Searl-Effect Generator

The Searl Effect & The Searl-Effect Generator

( Reconstruction of the experimental work carried out by John Searl between 1946 and 1952 concerning the claimed discovery of a new source of energy )
by S. Gunnar Sandberg
(17 June 1987)


The Manufacturing Procedure of the Permanent Magnets
The Magnetising Equipment used by Searl
A Novel Magnetising Method
Generator Geometry
The Discovery of the Searl-Effect & Invention of the Searl-Effect Generator
The 3-Ring Generator & the Searl-Levity Disc
Appendix A: Analysis of the Searl-Magnet
Appendix A2: Additional Tests & Measurements on the Searl Magnet


This report is based on a series of interviews given by John R.R. Searl on a number of occasions since 1982 and contains information and data concerning the experimental work on permanent magnets carried out by him between 1946 and 1952. The experiments resulted in the claimed discovery of a new source of energy, the so-called Searl-Effect (SE) and the invention of a new permanent magnet machine, the so-called Searl-Effect Generator (SEG) to utilize this effect. The report also contains data and information regarding important tests and measurements made on the SEG, or part thereof, by Searl in cooperation with other research workers after the aforementioned time period.

It must be stressed that all documentation describing the experimental procedures and the equipment used was destroyed by fire in 1983. It is therefore not possible to give a detailed and accurate account of Searl's work.

Nevertheless, the information gathered is believed to contain enough data to allow a successful repetition of the experiments to be made.

The reconstruction of the equipment used has been a joint effort between Searl and the author, in particular the magnetizing coil and the switching equipment.

S. Gunnar Sandberg
(June 1987)


In 1946, at the age of fourteen, John Roy Robert Searl began his employment as a trainee at the Midland Electricity Board (MEB) in Birmingham to become an electrical and electronics fitter. The MEB produced their own permanent magnets to be used in the manufacturing of energy-meters and other electrical instruments. This work was carried out in the electronics workshop where Searl was a trainee. Soon, Searl became involved in the production of permanent magnets and gradually learned the manufacturing procedures and how to use tools and the necessary equipment. Also, the management gave him permission to use the research laboratory for his experiments which were considered to be part of his training. It was in this environment Searl began his experimental work on permanent magnets that eventually culminated with the discovery of a new magnetic effect.

Searl's original idea was that free electrons in spinning metal bodies may have a tendency to move in the radial direction due to inertial forces. If this hypothesis was correct then an electric potential difference should develop between the center and periphery of a rotating shaft and between the inner edge and the rim of a slip ring. He also held the view that the electromotive force induced in spinning bodies due to the earth's magnetic field could be used for generating electric energy. Accordingly, Searl's first series of experiments consisted of careful measurements on fast rotating steel shafts and slip rings made of brass and indeed he was able to show the existence of a minute electric voltage in the radial direction. If this voltage was due to the inertial properties of the electrons or induced by the magnetic field of the earth was never established. However, it soon became evident that this simple generator would only be practically useful if means could be found to increase the power output.

At this stage in the experimental work any person with a formal education in electrical engineering would have considered the principle unworkable and the effect an academic curiosity without practical applications. However, Searl was not so easily discouraged and began experiments with rotating permanent magnets manufactured by him using a magnetic material(l) made by Mullard UK and later using magnetic alloys imported from the USA. These alloys proved to be superior compared with the magnetic material manufactured by Mullard (Whether or not this material was a ferromagnetic alloy or a ferrite s not known). The use of permanent magnet material resulted in a considerable improvement and by now Searl was convinced that this simple principle could be used to generate electricity. Whether Searl's choice of magnetic materials was a deliberate experimental strategy or a coincidence is not known, but in due course the use of these materials did lead to unexpected effects.

The Manufacturing Procedure of the Permanent Magnets Used by Searl

During the early part of his training period Searl manufactured a great number of permanent magnets in the shapes of cylindrical bars, hollow cylinders, annular rings and rectangular rods. The magnets were moulded by pressing a mixture of magnetic powder and a bonding agent. For this operation a hydraulic press with appropriate press tools was used. The work was carried out inside a vacuum chamber to prevent explosion. Moulds made of bakelite were also used and the mixture of magnetic powder and binder was packed by hand into the bakelite mould and the whole assembly placed into the vacuum chamber with the intention of removing the air from the mixture and increasing the mass density of the magnets. However, this method was less efficient than using the hydraulic press which produced better and denser magnets. The curing of the moulded cores could sometimes take as long as three days. This suggests that curing took place at room temperature and a liquid binder was used. In later experiments Searl successfully used nylon (thermoplastic) with an excess of negative charges. These charges appear to have taken an active part in the production of the Searl effect.

Two types of magnetic alloys and bonding agents were imported from the USA by Searl. This material was paid for by George Haynes of Turner Street, West Bromwich, who financially supported Searl's experimental work between 1946 and 1948; the reason being that Mr. Haynes' son and Searl made the experiments together.

