it to power your bitcoin-mining rig, generating the tokens for free (minus initial setup costs), and then you could sell the resulting bitcoins (or other cryptocurrency tokens) on [relatively] anonymous online exchanges.

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    $\begingroup$ How would he pay for the computing hardware? $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 10 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Computing hardware is a surprisingly small portion of the cost of mining bitcoins, apparently. To the extent that people buying cards rank them in terms of Bitcoins per watt-hour. $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Jul 10 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Converting free, limitless energy into a commodity or currency could have the inevitable (could take a while) consequence of completely deflating the value of said commodity or currency and potentially collapse the marketplace. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rasys Jul 10 '17 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisRasys, not when the difficulty constantly adjusts itself so that it takes 10 minutes on average to find a block, no matter how much power you put into it. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Torres Sánchez Jul 10 '17 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ This is the best solution, because it can be done by a single person. All of the other solutions require technicians and repair people. A bitcoin mining operation can be done with the starting capital, and does not require outside help. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage Jul 10 '17 at 17:49
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Seed money

So you've got a device which can increase the temperature of water in an arbitrary location far from the actual device. A 10 million pound version of this device is basically a weapon of mass destruction that can wipe out any city on the globe.

I can see why you want to be careful with it.

Fake fusion

Set up a fake "fusion" power scam company. With a twist, you let anyone as in literally anyone come in and examine your "fusion reactor", you even allow them to take it apart.

But what you'll allow them to take apart is not your real power source. it's a dummy. You built a £1000 model and placed it somewhere within the building less than 1000 meters away.

You're an engineer, dig up some examples of old fusion scams but add your own personal flair.

Make it complex. Make up some vaguely plausible technobabble and some parts that do nothing except add complexity and make it hard to conclusively say it's not a fusion reactor.

But you do something that almost no fusion scam artists ever do: you invite in any independent engineer willing to come and look, you allow them to take your "reactor" to pieces to verify that it has no batteries or any other known tricks.

You even invite in some professional magicians.

then you put it back together with them and turn it on and it blasts out lots of hot water for hours without any connections which could hide the trick.

People will still call it a scam

But you'll probably be able to get enough funding to build an industrial size model. What you actually do is spend another £1000 on one of your secret boxes and some of the investments on a big "reactor" and then you set it running.

It's hard to argue with "success"

You even patent you "fusion reactor" with detailed parts lists.

At this point, you're turning heads because you have a small real power station putting out real power but nobody can get copies of your "reactor" to work. You keep waffling about how they need to get the "quantum alignment of the modulators" completely correct.

You start getting billion dollar contracts to build full-size stations for countries.

What you actually do is hide one of your real reactors and aim it at the focus point of your fake "fusion reactors". Still, nobody can work out how they work or replicate them but nobody knows to look in the foundation of one of your admin buildings 10KM away. Spies keep focusing on your fake reactors.

Even when they steal one from a running plant they still can never get it to work outside of your own plant (except for a couple of times when you wanted to mess with them and powered it up remotely from one of your real reactors to make them think they'd finally figured it out or were getting close).

Congratulations, you're now a multi-billionaire who could seize control of the entire world if he felt like it.

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    $\begingroup$ Who builds and runs the full size power stations though? Unless the inventor is personally installing/maintaining the stations, someone else will need to be in on his secret. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 10 '17 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ When/If someone steals one of your reactors, instead of powering it up for them a couple times, have it go critical and blow their facility off the face of the map (it would help if the explosion takes out their engineers/scientists, too). Critics will claim you're generator is dangerous but you can counter that none of your generators have ever blown up ... except for the one that was stolen and who really knows what kind of 'science' they were using when they blew themselves up. $\endgroup$ – markp Jul 10 '17 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ There would still need to be some control lines running from the location of the fake reactor to the location of the real one, to turn it on or off. These could eventually be traced. Otherwise someone might get suspicious when they come to steal your fake reactor and discover that the local controls don't shut it down, and if they try to disassemble it while running it would continue to work in thin air. (Also, it takes a lot of energy to heat water -- what happens if they manually shut off the water intake on a running reactor?) $\endgroup$ – Miral Jul 11 '17 at 4:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Murphy I completely disaggree a fusion reactor is a good idea. It's basically the Holly Grail of applied physics, a working one would cause extreme scientific and media attention. How long would it take to be caught, when all nuclear scientists on Earth are investigating/want to investigate/trying to replicate your fake reactor? And fusion technology is radioactive technology, so I'd assume the same extreme safety regulations apply as for nuclear reactors, which means frequent and complete investigations from independent government organizations. How would you keep your secret then? $\endgroup$ – Neinstein Jul 11 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Neinstein Ah but this is "clean cold fusion based on" [technobabble] that produces no nuclear waste because of [technobabble] The point is that you in every way act like the standard fusion scam-artist to the point that every reputable physicist and engineer is insisting that your fusion reactor cannot work. But then you can demonstrably build a multi GW power station than can run for weeks/months without fuel. Add to that you can even screw with other peoples experiments to make them think they've got a copy of your "reactor" half working. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 11 '17 at 15:05
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Consider looking into what and where power is needed, on demand, and people are willing to pay for it.

Take for example Electric Car charging points. If you can install one of these with a payment mechanism, people will assume it's using Grid energy when in reality it's generated from your invention.

The difficulty will come during the accounting phase, but I think this is true however you plan to make secret money!

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    $\begingroup$ Just like closed source software. This is the right answer. $\endgroup$ – user13483 Jul 10 '17 at 12:43
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    $\begingroup$ better yet, have your station hooked up to the grid, but also put a group of solar panels on the roof. Maybe have half your terminals use grid power and the other half use your energy source. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 10 '17 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Have them all connected to the grid, and have solar panels - But the panels are fake/not connected to the grid. Instead, you have the free energy hooked up to the grid $\endgroup$ – Andon Jul 10 '17 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ A network of charging stations requires a network of technicians and repair people who need to be taught how this thing works. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage Jul 10 '17 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Andon You still need land to put square kilometres of fake solar cells on. And where would you even buy them, in waggonloads. $\endgroup$ – Karl Jul 10 '17 at 20:49
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Refine aluminium

A great many commodities require a lot of energy to produce, to the extent that it determines their value. For example, aluminium is extracted from bauxite via electrolysis and requires so much energy that it can be used as a virtual battery to even out demand. This could be a pretty good cover for both connecting to the grid and making money from pricing disparities in the energy market, and also selling a product of your excessive energy. Just build a power plant next door to cover the apparent abundance of energy.

Aluminium-Air battery technology might be another avenue; as it is a single-use technology, selling new Al-Air battery packs and recycling old ones would be a good cover, and if you can get everyone's cars hooked on cheap, light batteries there would be political reasons to protect you.

Or produce fresh water

Alternatively, desalination (extracting drinking water from sea water) is a huge barrier to irrigation in many countries which actually have a sea-coast. So you could conceivably set up shop in such a nation with some hand-waving argument about a super-efficient desalination process, and you'll find that apart from someone trying to extract the information from you, the population should protect you to keep their cheap irrigation going.

Unless you have a flair for the nefarious

Another longer-term option would be to secretly build up a store of something, and then when governments come knocking you can threaten to destabilise things unless they give you money/IP rights/their firstborn. This is a bit more Austin Powers - you build a secret store under the sea which is powered by this energy source, and build up a vast pile of aluminium/gold/etc.

Or join forces with one

A better, and simpler, option would be to engage another maverick with the capacity to make use of your thing, like Elon Musk. A magical power source would be just what he needs for electric cars and space rockets, albeit his solar stuff would suffer, and he could deal with the intellectual property needs.

An alternative might be to engage global companies like Google for whom the source would immediately save them vast sums, although the temptation would be to silence you as soon as they understand it.

But it would change the world, and endanger you with it

As soon as the magical power source is public, though, most of the bets are off - it is such an explosively powerful capability that unless the scientific detail is made freely available it would trigger a series of conflicts on the basis of differential access to it. So unless you want to be responsible for global wars just because you want a slice of the pie, it would be better to just publish the patent and hire a decent PR agent, perhaps after discussing the thing with your country's defence ministry/agency.

