Capacitor to store lightning?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by cato, Sep 21, 2004.

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  1. Lava Let discovery flow Registered Senior Member

    The insulation needed on the turns of that inductor would be so huge as to make it unbuildable. It would have to be, literally, sky high.

    If one could build a sky high cylinder and fill it with water etc, the discharge could run such a 1 cylinder internal boiling engine - but thats not very practical either.

    The only one I could come up with was direct heating of large bodies with the strike, ie swimming pools. Trouble is, spending 20p on a toy rocket to capture the strike isnt worth it. There just isnt enough power there.

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  3. Scimon2009 Registered Member

    The idea sounds crazy & and technologically impossible!

    Perhaps coaxing the electrons to flow through laser induced plasma channel, and by targeting small clouds to force a smaller discharge of electrons could be done. But how would you know when to induce the plasma channel and what cloud to “squeeze”. Maybe Doppler radar, statistical analysis, coupled with some good old fashioned let’s-see-what-happens.

    Also what environmental impact would controlling lightning have? Complex systems often seem random, and perhaps messing with the electromagnetic systems of the planet is just unwise. But if you can make money at it, throw caution in to the wind and do it… or someone else will! :shrug:
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  5. atticstatic Registered Member


    dust and moisture in the air are functioning as a very convenient and maintanance free capacitor; with danger of fire and electrocution.
    Provision of a network of conductors raised into the wind should service commercial/residential needs.

    Dave Box
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  7. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    Cato, you're going about this all wrong. First, get your terminology straight. You don't want a method for storing "lightning", you want a method for storing ELECTRICITY. A young man living in Philadelphia proved the connection with a kite over two hundred and fifty years ago.

    Second, after the storage unit has stored all the electricity, don't bother trying to use it to charge a battery, use the electricity directly from the capacitor, with the appropriate electrical gadgets to regulate the voltage and current.

    Third, check the US Patent Office later this year for a submission on this topic. It may mention lightning, or it may simply mention a method of charging a capacitor in such a way as to allow for a bolt of lightning to be the source of the electricity.

    Benny (short for Benjamin)
  8. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    And fourth, think about using the properly regulated ELECTRICITY (contained in one or more capacitors) to turn purified water into hydrogen and oxygen, both of which are saleable commodities.

    Use your favorite search engine for these terms: Amy, Fermilab, and lightning. Tell me what you find, and also tell me whether you see any half-truths in the reply that Amy got to her question. Electricity can't be stored, eh?

    No mention of electricity from lightning mentioned at the DOE, even though they're supposed to have the world's best experts on energy sources and uses. What a waste of talent and what an opportunity for someone who can produce electricity from lightning.

    Just think. Hundreds of millions of volts of useful electricity being thrown away by grounded lightning rods ....

    Just think, a hundred thousand amps in a single bolt, just waiting for the right equipment to make use of it ....

    Just think, a country (or a company) suddenly able to supply all the hydrogen that auto makers have been waiting for. Did you know that there are production car models right now that could be made in much larger quantities if there were H2 filling stations in more places? Go back to your favorite search engine and search for "h2 ice". You won't find a recipe for the latest mixed drink, but you will find autos (and light trucks) that burn hydrogen in an Internal Combustion Engine.

    Imagine. A country that can start sending oil tankers back home ....
  9. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    My most humble apologies to the curious

    If I want to submit an application to the US Patent Office, and I do, I have to follow the same legal requirements that are imposed on every applicant.:shrug: That includes a serious prohibition on the pre-publication of the heart of an application, the unique method or application that is the subject of the patent application. I can't write a book or a magazine article in any scientific journal on how to collect electricity from lightning. I can't tell any message board how to do it. I can't even tell my closest friends unless I want their names on the application.

    The idea came to me "out of the blue" almost four years ago (thank you, God).:worship: I've been researching it ever since. The science works on paper. The energy I could gain from a single lightning bolt is well worth collecting and saving. The process for converting water into hydrogen and oxygen is well known, and yet, there's still a lot of research going on right now into the materials used in the electrolysis, especially the catalyst for the reaction.

    I'm about to get myself into some real trouble, so I'd better quit while I'm ahead. Sorry for teasing you, but it's real hard being the owner of an idea that can make a big impact on the energy situation for our nation.:xctd:

    Benny (a pseudonym)
  10. jonte92 Registered Senior Member

    lightning carries large amounts of energy in concentrated small locations and is passed in extremley a short timethus high electrical powr is involved.the energy can even be used to generate hydrogen from water.thereforevthe technology involved in capturing of lightning wouldhave to rapidly capture the high pwer involvedin a lightning bolt. the low energy involved in each bolt renders hrvesting from ground based ligtning rods impractical. it is also very dificult to convert high voltage electrical power tolow voltage power that can be easily stored.BUT this is not black magic, it is simply math and science that needs time , money and brains to be achieved
  11. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    This is an old idea that has been kicked around for a *very* long time.

