In 1989 (Vol. 2, No. 1) raum&zeit published an article by Ludwig Herbrand, dealing with a development in Water Power, termed in that article the "Herbrand Turbine". While it seems that Herbrand is not the inventor of this technology, the present author nevertheless believes that there is something about water power that present scientific thinking and engineering are not aware of. He believes that the work of the Austrian genius Viktor Schauberger holds the key to understanding Herbrand's story.


The sequence of "historical" events that led to Herbrand's discovery is as follows: Herbrand, in the early thirties, was a student of electrical engineering at the Aachen Technical College. The theme that was given him for his graduation thesis was the "Recalculation of the generators in the Rheinfelden power plant." Part of the thesis was also to make a comparison with an article that had appeared in the ETZ technical magazine of 1932, page 233.

The power plant of Rheinfelden is a plant that directly utilizes the flow of the Rhein river's water, feeding it through turbines, essentially without the use of a dam.

The power plant described in the ETZ magazine's article instead was a plant constructed in 1926 at Ryburg-Schwoerstadt, about 12 miles up river from Rheinfelden. The description was as follows:

"The dam and the power plant's generator building span the width of the river and dam up the water to a head of about 12 meters above the low water side. The driving power is provided by four turbines with an exceptional (for that time) capacity of 250 m3/sec. The power of each generator is 35.000 KVA."

The Rheinfelden power plant on the other hand was an older construction, built in the last decade of the nineteenth century. It had twenty turbines. As the total water flow of the Rhein river at that point is about 1000 m3/sec, each turbine received approximately 50 m3/sec of water. The power of each one of the generators, calculated according to established principles, was 500 to 600 KW, the plant reaching a total power of 10 to 12 MW.

However in this same power plant, some generators had recently been installed that were designed for a much higher power output than the older turbines. They were designed by Prof. Finzi of the Aachen Technical College and constructed by J.M. Voith of Heidenheim/Brenz. A description of these generators was as follows:

"They are built to yield 32.500 KVA and can be run with a 10 % overload indefinitely, thus actually producing 35.000 KVA. The tension is 10.000 Volts at 50 Hertz and 75 rpm, with a factor of cos phi of 0.7. Because of the continuous overload factor, all stresses are kept to a minimum."

Herbrand recalculated the wiring of one of these generators and was much astonished when making his comparison to find that these new Rheinfelden generators without a dam and with only one fifth of the capacity (50 m3/sec) produced as much electric power as the huge generators at Ryburg with their capacity of 250 m3/sec and a head of 12 meters.

He turned to his professor in dismay and Finzi's answer, as related to us by Herbrand, was:

"Do not worry. It is correct. The generator has been working without problems for some time now. Make the calculations backwards and you will see for yourself. We are electrical engineers. Why, those other problems are not ours to solve, we leave them to the water boys. We have repeated our measurements and the generator's yield of power is exactly as specified. The only thing is - no one knows about this."

Soon came the war and circumstances did not permit Herbrand to obtain an electrical engineering job. Only many years later did he remember his graduation thesis and he has tried since then to offer his calculations to government and industry - without success. He also tried to obtain a patent but was refused as his proposal violated the law of conservation of energy, so he was told.

These are the "historical" facts of the matter. Without wanting to take away from Herbrand's achievement, it would seem more correct to name the turbine a "Finzi-Herbrand-Turbine", because the actual designer was Professor Finzi, not Herbrand.

In any case, Herbrand's great merit is to have come out publicly trying to get the idea into use more broadly.

Calculations of yield

The kinetic energy of a water turbine is calculated with the following formula:

E kin = m/2 . v2 (KW)

m is the usable amount of water measured in m3/sec and v is the velocity of the water, expressed in m/sec.

Generally, v is calculated by the use of the following formula:

v = sqrt 2 . g . h

whereby g is gravity with 9.81 m/sec2 and h is the difference in level between the head water and the water on the lower side expressed in meters.

But here the matter becomes critical and we should clearly understand that the latter formula is only a secondary formula to find a v-equivalent in the special case of gravitational water pressure resulting from a difference in water levels. For the calculation of v in flowing water this formula is neither usable nor necessary. The velocity of flowing water can be quantified by direct measurement.

The important concept here is that water can gain its velocity in two distinctly different ways.

Water can be held up by a dam and at the point where we release it through a nozzle or say through a turbine, it will experience a strong acceleration. The resulting velocity can be calculated by use of the above formula.

If we take for instance a difference in water levels of 12 meters, we get a velocity of the water of

sqrt 2 . 9.81 . 12 = 15.34 m/sec

Should the capacity of flow be 250 m3/sec then we get a kinetic energy of

250/2 . 15.34 . 15.34 = 29,414 KW,

approximating the above description of the generators of the Ryburg-Schwoerstadt power plant.

The second way in which water may reach a certain velocity is the normal flowing of a river and in particular the natural vortex movement of water.

In our example of the Rheinfelden power plant, the velocity of water flow through the turbine was 35 m/sec, much higher than in Ryburg-Schwoerstadt.