Unfortunately you are no longer safe from anyone, from political to business players, and the status quo is rather valuable to them.

One day, it will happen

Back in reality, when it comes, if it scales, fusion power will be utterly transformative for the human race. The deserts will bloom, the hungry will be fed, the world order will be overturned, the rich will escape to orbital habitats, or to Mars.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it is hard to implement your ideas given the starting capital and sufficient knowledge on how to build such structures and also the money the inventor gets out of these is let's say not really worth the effort. Also a lot of ideas are just "sell it to a company that has a use for it" which I think is what needs to be avoided - unless you expect him to develop his own car with less money than most new cars cost to buy and then sell it without anyone asking a question where the energy comes from. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 10 '17 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ A MW in a small area is good enough for a rocket. The space shuttle launched with 10GW's or so, that's the $10,000 version if you can figure out how to keep the energy where you want it. Musk would forget his solar plans in a heartbeat, he could literally make his own sun. And as a plus if the first use is rockets some humans might get away before the earth is burned down. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Jul 10 '17 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Joining forces or publishing the patent doesn't protect from the fact that the technique could be supremely destructive. If the patent's out there, anyone can use it as a blueprint for a weapon. $\endgroup$ – Samthere Jul 10 '17 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Fun options. Especially the old " hold the world hostage" trope. $\endgroup$ – fredsbend Jul 11 '17 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ Aluminium production uses a quarter of the electricity in the state where I live. Government has to keep it in mind when planning the future of the electricity grid. Making aluminium without making a wholesale contract with the local power company would be incredibly conspicuous. $\endgroup$ – Robyn Jul 11 '17 at 7:35
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Since according the known laws of physics one cannot create energy from nowhere, your device, spitting out energy without any input would immediatly raise suspects.

Your only way for secrecy is therefore to fly low and to disguise it: sell it or show it as "highly optimized engine": you basically couple it to a conventional power source, and you use your invention to cover the gap between your source and the Carnot yield for the same source. (i.e. let's say it is a power generator with a Carnot yield of 40%, but it has an actual yield of 25%. You use your device to generate the missing part).

If you are also able to implement some sort of "destruction upon opening" you can further protect your invention from curious eyes.

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    $\begingroup$ It's like money laundering, but for energy! $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. Jul 10 '17 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ Nice try Sontarans! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sontaran_Stratagem $\endgroup$ – Maurycy Jul 10 '17 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don’t think selling the device itself is a good idea, no matter how disguised it is. Keeping the device hidden and selling the energy seems like a much safer option. $\endgroup$ – Grimy Jul 10 '17 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ No country's consumer protection and health & safety laws will let you sell a device with a "destruct upon being damaged" feature. And if it's good enough to make you money, it's good enough for your competitors to take it apart and reverse-engineer it. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Jul 10 '17 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeScott except for those devices which simply are too small and can't be opened without destroying them, ex cpus. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Vestøl Jul 16 '17 at 10:32
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Many of the suggestions here include the idea of creating a power plant and laundering your electricity, but there is a safer way.

Geothermal power.

So you dig a big hole in your back yard, pump down cold water and hot water comes out. Normally the water temperature would increase by 1 - 4 degrees, but you can of course add some extra heating to the tube and get far larger gains.

If you don't deploy sensors there is no way to accurately check how hot it actually is down there, and thus it is impossible to detect this "fraud".

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    $\begingroup$ And the pipe only goes down 6 feet. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Jul 15 '17 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you deploy sensors to find out how how it gets down there, you'll find it's hot enough to justify the power you're getting. (Because you made it hot, but you don't tell them that) $\endgroup$ – immibis Jul 16 '17 at 0:31
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Let me suggest that monetizing this energy producer is the wrong path. You're thinking too short-term. When economic drivers are reduced to their fundamental parts, energy is one-third of the equation (time and transportation being the other parts). If energy suddenly became free, there's strong reason to believe that humanity can finally enter that egalitarian utopia we've dreamed about since the first human didn't want to get up and scrounge for food in the morning. Free energy would represent a turning point in human development. It would mark the final nail of hindrance on human capacity (time can be made up by adding humans, and transportation is only affected by time now, because the energy to transport is free).

Release the plans to the public.1 In only a year or two, you'll find that money is far less of a problem for you than it ever was. After you do that, people far more clever than you will learn how to control it, then offer cheap home generators on amazon and ebay. There may be a sudden rise in unemployment, making jobs difficult to acquire, but suddenly the cost of almost everything will drop significantly, and some things will become free.2 Scientific advancement will start taking leaps in the following decades, instead of baby steps, because things like the LHC or launching a shuttle are now energy free (grants to operate them will no longer need to be so massive. Production of any good could be exponentially increased as needed, and eventually, actual energy-to-matter conversion will be discovered, developed, and mobilized for society's needs.

You've unintentionally solved almost all human problems. Or, you've at least made it possible. Utopia is no longer a dream; it is an attainable reality.


  1. Naturally, there's super-villains in every story that would rather subjugate than advance humanity (you don't sound like a super-villain, hence my alternative answer). These people would try their hardest to keep your discovery to themselves and exploit is for personal gain. That's why you would need to release the plans to the public. If everyone knows about it and it's simple enough to build at home, there may be an initial rise in burnt home kitchens, but the ultimate effect will be the removal of energy costs from the economic equation.
  2. Utilities are the obvious first changers. After that will follow anything that depends heavily on energy consumption to produce. This includes freight-expensive, but cheap production, goods. Fuel will no longer be needed. All transportation will become electric, because electricity will be free, or nearly free. Food fits in here. So does any computing.
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    $\begingroup$ I'm less concerned about supervillains wanting to take over and more concerned about lone actors weaponizing this device. The ease with which it could do major harm means I can't publicise it until there is some defence against it. I like your answer though $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Jul 10 '17 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Frodo Gee, I didn't think of that. Hmmm, I'm not sure what you should do then. I guess just hope for the best. Is putting Utopia within grasp worth the risk of utter destruction? Probably not a question for this site, but the conundrum would make for an interesting struggle for a protagonist. $\endgroup$ – fredsbend Jul 10 '17 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Martheen The problem is that only works given a basic level of sanity. "Doomsday device that anyone can build in their garage" is too much of a risk. Sure, countries might not use these against one another, but what about that crazy kid that wants to kill everyone at school? $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jul 11 '17 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Now the only problem left to solve is the inevitable global warming that will be hastened by the dumping of terawatts of energy into the planet's atmosphere that weren't already there! Even if you found a 100% efficient way to convert the heat output of the device to electricity, sooner or later the devices consuming that electricity will radiate most of it away as heat! $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Jul 11 '17 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Luuan But this is universe wide. So a crazy person threaten to blow a spaceship? Which one out of the billions? And why can't that global drone zap the crazy person while he's planting it? So much heat in our atmosphere? We'd have gigantic radiative cooling. Breaking the thermodynamic means we already break most of current framework. $\endgroup$ – Martheen Jul 12 '17 at 8:48
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Build a power plant.

Not a power plant that utilizes your invention, but something like a wind/hydro station. Build the station, have all the real equipment in there, but at its heart hide your devices (in a broom closet or something no one would suspect, or even in your private office under the floor). So yeah, one that utilizes your invention... but doesn't.

Maybe even claim special turbine designs that are supposedly more efficient/cost-effective so that you aren't questioned on how you're outputting so much more energy/make so much more money. These designs are your trade secret and since no one in their right mind would consider a CCTV technology leading to free-energy, I doubt anyone will replicate your technology and therefore you don't need a patent or anything. EDIT: claiming special turbine designs will also lead anyone trying to replicate your technology down the wrong path, making it even more unlikely that anyone will duplicate your tech. Also, since it's not some new revolutionary technology like fusion, you will have fewer skeptics and fewer scientists trying to debunk/vet your designs.

This way, you'll pass industrial safety inspections because you actually have all the turbines and stuff, pass most scrutiny against your turbines since the designs a secret, and you'll secretly be supplying energy from your free energy device(s).

What I'm suggesting is essentially energy-laundering, like mafia's do with money but, you know, with energy. Make it look like legitimate energy production, but in truth it is not.