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    And it's not something that's going to be solved/developed by an amateur scientist.

    The reason I say that is quite simple - people like the ones here don't even realize what the main problem is. It isn't just a matter of basic electricity but involves/requires strong knowledge in electrical engineering and heavy-duty experience in materials science. The point being that it will require exotic materials that haven't even been developed yet.

    It's a fair analogy to compare it to a river held back by a dam and the generation of hydroelectricity. Almost everyone understands the principles involved in that. But THIS lightening process would be the equivalent of removing the dam instantaneously and trying to capture the energy in all that stored water in terms of milliseconds!!! The materials to handle THAT much energy in THAT short of a timeframe have not been visualized even on the distant horizon.

    And please note that I am not saying that it's impossible sometime in the distant future. But it's far, far beyond the reach of even the best technical minds of today - and it IS impossible for the common tinkerer or inventor. All because the knowledge and materials simply do not yet exist.
  12. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    I freely admit to being an amateur scientist, and I admit to not having anything published in a scientific journal, but please remember one rather important fact: I didn't discover how to extract voltage from lightning. God did, and he chose one of his very humble servants to share it with the world. If I could add his name onto my patent application, I would, but the application forms require a correspondence address for every co-applicant, and I don't know what to write except to say "Get down on your knees and pray.":shrug:

    Believe it or not, the extremely high voltage and current levels that are found in a typical cloud-to-ground lightning bolt are GOOD news, not bad, for anyone that wants to convert lightning to usable electricity. No, I won't say why, for the sake of my potential application to the patent office. You'll just have to trust me on this.

    And yes, I am keeping myself "grounded" on the question of the dangers involved in having lightning anywhere near people, animals, and buildings. I've been doing a lot of research, into a wide field of related areas. I wonder how many people know that wildfires are sometimes set by lightning? I wonder how many people know that the fire retardant chemicals used to fight wildfires leave residue behind after the fire is out? I wonder how many people know the amount of money that has to be spent on transporting large numbers of trained firefighter personnel to the scene of lightning-caused wildfires, and then providing these people with food and water?

    I'm also aware of the human cost of lightning strikes. People who get hit by a bolt sometimes die, and the ones who live usually have psychological problems afterwards, including social withdrawl and depression. That's not counting the medical costs of the burned skin and muscle tissue, the electrical damage to the brain or heart, and the loss of limbs that sometimes occurs. In fact, one of the reasons why I want to collect the voltage from lightning bolts is precisely because if I can direct it to my energy storage equipment, then that bolt won't strike anywhere else.

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    During the course of my research, going on four years now, I've seen a lot of ideas on how to collect energy from lightning. One idea, obviously from someone with a science background, involved storing a large supply of a high-specific-heat metal, such as tungsten, underground. The heat from the bolt would melt the metal. The heat would then boil water, which would turn a turbine. Another idea involved a torus-shaped dirigible that had metal wires on the outside of it. The dirigible would fly into a storm cloud, the electricity would transfer to the wiring just as if it was a transformer, and the dirigible would then land and dock with another transformer on the ground.

    One word about the ultimate goal. Many of the people who have asked whether it's possible to get energy from lightning have assumed that the electricity would be donated to the grid. These people do not have any reasonable knowledge of what it takes to keep a business going. It takes PROFITS, that's what. You have to be able to sell a product for more money than you spent to make it. Donating electricity to anybody will not produce the money you will need to pay your engineers, your technicians, your salespeople, your office staff, and the executives who oversee everybody else. There will be no donations to anybody's electric grid. If you want the electricity I will provide, you will pay for it. If you want the hydrogen or the oxygen I will produce, you will pay for that, too. If you don't like that, then spend the rest of your life with your hand out, asking for donations from people who may not like your lifestyle.

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  13. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Please note that I have no interest in getting you to disclose any of your "secrets" - though I sincerely doubt that there actually are any.

    However, you have acknowledged one factor, and it's something that most likely will doom your invention. It's called ROI - return on investment. I certainly could be wrong but get the distinct feeling that your electrical power is going to be expensive to produce - and there are already existing technologies that are fairly inexpensive to do exactly that.

    Having said that, I *DO* hope you have something viable.

    And incidentally, you sell MANY of us far short - quite a large number of us ARE aware of the number of fires caused by lightning each year. The number is around 31,000. (Oh, and Ben Franklin was NOT a young man at the time he did his kite/storm experiment. Was it you that said he was, or someone else?)
  14. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    My apologies for underestimating your intelligence and others who read this board. I'm just amazed that the idea that came to me a few years ago hasn't been discovered (and patented) much earlier. If I were to tell you the idea/method that I intend to patent, it wouldn't take you long to understand it.