This higher velocity of flow was reached in two stages.

A small island located in midstream provided the means for the first increase in velocity, as the water was forced to flow on one side only of the island. The water, finding itself in a much more narrow bed, increased its velocity of flow.

A further increase was achieved by a funnel-like construction of the inlet towards the turbine, restricting the diameter of the water's flow even further and increasing the velocity so as to pass the turbine at a considerable 35 m/sec (approximately 80 mph).

So the kinetic energy, in accordance with our first formula as given above, was

50/2 . 35 . 35 = 30,625 KW

We see that with a fifth of the amount of water per second, but with a considerably increased velocity of flow, the same kinetic energy can be obtained as with 250 m3/sec and a water level difference of 12 meters.

If we wished to obtain an equivalent of v = 35 m/sec through gravitationally induced water pressure, we would need a head 62.4 meters (nearly 200 ft!) high.

How is it possible that by simply restricting the space in which water may flow, we can free such tremendous energies?

Herbrand has calculated the effect of contraction by introducing a factor n. He found that an increase of the factor n, that is, a greater contraction, will increase the energy of the water but he has found that this concept is exceedingly difficult to grasp for our scientific "experts".

Viktor Schauberger: "We are using the wrong kind of motion!"

The Austrian forest warden and inventor Viktor Schauberger has researched and successfully applied the laws of motion of water. He said that we are using the wrong kind of motion, referring to all of our technological "achievements", from the internal combustion engine to our way of putting streams of water into an unnatural straitjacket.

In order to understand the discovery of Herbrand it is important to know that the natural motion of water is a centripetal vortical movement, turning or "rolling" inward around the axis of motion of the water's flow. This kind of motion tends to accelerate and contract the stream of water, accumulating kinetic energy in the form of an increased velocity.

A simple example for this is the vortex that forms when a bathtub is emptied of water. We can also observe the same kind of motion on a simple tap of water. In fact, if the water leaves the tap without disturbances such as bubbles of air or other disturbing flows, we see that the water takes a spiral course, accelerating and contracting on its way.

Anyone who has doubts as to the fact that the natural spiral movement can increase the kinetic energy of water, need only remember the extraordinary energies contained in tornadoes and hurricane winds. These energies are accumulated by just the same spiral movement.

In the early years of his carreer as a forest warden, Schauberger has utilized this effect to allow the transport of heavier-than-water beechwood logs in wooden water sluices, very much to the amazement of his seniors and visiting scientists.

Science at that time, just as today, could not explain how it was possible to transport beech logs in a flow of water, as the wood of the beech tree has a specific weight higher than that of water.

Considering this, it is no wonder that also Herbrand's observations were to meet disbelief and even outright hostility from our scientifically educated "experts".

Thermodynamics and the Law of Conservation of Energy

This discussion about Rheinfelden and Herbrand's turbine lets us fly square into the teeth of recognized authority. We are seemingly violating the hallowed principle of the conservation of energy. I say seemingly, because all things considered, conservation of energy is assured. It's just that a stream of water is not a "closed system" as our scientists would like to believe.

In fact, there are no really closed systems in this world and thus thermodynamics, at least its second law, as well as the law of conservation of energy, are not correct as currently stated.

The author has dealt with the basic assumptions of physics and the law of conservation of energy in a previous article (A new Beginning for Thermodynamics).

Gravity and Inertia

In closing, I would like to point out that gravity and inertia, although they do show analogous effects, are not identical.

Even though we cannot subjectively distinguish the earth's gravity from an accelaration of 1 g (9.81 m/sec2), say in a spacecraft, when we talk about water we must distinguish well between gravitationally induced velocity and inertia, that is, velocity 'already acquired', of the water, such as in a free flow situation.

A mass of water held up by a dam is a mass which, under the influence of gravity, exerts a certain pressure and thus is able to drive a turbine. The energy utilized in this case is the gravitationally induced pressure, not the inertial force that comes from motion.

A moving mass of water has an inertial mass which by virtue of the velocity of the water and in fact by the inertialy induced energy, is able to drive a turbine. In this case, the force we are using is a direct result of the velocity of motion of our water medium.

The difference here is the natural (free flow) and the unnatural (pressure induced) motion of the water.

According to current scientific knowledge we hold up the water by a dam, thus stopping its natural flow and losing the inherent inertial forces, in order to use only the gravitational pressure of this now motionless mass of water to drive turbines!

It would be much more effective to use the natural motion of water and, if possible, to accelerate that motion, in order to gain more energy out of a fast flowing mass of water than we could ever get out of a dammed-up motionless mass, because

E kin = m/2 . v2

As this formula shows, the kinetic energy increases with the square of the velocity!

Schauberger has explained the principles of motion to us, Prof. Finzi has built a turbine and Herbrand has recognized the paradox and has tried to bring it into the public domain.

How long will it take us to finally understand that in our technological solutions we must work with nature and not against it?

Schauberger had a word for this (freely translated): Observe, understand and then copy nature.

Josef Hasslberger
Rome, Italy