This has the benefit of you being able to create a huge company to make billions of dollars across the nation (I'm assuming the USA, even though you're a Britt, because it has the most corp-centric laws/attitudes in the world [in my opiion] and is one of the largest [or the largest] power consuming nation in the world).

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    $\begingroup$ It's actually a pretty good answer. They'll notice when the power production gets too high but that might not be much of a problem. Maybe claiming Carnot was smoking something when they start catching on will help. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Jul 10 '17 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ The thing about the fake power plant is you can assuage any suspicion of power output by adding more 'turbines'. They don't even have to be running, just have loud speakers with turbine noises going so anyone who visits hears them 'working'. i.e. if I make a computer the size of a CPU and put that computer inside an old computer where the CPU would go, and hook it up to a modified motherboard that looks like the old one, and run the fans like it was the old computer, there would be no discernible difference between an old computer and mine that is hidden, even to most inspections. $\endgroup$ – Daevin Jul 10 '17 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ As the device in the OP creates thermal energy, not electricity directly, you would be best creating solar thermal power stations (sun heats water which creates steam which drives a turbine), not wind (wind turns a turbine or hydro (water turns a turbine). Instead of having dummy power plants, have working ones, but just use the new device to increase the energy output by 25% of the solar thermal power plant and claim you increased the efficiency some other way. $\endgroup$ – Scott Jul 10 '17 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ If you go for hydro, you can conceal a small steam turbine - draw water from the same pipe as the "kinetic" turbines, exhaust steam into the water that leaves the hydro plant. Your super unity recovery per m^3 and meter of head will be represented as a few cm extra in the reservoir. (An open cycle steam has bad recovery rates - but you have a no-fuel-reactor - who cares?!) $\endgroup$ – Stian Yttervik Jul 11 '17 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Daevin actually that's how computers work now. A lot of the stuff that used to be outside the CPU is now inside the CPU. $\endgroup$ – immibis Jul 16 '17 at 0:30
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Buy a petrol station, and set up a process to pull carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to gasoline.

You will still have to buy some petrol from a distributor, to avoid raising suspicion.

Once your first petrol station is profitable, buy a few. Once you own about a thousand, buy a gasoline distributor. Work your way up until you own an oil company. Then you can buy operational oil wells and shut them down.

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Put the results on arxiv, send a paper to Science. Then wait one year to collect the Nobel prize. As discussed in the above answers, you'd have given the world free energy and everything would change. With your prize money, you can retire in a nice third world country like mine and live happily ever after.

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    $\begingroup$ Not just Nobel prize. The energy for desalination plant & growing plants artificially would solve world hunger problem so they're eligible for significant part of World Food Prize, ion propulsion become viable, so all the X Prize, any lab can scrub CO2 from atmosphere 10x over, so Virgin Earth Challenge. Forget retiring in a country, ask for a planet & the planetary federation will ask how he want the islands are shaped. $\endgroup$ – Martheen Jul 11 '17 at 10:21
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Colonise Mars

Use one of the methods described elsewhere on this page to get enough money to construct a robust closed ecological system on Earth. When you feel you are close to being discovered, you blast off! Your generator can be used as a rocket engine; either heat up some propellent for a fast trip, or position the heated point on the other side of a mirror for a reaction less drive.

When you get to Mars, unplug the generator from your engines, and use it to power greenhouses. Take along some friends, and congratulations. You're humanity's best hope for survival.

I know you said monetise, and strictly speaking this doesn't produce cash you can spend, but hey - you're the monarch of a whole planet. That's got to count for something.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Simon! Interesting take on the question. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 11 '17 at 20:46
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I am surprised nobody mentioned the following yet:

Manipulate Stock Markets

Using his device, the protagonist can easily create unexpected (and prevent anticipated) natural disasters, create energy blackouts, turn the tide of military conflicts, create fake terrorist attacks where by "pure luck" (i.e., your careful planning) nobody gets hurt, etc.. On every such event, the protagonist buys put/call options on a stock. Since such events have dramatic impacts on the stock market, an option can sell for a multiple of its price. The activity can be well hidden by also buying options which do not monetize.