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    Yes, I called Mr. Franklin a "young man". I thought that he was a young man at the time he flew his kite because young men are the most willing to risk their reputations in pursuit of science.

    In reference to a recent comment regarding the importance of materials, I would like to make a distinction between science and technology. Science happens when somebody designs an automobile engine. Technology happens when somebody (perhaps a different person) builds it and tests it. As I said in a previous post in this thread, the science works on paper. I have not attempted to build a scale model of the collection and storage equipment out of fear of having someone else see the equipment and patent the idea themselves.:bawl: I am confident that the equipment will do what it's supposed to do. I am also confident that I'll be able to find enough engineers to design the system and enough technicians to build it.

    As for the economics of running the equipment with a profit, I have to admit that this topic is out of my control. A patent application can take two years to be approved, and when the application is approved (assuming that it is), the prices for electricity, hydrogen, oxygen, materials, and labor will surely be different than they are now. In addition, as I said in a previous post, research is being done now on catalysts for the electrolysis reaction and on the materials for the electrodes. I've seen (public domain) reports published by two or three national labs on these subjects, for instance. These news stories encourage me to keep working on my patent application.

    In the meantime, please send word to the nice people at Fermilab that DC electricity most certainly can be "stored", contrary to the advice given to Amy in response to her question. My rechargable AA batteries are proof enough for anyone.
  15. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    Then there are those 'ultra - capacitors' made from mylar sprayed with carbon nanofibres that they hope to use more effectively in autos. They are already in some, but are not performing up to their promise as of yet. They are being used for acceleration only ATM.......

    Storing lightening is sort - of 'pie in the sky' for what we need right now. Hows about a decent long term DC storage along the lines of a vanadium oxide storage battery to make solar and wind more reliable?

    I have also read those articles on catalysts....looks like they are going to make cracking H2O easier, now if they can just come up with a decent storage scheme for that.
  16. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    I agree that long-term storage is what we really need. There are plenty of ways to generate electricity efficiently but practically none for good storage. The closest we've come to storing decently large amounts is pumping water to an elevated level whenever excess generating capacity is available. And the efficiency in that case is *horrible*! It's only done as a means of providing peaking power.

    And the concept of hydrogen economy that Bennie sort of alluded to has been given up for dead for quite some time now. (There are many good, solid reasons for that and hopefully most people are aware of them. If not, tell me and I'll give you a quick rundown.)

    So, storage is THE key - not generation. There are currently so many new methods of generation that aren't dependent on fossil fuels - either being implemented already or proposed - that I hesitate to even start listing them. In addition, the science involved, particularly physics and material, are already well-proven, accepted and not terribly expensive. (In other words, the ROI is quite good.)
  17. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    As I see it, economics can be reduced to a "contest" between expenses and income. If you can make a product and sell it for more money than it costs you to make it, then you can use the extra money to continue making it. This principle applies to the hydrogen economy as well. Whoever can produce electricity from lightning must accept the fact that electricity is already being produced from other sources. Those other sources are the competition, and if you intend to sell electricity by the megawatt, your costs per watt must be lower than everybody else's in order to sell it at a profit. As a person who knows (trust me) how to collect and store DC electricity from lightning, and how to convert DC into AC, I'm counting on the large number of volts and amps to provide me with a low cost per watt.

    However, I happen to believe that greater profits are possible if I use the DC electricity to fuel an electrolysis reaction, turning water into hydrogen and oxygen. As I have said earlier, there are auto manufacturers with production cars that run on H2 who are not building many because the supply of H2 around the country is so scarce. As far as I'm concerned, that's demand waiting to be met with a supply (of hydrogen). In other words, the first person who can produce hydrogen in large quantities and with low costs has an existing market to sell to. A better mousetrap, you might say.

    I haven't done the exhaustive spreadsheet analysis on this question, but I'm working on the assumption that I will be able to collect so much voltage from a typical lightning bolt, I could keep my office running on that alone. I could, in principle, detach the whole company from its' local electric company and be electrically self-sufficient. People who claim that one lightning bolt will light an incandescent bulb for a couple of months don't know what I know - how to multiply voltage. That's why I love the electrical characteristics I've seen on typical lightning bolts. One lightning bolt can, if processed properly, produce enough DC electricity for a much longer time period, and no, I don't need a capacitor as big as a football stadium, either.