A magnet produced in 1946 by a mixture of the two alloys was analyzed qualitatively in 1984 and found to contain the following elements: Aluminium, Silicon, Sulphur, Titanium, Neodymium, Iron.

The precautions taken by Searl when handling the highly flammable element neodymium and details concerning the moulding process have never been properly investigated. Likewise, the identities of the American suppliers of the magnetic alloys have not yet been established.

Further information regarding the magnet specimen is found in Appendix A.

The Magnetising Equipment Used by Searl

The coil used by Searl to magnetise the moulded cores was originally intended for and used to demagnetise (degaussing) turbine shafts and generator shafts and consisted of approximately 200 turns of heavy electric copper wire normally used for connecting electric cookers to the mains. The magnetising current used was 180 amperes and supplied by a Westinghouse three-phase mercury rectifier. The on-off switching operation was carried out manually using a high current switch and the on-off duty cycle lasted for seconds rather than fractions of a second. More information regarding the coil can be found in the report SEG-002.

A Novel Magnetising Method

Based on what can only be described as intuition, Searl suggested that a second winding should be added to the existing magnetizing DC-coil and connected to an AC-source. This proposition created heated discussions amongst his fellow workers as to the effect of such a magnetising method. The general view was that the magnetic field created by an alternating current would partly cancel the magnetic field created by the direct current and make the coil less efficient. However, Searl suggested that the existing RF-signal generator in the laboratory should be used as an AC-source; this would prevent cancellation of the DC-field. This idea was met with an even greater scepticism as the current supplied by the signal generator would be minute and have insignificant effect on the magnetising process. Searl persisted, however, with his views and eventually succeeded in winning his manager's approval for the idea. Searl can remember his manager carrying out certain calculations concerning the design of the AC-winding. These calculations were at the time beyond Searl's comprehension and no information is any longer available regarding their nature. The exact number of turns in the AC-winding remains unknown despite a considerable effort on Searl's part to recall the details concerning the coil. However, based on fundamental electrical engineering it can be assumed that the calculations involved resonance (to maximize the number of ampere-turns in the AC winding, parallel resonance should be used) and characteristic impedance determinations with the intention of avoiding shorting out the signal generator. It is, therefore, reasonable to suggest that these calculations can be repeated and a reconstruction of the AC-winding can be made.

The switching equipment consisted of two hand-operated switches which had been mechanically interlocked; one switch for the DC-current and the other switch for the AC-current.

Generator Geometry

Exactly when Searl decided to use the 'roller bearing' geometry as a model for his generators is not known and will require further investigation. However, it must have been very early in his career, probably as early as 1946. The inertial and the gyroscopic effects of a fast spinning ball-race intrigued him and Searl used to release fast rotating ball-races and study their behaviour when they dissipated the kinetic energy through collisions with surrounding objects. It was most certainly the result of these experiments that inspired him to use this configuration for his generators.

The Discovery of the Searl-Effect and the Invention of the Searl-Effect Generator

Equipped with these new ideas concerning geometry and magnetizing methods, Searl started to make generators consisting of a single annular ring surrounded bya number of rollers. By keeping the ring stationary and forcing the rollers to spin about their own axis and simultaneously revolve around the ring by driving them with an electric motor, the generators produced voltages in excess of 30 kilovolts. However, it was not always that Searl was successful in producing such high voltages. Since he did not know the mechanism responsible for the effect, it was very much a matter of trial and error to reproduce the magnets. Sometimes the failure rate was very high, seventy percent or more; out of a batch of a hundred (100) magnets only thirty (30) would work. The reason for this was never established with certainty, but it is believed to have been caused by the primitive switching equipment used.

The Searl-Effect

At a certain critical speed some of the generators would suddenly lock in to a mode of operation that appeared to be some kind of positive feedback and they would run spontaneously without any mechanical connection to the driving motor. In the beginning Searl could not control this effect at all.

Later, he found that by loading the generators electrically it was possible to reduce the speed, but once this state of operation had been reached the generators could not be stopped. However, it is possible that if appropriate test equipment had been available Searl would have been able to bring the generators to a halt by loading them either electrically or mechanically. It must be pointed out that Searl did not have the financial support required to carry out such comprehensive and dangerous tests and even if he had access to the workshops and the laboratory at the MEB, where such tests could have been made, he was certainly not allowed to carry out dangerous experiments on the MEB's premises.

As the experimental work progressed Searl succeeded in reducing the critical speed to a value close to zero by a careful design and by increasing the number of rollers, and eventually he was able to produce a generator that was self starting. Searl discovered that when the generators were running the air pressure decreased in the immediate vicinity of and inside the generators. At voltages above thirty kilovolts the air motion was directed away from the rim of the generators, and candle light that had been placed at the centre of the generator ring went out due to lack of oxygen. This decrease of the air pressure could explain the absence of flashover between the ring and the rollers. Searl also discovered that the temperature dropped considerably close to and in the interior of the generators, probably due to the transport of air away from the generator. Another interesting effect was that objects placed inside the generator ring lost their weight. The existence of these effects were later confirmed by use of proper measuring equipment.

