Ric Richardson helping inventors on the northern rivers to get there invention off the ground.
Ric Richardson helping inventors on the northern rivers to get there invention off the ground. Jay Cronan

Did they find inventor's key secret?

A BYRON Bay inventor has given his backing to a discovery that could revolutionise energy transmission and solve a mystery that has puzzled scientists for more than 100 years.

In 1900 legendary Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla patented a method for distributing power without wires, but no-one has been able to make it work.

That was until inventor Keith Howard from the NSW Central Coast and his co-founder Mick Sherington of Ocean Shores travelled to Byron Bay to get patent advice from Ric Richardson.

Mr Richardson, who is famous for taking on the software giant Microsoft, thought it was "too good to be true" when Mr Howard said he had created one of the biggest inventions of the last 100 years.

But when he saw Mr Howard's small test model, which uses aluminium to mimic the effects of passing power through the earth, he was convinced.

"The fact they have the model working with an aluminium ball simulating what would happen through carbon in the earth... means the idea at a low-voltage level is working."

They are calling on Australian universities to help produce a full-scale prototype of the model.

"I'm hoping universities will come up with a better, more low-cost design that goes through the earth rather than a sphere of aluminium," Mr Richardson said.

He said the invention could "build an international grid without wires".

"Using Tesla's own aspirations, you should be able to have a power station at Uluru that sends power to London at less than 5% loss," Mr Richardson said.

He said being a great inventor is often about being "gutsy enough to take a risk".

"This is not just a couple of electro-mechanical engineering enthusiasts from the edge of the world who are claiming to have solved the world's problems," Mr Richardson said.

"They are standing on the shoulders of Tesla and it's just too important not to give it a big shot and find out unequivocally whether it will work."

To see the project visit www.gammachallenge.com.

Nicola Tesla

EVERY time you plug in an electrical appliance or switch on a radio, you should say thanks to Nicola Tesla.

Tesla was born the son of a priest in a small village in what is now Croatia in 1856 and died in Manhattan in 1943 renowned as one of the greatest electrical engineers humanity has produced.

Among his achievements, Tesla developed the AC electric system we rely on today to provide power to everything from televisions to medical scanners in hospitals. In 1894, Tesla demonstrated it was possible to send communications wirelessly, paving the way for the modern radio.

Tesla was fascinated with the idea of transmitting power without wires and in the 1900s turned to developing directed energy weapons - a concept the press Christened the "death ray" and which lies behind Star Wars' laser blasters and Star Trek's phasers.

However, while Star Wars' and Star Trek's weapons are fictional, Tesla claimed some success in his own work. He claimed to have built a device that could work as a weapon by generating an enormous electrical force and, in 1934, to have manifested energy in free air rather than in a vacuum.

Tesla also theorised the possibility of propelling aircraft on streams of ions (another concept that has proved popular in science fiction), breaking from the need for designs that provided aerodynamic lift. He suggested his ion aircraft might take the shape of cigars or saucers - opening the way for generations of alien conspiracy theories and providing the foundation for Steven Spielberg's film career.

Tesla died a relatively poor man but is honoured across contemporary society for his achievements and his legacy. Today, the Tesla is the name used for a unit of magnetic flux density. He has been the subject of an opera and has had an asteroid named after him. His name has been adopted by rock bands and companies selling things ranging from electric cars to computer components.

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