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    One more thing. The Patent Office has a numbered classification system for inventions. I have a good idea which numbered class my invention will go into, and even which sub-class. I've searched that class and sub-class, looking for somebody else that has already patented my idea. I haven't found it. Some patents are hidden from the public eye for national security reasons, so it's theoretically possible that someone else has, in fact, already discovered a method for generating electricity from lightning, but I just don't see a reason to put a lid on it, using national security grounds. The military already has access to nuclear reactors which can generate voltage and heat in very large quantities. Why would they want the relatively small amount of voltage that can be generated by lightning? And why would the military want to sit around waiting for lightning to strike when a potential enemy might move out of range before the lightning-powered weapon can be used? It just doesn't make any sense, leaving me with a good reason to believe that the US Government doesn't know how to extract voltage from lightning.

    Finally, for well over a year now, I have considered patenting another similar invention, a method for extracting only part of the voltage from a lightning bolt, but I believe that this invention has already been patented (perhaps without the inventor knowing what he had), so I'm going for the big fish, the whole enchilada, a method of obtaining every last volt (and then some, using certain multiplication equipment) from the typical bolt of lightning.

    Benny F (a pseudonym)
  18. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    Just in case I didn't make myself clear in my last post, when I say that I know how to "multiply voltage", I mean that if a lightning bolt has, say, 300 Kv, the equipment I'll use will be capable of storing tens of billions of volts.

    That's what will drive the economics of my business heavily in my favor. The equipment is a one-time cost, and the cost of the labor, including all the office staff, should be far less than the money I'll be able to bring in by selling the hydrogen and the oxygen.

    Assuming, of course, that our dear sweet government can put all of its' lovely red tape deep in an abandoned coal mine somewhere far away from my collection and storage equipment.

    Sorry for the injection of politics, but that's the only real variable I can't stand working with.

    You know, the real Benny F only had men in red coats to worry about. I may have men in white ones ....
  19. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    After reading my last two posts, I saw a typo, and I wanted to correct it before anybody else did. The voltage in a single negative lightning bolt is usually in the range of 100-500 megavolts, not kilovolts. My point is still valid. Whatever the voltage is, it can be multiplied a few hundred times, producing a stored voltage amount in the tens of billions of volts. Positive lightning bolts are rarer, but when they occur, they usually have a voltage level that's double what a negative bolt produces. This is not expected to be a major problem, but it will require an in-depth discussion with my engineers.

    The science works on paper, and the only real problems I see are obtaining all the federal, state, and local government permits to set up and use the equipment and obtaining enough money to pay the employees, buy the land, and pay for the equipment that can and will collect and store this much voltage. After all that's been done, the profits from the hydrogen and oxygen sales should be enough to keep the business running indefinitely.
  20. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    All the physics and engineering of your idea aside, you STILL don't seem to be aware of the fact that the "hydrogen economy" is dead. Rock-solid dead. And your failure to recognize that simple fact also throws a great deal of doubt on your ability to rightfully assess the economics of your entire scheme.
  21. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    I've been floating this idea of collecting lightning bolts in my head the last few days. I'm just an electronic technician, not an engineer, so my design knowledge is limited. I'm curious what you mean about "voltage multiplier"? I've heard of a voltage fact, I was trying to think of a way to make a super high voltage/current divider for this a way of converting the thousands/millions of volts coming off your lightning rod into much lower, easier to manage, usable voltages.
  22. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    The first person who patents a device which will store large amounts of electricity in a compact space, without too much weight, and without too much cost, will become a US$ multi-billionaire.
    Good luck.

    If you manage it, remember I was nice to you, and send me a million or two.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  23. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    Thank you to all who have responded so constructively to my recent posts. I must remind you that in order to obtain a US patent, I am forbidden to divulge the substance of an invention prior to its' submission to the patent office. Based on those grounds, I will not say anything about the electrical design, but trust me, the theoretical voltage storage for a typical lightning bolt is in the tens of billions of volts.

    As for the hydrogen economy being "dead", I will ask anyone who believes this to search the internet for hydrogen ice. As I said in a previous post, there are auto manufacturers who have the capability to produce hydrogen-burning vehicles right now in large quantities. The only reason they don't do it is because hydrogen filling stations are so scarce. Anybody who can generate hundreds of millions of DC voltage from a single lightning bolt and who can store TENS OF BILLIONS of voltage can certainly spare some of it for a DC-AC inverter and disconnect his whole office from his local electric grid.

    After that's done, then the lion's share of the remaining TENS OF BILLIONS of DC volts can be used, a few volts at a time, for a hydrogen-generating electrolysis reaction. The fact that this reaction will also generate oxygen is icing on the cake. The real money will come from the sale of the hydrogen to auto manufacturers and fuel-cell manufacturers who are eager to sell their hydrogen-fueled products.

    Anybody want to discuss metal hydrides?

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