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Storing Lightning Energy

  1. Oct 22, 2008 #1
    Hey everybody, i want to know if its possible to "condensated"; or "store" the energy of a lighting Ray (The Ray of the Thunder).....cause i remember something about it that i saw once in the Discovery channel.....i mean....is there any possibility to storage that energy so we could use it in perhaps our houses, etc.......cause 150 years ago people said you couldnt create a light bulb...and here we are.......so...perhaps this is the same.......so any of you are aware of on going projects of storing the Lighting Rays energy or a way to do it???....
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2008 #2
    My first intuition would say that if you would try to charge a capacitor with a bolt of lightning, you'd just melt your capacitor. Remember, we're talking about a voltage high enough to discharge through at least tens of meters of air, so I highly doubt there is a man-made capacitor that can take these voltages without breaking.

    Also, trying to lower the voltage with resistances is going to be quite hard to do, since the energy dissipated as heat in a resistor is V²/R; meaning tremendous amounts of heat, melting most available components. And if you make a resistance big enough to handle that, you'll probably have lowered the voltage by so much, the result isn't worth storing anymore.

    I'm probably making mistakes here, but that's what first comes to mind without any calculations.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  4. Oct 22, 2008 #3
    Well, I'm not really sure what I "lightning ray" is. Are you referring to a lightning bolt, as in the naturally occurring static discharge?

    I'm sure its possible but I'm not to sure to do it practically. One could build an enormous laden jar I suppose. It would be rather difficult to build a capacitor large enough to handle that kind of energy.
  5. Oct 22, 2008 #4
    *Storage" is not so much a problem; rather the problem of handling the initial "shock"
  6. Oct 22, 2008 #5


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    The other issue is that there really isn't all that much energy to be had because of the short duration of the pulses.
  7. Oct 23, 2008 #6
    It seems to me that if your goal was to capture the energy of static electricity in the atmosphere, then you shouldn't wait for a lightning discharge to occur. A better method would be to accumulate the charges prior to their achieving a high enough potential difference to precipitate a discharge event. I can't imagine an efficient device for harvesting these charged particles from the air, but that certainly doesn't mean that no such device could exist.
  8. Oct 23, 2008 #7
    Theoretically speaking it would be possible to store light since the ponting vector has a non zero divergence.Which means that whatever power in form of electromagnetic fields flows into a closed surface,the same amount of power may not necessarily flow out of the surface.So there can be a net accumalation of energy within the surface.
    Contrast this with water ,its diverge of velocity vector is zero,from stokes theorem it follows that there can be no net accumalation of water within a closed surface.
    What it means is that density of water cannot be changed which implies that water can never be compressed however much you try.
  9. Oct 23, 2008 #8
    I dont quite have a clue how it could be done practically
  10. Oct 23, 2008 #9
    from stokes theorem it follows that there can be no net accumalation of water within a closed surface.
    What it means is that density of water cannot be changed which implies that water can never be compressed however much you try.

    Isn't that an assumption used to derive stokes' equation?
  11. Oct 25, 2008 #10
    No,Stokes and green theorems can be derived mathematically
  12. Oct 25, 2008 #11
    Oh, I thought you were referring to the Stokes equation of hydrodynamics. And when talking about water, it is usually assumed that it is incompressable, or div(v)=0, if I remember correctly.
  13. Oct 26, 2008 #12
    Yes div(v)=0 is assumed.
    Its obvious since water gushes out of a pipe faster when you partially cover the opening.
    Its because whatever volume flowing into pipe per unit time=water flowing out of pipe per unit time.
  14. Oct 26, 2008 #13
    Btw i have never learnt fluid dynamics.
    Im no expert,i do have a flair for the obvious though.
  15. Oct 26, 2008 #14
    But dont you agree with my comment regarding storing of electromagnetic energy????
  16. Oct 26, 2008 #15
    Well, the accumulation of energy in the charging of a capacitor is of course neatly demonstrated by the poynting vector pointing inward. But lightning is a breakdown of the clouds/earth capacitor, where the stored charge shoots from one half to the other.

    And if my just-out-bed-vectormultiplication is correct, the poynting vector simply follows the (positive) current, and feels a bit irrelevant here.

    Also, the way I see it, water is a bit compressable, but in everyday situations, it's not going to give a noticeable effect.
  17. Oct 26, 2008 #16


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    But this has nothing to do with the topic. A "lightning" is an electrical discharge whereby the surrounding gas has been ionized. The "light" that you see is nothing more than a consequence of this event, which really isn't that interesting and carries very little energy when compared to the overall phenomenon.

  18. Oct 29, 2008 #17
    Thanks to all those answers!!....They were pretty intense!!....by the way...ZapperZ gets my point!!....Sorry for my Bad english! Im From Venezuela.....

    My Question is Not wheather you Can Store the "light" from the Lightnign Bolt.....my question is....."Can you think of a way to store, or Use The Energy (current and/or Voltage) of the lightining Bolt?"......cause thats a lot of Voltage and Current!!....and i agree with Nightswimmer.....I know there´s got to be a way of using that Energy!!...."god doesn´t play dice".....Those Discharges Must be there for some reason!!!.....and probably a Good one!!.....
  19. Oct 30, 2008 #18
    Here are my 2 cents...

    Cent 1: May be its a good idea to tap the energy in an indirect way. That is do not store it in a capacitor - because the capcitor's die-electric would break down. The air actually broke down to make way for the lightning so...
    Maybe we can send the discharge thru a heating element and heat a lot of water and then use this energy later. Depending on how much energy was given out - we may even get steam in the process and generate electrcity from it. Of course it s not very efficient use since there will be losses in transforming the electrical to heat energy.

    Cent 2: Pass the thunder strike thru a step down transformer with multiple low voltage tappings wth Capacitors connected - forming small L-C circuits. Once a thunder strikes the L-C circuitins will have oscillating currents in them which would last for a substantially long time in these circuits. You can easily tap them later on.
  20. Jul 10, 2010 #19
    Personally I think any electronic device would be damaged. I work for a company that manufactures CRTs (amoung other things) and even the puny amount of storaged energy in a 40KV high voltage power supply is extremely difficult to deal with when sharp transients (such as arcing) occur... I tried building a function to count arcs into a machine and gave up after damaging a digital storage scope and a PLC module :(
    After that I called the engineer would designed the arc count circuit that was internal to the power supply and he confirmed that it was rather difficult and took them a number of iterations to get working.

    Your best bet is something like snbose said: Don't harness the electricity directly... Vaporize some water, heat some gas up, etc. The closest you might be able to come to using the electricity directly would be to make a giant linear motor with very large, low imedance windings and use it to lift a heavy weight rapidly.
  21. Jul 11, 2010 #20
    Benjamin Franklin managed it OK.
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