Once the protagonist earned enough money, many of the other answers to this question (for example the fake fusion plant) become feasible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding HRSE! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 11 '17 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer lacks some crucial bits, i think. There is a source of energy. how do i turn that into a desaster without anyone finding out the source? And even more: How to turn energy into a terrorist attck? $\endgroup$ – Burki Jul 11 '17 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ Your device can destroy most physical structures. The Sydney Harbour Bridge contains 58,200 tonnes of steel (roughly 60,000,000,000 grams). 1 watt is enough to heat roughly 2kg of steel by one degree per second, so 30,000 MW is enough to heat 60,000 tonnes of steel by 3,600 degrees per hour. Steel melts at much less than that, but I think the steel would soften like warm butter, and metal expansion would crack the Bridge's foundations, long before that. Hide several large devices in trucks parked a kilometre away. They'd be obvious, but you'd only have to make your threat once. $\endgroup$ – user7868 Jul 11 '17 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ Oh wow, that is some serious overkill. You could probably just remove the supports... $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Jul 11 '17 at 16:54
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Producing or selling any kind of engine, generator or power plant will very shortly lead to the discovery of your invention, no matter how well you're trying to cover it up. At the lower levels, hobbyists and tinkerers get in your way, and at the higher levels safety inspectors get you.

So you'll need to add indirections. Sell the product, not the energy. I got so many ideas, but most of them fail if you can't even afford to renovate your kitchen.

For starters you need something you can operate from a basement, something regulators don't understand, and something which benefits a lot from cheap energy. I hate to suggest this, because it gets mentioned so often when it doesn't really fit, but it seems like you'll become a bitcoin miner.

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    $\begingroup$ That is actually a really nice (and appropriate, for once!) proposal, since the electricity is the main cost of bitcoin mining. I can cheaply buy a bunch of graphics cards with appalling BTC/W ratios. $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Jul 10 '17 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ You could start with Air-BNB your house - but turn of the central heating to save a little cash until you can renovate the kitchen. And it doesn't need any troublesome engines to convert the heat to something more marketable. $\endgroup$ – Andrew M Jul 10 '17 at 15:05
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If you stumbled across it, and it's so simple that it will automatically spread, then you have to assume that others will discover it as well. This is made that much uglier by the fact that no secrecy is perfect. any means of making money off this has a decent chance of eventually revealing it to the world, particularly if you're involving other people. Plans that require a large number of years are, as such, likely to be untenable - the chance is too high that someone else will publish the thing in the meantime, your competitive advantage will vanish, and you'll be left even further in debt than you were.

So the question changes a bit - how do you make money off of this thing while you have it, and how do you limit the devastation in the world once it gets out?

For the first, you in part should try to be making money off of knowing that things are about to change. Short-selling aluminum futures, for example. For the second, it's a matter of figuring out what the real risks are, and then figuring out who to warn so that they can prep for the release of the information (and then who to release it to).

Also, when you do release it, do so in a way that makes you a chunk of change up front, gets you entirely out of the power-generation business (except perhaps as a technical consultant) and makes sure that people know that you were the one that made it all happen. There are a lot of people who will fight bitterly over control of easily accessible power. You don't want any part of that battle. On the other hand, working the celebrity factor can be pretty lucrative too (if exhausting) and doesn't carry anything like the same level of risk (though it does make your personal life massively overexposed).

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of profiting off of knowing things are going to change. If you can set up the appropriate stock bets, you could then just let it get discovered. Though that might be insider trading to a degree. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 10 '17 at 13:40
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Become the worlds most unstoppable and deadly assassin

This is an option if you're willing to go to the dark side.

Spend 10K on a 10GW version.

You can now zap any location within 10km. Zapping full force for 1 second at 10 GWatts/h is roughly equivalent to setting off a few pounds of TNT at that location.

Move to a major city, put lots of effort into creating ridiculously hard to trace ways to receive payments and go into business offering assassination as a service.

You never get closer than 5KM's from the target, you can even be publicly visible on a mall security camera miles away when the targets hotel room explodes.

eventually you may start to attract law enforcement attention... but your machine on low power can also burn a warning message into the wall of a state governers home.

