A comment I read beneath a news article sparked my curiosity

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Rolland B. Heiss, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Rolland B. Heiss

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 4, 2015
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    Today after work I read a story about rare upward lightning which sometimes occurs during storms. In the comments below (I always read the comments because they interest me and I sometimes learn something) and the person stated that the earth was like a generator. So I thought about it some and searched for something else in relation to getting energy from the ionosphere as I attempted to think of everything around me as a circuit board with components. When I conducted that search someone else claimed that the atmosphere is like a capacitor. That made a bit of sense to me. So I was reminded of a Tesla patent from 1901 that I read recently and was fascinated by it to the point that I set up a little experiment using my garage roof as a test and it produced a third of a volt. I guess what I'm trying to figure out is this question: If you assume that the atmosphere is indeed a capacitor or similar to one then how would you go about trying to tap it slowly as opposed to a quick discharge such as lightning? Maybe raise a rod high into the air connected to a decent ground with some sort of resistor or diode attached to it with another wire coming down as your positive lead? I'm new to all of this sort of thing and perhaps I'm like the little kid who keeps asking his or her parents 'Why?', 'How?', 'What if?'. :)

    Anyway, here's a little video of my garage roof experiment.
     
  2. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    A lot of folks have gone before you, and there are other threads here on the topic including one about a "commercial" venture in Florida, if I recall correctly. It's more lucrative as a con than as a power source, but anyway...

    The sad truth is that, while you can find large voltage differences with elevation, the available current - and thus power - is so small as to be impractical. It's like wanting to generate hydroelectricity with a pail of water atop Mt. Everest. High voltage, but not enough of it to matter.
     
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  3. Rolland B. Heiss

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 4, 2015
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    I read you wayneh and appreciate your comment. Still, I wonder if it could be tapped each time I watch a lightning storm. Reading about the upward lightning got me curious all over again.
     
  4. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    I've witnessed St.Elmo's fire on a telephone pole. Once. In over 50 years.

    There's no question that the right device in the right place and time might capture "lightning in a bottle", but most of the time it will just sit there. If lightning actually strikes, it gets blown to bits.
     
  5. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
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    Yes, the earths atmosphere has capacitance and that capacitance can store energy but the amount of energy available in the atmosphere at any one point depends on localized environmental factors like high energy air and vapor movements to generate lightning. If your roof somehow was exposed to the concentrated amounts of thermal and kinetic energy in a typical thunderhead you could possibly see a large potential voltage between earth and the roof (or most practical structures) from charge separation that could deliver a large amount of power but I don't think it would last very long in those conditions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015
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  6. Rolland B. Heiss

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 4, 2015
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    Isn't it sort of a bite that we are so large compared to insects for example when it comes to electricity? I think of an old Steve Martin comedy routine called, 'Let's get small'! Charges we can manage to create easily do us little good at all in a practical sense for us but would be considered miracles in relation to an ant colony for example! Our little ice tray batteries would go a very long way for an ant but then again, the ants are wishing they weren't so small or that they could get tall for a bit and quickly build that which we can find little use for which would give them power (if they wanted it) in a useful way for a very long time. God does have a sense of humor I think. :D
     
  7. MikeML

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 2, 2009
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    A friend of mine was playing with a "wing leveler" (part of an autopilot) for a RC model airplane that used two probes on the wingtips. They were connected to a very-high-input-impedance differential amplifier that produced a null if the wings were level. Apparently there is a voltage gradient of something like 1V/m which parallels the earth... If one wingtip was higher than the other, he could detect that...
     
  8. #12

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    Nov 30, 2010
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    Charges we can manage to create easily do us little good at all in a practical sense for us but would be considered miracles in relation to an ant colony for example.

    So would a 50 foot energy collecting tower. :D

    The ability to command a lot more energy than our metabolism produces is the basis for stories of wonder and magic, like the ancient God with the lightning bolts, or Harry Potter with his magic spells. It's fun to think about, but reality intrudes. :(
     
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