The Searl-Effect Generator

Three different systems were developed to extract the energy produced by the SEG; one mechanical system and two electrical:

(1) The mechanical system: The details concerning the mechanical drive system are not known and are yet to be investigated.

(2) The high voltage system: This system was originally developed for measuring the electric potential difference generated between the stationary ring and the moving rollers. The positive generator terminal was fitted to the ring and the negative terminal consisted of a number of parallel-connected comb-shaped electrodes mounted around the generator periphery and in close proximity to the rollers, as shown in Figure 1.

(3) The low voltage system: By fitting a number of stationary c-shaped induction coils around the rim of the generator, as shown in Figure 2, and connecting them in series or parallel, or a combination of both, the SEG produced electric power of its own ( ~ 102 watts).

Several small generators of this type were manufactured and by 1952 Searl had built the first multi-ring generator.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The 3-Ring Generator & the Searl-Levity Disc

This device was about three feet in diameter and consisted of three segmented rings in the same plane, with a number of induction coils at its periphery (Details regarding this device can be found in the report SEG-001, October 1982). Each ring consisted of a number of magnetic segments with insulating spacers between each such magnet. Due to high cost, this generator did not contain enough roller-magnets to be self-starting.

The generator was tested by Searl and a friend of his in the open and the armature was set in motion by a small engine. The device produced an unexpectedly high electrostatic potential in the radial direction. At relatively low armature speeds a very high voltage was produced and indicated by static effects on nearby objects. Characteristic crackling and the smell of ozone supported the conclusion.

The unexpected then occurred. The generator lifted while still speeding up, broke the union between itself and the engine, and rose to an altitude of about 50 feet. Here it stayed for a while, still speeding up and surrounded itself in a pink halo. This indicated ionization of the air at a much-reduced pressure.

Another interesting side effect caused local radio receivers to go on of their own accord. This could have been due to ionizing discharge or electromagnetic induction. Finally, the whole generator accelerated at a fantastic rate and is believed to have gone off into space.

Since 1952, Searl and his co-workers have manufactured and tested more than 10 generators, the largest being a 10-meter disc-shaped craft, the so-called Searl-Levity Disc (SLD). Figure 3 shows a smaller version of the SLD.

Figure 3: Searl Levity Disc  [Not available]

Appendix A: Analysis of the Searl-Magnet

The magnet specimen supplied by Searl was analyzed by Roger Cheese (a material science technician at the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Univ. of Sussex)) on April 16, 1984, using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis, the so-called EDAX-spectrum, and found to contain the following constituent elements, as shown in Figure Al.

Figure A1: EDAX-Spectrum

The EDAX-spectrum also contains information concerning the quantity of each constituent element.

Although this data is inadequate for an exact quantitative analysis, it is considered accurate enough for an acceptable estimation to be made. This work will require expertise and financial support.

According to information received from Dr. Anthony Simpson(a retired materials scientist and a former lecturer in the School of engineering & Applied Sciences, Univ. of Susses) the element neodymium was most certainly included to reduce the oxygen content and prevent it from having an adverse effect on the magnetic properties of the alloy. There is the possibility that the neodymium was a contamination but that is less likely. In either case the percentage neodymium was probably less than 10% by weight (5% by weight is most likely).

The dimensions and the magnetic polarity of the magnet specimen on which the tests were carried out are shown in Figure A2.

Figure A2: Dimensions in mm

Figure A3 shows the magnetic flux pattern obtained by use of iron filings. The magnet was identical to one of the bar magnets demonstrated by Searl on August 15, 1982, as shown in the report SEG-001. At the time of testing (April 1984) the magnet had been accidentically broken during transport.

Figure A3: Magnetic Flux Pattern

Appendix A2: Additional Tests & Measurements on the Searl Magnet

The magnetic flux density, measured approximately two mm from the pole faces (Figure A2), was 0.05 Tesla or 500 gauss using a standard magnetic flux density meter with Hall-Effect probe (Magnetometer D11, Scientifica & Cook Ltd, London)

The existence of the "recorded" pole pattern could not be confirmed using the aforementioned flux density meter. Such tests would have required a more sensitive instrument.

Other physical parameters:

Total weight: 67.6 gr
Total volume: 14.1 cm3
Mass density: 4.79 g/cm

Figures A4 and A5 show two electron micrographs revealing the surface structure of the sample used for analysis at magnifications of X1000 and X4400 respectively. [Not available]

At the time of testing (April 1984), lack of funds and other duties prevented additional important measurements from being made. The magnet was therefore returned to Searl with the intention of borrowing it at a future date for further investigation. However, upon later request the author was informed by Searl that all magnets in his possession had been lost.