Storing Lightning Energy

reinaldo
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 couldn't 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?...

The_Cat
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.

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Topher925
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.

pallidin
*Storage" is not so much a problem; rather the problem of handling the initial "shock"

Mentor
The other issue is that there really isn't all that much energy to be had because of the short duration of the pulses.

NightSwimmer
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.

quantumfireball
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.

quantumfireball
I don't quite have a clue how it could be done practically

The_Cat
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?

quantumfireball
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?

No,Stokes and green theorems can be derived mathematically

The_Cat
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.

quantumfireball
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.

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.

quantumfireball
Btw i have never learned fluid dynamics.
Im no expert,i do have a flair for the obvious though.

quantumfireball
But don't you agree with my comment regarding storing of electromagnetic energy?

The_Cat
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.

Staff Emeritus
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.

But don't you agree with my comment regarding storing of electromagnetic energy?

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.

Zz.

reinaldo
Thanks to all those answers!...They were pretty intense!...by the way...ZapperZ gets my point!...Sorry for my Bad english! I am 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 that's 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!...

snbose
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 electricity 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.

Duncanstives
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.

AJ Bentley
Benjamin Franklin managed it OK.

Mentor
No he didn't.

AJ Bentley
No he didn't.

Yes he did.

Wikipedia (Yes, I know
)
October 19 in a letter to England explaining directions for repeating the experiment, Franklin wrote:

When rain has wet the kite twine so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it streams out plentifully from the key at the approach of your knuckle, and with this key a phial, or Leiden jar, maybe charged: and from electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all other electric experiments performed which are usually done by the help of a rubber glass globe or tube; and therefore the sameness of the electrical matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated.

He says he did - You want to call him a liar? go ahead.

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watt_clinton
Although lightning is high in volts it is low in energy. Volts are not a unit of energy. If you were to build something to capture it it would run your house for about 15-30 secs.

The other problem would be forecasting it (currently not possible unless Doc got shot in the mall parking lot and you find yourself in a Dalorian in the 1950's).

It's just not cost effective...

Duncanstives
Although lightning is high in volts it is low in energy. Volts are not a unit of energy. If you were to build something to capture it it would run your house for about 15-30 secs.

The other problem would be forecasting it (currently not possible unless Doc got shot in the mall parking lot and you find yourself in a Dalorian in the 1950's).

It's just not cost effective...

I am guessing lightning contains more power than you are estimating. It can cause quite an energetic bit of destruction... Wikipedia says a "vigorous" lightning bolt emits about 1Mw per meter... How much you can capture by having it strike an apparatus is unknown but it must be a pretty decent amount. Still I do very much doubt that capturing lightning could ever be a practicle source of energy.

watt_clinton
To expand on my previous statement;

Most of the energy in lightning is lost to heat, by the time it reaches its striking point not much is left (relative to the bolts "potential" energy)...but it sure looks cool.

cragar
sn bose's idea seams good by passing the current through a heating element and heating water .

Watch this cool video a guy gets in a car and they hit with 800,00 volts ,

I bet they could test this at the high-voltage lab in berlin

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El-Korek
Although lightning is high in volts it is low in energy. Volts are not a unit of energy. If you were to build something to capture it it would run your house for about 15-30 secs.

The other problem would be forecasting it (currently not possible unless Doc got shot in the mall parking lot and you find yourself in a Dalorian in the 1950's).

It's just not cost effective...

I begin quoting this definition from Wikipedia :
"The voltage between two points is a short name for the electrical force that would drive an electric current between those points. Specifically, voltage is equal to energy per unit charge."

Well first Lightning is negatively charged particles coming from the sky ( maybe because of the interaction between clouds that's caused by wind ) .. These negatively charges contact the positive charges present in the water/land causing the discharge we see ..
so why would it be with low energy ?
the energy here is in the form of electric energy with very high voltage .. so this high voltage will cause the presence of high electric energy .. right ?!

zimbrain007
sorry to kind of break the discussion but why can't you guys spell "Lightning"?

zimbrain007
now for my actual comment...
i think being able to harness the energy caused by lightning would be very useful, especially if you lived in an area where thunderstorms are abundant, such as Los Alamos, NM.
Combine that with solar panels and wind turbines and you're set, for the most part. Then you can just hook up your treadmill to a generator. :P
But seriously, I think it is very possible to use lightning as a source of power. it will just take some thought to be able to make a device that can withstand the initial shock.

Gold Member
How about a blimp grounded by a long copper tether? :D

zimbrain007
How about a blimp grounded by a long copper tether? :D

XD nice I think that's a good idea.

dubist
I know that you can store lightning theoreticaly, as i have worked on a theory for over ten years, and at the time of conception there were no such thing as carbon nanotube batteries without which the rest of my designed system would be very difficult to store large quantitys of charge in a short space of time.

P.S i am waiting for a company to take on this development as it is theory, that i believe could be tested and trialed at low cost before production.
Good health Dubist

Buzzworks
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.

Contrary to what most here think about capacitors, IMO, they can be used.

If anyone has seen very large and high performance Van De Graaf Generators(alternately, Pelletron machines) used to simulate lightning for EMP - Proof - testing equipment, they are also in many ways, a capacitor by their nature of storing electrical charge. The sphere as plate of a capacitor and air as dielectric.

I believe such capacitor designed to capture lightning charge would look not much different from a very large Van De Graaf Generator. Also using air as dielectric and using alternating bands of conductive rings or plates (with rounded edges) between the main plates to improve efficiency (reduce corona discharge).

dubist
Funnily enough i have a side element to my system just as you describe. It is a large pre chamber if used, to slow the intial shock of the large emf and allow a few more milliseconds of charge decay which i still have a few issues with. i was toying with the idea of using different gasses to further the decay, but there are system impedance issues that are within tight parameters.

zimbrain007
I know that you can store lightning theoreticaly, as i have worked on a theory for over ten years, and at the time of conception there were no such thing as carbon nanotube batteries without which the rest of my designed system would be very difficult to store large quantitys of charge in a short space of time.

P.S i am waiting for a company to take on this development as it is theory, that i believe could be tested and trialed at low cost before production.
Good health Dubist

In that case...
PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD...
Spell lightning correctly.