You can become a shadow-gangster running an organization from the shadows capable of taking out any rival.

Once you have some cash from smaller hits build a 100K or million dollar version and just move across the country to somewhere out of the way where no suspicion can fall on you.

Go for higher end targets from further away with more power. You can take out a head of state from a thousand KM away now.

eventually build yourself a 10 million dollar version. Now you can kill anyone anywhere on earth. You can blow apart any military bunker, you can burn any city to bedrock, kill any head of state who defies you or kill anyone who gets within 100KM of your supervillian lair (which is of course about 500 km from your real residence which is a nice beach house)

An interesting side note: 1000 dollar versions set to quickly turn on and off at lowest power could also be used to transmit data from one location to another 1km away without any possibility of tracing the connection and can also burn the other node and anything nearby at a moments notice should it face being compromised.

Become the worlds secret leader with the threat of death hanging over the heads of anyone who defies you.

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    $\begingroup$ it's dramatically more powerful than that: 10GW for 1 second is equivalent to 2.5 tons of TNT. I was going to object that the affected volume on the longer range versions is too large, then realised it's only a sphere of radius 60cm for the 10GW version. $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Jul 11 '17 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ @frodoskywalker You're absolutely correct, My mistake, I dropped a few zeros. it's 2.39 tons not 2.39 kg of TNT. The energy density gets quite terrifying quite fast. The £100 billion version can blow holes in nearby planets and could create an energy point in orbit that would look like the sun. Another possible use is for launching rockets by changing the focus point to just behind the rocket. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 12 '17 at 15:45
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The best way to make money is to sell it to someone like an oil company. They will happily hand you a pile of cash not to tell anyone about it.

Just make sure you have a deadman failsafe that will release the designs on the internet should you "slip" in the bathroom and break your neck.

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It seems there is but one obvious answer: Build giant lasers and point them at major cities.

Use a subtle strategy to launder the energy and use the capital to build energy weapons.

Once the threat is believed (might take some aggressive convincing) and the blackmail money starts coming in, I doubt anyone would question the source of the energy when the loudspeaker blares "one step closer mr inspector and downtown Manhattan gets vaporised".

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    $\begingroup$ You might skip the lasers. The $10,000 version (fits in a garage can burn down buildings 10 km away) is a better weapon than any real energy weapon. The ten million dollar version then makes you king of the world. Or nuked since they can guess where you are within 10km from your first attacks. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Jul 10 '17 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Alternate plan: buy a decent chunk of land in a small third-world nation with no extradition treaty. Distribute generous bribes. Build a ridiculously overpowered laser. Sell ad space on the moon. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Jul 10 '17 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @notstoreboughtdirt but if they don't know the exact capabilities of your system, you can simply claim to have a much larger range than you actually do. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Jul 12 '17 at 13:50
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Grow marijuana. You don't have the capital for a power plant. Basement growers get caught because their energy bills go up, but you don't have that problem. Absent-mindedly add sparky-shoddy-looking "line filters" on the power lines, "to keep the cops from noticing".

The correct idea is Magicsowon's "publish and retire", but your guy could be entertainingly naive in some ways. Until he hires/befriends the genial, "retired" Professor Pothead...

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  • $\begingroup$ Problem is if you get busted, you lose the device, lose the pot, lose the money and lose your freedom. Better to have a legal business that uses lots of energy. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Jul 13 '17 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'm imagining a story arc in which it gradually dawns on everyone what the device actually means. $\endgroup$ – Neal Jul 13 '17 at 13:10
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Sell the power to a power company.

This kind of thing happens all the time. One company will promise its consumers that a certain percentage of their power going forward will come from solar or wind, or perhaps they end up with more customers than they can support on their own without building/buying a new facility. So what they will do in order to meet their commitments is actually buy power from another company to resell to its consumers, either as a permanent solution or in the meantime while they acquire new facilities.

So, solution is simple. Build 100MW worth of devices, get a business license, sell it for less than your customers (the power company) charges their consumers, rake in dough. The US national average is about 11 cents per KWh, which at 100MW and a 50% margin for the power company, nets you about $8k/hr at full capacity. If you give them a high enough margin, you'll get more and more business from more and more companies.

