Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Harnessing the power of lightning

  1. Jun 9, 2012 #1
    I was thinking to create a feasible method to effectively harness power of lightning. Even though lightning does not have enough power to meet global energy requirement, i was intending to do it for knowledge's sake.

    I realized, in order to tap into the vast electric charges of clouds, it was necessary to create a conductive channel so that the charges get a conductive path.

    i found it was possible by

    1)by creating a plasma channel by a laser, but it would have to be cw(continuous wave) laser so that the channel can be maintained. But I believe that is impossible since the power requirements of the said laser would be humongous.

    2)by dielectric breakdown of air, which is not possible for lightning harnessing purposes

    3) By creating a beam of positively charged ions and artificially creating positive streamer.

    this channel can be electrically connected with a Single ended primary inductor converter which in turn can be used to charge capacitors. These capacitors can be of a high discharging time and less charging time. these capacitors can then directly be used to power equipment or convert dc into ac at required frequencies using power inverter.

    now my questions are
    1) does sepics of such rating exist which can handle 30 kA ?
    2) is there a wavelength at which air ionization occurs at very low energy ?
    3) how far can a positively charged ion beam go before getting neutralized ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2012 #2
    Or you could induce a lightning strike the same way everyone else does it. Fire a small rocket into a thunderhead, trailing a very thin wire. I think the bigger problem would be figuring out how to do something useful with a huge amount of power delivered over a very short time duration.
  4. Jun 10, 2012 #3
    there exist a constant potential difference between upper atmosphere and earth surface, lightning occurs when dielectric breakdown of air occurs. I intend to harness the potential of the atmosphere itself. Firing a rocket and having a sudden discharge does not satisfy what i'm intending to do. I intend to create a constant channel through which discharging should occur continuously. This would take out the variation in intensity of each strike and thus a small variation in supply would be faced by equipment.
  5. Jun 29, 2012 #4
    I don't think the issue here is to induce a strike, but rather how to direct it to a location where it can be stepped down to a usable voltage. As far as finding a lightning bolt goes, just build this hypothetical power station in a frequently stormy place.
  6. Jun 30, 2012 #5

    jim hardy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    there exista a book "Mpdern Jupiter" about Charles Steinmetz, who in addition to being a genius equal to Tesla ran experiments with lightning.

    He seems to have been written out of US textbooks after WW2, i suppose because of his socialist leanings.


    anyhow, every aspiring EE should be aware of him.

    old jkim
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook