Capacitor to store lightning?

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

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  1. BennyF Registered Senior Member

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    Just for the sake of emphasis, I'm going to repeat one point that I made earlier.

    If a bolt of lightning hits my collection equipment, it won't hit anywhere else, including twelve-year-old boys playing Little League Baseball. Lightning protection is something that solar panels just can't do.
     
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  3. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    Again...I could give a rat's ass about your circuit design and patent. Myself and others on this board are just trying to point out the major feasibility problems with your idea. It's great to dream....dreamers fuel innovation, but engineers work in reality. There's a good reason why you don't see lightning collection facilities all over the place...the technology has been around for decades. It's because engineers figured out that the "return on investment" as R.O. referred to earlier in the thread, is not worth it. There are far easier ways to collect renewable energy.
     
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  5. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    "Appeal to Emotion" logical fallacy noted. Unless your facility is right next to the baseball field, it wouldn't do them any good. Death from lightning strikes is extremely rare. How many people have died from lightning strikes this year in a one mile range around where you live?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
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  7. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    500 million volts? How high to you expect your tower to be? The amount of voltage that you see on your tower will be roughly equal to the ground-to-cloud voltage times your tower's height divided by bolt length. So if the cloud-to-ground voltage is 500 million volts, and the bolt is 2 miles long, and your tower is 1000 feet high, the voltage difference between your tower and ground will be about 500 million * (.2/2) = 50 million volts. You might be able to get up to 100 million volts if you make your tower really, really tall (like "one of the tallest structures in the world" tall), but I don't think you will ever see 500 million. Note that the higher voltage lightning has longer bolts, so as one number gets better for you (the voltage), another gets worse (bolt length).
     
  8. BennyF Registered Senior Member

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    Nasor, I've done years of research on this. My four-year anniversary will come this summer. I know that electricity has to travel through water, from one electrode to another, in order to turn it into water. I know that the voltage between the electrodes are important, and I know that the current through the water is important. I'm not a physicist, but please give me credit for some intelligence. The electrolyzer won't be mentioned in my patent application anyway. I intend to patent a method of charging a capacitor that could use lightning as a power source.

    My invention will probably go into the Patent Office's class #320, subclass 166. Look it up for yourself.

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification/uspc320/sched320.htm

    Some patents are hidden, and you need a US Govt. security clearance to view them, but I've looked at every single one in this subclass, and there's no sign of any method of using lightning to charge a capacitor.

    I can't imagine any reason why a patent for using lightning to charge a capacitor would be classified so that the public can't see it. After all, it's not a design for a nuclear weapon or something, and lightning is still a force that strikes too randomly to be of much use for anything but turning water into hydrogen and oxygen, all of which can be stored in one fixed location somewhere in northern Florida, waiting for the next lightning strike.
     
  9. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    If that's true, it's perplexing why you would say something like "a hundred billion volts of stored DC can turn a lot of water into a lot of hydrogen and a lot of oxygen," since voltage doesn't tell you how much electrolysis you can perform. It's kind of like saying "A car traveling at 100 mph is fast enough to drive a long distance." Just like speed isn't a measurement of how far you can drive, voltage isn't a measure of how much electrolysis you can do. It's ironic to me that you jumped all over me for having bad spelling, but you don't seem to have any particular regard for using scientific terms correctly.

    With a proper catalyst, you only need about 1.3 volts to do electrolysis. Anything over that will only hurt the process by degrading your catalyst and make the process less efficient.
     
  10. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    If it was the number of Watts that counted, lightning would be a poor source of power when compared with some lasers.

    The Nova 100 can be held in a big room and supply peak power of 100 Terawatts 10 times a day.

    The Tabletop laser would be even better, outputting a peak of 10 TW every second.

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    http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~utlasers/terawatt.php

    But it isn't the wattage that counts, its the wattage times the length of time.
    In the case of the 100 TW laser, it is 1 nanosecond.
    In the case of lightning, it is 30 milliseconds.

    The bolt of lightning would provide enough power for the office for hours or weeks,
    depending on which figures you use, but notions of almost limitless energy are nonsense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
  11. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    Reading about terawatt lasers makes me all tingley inside. (Mac used to work for a major laser manufacture Spectra Physics..but in a different division)
     
  12. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    That 100TW laser acts for a very short time.
    It might not be that harmful.
    Not sure.

    I wouldn't stick my hand in front of it

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  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    This used capacitor is in “fair condition” and costs $195 and weight 225pounds, not counting shipping weight or cost. It is 0.74uF, rated for 100KV. Thus it can store 3,700J = 0.5 QV = 0.5 CV^2.
    Note Two things:
    (1) The fine grounding wire between the central high voltage post and bolt. It is about three or more inches long.
    (2) More importantly, note the white ring that makes the arc path that could be same as grounding wire at least 3 inches long. I.e. for safe operation at 100KV you need about a 3 inch gap between ALL POINTS at the high voltage and ground.

    As MacGyerer points out BennyF will need 135,000 in series to store 500MJ at 135 million volts – far less than voltage than BennyF’s “100s of billions of volts”

    But let’s assume BennyF starts out more modestly storing only 500MJ at 135E6V in a vertical stack of 135,000 of these capacitors and calculate the air gap space, G, between the top 135E6V terminal and ground. It will be approximately three inches times 135,000 or 33,750 feet or more than 6.35 MILES high!

    Benny F is totally ignorant of the breakdown problems, even at only 135 million volts. If he really wanted to work with 135 BILLION volts stored, he would need by simple analysis to keep the high voltage terminal more than 6,350 miles above the ground. More realistic analysis would note that the atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude and passes thru the Pashion pressure minimum so the condenser at that altitude would need to have a much taller white ring (several feet) to prevent it from arcing over.

    As noted in earlier post, just to store a billion volts will require the high voltage terminal be outside the atmosphere, well above the orbital altitude of many earth orbiting satellites.
     
  14. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Well... a system like this would presumably operate in dialetric oil, not in open air. Not that such would hold off billions of volts, but still.

    And one would hope the storage component would be at lower voltage (and higher charge), and then stepped up to high voltage when (if) needed.
     
  15. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    Just so were clear, Billy...You have 135,000 of these caps in series...while the voltage is split between them...the first cap in the series, compared to ground, is sitting at 135MV potential...so what is keeping THAT amount of potential from just arcing to the ground? It would have to be a SHITLOAD of space...since 135MV of juice was capable of breaching several miles of open air in the initial lightning strike. Is that what you're saying?

    (ps...does my math check out in post #92?)
     
  16. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    To BennyF:
    You are increditably ignorant of high voltage problems and technology.

    Read this wiki article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx_generator
    It has circuit diagram of the high voltage set up system* I mentioned in post pages back (and in your ignorance of the technology you thought it was my idea).

    It mentions that they avoid break down problems by high gas pressure (or an electo-negative gas like SF6). Article also mentions that their spark gap switches can be triggered by reducing the pressure - I.e. coming close to the Pashion minimum breakdown pressure I spoke of in some earlier posts.

    If you have the slightest interest in reducing your ignorance, this article can help you. I will explain parts you cannot understand after you show you have done some study of your own first. I like to teach, but only do so if the student wants to learn. Thus far, despite my and many others trying to educate you, you have shown you prefer to remain ignorant.

    ----------------
    *A number of capacitors are charged in parallel to a given voltage, V, and then connected in series.
     
  17. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    Delete for stupidity.
     
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    No. The voltage between the case and the central post of every capacitor cannot exceed 100KV. Thus this "first capacitor" has its case sitting on the ground so it central post is no "hotter" than 100KV wrt gnd.

    It's central pole has a horizontal metal platform added to it which is the size of the capacitor base. The second capacitor sits on that platform. I.e. the case of the 2nd C is also at 100KV and the 2nd C's central post is no hotter than 200KV wrt gnd. Etc all the way up the stack. These metal support platforms must be more than 3 inches above the case of the condenser just below. (This is of course just a conceptual arrangement - it would fall over in a wind.)

    Sorry I did not check your math.
     
  19. DRZion Theoretical Experimentalist Valued Senior Member

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    But this is assuming a flat terrain. If one had a tower a mile in the sky, or better yet two towers with conductive wire suspended in between, the amount of lightning strikes could far exceed the average.

    If the altitude in congo is of constant height there is no reason why the lightning strikes would become localized (unless in some regions the clouds were closer to the ground, but I think this would be the result of geography as well). If however you provide a bridge for the lightning to the ground you could potentially redirect lightning from a much larger area to that one location. This is assuming charge has greater ease of movement through clouds than through air.

    Perhaps instead of measuring the voltage of individual bolts of lightning it would be more convincing to obtain the potential of storm clouds. You could aim for draining entire clouds rather than just single bolts.

    Also, I don't see why you it has to be a capacitor that would store this energy - like Benny mentioned earlier it could be a substance with a high specific heat.
     
  20. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

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    I'm still not understanding why Benny wouldn't be using caps like these:

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    They are far better designed for the task. Using multiple branches to distrubute the voltage and current ..but yeah...I'm just a technitian.

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  21. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    I agree. The energy in a whole cloud would be much greater than individual bolts.

    I wish I could find some accurate figures from a reputable source.
    The figures are all over the place.

    There has also been experimentation with high power lazers to draw lightning.
    That would be more efficient than having arrays of conductors.
     
  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, as Ben Franklin did with kite on metal wire string you can often collect a small current. If you invested a lot in your two tall towers (or three in a triangle with three times greater collecting wire between) you might at times get several milli-amperes at a voltage easy to work with.

    Effectively, you would have a large lightning rod system protecting the area inside the set of three towers from lighting bolts.

    We discuss capacitors because BennyF speaks of storing voltage, not heat. If you passed the several milli-amps you could collect thru a molten salt, and had very good insulation, you might be able to keep it moltent against the thermal losses thur the insulation but again, conservation of energy rules. I.e. you will not store more energy than the electrical energy in the cloud/earth capacitor. That energy is the energy in the lighting which occasionally dumps / discharges this cloud /earth capacitor.

    Also this electric energy is dumped in cloud to cloud discharges. As you are lowering the voltage of clouds passing thru your wires between towers, they may get energy transferred to them from near by clouds via cloud to cloud discharge.

    Summary: your suggestion is at least not crazy as BennyF's is, but I don't think it has any chance of being economically attractive.

    PS - Instead of towers, tethered balloons would be much cheaper. Note they were used in England during WWII with steel wire tethers to stop low altitude attacking planes* - AFAIK, never was any wire even warmed by the tiny currents that probably did flow to the ground thru the fine steel wires. This is one reason why I think your system would be very lacking in economic feasibility.

    *German bombers had to drop bombs from higher altitude and were less accurate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2010
  23. BennyF Registered Senior Member

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    Once again, I thank all who have responded with constructive criticism. It may be better to know what you don't know than to know what you do know.

    The link to the 100 KV capacitor was included only to show that caps do exist with voltage ratings greater than 20 KV. In the course of my research, I have found a capacitor manufacturer who makes them with voltage ratings even higher than 100 KV.

    The idea of a vertical tower, with caps stacked miles high, is an interesting concept, but obviously impractical. I'm an inventor, not a science fiction writer.

    Billy, it was kind of you to recommend that I read an article posted on the Wiki website, but as I said before, I do not trust anything on a website whose content can be edited by the public.

    Captain, your suggestion for me to use a laser to produce the high voltage I've said I want doesn't inspire me very much. Such a laser would still have to be plugged into a wall outlet, drawing electricity from (ugh!) the electric grid, and forcing me to consider the economics of making water electrolysis profitable while paying for the electricity. That's precisely why few people are splitting water now, and none in large quantities - the economics isn't favorable, given the price of today's electricity. I'm counting on lightning providing me with a low-cost supply of the voltage I need for the sake of profitability.

    I'm not trying to run a scientific experiment, I'm trying to sell hydrogen to paying customers at a profit - so that I can continue to provide hydrogen to paying customers in the future and thus help the country become energy self-sufficient. I need good economics, and I think that hundreds of millions of peak volts and a hundred thousand peak amps will do that.

    The first test of the economics will come when I find out whether I can disconnect my office from the grid. After that, I'll see how much energy I have left.

    Again, I thank all who have offered constructive criticism.

    Benny
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
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