Then just build a massive vault so you can swim in all your gold coins.

You might have to get a bit creative on how you pitch the power to the company without revealing where it comes from... but you can think of something.

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(explanation:)

This is the worldbuilding stackexchange, so, even though you mention the UK, we must not be just talking about a pretext for a novel. We must be talking about building an alternate future for this world. And what would a free energy source be good for other than making a Utopia?

(end explanation)

This world is not the kind of world that deals well with Utopias, so don't get grand plans that direction, if it's this world you are talking about.

(explanation:)

But, then again, it could be an alternate time-line or a look-alike world.

(end explanation)

If it's another world (in the story you're writing), you control all the variables. Take the course that is interesting to you, and remember, worlds do not exist to be made into Utopias.

(explanation)

It should go without saying I think, that you can decide what kind of access your inventor character has to banks, businesses, trusted partners, not-so-trustworthy partners, etc. Or maybe it's not just the energy source, but the actual ability to perform alchemy. You control the laws of physics.

But there are a few things you can't control in building worlds.

(end explanation)

Intelligence is there to be used. That means that worlds are there for giving intelligent beings problems to solve. So even if you are writing a novel, it comes back to one thing:

Do you want the invention to cause destruction or to help people?

(explanation:)

It cannot be automatically assumed that destruction is contrary to the assumed goal of worldbuilding. Bad guys, by their arrogance and other failings, often take themselves out of the social equation by blowing themselves up or attacking the wrong people, etc., and, by their disappearance, leave a world that is "better" or more ideal or something.

(end explanation)

If you want it to cause destruction, use it to try to help other people magically.

If you want to use it to help other people, use it to help yourself, first. Hide it from the fire inspector, get a real job, save up money, use it to heat the apartment in winter and pump the coolant in the summer. As you figure out ways to use it for your own needs, you can figure out ways it can help others.

When you meet others who have discovered it and are doing the same, you help each other. Eventually, enough people know how it works and are using it that the empire builders will be unable to do anything really bad with it any more.

(explanation:)

For all sorts of reasons, sudden social change is generally disruptive. Even in fiction, it's easier to keep social change under control when the changes are introduced gradually, and the gradual introduction is the best way to keep your free energy thingy secret.

I'm not saying the slow approach is always best, just that it's the easiest to keep control of and the easiest to keep secret.

(end explanation)

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome To Worldbuilding, JoelRees, sorry to be critical, but your first five paragraphs are comments rather than answers. The last two paragraphs which basically suggest personal use. Monetization by saving costs. It's a tricky question to tackle; being both venal & well-intentioned. I look forward to more contributions from you. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 11 '17 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I'll unpack the first five paragraphs when I have a bit more time. (Maybe. I hope.) Thanks for the welcome message. $\endgroup$ – Joel Rees Jul 11 '17 at 6:18
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Joel! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! Your formatting looks very weird with the (explanation) and (end explanation). You might want to think about rewriting your text to just make it one coherent text. Or maybe you could choose a fitting markdown. For example you could indent your explanation paragraphs by writing - in front of the corresponding lines. That would make it easier to read. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 11 '17 at 9:51
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Create efficiencies for industry

Find some existing businesses which would profit from your idea, and share it with a small number of members of each business. This will allow them to reduce costs by a huge amount, and they could pass some of the savings onto you. If you share your ideas with only a moderate number of competitors in each industry, you could keep some competition in the marketplace, so the savings were passed on to customers. Co-operate with members of those companies to devise ways to hide the free energy, such as through fake proprietary methods for doing X more efficiently.

Every company would have an incentive to hide the fact of the new technology, since doing so would prevent a significant further increase in competition. They would also have an incentive to ensure that only a small number of people ever learned the workings of the new technology. They might try to introduce the technology to new areas, but you would be alert to any other industries where one or a few businesses had a sudden price drop. You could muscle in with your technology to claim your share and to dramatically reduce that other company's margins, but in the end, society would still get cheaper products with the same incentive towards secrecy about your device.

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