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|It has been suggested that this article be merged with Biefeld–Brown effect. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2014.|
Electrogravitics is claimed to be an unconventional type of effect or anti-gravity propulsion created by an electric field's effect on a mass. The name was coined in the 1920s by the discoverer of the phenomenon, Thomas Townsend Brown, who spent most of his life trying to develop it and sell it as a propulsion system. Through Brown's promotion of the idea it was researched for a short while by aerospace companies in the 1950s. Electrogravitics is popular with conspiracy theorists with claims that it is powering flying saucers and the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Since apparatus based on Brown's ideas show no effect in a vacuum, the effect Brown observed (named by Brown the "Biefeld–Brown effect") has been attributed to ion drift or ion wind instead of anti-gravity.
Electrogravitics had its origins in experiments started in 1921 by Thomas Townsend Brown (USA) (who coined the name) while he was still in high school. He discovered an unusual effect while experimenting with a Coolidge tube, a type of X-ray vacuum tube where, if he placed on a balance scale with the tube’s positive electrode facing up, the tubes mass seemed to decrease, when facing down the tube's mass seemed to increase. Brown showed this effect to his college professors and even newspaper reporters and told them he was convinced that he had managed to influence gravity electronically. Brown developed this into large high voltage capacitors that would produce a tiny propulsive force causing the capacitor to jump in one direction when the power was turned on. In 1929 Brown published "How I Control Gravity," in Science and Invention where he claimed the capacitors were producing a mysterious force that interacted with the pull of gravity. He envisions a future where, if his device could be scaled up, "Multi-impulse gravitators weighing hundreds of tons may propel the ocean liners of the future" or even "fantastic 'space cars'" to Mars. Somewhere along the way Brown came up with the name Biefeld–Brown effect, named after his former teacher, professor of astronomy Paul Alfred Biefeld at Denison University in Ohio. Brown claimed Biefeld as his mentor and co-experimenter. After World War II Brown sought to develop the effect as a means of propulsion for aircraft and spacecraft, demonstrating a working apparatus to an audience of scientists and military officials in 1952. Research in the phenomenon was popular in the mid-1950s, at one point the Glenn L. Martin Company placed advertisements looking for scientists who were "interested in gravity", but rapidly declined in popularity thereafter.
Instead of being an anti-gravity force, this effect has been found to be caused by ionized particles exerting a force between two asymmetrical electrodes that produces a type of ion drift or ionic wind that transfers its momentum to surrounding neutral particles, an electrokinetic phenomena or more widely referred to as electrohydrodynamics (EHD).
Electrogravitics has become popular with UFO, anti-gravity, and government conspiracy theorists where it is seen as an example of something much more exotic than electrokinetics, i.e. that electrogravitics is a true anti-gravity technology that can "create a force that depends upon an object’s mass, even as gravity does". There are claims that all major aerospace companies in the 1950s including Martin, Convair, Lear, Sperry, Raytheon were working on it, that the technology became highly classified in the early 1960s, that it is used to power the B-2 bomber, and that it can be used to generate "free energy". Charles Berlitz devoted an entire chapter of his book on The Philadelphia Experiment (The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility) to a retelling of Brown's early work with the effect, implying the electrogravitics effect was being used by UFOs. The researcher and author Paul LaViolette has produced many self-published books on electrogravitics, making many claims over the years including his view that the technology could have helped to avoid another Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Many claims as to the validity of electrogravitics as an anti-gravity force revolve around research and videos on the internet purported to show lifter-style capacitor devices working in a vacuum, therefor not receiving propulsion from ion drift or ion wind being generated in air. Followups on the claims (R. L. Talley in a 1990 US Air Force study, NASA scientist Jonathan Campbell in a 2003 experiment, and Martin Tajmar in a 2004 paper) have found that no thrust could be observed in a vacuum, consistent with the phenomenon of ion wind. Campbell pointed out to a Wired magazine reporter that creating a true vacuum similar to space for the test requires tens of thousands of dollars in equipment.
Electrogravitics has been characterized as non-scientific/paranormal. Byron Preiss in his 1985 on the current science and future of the Solar System titled The Planets commented that electrogravitics development seemed to be "much ado about nothing, started by a bunch of engineers who didn't know enough physics". Preiss stated that electrogravitics, like exobiology, is "a science without a single specimen for study".